Personal Weddings

Being a Second Shooter Changed the Game for Me

DC Wedding Photographer

Many of you know that I have had the opportunity to work with photographers wise beyond their years, filled with incredible talent, and with huge hearts. Mainly talking about my homegirl Sarah from Photos by Sarah Beth… she brought me on as an intern to be a  second shooter at wedding for her and it honestly changed my life. Props to Mary from Mary Neumann Photography for trusting me as a second shooter, too.

She could have easily chosen another photographer for my spot – she could have looked at my small body of work and thought – oh…she could be more of a burden on a wedding day than a help. She could have thought… very little experience, I’m going to have to spend too much time talking her through how to shoot rather than shooting. However, she took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity to work on beautiful weddings with her.

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Second shooter Nikki reporting for duty (aka, being a lighting test subject)

I think I proved myself worthy, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this as I have started my wedding season and need to work with selecting my own second shooter for a handful of weddings. It’s honestly a chance – taking a chance on another photographer to act professional and friendly, capture images that fall in line to your style of work, and represent your brand. It is a chance. It is a chance that I’m so glad and thankful Sarah took on me, and that I’m taking on a few photographers this year.

Being a second shooter really changed the trajectory of my goal of being a wedding photographer.

Being a second shooter helped my confidence so I could shoot weddings all on my own.

I had shot weddings on my own before working as a second shooter, but it was always friends of mine, or friends of friends, or I knew a lot of guests, or something of that nature. I was literally JUST the photographer. I wasn’t the person who could help in setting a wedding day timeline, I wasn’t the person who could tell you where or when we need to take photos because of the best light. I was just someone with a nice camera and no real experience. Now, I’m a completely different photographer. I will take charge in order to provide couples the images they want and should have for their wedding day memories. I’m not afraid to tell people how to pose, where to stand in regards to the light, or even how to structure their wedding day around photography. It might not be ONLY because of second shooting, but second shooting helped, A LOT.

Being a second shooter taught me an insane amount of what goes on during wedding days.

Like anyone, I knew wedding days were a lot of planning, a lot of scheduling, required a lot of people, and typically were jam packed with last minute details that need to be settled. I didn’t know that it’s literally an all-day affair. I didn’t know that the timeline is incredibly important. I didn’t know that people wanted images of them getting ready. I didn’t understand that the day is about making moments. Just getting to be on the other side of a wedding, rather than in the wedding as a ~junior bridesmaid~ or as a guest, was incredibly educational.

Being a second shooter showed me a behind the scenes look at a wedding photography business.

You can laugh at me when I say before working with Sarah, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a wedding timeline. I didn’t know about pricing packages or prints vs albums vs digital files. I hardly knew about creating Lightroom presets or export settings or contracts or anything. Are you laughing yet? Working with Sarah taught me invaluable business experience. Not that I necessarily know all her secrets, but simply hearing her talk about her business made me learn. She’s been a great person for me to go to for advice and even a confidence boost.

Being a second shooter allowed me to get experience, without putting an insane amount of pressure on me.

This is truly the big one. A wedding photographer has an incredible amount of pressure on them to make sure all the important, whether big or small, moments get documented. It is a matter of a pleased client – who could become a cheerleader for your work – or an unhappy client who would never recommend you in a million years, thinks they deserve a refund, and will write negative reviews on your website. That is A LOT of pressure. Being able to second shoot gave me all the learning experience and behind-the-scenes wedding knowledge, without requiring that I necessarily worry about the clients final reaction. Now that sounds a bit weird… obviously I want them to love their images, and have no doubt that they will, but being the second shooter, it’s more about making sure the primary shooter has that extra coverage rather than being the client pleaser. It’s truly an incredible learning experience and I think if you find the right primary shooter to work with, being a second shooter can be super fun.

On that note, I just want to say, yo Sarah, thank you heaps and heaps and I can’t wait to rock a few weddings this season by your side!

PS. I wrote this a few days ahead of publishing it and yesterday I was able to shoot a gorgeous wedding with Sarah – and to be honest, I’m realizing there are a lot more items I could put on this list about what second shooting has taught me and how much of an invaluable experience it has been, so maybe stay tuned for part two!

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5 thoughts on “Being a Second Shooter Changed the Game for Me”

  1. This is a great post, Nikki! I love how you talk about how much of a value second shooting has been for you, because I think often we forget that we also learn and grow when we work with different people as well. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Completely agree! Second shooting for different people has taught me what to do and even what not to do! It’s absolutely the best!

  3. couldn’t agree more! second shooting is the best way to learn the industry and to be honest is something that I miss from time to time now that I do this full-time!

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