10 Tips for Being a Great Second-Shooter

For Photographers

You may or may not know that I was a second-shooter for about 15 weddings before I started shooting as the lead photographer. Doing so many weddings was an amazing opportunity to learn from other local photographers, get a feel for how a typical wedding-day can flow, and experience different approaches to capturing a couple’s perfect day! If you’re thinking about getting into wedding photography, I would hands-down recommend second-shooting at least a few times just to get a feel for how it all works.

Now that I use second-shooters for my own weddings, I thought I’d compile a list of some things you can do to really make an impact as a second-shooter (and make your lead photographer LOVE you)! Please keep in mind that every photographer is looking for something different in their second-shooters. These are just MY opinions and what I personally look for and appreciate in second-shooters!

Oh and BTW… most of these tips don’t have really great photo examples, so instead I’m going to try to show a variety of examples on the FIRST and LAST tips (two biggies!). The photos in this post show the same moment(s), just captured in different ways! Hopefully it inspires you on how you can capture a different picture


I was on the couple’s portraits, and my second shooter chose another angle and focused on Kalee’s beautiful dress and bouquet!

1. Make your photos look different than mine

I don’t need two pictures that look exactly the same of the bride & groom in a certain pose. Instead, help me give them some variety. Never shoot right over my shoulder – find another interesting angle. You can also vary your images by using a different lens than me, choosing a new vantage point (for example, stand on a rock!), shooting horizontal if I’m shooting vertical, etc. One last tip is to focus on details to help give the couple variety. For example, if I’m doing portraits, you could choose a longer lens to photograph their hands, the details on the bride’s dress, the bouquets, etc.

This is a fab example of shooting the same shot with a different angle, orientation, and composition.

This is a fab example of shooting the same shot with a different angle, orientation, and composition. Mine on left, second’s on right.

2. Do not promote your own photography business

As a second-shooter, you are there representing the main photographer and his/her brand. It’s a HUGE no-no to pass out your own business cards, talk about your own business, or promote yourself in any way. It’s a true fact that whenever I second-shoot for anyone else, I don’t even introduce myself with my last name. I’m just Kati…the second-shooter for the day! If someone starts asking questions about whether or not I have my own business, or if we always shoot together, I just let them know that yes, I do work for myself, but that on this particular day, I am working for XYZ. I just basically try to downplay myself as much as possible.

I focused on the details while my husband captured the bigger picture.

I focused on the details while my husband captured the bigger picture.

3. Try to stay out of the my shots

I say this in the nicest way possible! This seems kind of obvious, but try to be aware of where I’m shooting so that you don’t get in my shot. Likewise, as you’re taking photos, avoid getting me (and any other wedding vendors) in your shots too!

Same pose, two different looks. I was using the 50mm (left) and my second used a 135mm (right) to get close.

I shot the left with my 50mm, and backed up for a full picture. My second shooter used a 135mm to get close (his on the right)

4. Try to be helpful

This seems weird to say, but I cannot tell you how amazing it is to have a second-shooter who goes out of their way to help me out with the little things. Whether it’s getting me a glass of water, helping me with my gear, grabbing a ladder for family portraits, whatever….the smallest gestures make the biggest impact.

Technically, I captured BOTH of these (my second-shooter was doing something else!), but it's a good example of the same pose being shot two different ways.

A good example of the same pose being shot two different ways.

5. Help me pay attention to details

If you notice something off while I’m taking a photo, don’t be afraid to speak up! For example, I’d appreciate someone letting me know if the best man’s boutonniere is on the wrong side of his suit, if the bride’s dress needs a good FLUFF, or just whatever it is! I want you there to help me and be my second pair of eyes, and both the couple AND me will really appreciate your input!

Same shot, two perspectives. The beauty of having a second-shooter.

Same shot, two perspectives. The beauty of having a second-shooter. Mine on left, his on right.

6. Don’t post your own photos unless you’ve talked to me

That includes on Instagram, Facebook, blogging, etc. Never post your images online until you’ve checked with the main photographer to make sure it’s okay. There’s tons of reasons for that – personally, I like to do a first sneak peek on my Facebook page either the night of or next day. You uploading a photo first not only makes me look bad, but it also kind of promotes your own business over mine (see tip #2). Another reason is that many wedding submissions won’t accept a wedding that’s been posted on another blog; you uploading your images could hurt one of my wedding’s chances of getting published, and that would be no bueno!

I photographed this sweet bride's entrance, and my second focused on the groom seeing her for the very first time.

I photographed the bride’s entrance, and my second-shooter focused on her groom seeing her for the very first time from the balcony.

