8 Ways To Be The Best Second Photographer

Every season I say that one day I would either teach a workshop or … just write a blog post about being the perfect Second Photographer.  I feel that being in this position is absolutely vital to any wedding photographer out there.  You are not only a photographer, you are also the main Photographer’s right-hand man. You will wear so many hats that day you’ll need another closest.  So let me break this down from my personal experience of being a Second Photographer.

I started my career in photography as a second shooter and advanced quickly.  I don’t mean to toot my horn, but toot toot. I thought I was the bomb dot com assistant. (please photographers that I have assisted for, comment below if I totally wasn’t. awkward!). But going off of compliments and callbacks I will say that I wasn’t half bad.  That being said, my number one goal on a wedding day has always been, “I am available to do whatever the main photographer needs me to do today; however ridiculous it was.’ I was there to first assist the photographer and secondly learn; soak up any information I possibly could. Making sure I take photos for my portfolio was only the bonus, not the priority.  So if the photographer says at a moments notice, “I need the bouquet!” You walk down the stairs, around the corner and through the woods as fast as possible and get it. I promise you, if you do these things, with a smile, you will be that photographers bestie. Guaranteed! Here are a few tips and tricks I have learned along the way.

1. Arrive on time!
There is nothing scarier than a late assistant. Y’all this starts the mood for the day. If you are late you have made your main photographer for the day concerned about where you are and not focusing on serving his/her couple.  Arrive 15 mins before the scheduled time that you are given to arrive.  You will impress your photographer and start the day on a less stressful note. If for some reason you do run late, make sure you call the photographer asap. Give them the opportunity to come up with a plan.  Life happens – people are late!

2. Dress Code
This is highly vital.  You can not go wrong with casual business attire in solid dark colors. When in doubt – throw it out!  I could tell you lots of stories but I’ll refrain.  I prefer to wear cocktail dresses that is a thin polyester lightweight material in black. That has been my go-to outfit.  Try to not stand out. Ask yourself the question, “Would I wear this as a guest?”  Target has some fantastic options right now for perfect options. Here are some perfect examples.

All dresses are from jcrew.com

For Men, wear a dress pants and dress shirt.  Again, dress as if you were a guest at the wedding.

3. Shoes
I am telling you, flats or sandals! And comfort comfort comfort! I get a couple pairs of new flats for each wedding season. You know the Grandma ones with soft cushions in them? Those. I get those. Actually, I get croc(see photo below).  Call me crazy but they are a must.  Check them out because they have a new line. Whatever shoe is comfortable to you get them and buy two pairs.  Keep in mind that it will most likely be a hot day.  Hot days equal sweaty feet.  Eww, gross! For sandals, I love this style.

4 Food
My routine is usually coffee on the way to the wedding and for a snack, during the day I pack fiber one bars. Yum!  Unless you are on a crazy diet pack some snacks.  As an assistant, you are running around everywhere.  You need your energy.  To help your Photographer, bring an extra one for him/her and make sure to ask them if you can get them a snack or a drink.  They will love you a long time. Oh also, bring WATER!

5. Mind Reader
If you don’t have a hidden talent yet, you will after becoming a second photographer. Knowing what your photographer needs next is soooo important.  If there is a big group in front of them and he/she has the 50mm on their camera, it would be wise to have the 35mm in hand ready to go when they ask for it. The photographer needs to do a quick change of the lens to make a smooth transition. As you assist your photographer more and more you’ll become a well-oiled machine functioning together simultaneously.  Just make sure you are always watching your photographer and making mental notes of what their next move.

6. Timeline Manager
Most of the time there is a timeline that the photographer will hand you to keep track of. On the timeline there will be a “must have photo list”.  It’s very helpful when you can cross off the shots taken throughout the day so that when you huddle to look it over before the ceremony the photographer will know what still needs to be captured.  Know the timeline and when the next event is happening.  Sometimes as the main photographer we get caught up in our portrait sessions and need that extra set of eyes to be watching the clock.  Time is critical!

7. Shooting
When you are shooting, shoot behind the main photographer and about 7 to 10 feet to the right or left. That’s a good place to start unless your photographer tells you otherwise.  Good lenses to use for second shooting is the 70-200mm, 135mm, 100mm or the 50mm.  It’s all in preference, but make sure to be using a different lens than what the main shooter is using.  When shooting, shoot a variety. Horizontal, vertical, close up, far away, side shots.  The main shooter wants a variety of shots from your perspective.  Ask your photographer how many images does he/she want from you at the end of the day.  You don’t want to be trigger happy and then find out they only wanted 700 images. Make sure to get those detail shots that they can use for their wedding album.  Just remember that the wedding day is not about making sure you – the assistant, gets photos for your portfolio.  That is also something you should talk to your main photographer about ahead of time. I’ll tell you up front that I do not let my second photographer take the images for profile use.

8. Have fun
With all these tips in mind, have fun with it! It’s really important that you enjoy spending time with the Photographer that you are ultimately learning from.  Nothing is worse than spending 8-10 hours with a person that makes your skin crawl.  Because let’s be honest, you’ll be serving them all day long.

Alright ya’ll.  Go out there and be a killer Second Photographer!!!!!  If you have further questions you would like me to talk about leave your questions below.  I would be thrilled to answer them.

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