The Art of Second Shooting

So you want to be a wedding photographer but what is the best way to get started? Second shooting for an already successful photographer is one of the best ways to fast track you in the right direction. You can see how someone else does it, learn on your feet and make industry contacts. But how do you get the gig in the first place and how can you make the best of the opportunity for both you and the main photographer?

Finding second photographer jobs

Most photographers will be flattered that you know who they are and that you get in touch. Target the ones whose work you like the best that feature on your favourite blogs or wedding magazines. However be aware that the more well known they are the more likely that they will have regular second shooters. Some, like Marianne Taylor use the same photographer each time. I work with a small team but they are all wedding photographers in their own right. Gaps do arise, especially in the height of the summer season.

When you make initial contact, please don’t just send a generic email to a few people. Busy photographers have busy inboxes and if you can’t be bothered to put my name on an email then sorry but I won’t take the time to reply. Do attach a link to your work and a CV or BRIEF biography but don’t send dozens of files that will take time to download. Unless you get a complete no, then its good to follow that email up with a brief phone call. I get several emails a week asking for work so how does someone stand out? Personal contact goes a long way and I appreciate that it takes guts to pick up the phone. I have been in that position as have most people who are perceived as successful.

When I was trying to get assisting work with music photographers I was aware that so were several others so I phoned and asked if I could pop along to their studio for a cup of tea and a chat. This approach soon secured me work experience and then assisting with some of the best music photographers around. Within months I was getting second photographer work, shooting major recording artists and building my own portfolio with images of celebrities that i simply wouldn’t get anywhere near at my level. Similarly Jayne who now works with me, made initial contact by phone and asked if she could meet me for a coffee. Us photographers spend a lot of week time at our desks and I for one am usually quite happy to get out every now and then. When I do have work opportunities, I will always go to the people I know first. Avoid phoning first thing on a Monday or last thing on a Friday as these are times when someone has just got to their desk or just wants to get away.

Make sure you follow lots of photographers on twitter and Facebook or forums as this is where the jobs will come up. Last August all my second shooters were booked out so I put a shout out on my business Facebook page to fill dates. One of the girls that came forward was a great second shooter and I felt like we worked together really well so she is now shooting with me regularly while developing her own work.

Be honest about your level of experience and always pipe up if you are unsure of something. There is very little time on a wedding day to check up on a second photographer so if you look like you know what you are doing, I will leave you to get on with it. But I have been disappointed in the standard of some photographers who have had good websites and were confident. I would much rather that someone told me they needed help with something than they just shot hundreds of frames that are not much use to me. As a second shooter you are there to learn. When there is some down time like at dinner or when things slow down in the evening its your chance to pick