5 Things to Consider While Choosing a Second Shooter

Some tips to help you find the second shooter best suited to your style and work

You know how much we love to talk about the evolution of wedding photography – the style, the method, the technology and the budgets. Inspired by trends and methodology in the West, much has changed over the past decade but so much is also just the same. Although young couples now prefer a more candid and documentary style of wedding photography, there are still those in their respective families who still prefer the older way of smile-pose-click approach. So essentially a complete, well-rounded wedding photography assignment is now a mixture of both candid/ documentary and posed photos.

The increased awareness of clients and the numerous opportunities in the field have paved the way for so much talent in the industry – some working solo, some with ad-hoc or project-based teams and others with full-fledged photography companies that employ an in-house team of photographers, editors, marketing and client servicing professionals. If you fall into the second category, i.e. you’re the talent as a solo practitioner but would like to give your clients a more comprehensive service package which can cover all functions, take care of shooting from both sides, handle family and group pictures in addition to focusing on the candid/documentary side of things, then hiring second and third shooters on a project basis is your only recourse!

Choosing a good second shooter will go a long way in improving your business as a professional. They will literally be your right hand at the wedding, as your support system as well as your back-up in case of emergency. And we’ve got the lowdown for you on how to choose the right second shooter.

Image by Kartik Jasti

#1 Be clear about your expectations from the start

First of all, what are you looking for in a second shooter? Do you need someone to shoot family and group photos? Are you looking for someone who’s style of candid/documentary photography is an extension of yours?  Perhaps you want someone who can focus on details while you focus on the grand shots. Or someone who can take family candids while you’re shooting bridal portraits. In addition to your personal style, what is your client looking for? Depending on all of this, you will have a profile for your search.

Once you’ve finalised a photographer based on the above, be straightforward about your expectations from them. Tell them about your method of working and how and where you want them during the wedding. Establishing clear guidelines beforehand will help avoid any clashes later on.

Image by Ravi Mistry

#2 Look for style and skill

Dig thoroughly through their portfolios/websites. Identify profiles whose style and skill compliment your work. But at the same time, look for someone who has their own unique style and does not just mimic photos. The purpose of hiring a second shooter is to get a more comprehensive story of a wedding, not someone who will try to duplicate just what you are doing.

It’s also important to gauge whether you can leave them alone to capture a particular moment/event at the wedding. If there are two different events of the same wedding taking place simultaneously (for example, Bride Haldi & Groom Haldi taking place at the same time in different locations), can your second shooter handle being on their own? You don’t want a nervous shadow over your shoulder at all times at an event. Recommendations from peers are a great resource when looking for second shooters. If they’ve previously worked with someone you know, give your acquaintance a call and ask about their skills.

Image by Ankit Goel

#3 Do you feel like you can rely on them?

You cannot discount reliability over skills. A fabulous second shooter is no good if he/she doesn’t turn up on time for a shoot. Having a second shooter means that they share some of the responsibility of the wedding. You should be able to trust them to be committed to your project and deliver. Ask yourself these questions before: Do you think they would be on time? Do you trust them to give you the quality of images you are expecting? Do you trust them to be your partner for the shoot?

It is also important to find someone who has enough experience to understand the importance of data management. We’ve all had data mishaps in our early, inexperienced days – loss of data, overwriting, duplicating, misnaming of files and so on. So it’s not foolhardy to take precautions and set guidelines to ensure your second shooters treat data with the same respect that you do. The second set of hands should help you stay ahead of these problems rather than cause them.

Image by Ranjan Zingade

#4 Does their work ethic shine through?

There is a fine line between the second shooter and lead photographer. Make it clear to them that the ownership of images lies with the lead photographer. Work out an arrangement that works for both of you. You don’t want them sharing images on their social media before you even deliver them to your client!

Clarify with the second shooter that they are working to represent you or your brand. It won’t be prudent that your second go around handing his/her own cards at the wedding, or acting like he/she is the boss. It would be best not to assume that all second shooters are already aware of the roles and responsibilities, so don’t be afraid to be direct and define them. You should try and understand the motivation behind a prospective second shooter’s desire to work with you – is it fuelled by a desire to capture and deliver quality images or simply the allure of travel and lifestyle that is a part and parcel of the work that your brand does?

Image by Sourav Paul

#5 Can you afford them?

While there can be subjectivity in style and skill of the second shooter, there is no standardised rate card for them. So it all boils down to what you can afford, within the budgets you have set aside for external resources. There are good, better and great freelance photographers out there and they all charge differently basis talent, skill, experience and location (freelancers based in some cities could be priced higher than others).

Based on the kind of style and skill you’re looking for and the budget you have available to you, the pool to choose from will automatically narrow down for you. There could be disparities between what you and other companies/photographers are offering but don’t worry about matching any rates. Find out what works for you and let their skill, talent and reliability dictate your offer.

Image by Satya Nayak

These are just a few things you should keep in mind. There are obviously no rigid rules when it comes to choosing what or who works best for you. It’s a trial and error process and you need to find what works for you and your brand. We would recommend that you do your due diligence and find 3-4 people who work best with you and keep them on your speed dial. If you have confidence in your second shooters and have a good working relationship with them, it will show in your work.

Do you have any other advice for choosing a second shooter? Let us know in the comments.

Cover Image Credit: Sowmya Mense 



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