Tips to Be a Great Assistant Photographer

I’ve been a second shooter at a number of weddings now and was recently informed that I’m a pretty stellar second shooter. (In fact, I’m one local photographer’s first pick, which made me absolutely giddy).

wedding shots

Photo by Lindsey Child; ISO 160, f/2.8, 1/160-second exposure.

I’m lucky to have Ryan as my second shooter for weddings, which works out beautifully for me. We both have a similar style and we understand one another really well. I can always count on Ryan to get really strong images from a different perspective and he fills out each weddings album of images really well!

So I thought I’d write an article giving some tips on how to be an awesome second shooter based on my experiences with a second shooter and as a second shooter for someone else.

1. Do NOT promote yourself

This is probably the most important rule of second shooting, and I would hope it’s common sense. While you are working you are a member of your main photographer’s business. It is completely inappropriate and unacceptable to advertise or market your own business while you are working for another photographer. In fact, by trying to market yourself while working for another photographer you will more than likely appear very unprofessional and amateur. Do yourself and the photographer (who was kind enough to hire you for the day) the courtesy of forgetting you have a business for the day. And as an employee for the photographer, you should be prepped to answer a few simple questions about your photographer if guests should ask and have business cards ready to hand out, too.

2. Look for new angles

The last thing your photographer wants is for you to take duplicates of every shot s/he is taking. They hired you for your eye and their hope is that you’ll look for different angles. On wedding days, it’s the main photographer’s job to capture all of the formal straight-on images. But you have the fun and unique opportunity to look at each shot from a different angle or perspective. Keep an eye open for something different and for things the photographer might miss between shots.

3. Be sure you’re not in the main photographer’s shot

This can be a common problem for new second shooters. It’s always important to keep an eye on where the main photographer is and be sure you aren’t going to show up in the backgrounds of their images. Remember their shots are more important than yours! So stay out of their way! And remember to make sure s/he isn’t in the background of your pictures either.

wedding beach

Photo by Max-Leonhard von Schaper; ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/400-second exposure.

4. Pay attention to details

Another nice thing you can do to help your photographer is to pay attention to the details when s/he is setting up a photo. If you notice the bride’s dress is wrinkled funny, straighten it. If you see that the groom’s handkerchief isn’t perfect, correct it. If a bridesmaid has some hair out of place, go up and fix it. Both the photographer and the client will thank you for your attention to those details.

5. Be attentive to what the main photographer needs

Oftentimes second shooters double as assistants. Always keep your eye on the photographer to see if there’s something s/he needs. This is really great when you’ve worked with one photographer for a while, because you start to know what lenses s/he will want when setting up a shot. You can be ready and waiting with their lens prepped for them when they need it.

6. Be friendly and chat with clients while the main photographer preps for the next shot

Don’t feel like you can’t be friendly and chat with the clients just because they aren’t your clients. Brides and grooms feel most uncomfortable in those in between moments while the photographer is getting prepped for the next shot. Ease their discomfort by telling them how awesome they look, asking them if they’re enjoying the day, asking what they are most looking forward to, etc. This is a great way to keep the clients distracted and happy and give the main photographer the time they need to get ready for the next shot.

wedding portrait

Photo by Jay Wu; ISO 640, f/2.8, 1/200-second exposure.

As you can see, there are a lot of things you can do to help your photographer on the wedding day. While the main photographer has to focus on getting images s/he is sure the client will buy, you get the opportunity to capture some really unique and creative images, too. Plus it’s your duty to make sure the photographer is taken care of as well as the clients. And don’t forget—while you are working for a photographer, you cannot advertise or market yourself. Hopefully these six tips will help you become the best second shooter you can be!

About the Author:
Stephanie lives in Central Illinois and is married to her best friend, Ryan. She enjoys the company of her rambunctious lab-beagle pup, Kit. She is the owner of Green Tree Media ( and is passionate about photography.

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