For Photogs: Tips for second shooting

May 30, 2018

Articles for Photogs

Tips for second shooting like a PRO

When I first started second shooting I didn’t know anything else besides I wanted to know how everything worked inside the wedding photography world. It took me a while not only to learn ALL THE THINGS but to actually become a value to other photographers.

After over 5-6 years of second shooting and having second shooters myself I can say I now  understand what other primary photographers were looking when they hire a second shooter (and continue to hire!) . I have continued to second shoot in my busiest years, because I have gotten to love the gig. I love helping and I love staying sharp . I have also found it’s a great time to network and make friends with people that like just what you like too!

Not too long ago I was talking about offering tips or feedback and I figured,  to write about it! So here are my tips for those  who want to start second shooting or want to get better at it!

Feel free to comment below with any other tips you suggest.

1. Communication

Before you work with a new photographer, explore their portfolio.  Reach out and ask about pay, mileage, usage of images and any questions you have that could help you achieve their expectations ( How do you want me to dress,  How do you want me to shoot). A lot of times primary photographers are looking for someone to match their style,  so ask for specifics : what lenses you shoot the most, do you prefer natural light. Ask them if they will want intervention with details or poses ideas or if they prefer you stay in the back or shoot different stuff at certain parts of the day. 

A couple things I do is meet 15 mins before to syn cameras, however, you can always sync the cameras the night before!

Continue to communicate during the day and have their phone number handy.

2. Dress up

Overdressing is always better than the opposite. If you have any questions about the appropriate outfit, ask the primary photographer (see #1) . Think you are dressing up to blend in as a guest, and weddings are formal events. Ask where the wedding is going to be at? All black is best in most cases, but beach weddings could be a whole different thing. Maybe your photographer thinks all black tennis shoes are  ok, but black dressy jeans are probably not.

3.  Have the appropriate gear

As a general rule, borrow or rent if you don’t have: Full Frame camera body: Wide angle lens, standard 50 mm lens, telephoto and on-camera flash.

4. Arrive early and don’t ever cancel! 

Plan ahead to arrive at least 15 minutes early, specially considering traffic/ parking. You can always hang out in your car or scout the location so you are even more prepared.  And of course, communicate to your primary photog you have arrived to the venue!

If you ever had to cancel 30 days less to the date, you would need to find a replacement or make sure you tried to find one. Try to avoid this unless you have the plague!


5.  Introductions

You are representing the primary photographer, so always refer to their business name or to them when someone is  introducing themselves, either bridal party or other vendors, so they know who to contact and who would be the person to talk about decissions.

Remember, you are shooting for the primary photographer and their clients… not yourself !. Walk in completely ready to serve them do their best job ever! Ask for business cards in case someone asks for their card

6. Be helpful

In addition to shooting, you can take the assistant role and be super helpful when needed. Offer to get water, carry bags, remember to grab stuff they forgot on the floor, move lights and overall be a go-fer. This is definitely super appreciated!

7. Avoid cross shooting

Always keep in mind what the primary photographer is doing and where they are. Make sure that you are not getting in their shot or getting in the way throughout the day, and most importantly: do not shoot over the primary photographer’s shoulder – (unless they have specifically asked you to)

8.  Complement 

If they are shooting with a wide angle lens, shoot with your telephoto zoom (ask if you don’t know!). Change the angle if they are shooting from the front, shoot wide and from below. Keep moving!

Noticing this will help you provide very valuable variety.

9.  Be pro-active

If you have any questions about what you are supposed to do,  try to ask BEFORE the wedding day! If not, ask them before the wedding day start. During the wedding day, primary photographers have their mind on the game and want to trust you know what you are doing.

Moments I usually “Check in” :

  • Before the day, to get the timeline of the day and photo checklist.
  • Before the getting ready , do they want me to shoot the groom getting ready or join them for some bridal getting ready as well
  • Before formals, do they want me to help with the checklist or do something else ( details or venue shots ?)
  • Before ceremony, do they prefer I stay on one side or capture a wider shot?
  • Before cocktail hour , do they prefer I shoot candids or detail shots?
  • Before first dance and reception, do they prefer I use lights or on camera flash?

Most primary photographers will just assume you know what you’re doing ,  a lot of times we just basically think there is another “lead” photographer , but this list is a good start to know (almost literally) where to stand.


10. Add value

Find ways to add additional photos of moments that are happening all around or even different views or angles of the venue. Examples of this would be : Spontaneous capture during family photos, individual shots of the bridal party and flower girl/ring bearers. Details and wide shots are always super appreciated.  Look for the side stories, pay attention to other guests and family when the primary photographer is focused on the couple.

As a good rule, whatever the primary photographer is shooting, shoot something else or shoot it differently.  Make sure you are adding to the clients’ gallery, and helping to capture the memories is a great way to ensure the couple loves their photos.

11.  Smile ! 

Stay upbeat,  assist when needed and always remember that you are representing the primary photographer.

12. Keep an eye out for small details.

Primary photographers, usually forget things like wonky boutonnieres, flowers missing, and small environmental details like a piece of trash in the ground.

13.  Grab behind the scenes shots!

Behind the scenes photos are super duper appreciated! If possible, grab a few photos of the primary photographer working!  These are great to post in social and show clients.

 14. Make sure to get some feedback!

This is the best way to learn and to improve your work. Ask which images they liked best and if there is anything you could improve.


Here is one of my favorite feedback ever received by the most amazing Jenna Kutcher

(Shared with permission)

“She’s probably going to kill me for this but y’all if you need a second shooter (and she’s available) snatch up Laura Alpizar! She shot along side me this weekend and was by far the BEST second shooter I’ve ever had.

She was confident, kind, hard working and all the things, I’ve never used so many images from a second shooter and my clients are going to be SO happy having so many of their guests documented while I focused on them! That Laura is AMAZING.” Jenna Kutcher

I truly hope this helps and you get to shoot more and more with primary photographers you LOVE!

All images shared by my awesome second shooters these past years!



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I grew up in the tropical lands of Costa Rica, where I met the love of my life, and we started our lives in Minneapolis after years of long distance! Together we have the most spunky little one. 
My photos are all about the genuine smiles, the connection between people and the LOVE!

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I grew up in the tropical lands of Costa Rica, where I met the love of my life, and we started our lives in Minneapolis after years of long distance! Together we have the most spunky little one. 
My photos are all about the genuine smiles, the connection between people and the LOVE!

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