7. Always make it clear that you photographed the wedding as an assistant to the main photographer

If you talked to the main photog and he/she said it was okay to post your own pictures online, make sure to make it VERY CLEAR that you shot the wedding as a second-shooter to that person (I would include a link to their website too – it’s just polite!). Personally, I work my booty off on each and every wedding I shoot! There is so much that goes into a successful wedding for me… networking with potential clients, booking the wedding, creating a great client relationship, helping with timing details, etc. To take credit for that is just such a bummer, so always always always clearly say that you were working for XYZ photographer!

My shot on the left. Second-shooter's image on the right.

My shot on the left. Second-shooter’s image on the right.

8. If you’re unsure of what to do or shoot, ask questions! Just do so discreetly

I really respect people who are confident enough to admit that they aren’t sure their particular role. I’d much rather you ask me whatever question you’re thinking than keep it inside for fear of being embarrassed, and then miss a really important shot. If it’s a good time to whisper whatever question in my ear, just do it!

tips for second-shooters

For this first look, I captured the big picture, while my second-shooter caught it closer-up with a closer lens and a different orientation!

9. Remind me to sync our camera times

Okay, I admit it. I forget to sync our camera times about 50% of the time. It’s not a big deal, and I can get it all fixed while I’m editing, but it’s kind of a pain. So if you remember to remind me (haha) to sync our cameras, I will hands-down appreciate it every single time!

second-shooter examples

My formal photo on left. Second-shooter’s picture on right.

10. Take details & candids of family members / the wedding party while I take the formal shots

This kind of goes with tip #1, but I thought it was important enough to clarify here (oh, and p.s. when I say formal photo, I mean a photo where everyone is standing straight, smiling, looking at the camera and trying their hardest not to blink!). Instead of you taking your own formal photos (where everyone is NOT looking at you, and they’re looking at me!), I’d advise you to take some detail shots. Zoom in on the bride’s bouquet, capture the couple as they steal a kiss in the middle of the chaos, etc. Once you have a few of those, I’d love if you would take photos of the other people who are waiting for their turn for formal pictures – you know, the wedding party and family members. Take photos of them candidly laughing, talking, or just doing whatever it is they are doing! Believe me, if I am focused on getting that perfect family photo, I might miss Uncle Bob throwing the flower girl into the air…so you get it!

I love detail shots. My second shooter used this quiet moment to snap a behind-the-scenes shot of me.

I love detail shots. My second shooter used this quiet moment to snap a behind-the-scenes shot of me.

BONUS TIP: Take some behind-the-scenes photos of me doing my thing!

This is not really a way to be a better second-shooter, but it IS something that I love when my second-shooter does it! I would LOVE to have more photos of me working on wedding days – just because it can be really cool to see how a certain shot was taken! So if you’re shooting with another wedding photographer and notice a good photo you could take of them working, do it! I always love stumbling upon a shot of me while I’m culling my second-shooter’s images. Nice surprise! 

Alrighty, I guess that’s it! I hope this was helpful & informative to all of you aspiring photographers – if anyone has any questions (or just wants to clarify), I’d be happy to answer any comments below 🙂 I also want to send a big shout-out to some of my FAVORITE second-shooters in the whole wide world whose images made it into this post! Tyler Rosenthal, Megan Hampel, Corrie Childers, Becca Lea, Drew Cason, and my husband John – y’all are awesome and I love each and every one of you. Thanks for making all the weddings we shoot together so much fun and so amazing!

  1. Ashleigh says:

    Excellent list! Very helpful! Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the mention, Kati!! Loved shooting with you! <3

  3. dominqiue says:

    These are great! Thanks for sharing them, Kati!

  4. John Fravel says:

    You and your entire staff did a masterful job throughout the course of all events, Katie. You are definitely a master of your trade.

    The rehearsal dinner, the wedding, after-wedding shots and during the reception, all handled with a touch of class, kept orderly and managed with a smile on your face.

    The session you did with Khani in the Loft was outstanding. Photos of Khani and Joe together after engagement capture the spirit of their season of life. We have you and you seconds to thank for these memories that will last a lifetime.

    Ginny and I still look back on our own wedding photos. This is what your seconds and young students should remember when recording these events. The moments captured will be cherished for the rest of our lives. Take every shot with that in mind, frame it with an everlasting perspective and then snap!

    Can’t wait to see Joe and Khani’s collection!

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  6. Madeline M says:

    I’m a second shooter for the first time today, and this was my favorite article to read. Thank you!!

    P.S. These pictures are gorgeous!

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