Selecting a Second Shooter and more

After last week’s post from Amy about how to be a great second shooter, I thought I’d follow up this week with a post on how to find a great second shooter.  I’ve written this post to photographers who have already shot a few weddings even as a second shooter and is now booking on their own and needs to find their right second shooter to come along on the adventure with them.  For those who are still second shooting or interested, visit Amy’s guest blog post here.

Now, onto what I look for when hiring a second shooter.

Someone with experience.

I look for someone who knows composition and how to find the light and work with it.  Even if someone’s processing style differs, I know that I will be taking their raw images and working with them myself.  I want to feel confident that my second shooter knows how to bounce the flash off the ceiling, walls, and to position the client in a way that’s flattering and capture the story in a way that’s similar to mine.  It is also important for them to be friendly, warm, and attentive to details and emotions.  I want to make sure that my second shooter is fun to be around for 8+ hours for the couple and for me!

Someone who can take direction.

A budding photographer who has the basic fundamentals of photography down and is continually learning AND is eager to learn more?  Ideal!  You’ll have to look for someone who wants to assist and is not there just to build their portfolio (though it’s an incredible perk!) but to observe, carry things and even offer suggestions if the need arises.  Or even know that when you have to go to the restroom you can tell your second shooter to cover for you.

I also don’t like doing the whole going to table to table thing and taking photos of cocktail hour.  I give those tasks to my second shooter who joyfully does it for me and does it exceptionally well.

How much to pay.

I’ve been told 10-15% is the average going rate.  I think it depends on how many hours and what you’re expecting from your second shooter.

Allowing them to use the photos.

Right now I say yes, because I built my wedding portfolio second shooting.  But, if I’m going to pay my second shooter $500 and it’s an entire day, then I might change my mind depending on how much I want the images to be mine exclusively.  Whichever direction you decide to go, let them be aware before they agree to second shoot.  I would hope that while they are being compensated for their time and given the opportunity to learn, that would be enough to them, it may not be for some.  If not, you can probably find another second shooter to fit your needs.

If they are allowed to use the photos – my rule is that they can use it for their portfolio ONLY.  Not for blogs because I’m the photographer who booked that session and so it’s going to be my wedding to market on my collateral and publicize the wedding for the couple.  The hired photographer gets the credit.

What second shooters should not be.

  • Weddings are not the time to bring your friend who doesn’t know how to use manual mode on their camera but wants to shoot weddings one day.  If you’re getting paid for a wedding, it is your responsibility to deliver and to do it successfully.  Again, this is not handing out favors or time to experiment.  If your friend wants to build a portfolio, consider making them a third shooter (and ask the couple if this is OK and explain this person is not costing them extra) or allow them to shoot with you during a portrait or engagement session.
  • This is also not the time to save money and pay your friend $100 for the day, give them a kit lens, put the camera on the green box and tell them to use their popup flash, unless you’re doing the wedding for little to no money.

How to prepare your second shooter.

  • Give them the wedding timeline, a time to show up with the address.
  • Let them know who they will be covering and what you expect out of them being there (carrying your things? holding lighting?) and their coverage (focus on parents, details of the reception).  If you don’t tell them, then you only have yourself to blame when you don’t get the images you wanted.
  • Walk the venue with them, or at least invite them.  It’s not mandatory, but they might want to.
  • Give them the bride and groom’s contact info.
  • Send them images to inspire them before the wedding.
  • Ask them if they have ask any questions so they feel like they are best prepared for the day.
  • Tell them you’re excited and happy that they’re shooting for you and you are confident in them!

Don’t forget:

  • How to deal with the exchanging of the images – bring your laptop or arrange an exchange of the cards later in the week.
  • You were once a second shooter.  Treat them with respect, love them and be thankful for them.
  • I love gifts.  I also love money.  And so, I like to give everything packaged cutely!  When you write a check to your shooter, why not throw in something related to photography that they can use like a card holder, or even tuck it in one of these?

Diana Elizabeth would like to thank friends Ryan Nicholson and Geoff Volker for the priceless opportunity of allowing her to second shoot for them and all the knowledge she has gained from them.  They are the best.

Diana Elizabeth is an author, photographer, and obsessive antique shopper. You can typically find her in her garden wrist deep in dirt, at a local estate sale or planning her next epic party.

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