Being a second photographer at a wedding is the best way to learn wedding photography.

I believe the best way to learn wedding photography is by being a second photographer for an experienced photographer.  To be at real weddings, faced with real photography challenges is the best education there is.  Styled shoots are great for portfolio building and creative exploration, but having real-world experience in second shooting a wedding will help you immensely.

Second shooting a wedding will help you learn how much you love weddings.

I was very nervous about second shooting my first wedding, but afterward, I realized it was my calling to become a wedding photographer.  I’m thankful to the first photographer who gave me a chance because it changed my life.

Second shoot a few weddings for a few photographers before you do your first wedding as a lead photographer.  Some people find they love second shooting more than being lead.  And that’s great, because there are plenty of opportunities out there for dedicated second shooters.

How do you find second-shooting opportunities?

When I first started second shooting I googled wedding photographers until I found ones with the kinds of pictures I loved.  I sent them a polite email with my portfolio link.  Some contacted me for an interview.  It took a few interviews to find the right photographer to work with.  There are Facebook groups for second shooters, you can try Twin Cities Professional Photographers Association, and you can search Instagram too.

Being professional matters when second shooting.

Second shooting a wedding should be fun for you.  You also need to treat it as a job, because it is.

Being professional is showing up on time or early depending on your photographer’s preferences.  It also means being prepared by making time to learn about the wedding details beforehand, and signing a second shooter contract if you’re asked to.

When you agree to second shoot you need to be committed to showing up, because two people getting married are depending on you.  Too often I hear stories about how second shooters bailed because they decided to go on vacation.  If you tend to run off on vacation at the last minute or your weekends are already full with commitments then second shooting at weddings isn’t the best fit for you.


Your gear is only as good as your knowledge.

I care more about a second photographer with reliable professional gear and knowledge of how to use it than I do about the brand names of that gear.  All the fancy brand names in the world will not save you if you completely over-expose a white wedding dress in bright sunlight for every single shot of an outdoor wedding.

Second shooting a wedding is about the couple.

Sometimes a second shooter will try to get certain poses for their portfolio when the couple wants something completely different.  If you want specific pictures for your portfolio plan a styled shoot on your own time or find a wedding with people who want the same shots you want.

Another thing second shooters do by mistake is handing out their own business cards at weddings.  The only card you should be giving out is your lead photographer’s, because you’re representing them.


Communicate with your lead photographer.

If you have questions don’t be afraid to ask them.  All questions are good ones. I’d rather have a dozen emails from my second to make sure they’re prepared for the wedding, rather than have them show up and not know what to do.

Think before you take a picture.

It’s tempting to “spray and pray” when second-shooting a wedding.  This means taking pictures super fast, hoping something turns out.  Thinking before you take a picture is a valuable skill to build as a wedding photographer.  When you learn how to do it, you’ll learn how to move quickly and capture intentional images at weddings.  This benefits the couple, the lead photographer, and you too.

Second shooting a wedding with photographers who have more experience than you.

Second shooting is great for experienced photographers as well as new ones.  Sometimes even I second shoot, because there’s always more to learn.  If you have experience photographing weddings on your own, find a photographer who has more experience.  This gives you the best chance to learn something new.

To sum up all these tips:

I hope this blog taught you new things about second shooting a wedding.  Most importantly remember that a wedding day is the beginning of a couple’s marriage.  Being a good second shooter is about listening to your lead photographer and working in the interests of the couple to create the best wedding photography experience possible.