My second shooter regularly handles the ring shots.  It is something I can always depend on her nailing.

Finding a second shooter role is important, and should be done if you wish to one day be a lead wedding photographer.  I don’t believe you need to second shoot a specific number of weddings before you can shoot a wedding on your own.  I also don’t believe that a photographer needs to shoot X number amount of weddings to be considered most qualified or more talented.

However, you still need to get your feet wet because as with everything, the more weddings you shoot, the better you become as a wedding photographer.  If you are trying to find a 2nd or 3rd shooter opportunity, I believe it’s important to find any wedding photographer to shoot for and not be too picky, especially for your first few gigs.  While it makes sense to want to be a 2nd shooter for a photographer who’s style you admire or a “top 10” photographer, you can still come away with priceless experience from any photographer.  I often compare the learning experience to an art class:  Each artist can receive the same canvas, paints, and brushes, and even the same instruction from a professor.  However the end result, the masterpiece as you’d call it, is different for each artist.  That’s the beauty of art.  If you can find your own learning experience with every opportunity, you can walk away with your own masterpiece and style – one that doesn’t necessarily have to reflect that of the photographer you 2nd shot for.

The Possibilities of 2nd Shooting with an Already Established Photographer:

  • They already have a regular second shooter, and potentially a backup too leaving you little room to showcase what you can do. You can however ask to take an unpaid third shooter role if they are willing to take you on.
  • They prefer that you don’t use the images you take (client exclusivity) so you can’t add that cute barn wedding to your portfolio.
  • They expect their second shooters to have already shot a few weddings under their belt.

Benefits to 2nd shooting For Any Wedding Photographer:

  • Remember that as a second shooter, you cannot see through the lead photographer’s viewfinder, therefore you liking their style is less important.
  • There are many photographers starting out or just want a buddy for support, and therefore more open to needing your assistance.
  • Certain photographers will let you can use/edit the images taken to build your portfolio. Make sure you check what your usage rights are for when you are on the job – some pay you just to shoot and retain ownership of your images.  You can decide if that’s worth the experience.
  • You are there to experience the timeline of a wedding and can become an expert on how it is handled.

What You Want to Get Out of Being a 2nd Shooter:

  1. You want to take in the experience and observe the flow of the wedding day and how to best capture it.
  2. If possible, you want to be able to keep the images you take and process them yourself to expand your portfolio.  But more important than that is building the experience of shooting a wedding anywhere, anyhow, and at any given time and weather condition.
  3. You want to quickly observe what works, and what doesn’t, and how you can make each session better in the future.

You can still learn from your favorite photographers if they hold conceptual shoots or workshops.  You can also offer to assist them for these shoots and workshops in order for them to get to know you, to see how you can work with them, and to see how well you get along with the crew. If everything goes well and a real wedding opportunity comes up, you might be next in line!