There's much to be said about enriching the photography industry through positive and honest collaborations between professionals, but one thing I think we don't talk about enough is the benefits of shooting weddings with a trusted second shooter and how it can benefit your business and even your wellbeing.
I started out in the wedding photography business through second shooting myself, which made me learn plenty before I started having my own second shooters accompany me on weddings. So, why should you part with your hard-earned money and pay another professional to come to a wedding with you instead of tackling it all by yourself?
Times Have Changed
...And so has wedding photography. The expectations from couples of what wedding coverage has to include have skyrocketed. A modern wedding isn't about documenting posed groups of families, in order to record who was there to witness the couple say their “I dos,” although it's still a part of it. Today's wedding requires you to be very attentive, quick to react, and have enough energy and experience to document everything from the small details of the wedding to the fleeting emotions and expressions that disappear in a matter of seconds, to creating professional couple's portraits. Whatever your style of photography, these are the things couples expect today, with some leaning more towards candids, and others preferring more traditionally posed images. To put things in perspective, a friend of mine used to shoot weddings on film and he'd sometimes have as many as three weddings in one day. Could you imagine doing that today?
To move on with times, we have to change and adapt ourselves. Photographers didn't use to "waste" film on shooting details of shoes, but today is all about capturing the little things and moments that make the wedding day a whole. Nowadays, couples put so much effort into making their wedding day personal and unique, so your job is to document their story, however many chapters it may include. Without my second shooter, especially if the wedding is fairly large, I'd struggle to be in two places at once to document the wedding from different perspectives.
Most photographers will experience this when a couple requests a photographer to be present both during the groom and the bride's morning preparations. Similarly, as a male shooter you may experience your couples requesting a female photographer while the bride is getting ready.
Things Go Wrong
Personally, I tend to worry about things going wrong when it comes to such an important event of strangers' lives because we can never go back to this day and recreate it. I can prepare myself by having a backup camera, plenty of memory cards, charged batteries, a spare change of clothes, and so on. But, what if something happens during a crucial moment? What if I feel unwell and need to take a break? What if I have an accident? Majority of these ifs can be answered by having another person by your side to take the lead when you can't.
Weddings, although at glance seem a lively and exciting event, can also be a lonely place for those who shoot alone. Having another trusted professional working with you on the day can make the experience that much better by simply having someone to confide in, to share ideas with, and let's not forget, someone to complain and moan to. Even simple things such as exchanging a "help me" look with your second shooter when a wedding guest won't stop talking to you can make you feel better already. I often get headaches during weddings, and as such having a second shooter with me gives me the comfort of knowing that the wedding will be covered properly, even if I need to sit down someplace quiet for a moment.
It's the Little Things
Once you have built a good relationship and rapport with a few photographers who are happy to second shoot for you, you'll find that it's also the little things that they can help you out with that have nothing to do with photography; Whether it's running to the car to get something while you stay shooting, feeling comfortable enough to share a twin accommodation to save on hotel expenses if it's a long distance wedding, or car-pooling to the wedding together and back. Or perhaps if your couple hasn't provided any food, your second shooter can go get you something to help you get through the day without losing out on any important moments.
When shooting, it's also very convenient having someone who can either gather people you're looking for, tell others not to get in your shot, or even arrange a bride's dress. It seems like such a minor thing and yet not having to do all those things by yourself will save you time.
Only you can determine whether you need them to be on the same professional level in shooting or you simply need assistance with holding lights or other generic things that make your life easier, but either way, knowing that you have another person to rely on is a huge relief when you need to do two things at once.
Invest in Building a Connection
Once you have worked with your second shooter a few times, you'll learn to see where their strengths lie and how you can utilize them for your business. Depending on what you consider your own strengths in documenting a wedding day, you'll soon start to realize which parts of the wedding you may need help with. And, if you find someone suitable who can fill in those gaps while you focus on something else, why not?
Instead of using a stranger every time you need a second shooter, consider building relationships with a smaller circle of people who can second shoot for you (and perhaps they may do an exchange of services for when they need a second shooter). The more you get to know them and their way of working, the easier it is to communicate on the day. Sometimes you get to a point where you communicate with each other just by exchanging a look.
Don't forget, at end of the day this is about your business so why spend time on getting to know a new second shooter every time when you can work with someone whose style and personality you're familiar with. Equally, it's important to find people you trust because they'll be representing you and your business.
Have you enjoyed the benefits of working with a second shooter? Have you had any negative experiences? Share it with us.