Why I Totally Love Being the Second Shooter at Weddings

Stepping into the world of wedding photography is like diving into a sea of endless emotions, epic dance moves, and, of course, cake. Tons of cake. (or cookies if your a Pittsburgh Photog…IYKYK) While holding the spotlight as the main photographer is pretty awesome, there’s something super special about taking on the role of a second shooter. Keep in mind, Dillon and I are always together with our couples, this give our dynamic a bit of a different aspect from other teams. We have our own groove that has been perfected over the years and treat each other more as two leads rather than a lead and a second shooter. However, not every Photographer is lucky enough to have the same second shooter for every event like we do so finding the perfect second shooter is a job in itself. This makes the job even more important when I take it on. Being a second shooter for another photographer is a huge job, you are representing someone else’s vision, someone else’s business and livelihood. It’s a fun gig but should not be taken lightly in my opinion!

Don’t get me wrong being a second is always a great time, It’s kind of like being a ninja with a camera – you’re there in the thick of it all, but blending into the background, capturing those raw, unfiltered moments while being able to take it all in from the backseat view. All that being said let me spill the tea on why I’m all in for second shooting and how it’s a game-changer not just for me, but for the couples we shoot for ourselves.

It’s Like a Backstage Pass to Learning

Picture this: every wedding you second shoot is like getting a VIP ticket to see how different photographers run the show. It’s fascinating to me to see how each one approaches the hustle of the day differently, from calming down nervous couples to nailing those dreamy sunset photos and interacting with the wedding party and guests. I’m offered a masterclass in adaptability and technique, observing varied styles and methods all the while picking up new tricks that I can stash up my sleeve for our own wedding days. Think of it as getting paid to learn and hone in skills you don’t otherwise get to while focusing on all the details of a busy event. It's about learning the subtle art of being present yet unobtrusive, capturing the essence of the day without overshadowing the primary photographer's vision.

Making Our Clients Even Happier

This immersive learning experience directly translates into how we serve our wonderful clients. By understanding various approaches to wedding photography, we can adapt our methods to better suit the needs and expectations of our own clients. We learn new ways to capture emotions, unique angles, and new techniques to tell a couple’s story more compellingly. This arsenal of varied experiences makes us more versatile photographers, ready to tackle any challenge the wedding day might present, ensuring we deliver the best possible results to our clients. It’s all about giving them a buffet of memories that they can look back on and say, “Wow, we really did that!”

Fostering Connections within the Wedding Industry

Second shooting also opens the door to creating meaningful connections and relationships with other vendors in the wedding industry. Weddings are a collaborative effort, with each vendor playing a crucial role in the day's success. In the Pittsburgh area we have so many amazing vendors and we can only hope to work with as many of them as possible. By working as a second shooter, we interact with a broader range of professionals - from planners and videographers to florists and caterers. These interactions are golden opportunities to build a network, learn from their experiences, and understand how to work seamlessly as part of a larger team. These connections often lead to future collaborations, referrals, and friendships, enriching our professional journey as well as providing a more seamless, stress free day for our clients!

The connection made with other photogs in my second shooting journey is totally something I see as a highlight. Community in your field will always be better than walking the journey alone. PLUS: If your a wedding photographer you know the best way to get through a long 10 hour day on your feet is to fill it with laughs, having fun is an absolute must! Don’t forget this aspect when deciding who you want to second shoot for or even who you want to hire as a second you gotta spend the whole day with these creatives, make sure they match your crazy!

Capturing the Unseen Moments

Now for the cherry on top: those behind-the-scenes shots. There’s something magical about catching those off-guard moments when nobody’s looking. This could be bonus shots of the lead photog doing their thing or simple little unseen moments like – the ring barer on uncles shoulder passing time during portraits, or the best man practicing his speech in a corner, or the brides maids tearing up from a near by window as the couple shares their first look, or the couple sharing a quick, tender moment amidst the chaos. These are the shots that don’t always make the album cover but are the heart and soul of what the day felt like. Being a “lead” most of the time I love uploading a gallery to see this sweet moments Dillon captured and love having the thought space to take a second look around and spot them when I’m not in charge of the day. 

It’s Ultimately about them!

Ok ok, with all that being said let me be clear. Yes, second shooting has so many benefits to your personal journey however, it is ultimately about the photographer you are working with and making sure their clients are well taken care of. Your job is to help the lead photog and bring their vision to life. I always hop on a call with the lead before I second shoot (just as I do with our clients) to make sure of any specifics they may need/want from me. Of course you may have the ones that tell you, I trust your creativity and some that have a strict list to stick to… both is ok, both is normal and both usually end up being great days! 

So there you have it. Being a second shooter isn’t just a side gig; it’s a backstage pass to growing as a photographer and capturing the essence of every couple’s story from a fresh angle. It’s about soaking up all the learnings, laughs, and yes, even the challenges that come our way. But remember, as I mentioned above, being hired to represent another’s business is a huge compliment and should be cared for as such. This is a great time to hone in your own skills and learn from another professional but ultimately you are there for THEM, to assist THEM! Be professional, be helpful and always follow their vision over yours!

For all the couples out there, picking a photographer who loves second shooting is like choosing someone who’s always leveling up their game, committed to making your day unforgettable. And for my fellow photog friends, if you haven’t given second shooting a shot, what are you waiting for? Dive in, have fun, and let’s make some memories!