5 Second-Shooter Musts with Vanessa Joy
Every year I make it a point to be a second shooter for other photographers’ weddings. Seeing how other photographers run a wedding helps me improve my skills. It gives me a chance to be more creative since I don’t have to worry about the staple wedding photos. I love the opportunity to not direct anything and simply be a fly on the wall, free to roam around, find different angles, play with composition and just shoot.
I could go on about the different types of pictures to take (like I do in my e-book, at www.breatheyourpassion.com), but a lot of that comes with experience and varies with every photographer. What we’re going to talk about here are the things you must know and do so you don’t tarnish your reputation as a second shooter. Some of these things people learn only after making an irreversible mistake, so let’s get these straight before that happens.
1. Know the Rules
Know what the photographer you’re working with allows you to do with the photos afterward. There are 100 schools of thought on this, and I’m sure you’ll work with photographers from many of them. Some believe that if they’re paying you to take the pictures, you shouldn’t be able to use them for your purposes. Others, like me, are okay with you using them, but not just anywhere you feel like. Some will trade off and let you come shoot to build your portfolio, but won’t pay you for the day (I do this when I bring third shooters along who I’m training for second-shooter positions). Whatever the conditions are, make sure you’re clear on them with each photographer you work with so you don’t end up with an embarrassing and potentially reputation-ruining debacle in the end.
Here’s what I tell my second shooters: “Pictures may not be used anywhere except up to five images on your website portfolio or up to 20 images on your blog with proper credit given that the wedding was shot by ‘Vanessa Joy Photography,’ with a link back to my website. You may not use or tag any names of B&G, venue or vendors. This includes putting them on Facebook or Instagram, and tagging or hashtagging my bride/groom in it; that should not be done at any time.”
It may seem harsh, but believe it or not, I recently had a venue find one of my second photographers’ photos on their blog via a Google search because the venue information was there in her blog. Because so many people steal images without permission or even the common courtesy of a notification, this venue did just that and used it on their social media. The kicker was that they credited and tagged my second shooter and her company as the main photographer. No bueno. I don’t think my second shooters should gain SEO juice from one of my jobs, and definitely not referrals or social media tags from my clients or networked venues either.
2. Dress the Part
Whenever you are working for another photographer, you are representing their business. How a photographer dresses feeds into the brand image they’re working very hard to maintain. Represent it not just well, but in line with the brand you’re portraying.
I ask my shooters and assistants to dress professionally and in dark colors. No jeans or sneakers are a given, and I don’t need all black, but dark is good for blending in. On the other hand, I’ve worked with rustic-style photographers capturing more casual weddings where, if I wore all black, I’d stick out like a sore thumb. Talk to the primary photographer about what you should wear. Always represent your photographer well—and always, always wear a smile.
3. Know Your Role
I remind my shooters that I will be happy to answer any questions they have, but to wait until the reception to ask them or when we are not in front of the clients. A second photographer pestering the main photographer with questions in front of the bride and groom looks unprofessional and ill-prepared. It’s a creative distraction to the main photographer. I also actually encourage them to make suggestions during the shoot, but to me only, not announced for all to hear. I’m always willing to hear ideas and explore possibilities that didn’t come to me initially, but it should never look like the second photographer is the director.
4. Shooting Format
This may be a no-brainer for most, but it’s a good idea to ask what format you should shoot in. I like my shooters to shoot in RAW with a large JPG backup on a separate card if they can. I know photographers who only want images in JPG format and some who only want RAW. Whatever it is, make sure you know ahead of time since there’s no converting JPG to RAW. If they do want you to shoot in JPG, ask them to clarify what picture profile and settings to use since in a JPG image, that makes a difference in the amount of information that’s recorded to the card and how they’ll edit them later.
5. It’s Not Your Wedding
If you hope to get asked to second-shoot again and build a good reputation within the photography industry in your area, remember this one. It’s not your wedding. Don’t make yourself known to the clients or any of the guests as anything other than the photographer working for XYZ Photography. Introduce yourself by your first name only. Don’t hand out your business card (but do hand out the primary’s business card). Don’t connect with the clients or bridal party in or outside of the wedding day.
If you typically take a primary photographer role on jobs, I can’t recommend second shooting any more highly. In addition to the creative angle and getting a break from being in control, it’s a great to build relationships with other photographers. There’s no measuring how valuable it is to convert your competition into colleagues, trusted photographers you can call to help you out in a pinch.