Second Shooter Cheat Sheet

So you Want to Start Second Shooting Weddings. What now?

Whether it’s your first second shooting gig or your 100th second shooting gig, the basics are still the same. This article is specifically for Wedding related second shooter advice so if you’re second shooting or assisting for another type of shoot not all will apply but some will so keep on reading!

What is a second shooter?

If you have no idea what a wedding photographer’s second shooter is and you’re researching, you’ve come to the right place. Most weddings are super busy. They’re not always crazy or stressful but they ARE always busy. Sometimes (or almost always) it’s too much for a photographer to shoot on their own without being stretched thin. When you’re stretched thin and pulled in all directions you’re bound to miss something. This is why second shooters are important.

Main photographers handle all of the “needed” and “most important” shots like family, the groom’s reaction to a first look, some of the detail shots, the bride getting ready in the morning etc. Most mornings are really busy since there are two whole families involved in the wedding and both are getting ready at the same time. There is no way for a single photographer to accurately and properly capture both families, tears, laughs, and all, on their own.

How Do I Start?

When someone is first starting out as a second shooter, they wont have anything or very much in their portfolio. I recommend that you don’t actually start second shooting. That comes with so much responsibility and you have someone’s wedding day photos on your hands. Start off by offering free shoots to anyone and everyone. Find friends who have just gotten married and ask if they’re willing to try on their wedding day clothes again for you. Post ads on Facebook for free shoots in Facebook groups, on marketplace, etc. All over and shoot shoot shoot. They only way to improve is by practicing non-stop.

Once a photographer feels like their work has improved a bit, then they can start asking to second shoot weddings. I recommend HoneyBook for finding opportunities to second shoot. That is how I started second shooting and meeting a bunch of photographers.

The week leading up to the wedding day, main photographers will send out a timeline of the day. On it will be all of your time shooting (typically not a full day) and the times and locations you need to be at. This helps keep everything going and the day on track.

The Wedding Day

Typically, the second shooter is handling the groom and groomsmen. This is because on the wedding day, the bride is top priority. This doesn’t mean that the groom isn’t important which is why the second shooter has to take their job seriously. Learn poses, look on Pinterest, watch YouTube videos. Do anything that will help improve your skills.

Second shooter gets to the grooms house, and then begins. But where to begin? Here’s what I like to do.

First, I start off by getting all of the details of the day together. This will include things such as:

  • Cufflinks
  • Sun Glasses
  • Tie/Bow Tie
  • Ring
  • Ring Box
  • Items of Sentimental Value
  • Watch
  • Boutonniere
  • Socks
  • Shoes
  • Belt

That should get you started! Once you have rounded up all of the details, it’s now time to stage them all. There are ways to up your game with flat lay photography and one way is to bring your own accessories! I always have trays, ring boxes, ribbons, and other shiny accessories with me to just make those photos look professional. Now, as a second shooter, you don’t need to actually bring any of these but since you will most likely be using these photos in your portfolio, I highly recommend you do start collecting your own trinkets to use in wedding day detail shots.

Second Shooter: Posing your Groom

Once you have your details done you need to *gasp* interact with the people there. JK hopefully youve been talking and interacting before now haha! Now, you need to be prepared. The groomsmen can get roudy and distracted very easily so you need to be firm, kind but firm. You are working and you’ve got places to be at certain times so you need to make sure you are outta there on time. Here’s a list to get you started with the groom.

1. Pose him sitting down, no jacket on, putting his shoes on. If he has a watch, have him put it on. If he’s drinking, get him with a drink in hand.

2. Get his best man (make sure he’s fully dressed and ready), and ask him to help with the groom’s tie and jacket. Ask another groomsman, or the groom’s father, to help him with his boutonniere. Have a step by step photo or video ready for the boutonniere ready because this is the hardest part of the morning hands down.

3. Get some poses of himself alone, Grabbing his jacket, holding his puppy, reading his bride’s morning letter. Try and get some candid and natural laughs out of him too for more natural looking photos!

4. Make sure to get photos of the groom with his parents! (and one on one’s also)

Second Shooter: Getting the Groomsmen Photos

This will be a challenge at times. Not everyone loves photos, not everyone cares, and not everyone will be sober. You just gotta work with it. Grab the groom, ask him to help you round up all the guys and get to work. Depending on if you’re in a hose, hotel, and even the season, your locations will differ but the poses and ideas will stay mostly the same. Remember, these are guidelines, make sure to get creative also. Photography is an art form, not a copy paste.

1. One and one’s with each groomsman.

2. The whole group of groomsmen with the groom.

3. Throwing the groom up in the air!

These are a few basic starters to get the ball rolling when you’re stuck in a rut on the morning of the wedding. Remember, you aren’t only trying to check off a checklist, you are there capturing memories in the making. You can’t plan out every movement of the day but you can prepare yourself to anticipate candid photos. Hugs between friends, shots with the groomsmen, the mother of the groom wiping away a tear. Whatever it is, be there, a fly on the wall, and capture it.

After You’re Done With the Groom…

Once you’re all set with the groom, you’ll head over to your next location. If you’re done early then sometimes it will be the bride’s house, other times you’ll hang out until the main photographer tells you that they’re ready for the first look.

You’ll then move everyone out and go to the location of the first look. Your job then is to stay off to the side. out of the main photographer’s shot, get the reaction of the bride as the main photographer gets the groom’s reaction.

What if There is No First Look?

That’s even easier. You’ll either head over to the main photographer and help her shoot the bride and bridesmaids or you’ll go with the groom and groomsmen over to the ceremony.

The timelines and details of every wedding will differ greatly. The main points stay the same though. Here are some tips for second shooters throughout the day.

Second Shooter Tips:

  1. Stay close to the main shooter.
  2. Shoot what the main shooter is shooting from different angles.
  3. Get candid shots of the bridal party and guests.
  4. Keep the list of family shots and call out the next in line during family formals.
  5. Shoot the bridesmaids with the groom while the main photographer takes the bride and bridesmaids.
  6. Hold the veil for some crazy shots for the main photographer.
  7. Know that there will be times when you will be helping without shooting and that’s okay. If it’s a shot you really want for your portfolio, ask the main photographer to do the same for you so you can get the shot and more than likely they will be happy to help!
  8. Know that this is not your event, you are not the hired main shooter so don’t advertise your business to the guests. If anyone asks about photography, kindly tell them that you are shooting under the main photographer today and direct them to the main shooter. If the main photographer gives you permission to advertise your business then by all means do so.
  9. You will most likely be sent early to the Reception hall to get photos of the setup inside before guests are allowed inside. Take that seriously and get all of the details as best as you can!

I hope this will help you out with your wedding day shooting jitters! Check out my article “Windsor Wedding: Marcus & Amy” for some more incredible inspo. If you’re wanting to second shoot, feel free to fill out my contact form and see if I need someone to shoot with me! I don’t always but sometimes it’s hard for me to find someone so it’s worth a shot! Best of luck out there, I know you’ll do amazing. Remember, practice makes greatness but you will never be perfect and that’s okay!


Andreia Danielle

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