How to Crush it as a Second Shooter for Weddings

Second shooting for other wedding photographers is a great way to start learning how to be a wedding photographer and making a few bucks on the side. Being a solid, dependable, and hardworking second shooter is a good start to make the transition to a full-time wedding photographer.

I’ve been shooting weddings with my wife for four years now and while I have the benefit of shooting with the same person for almost every wedding there are a few things that I’ve learned along the way when shooting with other photographers that have helped save the wedding day.

1: Communication

Communication with the first photographer is key. From the first communication with the first photographer, make sure you know your roll of the day and what is expected of you. During the wedding, make sure to keep up with what’s going on and help to keep the first photographer informed of things that might be running behind or when things are going ahead of schedule.

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2: Synchronize Your Cameras

But seriously, there’s nothing more frustrating when you’re going through editing thousands of photos only to find out that both of the cameras were out of sync. After formatting your memory card the first photo you should take is a picture of webpage (for the most accurate time). If this is done on all the cameras that you’re using during the day of the wedding it’s super easy to edit in post the capture times across all the cameras.

Here’s the process for that:

  1. Take a photo of on all cameras
  2. Photograph wedding
  3. Import all memory cards into Lightroom
  4. Under the library tab click sort by metadata
  5. Select one of the columns and change it to sort by camera serial number
  6. Going through one camera at a time select all the images making sure that the first image (the one with the time) is the highlighted image.
  7. Select the Metadata tab at the top of the Lightroom menu bar
  8. Edit capture time
  9. Set to the exact time, put in the time in the photo
  10. Repeat for all the cameras
  11. All the pictures will be aligned by capture time

3: Prepare Your Toolkit

Everyone can get caught up on both sides of the fence, gear matters, gear doesn’t matter, but it’s something that needs to be addressed. Make sure that when you’re shooting with the first photographer use a different focal length than what they are shooting. This ensures that not only the angle will be different, but the composition will be different. When you’re doing photos separate from the main photographer (i.e. shooting getting ready photos/ groomsmen and bridesmaids portraits) always make sure you are shooting the same focal length as the first photographer. That way when the main photographer edits the photos they will look like the same person photographed both things.

4: Style

I’m thankful that I’m able to shoot with the same photographer for 99% of the weddings I photograph because it means that we’re able to not only align in composition but shooting style. I’d encourage anyone looking to get into second shooting for weddings to spend at least a few hours studying the photographer’s style before shooting with them. It’s always a great idea to ask the main photographer if there’s a certain way that they would like you to shoot, so when they edit the photos it’s a breeze on their end.

5: Get The Traditional Shots, Then Experiment

Second shooting is a great time to experiment with different techniques when the wedding isn’t yours, but before you start breaking out the prisms and tilt-shift lenses make sure to get the “safe + traditional” shots. The first photographer is counting on you as a safety net in case something goes wrong with their camera or they physically can’t be in two places at once. Feel free to experiment when you and the main photographer are photographing the same thing, get different angles and have fun.