Wedding Photography - Working with an assistant or 2nd shooter

Weddings are busy, fast-paced, and can be very difficult for one photographer to cover alone. For that reason, offer your clients the option of having a second or even a third photographer at the event. While having another shooter helps make sure all aspects of the wedding are covered, it’s important to remember that an assistant or a second shooter acts as an extension of you. All their actions and behaviors are your responsibility and a direct representation of you. Choose who you want to represent you carefully, and make sure they are as friendly and courteous as you yourself would be.

When working with other photographers, it is imperative that you discuss roles and expectations before the event. A second shooter should know in detail what they are supposed to do and clearly understand what you expect from them. One thing you should always ask to the photographers who will be working with you is to be mindful of where you are positioned so that you do not get in each other’s photographs. When there is more than one photographer covering an event, it is nearly impossible to avoid capturing the other photographer in at least a few shots. You can minimize the number of times this will happen by letting them know your preferences.

Some photographers use an assistant whose main role is not to photograph, but to help with other various tasks during the wedding day. This includes hauling gear, setting up lights, anticipating the photographer’s needs, organizing memory cards, lenses, cameras and basically trying to make the photographer’s life as easy as possible. Many times the assistant will help get people ready for the portraits as well as take care of anything else that comes up. 

Being an assistant is not the most glamorous job in the world, and most aren’t paid for their role. Their compensation consists of the experience and guidance they receive during the shoot. They need to be professional in both attitude and presentation. Even though the assistance isn’t paid, still make sure his or her incidental expenses like travel, lodging and meals are covered. The job is supposed to be a learning experience, not something that will cost the assistant any out of pocket expenses. Even though it is not their main role to take photographs, it’s a good idea for an assistant to carry a camera during the wedding. Shooting a few images represents a great educational experience. 

Just remember that if you give your assistant a special assignment or something to cover during a wedding, and it does not get done properly, you cannot blame anything on him or her. In the end, as the hired photographer, the responsibility lies entirely on you to get the job done. 

Second or third shooters help cover the event by shooting at the same time as you do. Work with photographers you know and trust. Most times these second or third photographers are other wedding shooters who will also use you as a second shooter at their weddings. You must know how they work and they must know what you expect. Make sure the second shooter is aware of your expectations and occasionally ask the second shooter to cover specific events during the wedding. Such as: 

  • When the bride and groom are getting ready at the same time but in different locations, spend the time with the bride while the second shooter is off shooting the groom. If time permits, you switch and take turns covering both the bride and groom.
  • When the bride is walking down the aisle, you shoot the bride’s face and her reaction and the second shooter concentrates on the groom. Since it is practically impossible to catch both reactions, it’s important to know ahead of time who will take responsibility for capturing each response.

A third shooter will sometimes be positioned behind the bride as she walks in to capture the angle from another perspective while making sure not to get in the shots of the lead photographer.

  • During the ceremony, ask the second shooter to concentrate on the crowd and the wider shots of the church while you focus on the wedding party.
  • When there are toasts, concentrate on the person making the toast and the bride and groom and the second shooter captures other guests’ reactions. Or he or she focuses on the person making the toast and you focus on the couple.

The goal of the second shooter is to complement you as the primary shooter and cover what you can’t. For example, if you are shooting with the wide angle lens, then the second shooter should be shooting with the telephoto. He or she needs to be covering your blind side and act as the eyes in the back of your head.

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