Tips on Being a Second Shooter as a Photographer

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Film Photos Kodak Porta Ektar TriX  (8 of 55)

Being a second shooter is sometimes frightening. In some ways, you’re shadowing another photographer but in other ways, you’re maintaining your own individuality without being overpowering. Many second shooters are just starting out and you’ll need to keep one very big thing in mind the entire time: photography isn’t about gear first and foremost. Primarily, it’s about business. Then it’s about your portfolio. And then it’s about capabilities and gear.

If you’re a second shooter or aspiring to be one, then here’s what you should know.

Have the Portfolio They are Looking For

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Film Photos Kodak Porta Ektar TriX  (11 of 55)

Some photographers often take up a second shooting gig to make extra money. These photographers are ones that know what they’re doing, so when you’re selling yourself you need to demonstrate to the photographer that you’re capable of doing the work that they want. In that case, you should really study each photographer’s looks and style to prove that you can do the job.

Think of it this way:

– A photographer is often trying to sell themselves to a client.

– In this case, you’re the photographer and you’re trying to sell yourself to another photographer. Do you know how tough that can be?

Other photographers tend to take on the second shooter role to start out in the professional world. You’ll need to prove to the main shooter at this point that you can do the type of work that they want. Trying to be a second shooter at a wedding? Guess what a wedding photographer wants to see:

– Cake detail shots

– Macro shots for rings and other details

– Portraits

– Your knowledge of lighting

– Candids

Now look at your portfolio, do you have all of this?

Show up Early

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Film Photos Kodak Porta Ektar TriX  (48 of 55)

Punctuality, no matter what business you’re in, will take you a long way. Second shooters are usually working at events or weddings where they’re typically needed because a single photographer can’t cover an entire area. The main photographers are bound to show up very early to scout out locations, plan, and figure out logistics like lighting.

Ask the main photographer when they’re arriving and try to get there a bit earlier than them so you can assist accordingly. Ask them about locations, bounce ideas off of them, and try to get a plan going ahead of time. Of course, plans need to be adaptable–so just get a general idea.

Let Them Take the Lead

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon G1X review other images (3 of 5)ISO 1001-1600 sec at f - 2.0

As a second photographer, don’t ever take the lead with the clients. It’s your job to assist and shoot photos. That doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to the client, too. In fact, you should because it’s important for both of you) but remember that you’re not the leader in this case. Just shoot, have a conversation beforehand when you get there early and don’t ask a lot of questions while you’re both trying to get your jobs done.

Don’t Shoot the Same Subject Matter as the First Shooter

This is very, very simple to do. If the main shooter is in one spot, go to a completely different area. Shooting a giant party at a big hall? See the main photographer? Keep walking and looking for other things to shoot like details in the decorations, food or candids of people.

At a wedding and they’re taking portraits of the couple? Well, go shoot other things. The point of being a second shooter is to have everything else covered.

Make Sure You Have Your Own Gear

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 7D Mk II review images portraits (1 of 2)ISO 4001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Now we’re getting to gear: there is nothing more annoying than a photographer saying that they want to shoot with you and needing to borrow your equipment. Don’t have your own? It’s much more profitable for you to go rent your own if you’re just starting out until you’ve saved up sufficiently to purchase your own.

Why’s that? Who knows how many gigs you’ll get! It’s much better to spend $75 renting a camera for a couple of days than $2,000 to purchase a camera that may only be used professionally only once.

Have Open Communication About Ownership of Work and Payment

The very big one: talk to the main photographer about the work. Some photographers will demand that all the work be theirs because you’re under a work for fire situation; while others will be alright about you using it for your own portfolio building and advertising.

Also be sure to talk about when expected payment will be. Typically, photographers can get the entire share of the payment before the wedding if it’s smaller but larger payments are usually split with a portion given beforehand and another portion given afterwards. Be sure to send invoices on time; this usually means the day after the shoot.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.