Many wedding and event photographers use assistants. Shooting a wedding in particular can be a hectic process, and having someone to fetch and carry or simply hold a light makes the day much less stressful. A step up from that, and one that can result in a much better selection of images for your clients’ albums, is to hire a second shooter.
With an assistant, a knowledge of photography is helpful, with a second shooter it is vital. So the first thing you’ll need to do – if you don’t already know another good photographer – is to interview a candidate and see some of their work. It will do neither of you any good if, at the end of the event, they haven’t added anything of value. Seeing their work can also give you a good feel for their technique and how they see things. Knowing this will help you give them better instructions on the day.
You will also want to make it clear that after the event the second shooter transfers all files to you. You need to establish that the images captured by the second shooter is work product and is owned by you. A contract, signed by both parties, will help solve any disputes later. There can be verbiage in the contract allowing the second shooter to use a few images that you don’t want, so that they can add them to their portfolio – after all, it is quite possible that a second shooter has the ambition of becoming a full-time wedding photographer of their own accord.
It is always a good idea for photographers to come to a rehearsal (with the permission of the relevant parties), even if that is not ‘officially’ part of the package. This will give you great insight into the layout and lighting of the venue, and it’s also a great trial run for you and the second shooter. You can get to know each other and get used to working together before the big event. In addition, the rehearsal is an opportunity to begin setting expectations of what you want the second shooter to capture, perhaps whilst you focus on the central events.
On the big day you then have your routine worked out, and a fixed idea of what and where you will shoot. Family portraits and groups, the bride and groom during the wedding ceremony, walks up and down the aisle, and pre and post-ceremony shots of the wedding party. During each of these segments of the day you should review and set expectations on what you want the second shooter to capture. Having said that, you will also want to give them a certain amount of freedom to capture spontaneous moments, particularly as ‘reportage’ style photos are an increasingly popular part of the mix.
During family portraits and wedding party shots it’s always good to have the second shooter at a discrete location with a long, fast lens. The lens needs to be fast as they won’t be using any flash or strobes that would interfere with your shots. You want them at a discrete location so that none of the subjects will be distracted – you want all eyes on you. During this time, the second shooter can zoom in tight and look for expressions or other details that will enhance what you are providing with the group shots.
In a similar fashion, during the wedding ceremony, have the second shooter somewhere toward the front of the room if possible. An alcove or behind some flowers would be a great spot. Have them cover the audience, again looking for those unique expressions, smiles and tears that you won’t have time to capture. They can also provide backup for you getting a few different angles of the bride and groom, the officiator, and members of the wedding party as they come up the aisle.
During the reception you will have a number of key elements to shoot such as the bouquet toss, first dances, speeches, cutting the cake etc. During this time, have the second shooter work the room with a good, fast, wide angle lens and a diffused light source. They can help you cover the above events, but can also wander the room, shooting guests at the tables, dancing, and looking for the fun shots you won’t have time to shoot, especially at those times when you’ve taken the bride and groom off for their own separate photos.
If you have already shot many weddings and events you have a good idea of what your day is going to be like, and the photos you want to end up with. Having a second shooter can open up a whole world of other opportunities without a great deal of extra work or expense on your part.