In the past three years since graduating from college, I’ve photographed nearly 50 weddings between the portrait studio I used to work for and second shooting for other photographers. In that time I became super confident in my abilities second shooting weddings. If you’ve never been to, had, or photographed a wedding with more than one photographer at it, a second shooter is a photographer who is typically working with the lead photographer but their main job is to capture candids, images with artistic twists, and details throughout the day. You’ll typically split up at the beginning of the day and photograph the bride and groom getting ready, come back together and both shoot the ceremony, and then all the portraits after the ceremony and part of the reception. Following the lead photographer through the day was easy, but eventually I became confident enough in my abilities that I felt I should be the one leading a wedding.
After I left my studio photography job, I began to focus on building my own business. I knew weddings would be a great way to kick start my business and offset my previous income. But weddings can be seriously stressful, they’re once in a lifetime for most couples, and there’s no chance to re-capture events at the wedding once they’re over. As a second shooter, if you missed a shot it’s not the end of the world because the lead photographer was getting the primary shot. But when you’re the lead photographer, you can’t miss those shots. You have to capture the big moments, or else you’re toast.
I began working with my mentor, Scott Robert Lim, a Sony Artisan and a world renowned wedding photographer. He’s easily in the top 1% of wedding photographers, and now educates other photographers on how to build their photography businesses and follow in his footsteps as high-end wedding photographers. With help from my previous experiences second shooting and his guidance I felt more than ready to nail my upcoming weddings. After shooting some weddings, here are my biggest takeaways so far from being the lead photographer.
Take time to get to know your couples. Building a relationship with them before their wedding day is super important. I was able to gauge exactly what it was they wanted before their day, and make a connection with them so they trust I can get the job done.
Go into the wedding day with a game plan. Nothing has stressed me out more than second shooting for a photographer who didn’t have a game plan for the whole day. I take time with my clients to build a photography schedule around their day to make sure we get all the photos that they want, without stressing them out too much. Couples need time to relax and enjoy each others company on their wedding day. A chaotic day full of pictures is not what a bride and groom want to worry about on their wedding day.
Make a shot list and stick to it. A wedding day is all about the bride and groom. When I meet with a couple before their wedding day, I make sure to create a shot list with them to outline all the photos they know they’re definitely going to want. That way when the wedding day rolls around, I know exactly what to capture. I don’t have to worry about aunts or uncles coming up and asking for specific photos because sorry Aunt Becky, we have to stick to our shot list so we don’t run out of time.
Take care of your bride and groom. It’s not uncommon for brides and grooms to skip breakfast or lunch on their wedding day. Sometimes the day is so busy, they even forget to drink water. Always checking in with them and making sure they’re feeling okay is good for everyone. If they need it, let them take five to sit down, eat some crackers and drink a water bottle. The day will run much smoother with a happy bride and groom!
Give the bride and groom some space at the reception. Sure there are some photos you’ll have to get take with them towards the end of the night, but you’ve probably been following and ordering them around all day. The reception is their time to let off steam and have some fun with their family and friends. Get the photos you need quickly and efficiently and let them share this special time with their guests.
At the end of the night, THANK THEM. There’s hundreds of other wedding photographers in your area. They could have chose any one of them, but they selected you to capture their special day. They shouldn’t be thanking you, you should be thanking them for loving your photos so much and believing in you to capture their day.
Lead shooting a wedding can definitely be a challenge, and is most definitely a lot of work. But at the end of the wedding day, when everything comes together. It’s totally worth all the time and effort when you see the look on your couples face. The happiest day of their lives, and you were fortunate enough to be a key part of it!
Hopefully these tips will help out future wedding photographers and give future brides and grooms an idea of what to look for in their wedding photographer. I’m currently booking weddings for 2020 and 2021. If you come across this post in January 2020, I'm also giving away a wedding photography package to two couples! You can find that giveaway here!