‘The Art of the Second Shot’ is meant to help wedding photographers think outside the box. So often, shooting weddings can become a formula that we execute the same way for all of our clients. While it’s good to have systems in place on the wedding day, I fear we may not be telling the client’s story to the best of our ability. It becomes easy for us to go on autopilot and get all the same shots we get at every wedding we shoot. Those shots are necessary. They are the staples, but we shouldn’t stop there. We will call those shots the “First Shot.” In this article, we are going to look at examples of portraits of the bride/groom. Most of the time, we don’t even move them, but we can get a completely different shot.

The Challenge of Getting the ‘Second Shot’

Is shooting a wedding more of a technical checklist for you? Or, do you consider it an honor/privilege that you have yet another opportunity to tell someone’s story on a one-of-a-kind creative playground? I believe our number one responsibility should be to capture the client’s story in the most creative way we can throughout the day. This is where the “Second Shot” comes in. A lot of wedding photographers do just enough research to be “good enough” at their job. They learn how to shoot in manual, use flash at receptions, find open shade, etc. Those are great things to know, but as wedding photographers, we should be prepared to shoot in any lighting/weather condition. In order to be able to do this, we must know our gear inside and out.

It is my hope that this article helps you to do a few things. First, I hope that you can understand the importance of knowing your gear inside and out. This allows you to unlock your creativity because you are not struggling with camera settings all day. There is a lot to think about when shooting a wedding. Aperture, Shutter, ISO, WB, Metering, Composition, Flash Power, and the list goes on and on. It’s like learning a second language; you don’t truly know it inside and out until you can think in it. Secondly, I hope that you can begin to see “The Second Shot.”

Example of the Second Shot

Let’s get into some examples of “The Second Shot.” These are all images taken by myself or my wife. You may like them, you may not. The point here is that we got to know what our couples like and who they are as people. We then used that knowledge to tell their story in the images, and they loved them.

Groom Prep -23

The above shot is the First Shot. You have the groom getting ready adjusting his bowtie looking into a mirror. Nothing fancy.


This is the Second Shot. This wedding was a destination wedding in Dominican Republic, so I didn’t want to simply take the typical every day hotel room images. I wanted to incorporate the fact that we were in the Dominican Republic. So to do this shot, I stepped outside through the sliding glass door onto the porch. I noticed there was a strong reflection of the sky and palm trees in the glass of the door. I then placed a single Speedlight with a MagMod grid in front of the groom and went out and closed the door. Next, I underexposed for the reflection in the glass which ended up being ISO 80, f6.3, 1/200th sec. After that, I simply powered my flash up until the groom popped through the glass. This is a single exposure.


I did the same type of thing with the bride’s dress. It was hung from the ceiling fan in the middle of the room.

Bride + Groom -62This is the First Shot. I used a single Speedlight with the MagMod gridded to camera left. ISO 1250, f 3.5, 1/10th sec.

LUR_9956-Edit-2The is the Second Shot. The couple got married on this campground that was owned by their family for generations. The bride’s parents and grandparents both got married here. They spent a ton of time hanging these lights. So to get this shot all I did was move my hand from left to right just as I pushed the shutter button. Same settings as the above shot. See the full “how to” for this shot in this article here.


This is the First Shot, no flash.


This is the Second Shot. The couple got married at an old village in NJ. There were a ton of old buildings as well as cows, horses, ducks, etc. In order to tie in the story, I saw these horses and knew I could get them in focus as well as the couple. I lit the couple with a single bare bulb Speedlight, and my settings were: ISO 100, f11, 1/200th.

Bride Getting Ready 3

This is the First Shot. The bride was getting ready in the kitchen, and it was pretty messy. I wanted to hide a lot of that mess and bring attention to the bride.

LUR_0199This is the Second Shot. You can still see a little mess, but the bride becomes the focus. I used one Speedlight placed on the counter behind the bride. ISO100, f9, 1/100sec


This is the First Shot; a typical portrait of the groom.


This is the Second Shot. This was in Congress Hall in NJ. It is an old boiler room that they use as a bar and a really cool space. The groom loved that wall. So, I took the safe, easy shot above and then pulled back and utilized three different reflections to bring in the rest of the room. ISO 640, f3.5, 1/200sec; One Speedlight with a MagMod grid.


I hope you are starting to see ‘The Second Shot!’ The best thing you can do to start is learn your gear inside and out so that you don’t have to think about it when you’re shooting. This is the first step to unlocking your creativity. Remember though, the first shot is still necessary. I am simply challenging you to think outside the box and create images that truly tell your couple’s story.  Now that you know what I mean by ‘The Second Shot,’ check out Part 2 of this article, “How to See the Second Shot.”