Wedding Photographer Assistant Tips

Before I go into the wedding day requirements for a second photographer, it would be a good idea to think about what should be considered before the event.

how to be a good wedding photographer assistant

Photo by Ryan Polei; ISO 500, f/2.5, 1/160-second exposure.

First things first, you may be trying to get work as a second photographer to get started in the industry before launching into a wedding as a lead photographer. This can often be difficult, so be prepared to travel to an area outside what would be considered your territory. Photographers are business people and might be wary of training a competitor, but they may also be looking for a regular second who they can trust and with whom they work well.

Find out about the principal photographer’s style. The main photographer will have been booked based on things such as style of images, personality, and customer service. So it’s sensible to find out a bit about the lead. Find out their dress code and be respectful of it even if it’s not your normal dress code. Prepare your equipment: make sure it’s clean, batteries charged, cards formatted if using your own, and find out if the main photographer requires your cameras’ time to be synchronized.

On the day of the wedding, make sure you are punctual. If the location is somewhere you haven’t been before, do a bit of preparation to know the area. Google Maps is a useful tool for research; during my time as a wedding photographer in Lancashire, it has proven to be invaluable.

Then comes meeting the wedding party for the first time. Be confident, polite, and respectful to everyone, including other vendors that are part of the day. You may be thinking this is all obvious, but little things can often be forgotten when nerves and pressure kick in.

Now we come to the working side of the day. I will break these down to bullet points. There may be other things that can be added to the list, but these are the ones that I consider important.

Important Tasks to Consider

  • Be an assistant to the main photographer. Running errands, gathering guests for group photos, moving equipment around, watching gear, holding reflectors, flashes, video lights and generally doing any task that is asked of you.
  • Get the shots you are asked to get and inform the lead when you have them.
  • Take the camera away from your eyes and look around for the reportage shots, kids playing, different angles that can make a shot look natural, and details that the main photographer may not see.
  • Watch for things that the main photographer may miss—background distractions, for example
  • Get detail shots that may be of use for album design as background images.
ways to succeed at assistant wedding photography

Photo by; ISO 1250, f/2.8, 1/160-second exposure.

  • Be prepared to take the lead in the event the main photographer has to break away. This may be the scary part, but act with confidence and it will be fine.
  • Be aware of the main photographer’s plans. Remind him/her if you think something has been missed. It will be appreciated that you are showing you are thinking about what’s happening.
  • Think ahead. If you think the need for a reflector is coming, get it in your hand. If you know the need for a tripod is coming, get it and extend the legs in preparation.
  • But most importantly, learn something every time and enjoy it. You will be part of a team so make sure you work that way.

Now For Some of the Do Nots:

  • If you have your own photography business, don’t give out your cards or try to drum up your own business. These are not your clients and that is to be respected at all times.
  • Do not shoot like the paparazzi unless you are specifically told to. The main photographer would rather have a smaller set of well executed, high quality shots than a thousand shots taken in the hope of 20 percent being successful.
  • Do not just shoot over the shoulder of the main photographer to get some portfolio shots unless permission has been gained. It can be very off putting if it hasn’t been discussed. If it has been agreed to in advance, then the main photographer will have to inform clients that some training is taking place.
  • Do not publish images on blogs or other venues without permission from the main photographer. If permission is given, credit the main photographer. The copyright remains with the photographer/business for which you are working.
  • Do not chew gum, smoke, drink alcohol, swear, et cetera, if that is what is requested by the main photographer.
techniques for wedding photographer assistant

Photo by Emily Hanna; ISO 1600, f/1.8, 1/80-second exposure.

These are just a few of the basic things to consider. Hopefully this will help you to be an asset if you are a second shooter.

About the Author:
Paul Brown produces wedding photography in Lancashire and is also a principal wedding photographer with Yorkshire & Lancashire wedding photographer, Mark Pearson Photography.

The second photographer may also need to take over if the lead photographer has an urgent issue or emergency come up. Such as in this case where the primary photographer was caught off guard by a fountain:

Whoops! Good luck and have fun. :)

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7 responses to “Wedding Photographer Assistant Tips”

  1. Joel Skingle says:

    Fantastic post paul.As a wedding photographer I know that a great assistant is worth their weight in gold! Some of the tips on here ring so true if only all assistants were to read this! Especially the don’t give out your own cards. Love it well done

  2. Great article…. good job!

    We reposted this on the PUG wall for the Tampa PUG.

    If you would ever like to speak at our group in Tampa, FL let us know.


  3. Celeste says:

    I just finished my first wedding season as a second shooter. I loved it and had a great rapport with the main shooter.

    While her photos are definitely more important than mine, there were a number of instances where my shots were better than hers and she had no qualms telling me about them. And that was just because I I had a better angle. Last Saturday, I had the most amazing golden light from where I was standing. Instead of setting her gear up, she just directed everyone to stand exactly where I wanted them and let me shoot the entire sequence. She actually trusted me to deliver and make her look good, too. :)

    So now she’s started booking weddings for as far as 2014 with me on board as her second photographer.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Great post, yes all second shooters should read this. Also interesting for photographers looking at taking on a second shooter when agreeing rules etc Thanks a lot.

  5. Theresa says:

    Why would the photos that an assistant takes become the copyright of the main photographer? I have always been told that even if you sell a photo, the copyright remains with you.

  6. Dan Richards says:

    I have gone in as a second Camera, on a few weddings. When asked about my business, I tell them that I am subcontracting for the main Photographer, and do not usually do weddings. Then direct the person/people to the main Photographer, so any jobs gathered from the shoot go to them. Yes it is always important to let the people know who is the contracting Photographer, and not to draw business from them. If they want to share with you, that is up to them, and is equally respectable, but is not required of them. Especially if they only draw one or two gigs from the shoot.

    Some very good tips and pointers here!

  7. Another great wedding photography article. I as wedding photographer both shooting my own weddings and also helping other photographers as second shooter, can relate to many of the points here. it is not easy to find a reliable and dependable second shooter who can match the style and workflow for the primary.

    Many reasons but the first one is simply how well the primary is able to explain what he is looking from the secondary in terms of image quality, positioning, separation of duties. Many primary wedding photographers I have worked with simply assume the secondary shooter should read their mind and know what they want. I usually test my second shooters and give them few trial weddings to work side by side with me before adding them to my weddings.

    Another point is the terms of the second shooter agreement. Clearly defined expectations are best when it comes to such important thing as wedding.

    Keep up the great work. I enjoy very much your site and looking for additional useful wedding photography articles.

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