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Getting a job as a second shooter is a great way to gain real world experience and build a portfolio. It allows you to work under a more established photographer, and provides you the opportunity to learn as you go along. You will be able to build your portfolio and get paid to do so.

Prepare like a Primary Shooter

Second shooting however does require that you’ve already established a certain amount of skill photography-wise. You should already be very comfortable behind a camera and feel familiar with the environment that you will be second shooting in (wedding, studio, etc.). With that in mind, make sure you are prepared to shoot as if you were the primary shooter: have back up batteries, memory cards, cameras, lenses, etc.

Imitate the Primary Photographer’s Style

However when shooting as a second shooter, it is important to make sure that you keep in mind that you are shooting for someone else. You may have a specific style that you tend to utilize, a certain aesthetic or mood that you go for, however it is important that you remember that these images are being produced under someone else’s brand, meaning that you should be thinking the way that they think aesthetically. The longer you work with a photographer the easier this becomes, as you will become better acquainted with their particular style.

Capture Different Perspectives

Additionally, you must make sure that you do not get in the way of the main photographer, always making sure that you aren’t in the background of their shots. Pay attention to what lenses they are shooting with. If they are shooting wide, it is usually best if you are right behind them. Also, try to capture a different angle or perspective than they are shooting from. If you are shooting from the same angle, try using a different lens. If you can, capture the scene from a different point of view. This can be tricky, because you might then be in their shot. Remember, you can always tuck yourself behind the subject so you stay out of view. As you work more and more as a second shooter, this will become easier, especially if you stay with the same photographer, and thus become acquainted with their style of shooting and the lenses they most frequently use.

Be Professional Always

One type of photography that frequently calls for second shooters is wedding photography. If you do get the opportunity to work as a second shooter for a wedding, make sure you always remain professional (this actually applies to all second shooter or assistant positions). Although working a wedding does require a certain amount of chatting and socializing, it is important to remember that you are working. The wedding party may come to really enjoy your company, and toward the end of the reception, oftentimes many of the guests and even the bride and groom themselves may start offering you drinks. It is important to maintain a certain level of casualty with the guests, however it is equally important that you remember that you are in fact working. Be professional, and as is typically the advice while you are on the job, don’t drink.

Benefits of Second Shooting

Manage the Schedule

In addition to your photography responsibilities, it is also advisable that you take on the task of making sure that the shoot stays on schedule. It can be very helpful if before the shoot you map out when what will be happening (hair, make-up, the ceremony, etc.), so that you know where you need to be at what time. If you are working a wedding, it is helpful if you take charge of organizing the guests for group photos. Managing large groups can be difficult, and so when it comes time for the formals, the shoot can be easy to fall behind schedule. The primary photographer is usually so focused, that they aren’t necessarily paying attention to the time or schedule of events. As a second shooter, it is very helpful if you take this responsibility on yourself. Remind the primary photographer what time it is from time to time so that you can make sure that the shoot stays on schedule.

Another thing that is oftentimes very helpful to your primary shooter is to make sure that they drink water and eat when they need to. I know it sounds silly, but when they are really busy, this is something that they may not think of. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it if you hand them a bottle of cold water or an energy bar every now and then. It will help ensure that they remember you the next time they are working in your area.

Although working as a second shooter is a photography-based gig, it is also very much an assistant position. Make sure to be as helpful as you can be, and most importantly, be friendly to both the client and the primary photographer and have fun!

Megan Youngblood

Megan Youngblood is a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer with roots in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes about art, technology, all things counter-culture, and the occasional auto-biographical musing. Her writing has appeared at Hyperallergic, The Creators Project, Stocktown, Bowery Boogie, and, of course, here. For more on Megan, check out her website or follow her on Twitter.


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