Top Tips for being a Fabulous Second Shooter

Top Tips for Second Shooting a Wedding

Wedding Photography - Summer Love Photography

Rather than write my own views of how to be a great Second Shooter, I thought I would ask my regular side kick at weddings, Shellie to write this as I think she is fabulous at weddings! Shellie has second shot with me through most of 2013 and I am incredibly lucky enough to say she is going to continue with me for most of my weddings in 2014. Over to Shellie ….

I will always remember the evening before my very first time as a second shooter, I was nervous and there were so many things going around in my head such as ‘Would I forget something?’, ‘Did I really know enough to do this?’, ‘Would people know why I was there?’ and ‘What if I messed up’. That very first wedding, when I look back now, I realise I was a little bit like a rabbit in the headlights thinking – where do I stand? what do I do? what don’t I do? what’s next?. Its normal to feel those things but it doesn’t take long to settle into a role which found me knowing what to do.

I find photography so rewarding and I know I have been really lucky to have this opportunity so it is really important to use the role of second shooting wisely. It is only after a whole summer of looking back and thinking about what works and how to be a successful second that I am ready to share my top tips.

1. Arrangements

I have found this is vital, knowing where to be and the general whole flow of the day. Jo provides me with a timeline and a rough outline of what we will be capturing during those times. As a second shooter it is your responsibility to ask as many questions of your primary photographer before the day starts as once the ceremony is here there will be very very limited time to ask anything until a breather later when everybody eats. Therefore ask the questions before the day so you know what is expected of you.

2. Clients

Remember that these are not your clients and it is not your wedding. The primary shooter did all the hard work to get this booking and you are there as their business. This might mean that you don’t get to chat to the couple much or you didn’t get any key shots but know in your mind that the clients will love your alternative perspective and that you were there to support the day. Remember that you are there to represent the primary shooters business and not your own.

Wedding Photography - Summer Love Photography

3. Position

As a second shooter, it is about taking a step back and using a little of the time watching how the primary shooter works and then taking images from a completely different angle but being careful not to be in the view of their camera and therefore in their shots. As a result, this means keeping an eye on what the primary shooter is doing but also what is going on around you. One of the most important things I have learnt is not to take shots over the primary photographers shoulder as I can imagine this can be off putting for them but also intimidating for the people you are photographing. In addition, it would only give you a replica of the same shot the primary was taking but from a guests viewpoint so in the end your image would be of no use to them.

4. Creativity

As the second shooter, there is not any pressure to get key shots, lead the groups or direct the couple. As a result, this is a fantastic opportunity for you to be creative, wait patiently for those moments and try new things. I have found myself standing in the middle of a cornfield, hiding in a bush to shoot through leaves, over the other side of a field, lying on the floor and being 20 steps behind everybody – all to get a different viewpoint. Yes I might look and feel a little silly but my best feedback has been when I have got something completely different because of doing that. They are also the images I love the most. Your primary shooter will be thankful because they often do not have the time to get the shots like that.

Wedding Photography - Summer Love Photography

5. Taking care of your Primary Photographer

This can be anything from grabbing a glass of icy cold water during a quick breather on those hot summer days through to carrying their camera bag. What ever it may be you are there to ensure the primary photographer can feel at ease knowing their bag is safe, that you are nearby for those vital lens changes and you basically have their back. I have also found it is helpful not to wander off too far while they are doing groups so I can lend a helpful second ear if help is needed to gather certain family members. I guess this only comes with experience and time working with one shooter but trying to know what their needs are before they ask is really noticed and recognised.

6. Candids

This is what you will find yourself doing through a lot of the afternoon and it means staying really connected to what is going on around you – listening out for where the laughter is coming from, knowing that the little ones wouldn’t co-operate in the group shots so capturing them playing and engaging with small family groups to see if they would like their own pictures taken. I find capturing these moments to be natural, beautiful, unique and sometimes the funniest. I personally love to capture peoples characters during candid’s and have managed to capture Uncles dangling their nephew’s upside down, Grandparents holding hands, children sipping from china teacups and small family groups.

All of these little important captures are often parts of the day that the couple did not manage to see or notice and therefore it supplements the key pictures beautifully.

Second Shooting at Weddings

7. Speeches

I often work with Jo and we agree to take half the room each but I am also aware from watching her that she predominantly photographs the top table, occasionally turning to photograph guests, so therefore I work in the opposite way. I will predominantly photograph the guests and their reactions whilst occasionally turning to photograph the top table. Again this is reflective of having the time and space to wait for those reactions but also being aware of what the primary shooter is doing.

Second Shooting at Weddings

8. Learn everything you can

Second Shooting can be invaluable when it comes to experience. It is worth its weight in gold – shooting in different venues, with different people, under different situations, thinking in advance, in a fast moving situation and uses so many different forms of photography from landscape, to people, to low light, to groups, to macro and more. I always find myself learning something new and wanting to try something new. I take the kind and gentle feedback that Jo gives and apply it to my next time second shooting. I will use that feedback all day and then it becomes part of my tool bag for future weddings. Ask for feedback, ask for a little direction and be open to it.

9. Be discreet

For the best results of a second shooter to catch great moments you will only get this if you are quiet and don’t attract attention to yourself. People tend to notice the primary shooter and be more aware of what they are doing, where they are and whether their camera is on them. As a result, I can use this to my best advantage to get candid’s. I will do this by zooming into individuals or couples while groups are taking place, moving out of the way and zooming in on people watching the groups taking place. Guests will know you are there of course but it is less obvious.

Second Shooting at Weddings

10. Work Together

This is not the time to get your own portfolio of front of ceremony, direct bride and groom face on but to supplement the primary shooters work with your own alternative viewpoint and creativity. However as time has gone on, Jo has believed in me and given me elements of primary work such as placing me at the front of the ceremony (I took a deep breath at that one!), asking me to photograph the couple as they walk towards me whilst she photographed from behind and asking me to capture the bouquet when there wasn’t time to do it earlier. It was an honour to have this responsibility and I approached it thinking ‘How would Jo like me to capture it’ and then if there was time I would do something for me.

11. Final Advice

If something isn’t clear, ask your primary shooter to go over it again (just not half way through the groups!!), no matter how silly you might feel your question is, don’t be afraid to ask and after the day if you would like feedback, again ask for it. You are there not only to benefit them but to also gain from the experience.

I hope its helpful to hear from the second shooters viewpoint and I would love to hear if this is helpful or if ther eis anything you would like to add.

Shellie xx

Wedding Photography - Summer Love Photography

Wedding Photography - Summer Love Photography

Wedding Photography - Summer Love Photography


Summer Love Photography also offers 1-2-1 mentoring days and will be running a 6 month Business Hub from October 2014. More details can be found here training or feel free to email me at for more information.



2 Responses to “Top Tips for being a Fabulous Second Shooter”

  1. Emma Walker

    Fantastic post Shellie, you’ve hit the nail on the head in so many ways 🙂

  2. Arienne

    Hello Shellie, what a lovely write up you have done! Makes me want to do it more! How did you get to become a second shooter? I love your photos! Great work!

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