In my previous posts this month, I’ve gone over How to Be an Awesome Second Shooter and How to Hire Your First Second Shooter. Today I want to talk about something I’ve seen come up over and over again on forums and photography Facebook groups… “Any advice on becoming a second shooter?” or “I really want to get into weddings, what do I need to second shoot?” Being a second shooter can be intimidating, especially that first time. I hope I can shed some light on what primary shooters are looking for and ways you can find local shooting jobs.
I’ll be totally honest, I started backwards. I shot a wedding for a family member and things sort of spiraled from there. Due to my husbands work schedule and the age of our kiddos, I only took on a very limited number of weddings each year and mostly focused on families. In my heart, I knew what I wanted to do weddings full time, I just didn’t have the ability to put my heart into it 100% with a husband who was out of town 4-6 weeks at a time. When we had the chance to move to a new state with “normal” working hours, I was over the moon to get started. However, with no friends or family to even start to get referrals from I knew the only way to build my business was with second shooting. That first season I second shot 25 weddings. Last year, I shot 40 including my own.
For me, second shooting has been essential in building my business. Even though I am booked solid this year, I still second shoot nearly every weekend because I love it so much. Not only that, it ensures my work stays on point and I deal with literally every weird situation you can think of. That first wedding I second shot I completely forgot how to change the time in my camera because I was so nervous, so if nerves are holding you back – I feel you.
So, you’re ready to second shoot…or are you? Here are a few things that primary shooters are looking for in a good second shooter.
Portfolio – There doesn’t even need to be a wedding in there! When my normal second shooters are not available and I put out a call for a new second, there are a few things I’m specifically looking for; proper white balance, focus and style. A second shooter needs to be able to step in if I accidentally fall in a fountain and break my arm, so knowing your skills are solid is essential.
Website– This goes hand and hand with portfolio but I think it’s worth it’s own spot. Most pros are looking for other pros to work with as their second, so a good, professional website will set you apart. If you are just linking your Facebook page and wondering why primary shooters aren’t emailing you, this could be why.
Gear – This may be a chicken and egg situation, but if you are going to be shooting weddings you need gear. Now, you don’t need ALL the gear, but at a minimum you need a good camera (preferably dual slots for back up), and 2 lenses and a flash (that you know how to use). Hopefully this does not come off as harsh, but as fun as weddings can be they are still a very important day in someones life and shouldn’t be used as a way to learn your gear (though you will be learning how to handle the overall day and changing lighting situations).
Now, where to find these jobs? There are a few national groups and websites, but the place you are going to find the most postings for second shooting jobs is in local photography groups on Facebook. These are groups for pros (not just anyone with a camera) and are city and region specific. Search for “San Diego Wedding Photographers” in Facebook and see what comes up! Most are closed but still searchable. If your group has meet ups, go to them. Meet people and network. If someone knows you they are much more likely to hire you over a stranger. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask! Offer to shoot for free as a third shooter or non shooting assistant to build experience.
The hardest part of becoming a second shooter is putting your name out there! Look for a local group, make sure your portfolio is ready and welcome to the wonderful world of weddings!