Tips for Getting Second Shooter Jobs and Being a Good Second Photographer

Aug 16, 2023

What is a second photographer?

Let’s start off by talking through what a second shooter or a second photographer is. When I was a new photographer I didn’t know anything about the industry and I had no idea this was even a thing. Basically there is a lead photographer, this is the person who booked the wedding and has contact with the couple. A lot of times couples will want a second photographer to help cover the wedding. At this point, the lead photographer will hire a second photographer to come and help assist them at the wedding. The second photographer doesn’t have contact with the couple and doesn’t have to edit the photos. You are basically showing up the day of the wedding to help and that is where it ends for you. That lead photographer is going to take your images and edit them and deliver them to the client. So you are just showing up the day of the wedding, helping to photograph that wedding, and that is where your responsibilities end.


How do you get second photographer jobs?

When I started my photography career, I had no idea about anything in the industry. I wish I would’ve known this was a thing, because it is such a great opportunity for new photographers or photographers new to wedding to get experience at a wedding before photographing your own. In my case, I didn’t even know this was a thing so I started photographing weddings on my own and by the time I really knew about it, I wanted to do it more so that I could make sure I was on the right path and doing things the way I should be doing them. So if you are someone listening to this who is wanting to get more experience with weddings, second shooting is something you should be doing. So how do we go about getting these second photographer jobs? For starters, there are local Facebook groups for photographers or for wedding vendors you can join. I constantly see people posting in these groups that they are looking for a second photographer for a wedding. This is a great place to get involved and comment when you are available to hopefully get that second photographer job. Another great way is to network with other photographers. You can do this by going to a style shoot and meeting photographer, going to a networking event and meeting them there, or even connecting one on one and going and grabbing coffee or lunch with another photographer. When you are meeting new photographers or networking with them, just say hey I have availability for second shooting this year if you have anything coming up, I’d love if you’d reach out to me. 

I have no portfolio and am struggling to get second shooter jobs...

One thing you might find is that you might struggle to get a second photographer job if you have no portfolio to show. If you are in this situation and you just feel like you can’t get hired for a second photographer job because of this, here is what I recommend. Offer to be a second photographer or even a third photographer for free. Sometimes other photographers will let you come second shoot a wedding when there wasn’t actually a second shooter paid for by the couple so they can’t pay you, but you do get that experience. There are plenty of people out there who probably won’t agree with this. Some people say never work for free. I think that that is unrealistic. You might be waiting around for a while before you can find someone willing to pay someone without a portfolio or experience. If you would have just done that free wedding, you’d have that portfolio right away to start getting paid jobs. A lot of times you just need that one gallery, maybe two. I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing things for free. We don’t want to just do things for free to do them, they need to be for a purpose in our business and I think this is a great example of the right purpose because it is going to help get you where you want to be. Another thing you can look into is often times photography coaches offer mentor session where you can shadow them. I do have a six month mentor program and within this my students do have the ability to come and shadow and photograph at a wedding. These are unpaid because it is part of the mentor program and a lot of times I pay for an experienced second photographer and you are just extra so there isn’t any pressure on you, you can really practice and take it all in. Typically for a second photographer, I wouldn’t be guiding them through the day and giving them all this advice as they shoot, I expect them to work independently on their own. So it takes the pressure off of you and allows you to really shadow and ask questions.

How much should a second shooter be paid?

The next question I see a lot is when you are getting hired as a second photographer, how much should you be getting paid? The standard rate in the industry is $50-$75. I would say the most industry standard currently is $50 an hour, but I would love to seeing that standard go higher as everything in our lives has gotten more expensive. I think that if you are taking a paid second photographer gig, honestly anyone paying you under $50 per hour is trying to under pay you. If there is travel involved for you, you have to pay for your own meal, you have to pay an entrance fee or a permit fee or anything like that, you should be compensated for that, it should not be coming out of your hourly pay. Every lead photographer has their own process on how they pay, but in my opinion you should be getting paid at the time you hand over the sd card with all the photos on it at the end of the night. Some photographers might it within 48-hours. It really depends on the photographer, but you want to make sure you are on the same page before you get to wedding. So know how and when they will be paying you.

Do I need to sign a contract?

One thing that you should be doing is signing a contract. They are contracting you to do a job, therefore you should have a contract in place. That contract is going to state how and when they are paying you, the job information, your hourly rate, and how and when you can be posting those photos. I have seen people frustrated, rightfully so that they worked for someone and it’s been weeks and they haven’t been paid. This is one reason it is so important to sign a contract because sometimes this does happen and you want to make sure you are covered by a contract. Another thing to remember, you will be in charge of paying your own taxes. Make sure you are reporting this income on your taxes and you are paying your federal and state income taxes for this job. The contract that you signed will probably state something along the lines of you being a contractor and you are responsible for your own taxes.

What to expect from a second photographer job the day of the wedding:

  •  Remember that you are there to support the lead photographer. While yes, it is good for your portfolio, it is not the reason you were hired. You were hired to support the lead photographer.
  • Be willing to help with anything from grabbing people, grabbing water, holding the veil, and things that are outside actual photographing. 
  • Grab behind the scenes photos & videos for your lead photographer as a bonus
  • Don't be afraid to ask the lead photographer what their camera settings are so you can mimic them to help create a cohesive gallery for the lead.
  • Never advertise yourself. If someone comes up to you and asks about your business, you are working for the lead and their business and should only be giving the leads information and handing out the leads business cards.


How and when can I post the photos?

Before your photographer leaves, It is important to have a conversation about how and when you can post the photos you take. You don’t really need to do this if you have a contract with them because the contract lays out the expectations. This is why I whole heartedly think everyone needs to have a contract so that there is no confusion. If the lead photographer never tells you how and when you can use those photos, it is really left open which is not good because you don’t want either side to be left upset. The standard starting place is that you cannot post those photos on your website or social media until after the gallery has been delivered. This time frame is going to look different for every photographer which is why you need to be clear with them. When posting it is standard that you should never tag the vendors, the venue, or the couple in your post. When posting, some photographers will want you to credit them and some don’t. I have had some that don’t want me to, because they didn’t take that picture and they didn’t edit that picture so they don’t want to be tagged or mentioned in any capacity. It is a little more industry standard to mention wedding was second photographer for this person. Ultimately, again you need to have that conversation because if it isn’t told you don’t know what they want you do to. At the end of the day, be respectful of that main photographer and their clients. There is nothing worse than a second photographer posting photos before the lead photographer. What if their clients saw that and they haven’t received their gallery? Also it is just a respect thing, that lead photographer should have the right to post those photos first. I do know that if you are listening to this you probably want those photos for your portfolio. Although you can’t post them on your website or social media, I do think it is ok to send that edited gallery to another photographer who is potentially looking to hire you for a second shooter gig so you can show your work but you are messaging them that privately, it isn’t being posted. 


Ultimately, when it comes to being a second photographer come in with a great attitude ready to work and do whatever is needed. If you can combine a good attitude with a good gallery, there will be no doubt they will want to hire you again


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