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The benefits of a second photographer

April 6, 2016

The Benefits of a Second Shooter, Rachael Houser Photography

Having a great second shooter is beneficial for any wedding photographer. I would know – I shot my first two years solo and only last year did I add my husband into the mix full time. Before, I hired amateur photographers who were building their portfolio. While I enjoyed their company and the images they photographed for me, I will always choose my husband over anyone else, even though he doesn’t want to become a primary photographer. In other words, he only shoots with me for me and because of that, he is only getting the images he knows I want/need him to get. Also, he does all of the driving to and from the wedding so I can eat/sleep/edit on the passenger side! The fact that he’s good looking and I like having him around to look at isn’t the main reason. Or is it? Haha, I kid!

I could go on and on about how much I love that Neil (my husband) is my second shooter but that’s a (long) post for another day. Today, I want to highlight why every photographer would benefit from having a second shooter (and a consistent one at that) and why every bride would benefit from booking a photographer who always has a consistent second shooter shooting with them.

First off, though, I should explain what a second shooter is and why they are different from a primary photographer.

A second shooter is someone hired (with either money or kisses, in my case haha) by the primary photographer to photograph along side the primary photography and occasionally do other assistant-like jobs for the primary photographer (getting drinks/food, switching out lenses, carry bags, etc). Notice how I used “primary photographer” a lot in last sentence? I did this because it’s important to understand that the second photographer works for the primary photographer and not for the wedding couple. This is not to say that the second shooter will not assist the couple if asked – in fact, I require it – but they are not chosen, hired, or paid by the wedding couple. For me, this is for several reasons: I need to know that the second shooter has my back, I need to be able to trust that the second shooter will not try to steal clients from me, and our styles and personalities need to match up. All of those requirements could not be guaranteed if the second shooter was hired by the wedding couple.

Since the second shooter is hired by the primary photographer, the second shooter legally works under the primary photographer’s name and business and therefore, anything the second shooter does (or doesn’t do) falls on the shoulder of the primary photographer and not themselves. Worse case scenario: The second shooter damages the bride’s dress (PS, this has NEVER happened). The primary photographer would be responsible for the damages financially and not the second shooter. However, I will say that a good second shooter would insist that they pay for the damages. But I digress.

Having a dependable second shooter allows for so much freedom in the schedule, responsibilities, and client morale. Without a quality second, I’m tied down. I feel I have to stay with the client, or near the client, for the entire day. Sure, it’s entirely possible to miss some great candids while taking time to get a great detail shot, but it’s a little more than that. It’s having someone who adapts to the situation and can take on an unexpected challenge with ease and grace. I want to provide outstanding coverage and have my brides ask, “How did she get that shot?” A great second is a big part of that. With confidence in my assistant’s ability, I feel I can leave the bride/groom and go get that stunning detail shot.

A second shooter allows the primary photographer to achieve multiple angles that a primary can’t do alone. This is especially important for parts of the day that can’t be coordinated, like the first kiss. I like to have a good wide-angle shot of the whole venue and one tight shot of just the couple. Even with the two camera bodies I have, this would be tough to manage by myself.

Another strategy I like to employ is to have the second shooter take a safer photo while I concentrate on getting something more creative, dramatic, and stunning. Not only does this give a great variety of shots for the client, but it’s also great for the portfolio. Often a client will focus in on one image, fall in love with it, and book you simply for that image.

And last, sometimes the second angle is another location. I often split up with my second shooter to cover both the bride and groom who are in different locations getting ready, or sometimes I’ll have my second shooter cover cocktail hour while I photograph family or bride & groom portraits.

A second shooter can capture the reactions, emotions, and action from a different perspective than the primary photographer which can be a really nice addition to your images – that is, if the second shooter and primary have a working relationship with one another (a requirement of mine!).

The primary photographer is there to get the must-have images and candids when possible but the second shooter is there to focus on the candids. Now, it’s true that a second shooter can get some really interesting candid shots (especially while the primary may be in a different location with the bride and groom) but it’s important to understand that a photographer can only get candid photos when there’s actually something to shoot. Another post for another day.

What it all comes down to is simply this: I shoot with a second shooter because without one I’m spending some of my time and energy trying to stay on top of where Uncle Larry wondered off to during the family portraits, or I’m having to trim down the time I spend with the bride in favor of grabbing a few shots of the guys getting ready, or I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get all those great shots that my bride has pinned on Pinterest (ANOTHER post for another day!). But with a second shooter, I’m able to relax, not rush (and therefore, not rush the wedding couple), and I have more time to be creative and get those shots that my couple hired me to get.

Why Every Photographer Should Have A Second Shooter by Rachael Houser Photography

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