Article for Bride / Groom

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The art of second shooting ... by Sébastien D'Amour

Published:  March 26, 2014

Second shooting is a great way to learn wedding photography but it's also very hard but you can get there through dedication and hard work. Many people think that you learn to become a wedding photographer through second shooting; that is not the case. You learn some shooting techniques but you don't learn anything about sales, marketing, editing, delivering, meeting and other aspects needed to run a successful wedding photography studio. Know your equipment and take care of it.

A 70-200 f2.8 lens is a great tool for wedding photography. It allows you to compress images and to stand back of the action to insure that you are not in the main photographers shot. You need to know how to setup flashes on stands, how to set them up in a wireless setup. I strongly suggest you learn the main photographers bag organizational system and maintain it. Always keep the equipment in a secure location and carry the equipment when asked.

   Learn to know where you need to be during the ceremony
You can ask the main photographer what he would like you to shoot during the ceremony. Some main photographers will ask you to get reaction shots of the groom, others will ask you to pay attention to the parents reaction only and others will ask you to shoot the first kiss in a shadow style in case of camera malfunction. These stories within the wedding will give you an idea where you need to be and where you need to go at next. Check with your main photographer about any restriction or rules that are in effect at the particular venue you will be shooting.

   Review the timeline of the wedding day with the main photographer
Reviewing the timeline of the day gives you a chance to create a game plan. You might get ask to shoot the cocktail while the main photographer is shooting the newly couple or you might be ask to shoot the groom getting ready while the main photographer is shooting the bride getting ready. Having a game plan will also lower you stress level and give you a task list that need to be accomplish before going to the next phase.

   Know your light
You need to understand light and how to use it to allow you to shoot portraits of people in a nice setting. While understanding light, you need to match your photography to the main shooters style. You also need to understand light to properly use a reflector, wireless flash or a video light. Practice at home and read on light to be able to help and become a great lighting assistant. Nothing better then pro-action of a second shooter to help with dynamic lighting and troubleshooting from time to time.

   Become a problem solver
Problems are meant to be solved. This is another area where your creativity and your ingenuity can shine. Make it happen with a smile and energy. You'll be proud of you and you will score positive points with your main shooter. Simple problem like guest appearing in aisle while bride is walking down...take the time to let the guests know not to lean or go in aisle while she's walking or they are walking in the aisle.

   Distribute the positive vibes but learn when to not speak
As photographers, we are the vendor whom the bride and groom will spend most of the day with, that's why it's key for you to help keep the day calm and help out with various task. Does the bride have you outside in 40-degree-celsius heat taking portraits? No problem! Keep that energy up and talk about how the bride is lucky to have picked such a gorgeous day for a wedding instead of complaining about the heat. As a photographer, I've even gone beyond distributing positive vibes and have actually put down the camera for a minute and helped out where no one else could. Was I hired to do these little things? No. But I had a choice. I could sit there and take candid shots of people getting angry and upset or I could offer to help. Sometimes even just the offer of an extra hand from a wedding-pro makes a world of difference in calming everyone down. Those are the people who will praise you in reviews and tell all their friends about you. Learn to listen to the story and shoot it. It's there day not yours.

   Don't be a shadow
As a second shooter, you cannot simply be a shadow nor can you photograph "whatever". Photographing over the primary photographers shoulder will teach you absolutely nothing. You'll simply be piggybacking off their hard work and your photography will have no value/use to the main photographer. Choose creative angles for your shots that compliment what the primary photographer is doing. Keep an eye out to see which lens he's using. If he's shooting wide, you should cover the same moment in a tight filed of view. He's shooting family portraits, why not shoot an individual portrait of each member of the bridal party or why not shoot tight images of mini stories unfolding during the shoot.

   Ask for feedback and check with main shooter throughout the day
Shooting a wedding can be very tiresome and there is undoubtedly a lot more pressure when you're shooting as the main. When you have a few moments of downtime, check in with your main to see if they need anything. Often times they may be too busy to remember to drink water or may need a battery charged, but haven't had a chance to take care of those needs. Any way you can help out the team is beneficial to the overall coverage of the day. You can also suggest ideas to the main and let him take the lead or take it if he gives it to you. You can also see with the team member if he covered some basic shots like reception shot details, cake or other shots that you could help with.

   Reflect on your goals
Although sometimes seasoned pros will act as a second shooter for a another wedding photographer, more often than not, second shooters are photographers who are looking at gaining experience as they make the transition to owning their own successful photography company or are in the early stages of their solo careers. Second shooting allows you countless opportunities for practice! Photography is part art and part skill and nothing can improve your skills like practice! Set goals for yourself for every wedding and take the time to reflect upon them and help yourself grow as a professional. Ask your main photographer for feedback on your wedding photography coverage. Also check with them if they have tips for you to get better and practice them before the next wedding.

   Leave your business at home
The primary photographer will run the show; they will direct poses, they will hand out their business cards and they will interact with the other vendors. Being a second shooter is not an opportunity to network nor is it an opportunity for you to sell yourself.

These tips should help you become a better and more respected second shooter.
Enjoy and keep on taking genuine and emotional photographs!


Sébastien D'Amour,  Sébastien D'Amour  (Montreal | QC)