wedding photography second photographer guide image of bride and groom in forest

The Guide to Wedding Photography Second Shooters

Second shooter jobs are a great way to either get into the wedding photography industry, or supplement your income as a wedding photographer.

It allows you to gain experience with the unique challenges of a wedding day, without the direct responsibility of paid clients. It can be a great way to network in new markets, meet vendors, and learn the inner workings of the wedding industry.

Do you need a second wedding photographer?

For brides and grooms, second photographers allow for more moments to be captured. More perspectives from the same scene and less stress if there are multiple locations that need coverage.

For weddings I photograph, I generally recommend a second photographer if the guest count is over ~150. It is also a great option if there are multiple getting ready locations that need coverage prior to the ceremony. 

How do you second shoot at a wedding?

It’s most important that you have communication with the photographer prior to the wedding day. They will be able to define their expectations and give you important timeline details. They’ll also be able to let you know what’s expected from you in regards to gear.

Don’t forget to discuss dress code for the wedding before the day, trying to match the main photographer’s level of dress as best as possible.

Communicate when and where you need to show up. If you’re arriving at a location without the main photographer, you’ll probably need contact information for the client and/or wedding planner.

It is quite common that second photographers provide their own camera equipment, but the main photographer typically will give you their memory cards to shoot to. This will allow them to quickly grab the cards at the end of the night, rather than waiting for downloads to travel drives or mailing cards.

It’s great to ask the main photographer what types of coverage they’re expecting from you. A game plan for key parts of the day, like the ceremony, might include talking about which angles you’ll shoot from and with which focal lengths. This will allow your coverage to compliment each other.

Second Photographer Contracts

I advise that you use a contract for your second photographers. Definitely talk to a lawyer in your local area. Pay special attention to tax implications between contractors / employees for your area. A contract protects both the photographer and the second. If you’re a second photographer and the main doesn’t present you with a contract, ask for one!

Here is a template from The Law Tog: “From assignment duties and use of equipment, to copyrights and portfolio usage, the complexities of teaming up with a second photographer are intimidating.”

The main points:

  • How is the second being hired/paid. 
  • What are the terms of their duties.
  • Are they providing their own equipment or using yours.
  • What can they do with the images after (portfolio, blogging, etc)?
  • Social media clauses
  • Possible issues with client communication.

How to get hired as a second 

Photographers tend to get many emails from photography students, new photographers, and recent relocations to the area. You’ll need to stand out from the crowd. One tip is to provide value before making the ask. This could be a small gift (I’ve received Starbucks gift cards in the past and greatly appreciated the gesture.) or an offer to buy them lunch.

Joining local facebook groups for wedding photographers is always an easy way to network and find opportunities. There are also a few great sites for finding these jobs listed below. 

Finding Second Shooter Jobs

Here are a few great resources for finding second photography jobs:

Fearless has a directory of second photographers, sign up for a profile!

This reddit thread has a ton of great comments on getting second photography jobs.

Second Shooter Wedding Photographer Rates

These rates will obviously range depending on experience, market, and the main photographer’s clientele. Typically, you can expect roughly $30-50/hr. For very experienced photographers, I pay up to ~$100/hr.

How to photograph a wedding alone

I photograph the majority of my weddings alone and there are a few tips for doing without an assistant or second photographer.

The main issue will be travel if there are multiple locations. This just requires slightly more planning of timelines. Luckily, if there is a separate bride and bridesmaids getting ready location, they are typically getting ready much earlier than the groom and groomsmen.

Another issue is achieving multiple angles of events. It just requires that you’re efficient with your movement and lens choice.  You can capture a wide shot with one camera and then switch to your second camera with a telephoto perspective of the same moment. These tricks make it look like there are more than one photographers capturing the same moment.

The last issue is typically finding time to photograph all of the guests for larger weddings. This can also be easily handled by recommending a photo booth. These are a fun alternative to the more traditional table shots of guests during the reception.   

Should you second shoot a wedding before you shoot your first wedding solo?

This is an excellent article by Mastin Labs. It covers what you learn from second shooting: 

  • Mastering tough lighting scenarios.
  • Dealing with the pressure of tight timelines.
  • Poses that do and don’t work.
  • What to capture on the wedding day.
  • Problem solving during chaotic moments.
  • How to direct the couple.
  • Learning your own style.

It’s a great article. I personally never second shot a wedding before shooting my first, but instead spent months researching and trying to replicate lighting situations. Looking back, a few second photography gigs would have been a huge stress relief.

I hope this article helps your second photographer journey. If you’re interested in second shooting for me, send me a note

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  1. Hi there, Just wanted to say thank you so much for writing this guide. it was super helpful to me as I look into hiring second shooters for weddings this year. cheers! – Morgan