If you are trying to get your feet wet in the world of wedding photography, second shooting or assistant shooting is something a lot of people have likely recommended. So you found a photographer to work with and assist with the wedding day, but how do you make this a successful learning experience without overstepping your bounds?
I know there can be some growing pains in second shooting, and the lines seem thin between what you are supposed to do, what the lead wants you to do, and what the couple expects. It can all feel a little overwhelming, so I want to break down some of the things my seconds do that are big NOs or make for a big YES.
I should also say that these are my opinion and the first best thing you can do is to clarify your expectations with the lead before the wedding day. Make sure you understand the role they would like for you to play. Additionally, the more you work with a lead the better the communication gets, so if you can, try to build a relationship with a photographer so that you can gain more experience and the risk becomes less each time as you become more comfortable working together.
My first recommendation is to not be afraid to ask questions, make sure that you know your equipment inside and out, but if you find a moment in the chaos it is a good thing to ask the lead what they would recommend for lighting or posing if the situation calls for it. This also applies if you aren’t sure what you should be doing in some situations – like during cocktail hour, during family photos, etc. taking a quick moment to make sure you are assisting with what your lead needs is a great tip.
Secondly, I always recommend keeping your eyes and ears open, listen to the way the lead directs people, interacts and moves throughout the wedding day. Keeping your ears and eyes open also helps you be a great second because you can anticipate needs – does the lead keep looking around for the bouquet? You can ask if you would like you to grab it for them; does the bride’s dress need to be fluffed? You can ask if that is something they would like assistance with. For me personally I make sure my second knows if I need help with something, but sometimes the day is too overwhelming to make a point of it.
Finally, it is really exciting to be a second and to get to be involved in your first or one of your first wedding days, but you need to remember that you are not above anything. I remember feeling very special and excited to finally “be a photographer” but sometimes being a good second is grabbing water for the lead, or carrying the bouquet or train while the lead takes photos of the groom. While it can feel a little sad to not actually be taking photos, these are the great times to observe and listen and learn!
If you are going to be a second for the first time I always recommend just clear communication with your lead – ask them the questions and don’t be afraid; we were all a second once!