I LOVE second shooting for my fellow photographers. Let me say that again… I LOVE LOVE LOVE second shooting for my fellow photographers. In a minute I’m going to show you some of my photos from a wedding that I was the second shooter at, but first I want to talk about what it means to be a #2 for someone, how that position has changed, and what I would like to see happen.
When I first started out I wanted nothing more than to learn from any and every photographer that would teach me something. I quickly learned that (at the time and still, but to a lesser degree) not all photographers want to teach a newbie. The tides have been slowly changing thanks to resources like Creative Live, but for many many years a photographer’s primary goal, it seemed, was to keep all of their knowledge and secrets to themselves. If they were going to teach it would be at a steep price. Fortunately a newbie can learn a lot from second shooting and generally assisting a primary photographer, and I had the opportunity to second and assist for some really wonderful professionals. I knew that I was doing well when a primary photographer would use several of my shots for their blog post!
“But why have we never seen you post any of these ‘amazing’ images?” Because until recently it’s been very common, no let me rephrase that, it’s been expected that a second photographer is there to work FOR the primary photographer. You are hired help, you and your images BELONG to the primary, and if you’re lucky they will print some hard copies for you, at cost, to use in your portfolio. This might sound harsh, but it makes sense, you’re being paid and gaining knowledge and experience while you’re at it. After working under this general agreement with other photographers and using it myself for several years I was surprised when I couldn’t get a second shooter during the summer of 2011 with this agreement! Everyone wanted to keep the images they shot and use them as they pleased… SAY WHAT?!?! Did you (second shooter) bust your hump to get that gig? Have you worked for months on setting up your shots for this wedding? Have you spent countless hours with this client developing trust, plans, and a personal relationship? Will you spend hours and hours culling, editing, posting, blogging, and packaging the photos from this wedding? Are you ultimately responsible to the client? Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!
Now I understand that every photographer needs work to show prospective clients and that a second shooter might have some really nice results from a wedding they helped with. I was in this same position… (this is THE FIRST wedding that I’ve worked on that the primary photographer has allowed their second to show their own images), and I’ve also seen my fellow photographers BURNED by their post-happy, tag-happy, not-giving-credit-to-the-primary-photographer-happy, primary-photographer-bashing, no-showing second shooters. It’s a delicate balance to trust another person, who could very well be your competition, enough to bring them into your world and let them watch you work. Being a second shooter (should) mean(s) being Johnny on the effing spot for your primary – that should be task #1, being 10 minutes early – preferably with coffee/water/juice in hand, promptly reading and replying to all texts and emails from the primary so that you can know your job before you get there, being an assertive (but polite) wedding party/family wrangler, being dressed appropriately, getting the primary food from the buffet or caterer when it’s time for you both to eat, staying by his/her side, staying out of the way/shot, shooting alternate angles, telling them when something is wrong/questionable (if it’s something wrong with you, tell them immediately!), run cover while the primary gets a shot under the nose of security, and making sure that your primary has everything that THEY need FIRST. Doing any, but hopefully all, of these things will get your hired again and again and sooner rather than later referrals from the people who once paid you to work for them.
I would love nothing more than to hire a second shooter and KNOW that he/she is going to follow the contract that we both signed. If the primary photographer doesn’t want you to post any of the shots on facebook, but will let you post them in your blog (like this post) then DO that. There are reasons why they have it set up the way they do and it doesn’t matter if it makes sense or you agree with them after-the-fact. Failing to follow the basic rules of working with them will ensure that you never do again… or for anyone that asks them who they should hire. Like I said at the beginning, I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE second shooting and I wish that more professionals did. Honestly, it can be difficult to find a good second shooter because many professionals (or people transitioning into professional-hood) think that they “can’t afford to second shoot”. If you don’t have another gig that day what’s wrong with getting $300 for a day’s work? New-newbies should assist or shoot third when possible.
So where do I stand now? First let me say that the primary photographer for the wedding below, the amazing Edith Taylor of Simply Kissed Photography, and I were on opposite ends when it came to seconds. Both of our ends caused us pain: I couldn’t get a second shooter and she was getting burned. Edith and I are friends, as well as collaborators, exchanging ideas, rants, and raves… we both saw the value in the others’ approach but clearly neither one was bullet-proof. I won’t speak for her, but I’ve settled on that my second shooters may post images to their blog and print hard copies for their personal portfolio. They must always credit me and say that they were second shooting for me and my business and link back to my webpage. My second shooters may not post photos on facebook or other social media, initiate contact with the client or anyone in the wedding party, use images for public display (art or bridal show), and they must wait 6 weeks after I’ve blogged and delivered the images to the client before blogging themselves.
On that very official note let me talk about my experience with this wedding. It was awesome! I’m so impressed with Edith for all the work she put into the planning and coordinating to get the best work possible. It was my first time shooting a New Years Eve wedding… I guess they are quite common in the bigger Mid-West cities and on the East Coast, but I’d never heard of one. With a black, white, and red color palette Cody + Margaret made the Mission Mill in Salem the classiest place in town! The day time was a little sprinkly and cold for the girls in their sleeveless dresses, but everyone kept positive attitudes; from morning hair appointments until the last dance. Dancing. SO. MUCH. DANCING. I spent the morning with Cody and his groomsmen at the Grand Hotel in downtown Salem. It’s all the way dark in Oregon at 4:00pm in December so we had to start formal group and family portraits earlier than summer weddings… which meant getting 1 groom + 10 groomsmen + a couple junior groomsmen wrangled and ready for portraits by 1:00pm. The guys were wonderful, keeping an excited Cody in good spirits, with enough infectious laughing to warm even the coldest day. (awwwwww) Margaret wore a Cinderella dress. I don’t think I can really say anything else…she’s a gem. The service went on smoothly, even with a 22 person wedding party (OMG), there were tears and laughter, and a perfect first kiss at the end! Then came the dancing… DANCING! Don’t forget that it was New Years Eve so they rocked the Mill and ended it all with a Midnight “Happy New Year” Kiss! Thank you very very much to Edith for having me as her second. If you want to see her sneak peek post from this wedding go here. I look forward to shooting a wedding in Eastern Oregon with her later this summer 🙂