Trying to be a 2nd or 3rd shooter

Amy and me at a wedding

If you want to get into weddings, you really need experience.  Now finding that experience can be tough, which is why I decided to write this blog post about finding a second (or third) shooter position.

I don’t believe you necessarily need to second shoot a specific number of weddings before you can finally shoot a wedding on your own, and I definitely, positively do not think that a photographer needs to shoot X number amount of weddings to be considered most qualified or better.  Experienced yes, but talented, no.  If a client likes your images, and clearly you know how to get it, then that should suffice to book you.  There can be some dude who picks up his camera and is a freaking photo genius with it by wedding #2 versus discount dude who shoots every weekend’s wedding #400.

You also don’t need to be as good as said lead wedding photographer because that’s not what you’re there for – you’re not there to do the big job, you’re there to shoot the details, provide support, cover it well, and your images in reality will be used for 5-10% of the wedding at best.  The pressure is off you, luckily.  (Sometimes my friends and I joke we’d love to just be second shooters just for that reason alone.)  That was my fluff your feathers talk, now here’s the reality.

You still need to get your feet wet before you start, you owe it to your future clients.  This is my single tip for finding a 2nd or 3rd shooter opportunity – find a wedding photographer, any wedding photographer to shoot for.

It’s not one of your favorite photographers whose style you admire, or whose clients you hope to one day have.  I say this because I don’t want you to be disappointed if you can’t shoot for a specific photographer because one day you might be able to, but more than likely here are the reasons why it’s more than likely hard to:

  • They already have a regular second shooter, and potentially a backup too.
  • They prefer that you don’t use the images you take (client exclusivity) so that defeats the purpose of shooting that cute barn wedding.
  • They expect their second shooters to have already shot a few weddings under their belt.

However, the great news is that you can and should shoot with any wedding photographer, even whose style you don’t care for, and here’s why:

  • There are lots just starting out or just want a buddy for support, and therefore more open to need your assistance.
  • They will let you can use/edit the images taken to build your portfolio.
  • You are there to experience the timeline of a wedding and can become an expert on how it is handled.

I believe that it’s not important to necessarily love the photographer’s style who you want to second shoot for, because (1) you want the wedding experience and (2) you want to be able to keep the images you take and process then yourself to expand your portfolio.  The most important thing is that you get a little experience of shooting a wedding anywhere, anyhow, at any time given.

You can still learn from your favorite photographers if they hold concept shoots/workshops, etc. or offer to assist them for any upcoming shoots – this allows them to work with you and see how you mesh, which then when an opportunity comes up, you might be next in line!

Diana Elizabeth’s Wedding Crash course is still available for purchase, 3 hours total for $199 if you need some guidance.  You can watch an 8-hour wedding coverage snippet – all the must have shots to help you.  Email Jen for information.

Diana Elizabeth is an author, photographer, and obsessive thrift shopper. You can typically find her in the garden wrist deep in dirt, at a local estate sale or planning her next epic party. She continues to blog weekly.


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