10 Tips For Second Shooting A Wedding


When I started my wedding business ten years ago, I went guns blazing full steam ahead straight into wedding photography with zero experience shooting other people's weddings. If I could go back and do things a little differently, I totally would have tried out my hand gaining experience and industry knowledge second shooting instead of "faking it until I made it" 

The first-second photographers I employed were my parents. They've always been so supportive, good ol' mom and dad! One time they even let me turn my old bedroom into a boudoir portrait studio and helped me hang up chandeliers. But neither of them knew how to operate a DSLR or how to photograph a wedding in something other than program mode. My mom, she followed me around asking what the camera she was shooting with was called, and my dad, he was busy trying to hit up all the hors-d'oeuvres during cocktail hour. I found out rather quickly that however loving and supportive my parents were, they weren't the best choice as associate photographers. 

Eventually, I found better help, and I learned the art of second shooting first hand. I learned a lot from second shooting with a myriad of other photographers, I traveled to a lot of cool destinations, and I focused in on my style and my uniqueness. 

Second shooting is the perfect way to learn from the mistakes of others, and feel entirely confident as you look through your viewfinder and document love. With wedding season fast approaching,  here are my top ten tips for anyone wanting to get experience as a second shooter.  

1. Dress appropriately:
 When I first started out I photographed weddings in jeans and a t-shirt that had a horrible ironed on logo on the front and the words "wedding photographer" plastered on the back! Ya, I'm not kidding, it was like I was trying to stick out like a sore thumb!

Don't make my same mistake, dress appropriately! If you're not sure what to wear to your wedding, just ask the lead photographer. You are a reflection of their business so look professional. 

2.Show up on time: 
Better yet, get there 15-20 mins early so you can powwow with the primary photographer, sync your camera's, and scout the location. 

3. Be a "sheepherder": 
Gathering family is hard. Usually, the bride's uncle Bob is at the bar, the groom's mother has vanished to the back of the church to direct the floral arrangements, and your bride and groom's facial muscles are developing tremors from smiling so long. A good second photographer should be able to get loud when needed, stay organized, bust out their ridiculously embarrassing baby entertainment voice,  and flock the "sheep" together.

4. Take care of the vendors: 
Communication with other vendors is vital on a wedding day. Handing out the chief photographer's business card to the event coordinator, communicating with the DJ's, and just letting the videographers know when dinner has been served all go a long way to foster a team environment. Chances are, if you work in the wedding industry, even for a relatively short period, you'll be seeing a lot more of each other, so look for ways you can help other vendors out, and in turn, it'll help foster your own industry friendships and connections!


5. Offer to carry bags & know what's in them: 
Your role as a second shooter is to make life easier and as stress-free for the main photographer. Offer to help them carry their gear into a venue, know how to set up their light stands, and which lens is which inside their camera bag. Brush up if you don't know or even better ask them! Being able to grab gear for the primary photographer at a moment's notice is one of the most helpful and sometimes life-saving things you get to do on a wedding! 

6. Keep everyone hydrated:
Everyone! You, the bride and groom, and especially the leading photographer! I once shot a wedding with the absolute sweetest bride who passed out at her reception before she ever got the chance to dance in the arms of her husband.  Even if you have to go out of your way and purchase a bunch of water bottles, do it (and keep the receipt), everyone will thank you later, and you'll become indispensable to the primary photographer! 

 7. Have a checklist:
Have everything organized, packed, and charged the night before. There is nothing worse than showing up to a wedding with dead batteries, forgetting your Gary Fong at home, or realizing you don't have any free memory cards to shoot on. Communicate with the lead photographer to know ahead of time whose cards you'll be shooting on and how to have them sized and how to keep them safe. Print out a checklist and have everything ready before you hop in bed the night before. 

8. Find new angles:
Don’t shoot over the primary photographer’s shoulder!  When I first
started shooting with other photographers, I shot behind them and captured--basically--the same photos they were. 
Finally one day one of them sat me down and explained that they didn’t need another version of their photo...
they needed an entirely new picture of the same moment through different eyes. Whether you stand in a different spot, use a different lens, or capture images in the different aspect ratios, tell the story of the couple's day from a unique point of view. 

9. Never promote yourself:
On a wedding day, a second and third photographer is
just that...an accompanying photographer to the main photographer’s
business. If a guest asks for a business card from any of the photographers, they should always pass along the primary photographer’s business card. Period. The end.

10. Be a student: 
The absolute fastest way to hone your craft and get better is to ask questions! When I started, I wish I would have been brave enough to ask more! I could have quickly cut my learning curve in half had I asked more questions about gear, lighting and camera settings! Check your ego at the door. Chances are you're not going to get the preferred angles of the day. You might not shoot the wedding details, and you're more than likely not going to get the shot of the couple kissing from the center of the aisle but create outside of the box anyway! 


Second shooting is an invaluable way to learn, grow, and develop as a photographer. Your images offer immense value to a couple when they are designing their wedding album and reliving their wedding day memories.  

I hope this offers insight from both the perspective of an experienced second shooter and expert lead photographer!  If gaining experience sounds like something, you want to do, send me an email to Rachel@wwlphoto.com with this information: your name, favorite potato side dish, gear line up, website, and portfolio. I would love to take you along when I shoot weddings!