Photographer Aaron Taylor has put together great tips for second shooters, in this article over at Improve Photography.
He spent a day as a second shooter for wedding photographer Erica Kay. During this day he learned a lot – not only about how a wedding photographer works in certain situations, but also how being a second shooter should always be about making the wedding photographers job as easy as possible.
NO CANDIDS WHILE EATING AND DRINKING
As a wedding novice, I wondered if Erica and I would be wandering around during the cocktail and dinner hours, snapping photos of groups of people. Erica advised that she does not take candid photos of people talking or eating because those photos generally don’t look great. Someone is either blinking or has a mouth full of food or it just takes too much luck to get a good photo. Unless the bride specifically requests that someone or some moment be photographed during cocktail and dinner hour, the advice is to not worry about candids and instead either follow the bride or prepare for the next important moment.
STAY AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS
As a second shooter, you need to be careful to not get caught up in the moment. I imagine many of us could easily get absorbed in the emotion of witnessing such a special day. If you don’t stay aware of your job as a photographer and of your surroundings, you might find yourself in the shot of the primary photographer. And as a second shooter, you want to be ready to help whenever needed, so always keep an eye on the primary photographer. I found this especially true when I was holding light stands. I had to constantly remind myself not to watch the beautiful ceremony, but to watch the primary shooter in case she needed me to adjust my positioning or the positioning of the light.
Balance the need to look professional with the need to be comfortable for a long workday. At the wedding with Erica, I should have dressed more casually. Sure, I looked nice in a dress shirt and slacks, but I ended up being too hot and sweaty by the end. Plus, the fabric I wore took a while to dry during the intermittent rain showers. Check the weather, know the venue, be aware of the couple’s desired dress code, and find the balance between comfort and style. While I didn’t let my wardrobe interfere with my job, there were a few moments where I thought, “I should’ve worn something different!”
THE 70-200MM F/2.8
I do not have a robust wedding photography gear kit yet. As such, I do not own a version of a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. However, prior to linking up with Erica, I knew that the 70-200mm lens was a must-have for wedding photography. I rented the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 for the day, and it was totally worth it. The autofocus is lightning fast. The focal range of the lens allows you to be out of the way when necessary. The image quality is outstanding. I had the 70-200mm on my camera for six of the eight hours of that day’s wedding. I really noticed the difference in quality when at the reception I switched to my Canon 50mm f/1.8. I immediately noticed the trouble the 50mm had focusing, especially in low light. Though I needed the 50mm to shoot wider as the dance floor filled, I missed the quality and speed of the 70-200mm.
Anticipate how you can help. I went into the day understanding that it wasn’t about my photography. It was about helping Erica–the primary (and hired!) photographer–get the job done. To be a helper, that might mean snapping photos. Being a helper might mean carrying gear or helping to switch lenses. Helping might mean holding an umbrella over Erica so that she stays dry during a downpour as she takes group photos of the wedding party. (Yes, that happened, but oh well! She got the photos she needed, which is all that matters.) Don’t wait to be asked for help. Anticipate the primary photographer’s needs and be ready to do something at a moment’s notice.
THE ITINERARY IS A GUIDE
I am a scheduler by nature. I have a detailed calendar. I like checklists. I like for things to go as planned. I also know that even the most meticulously planned wedding itinerary might be thrown away. The schedule, the must-have photos, these might be easily tossed aside by random delays and poor weather. Don’t fret. Keep talking with the bride, compare the schedule and reality with her, and be able to go with the flow.
A good second shooter should work hard to balance giving suggestions with staying in the background. While working with Erica, I helped to work out problems and suggested a few poses, but I didn’t give too much input when it came to creating photos. It’s the primary photographer’s show, not yours. That means putting your ego and your normal style aside and becoming a version of the primary photographer. If the primary photographer is energetic and chatty, you can do the same. But if the primary photographer is quiet and methodical, you need to match that energy even if you are usually a much different photographer.
Source: Improve Photography