Confessions of a Second Shooter

Today is a guest blog post from wedding photographer Sara Chapman.

It all started because of Facebook. My friend had gotten engaged and posted her engagement pictures. They blew me away. I loved the creativity of the photo shoot so I stalked the photographer for hours after finishing the slideshow of my friend’s pictures. I was just out of high school and looking for a job. I loved photography and I knew I wanted it to play a role in how I put bread on the table (pun intended). I just didn’t know how.

I emailed the photographer and begged her to let me come along on her next shoot. I told her I would carry her bags, hold lights, whatever it took to be part of one of those awesome photo shoots. I got a very positive response back and found myself not only watching my new idol at work, but also shooting alongside her. I’ve been working for Kelly Lewis for four years now. I shoot my own weddings as well, but wanted to write a post about how valuable second shooters are and give some suggestions on best practices for working with a main photographer.

I promise that I’m not hungry as I write this blog post. I just think food always makes for great analogies. I think that second shooters can be compared to an apple pie crust. The photographer in charge gets the main shots (or apples, in this example) and the second shooter gets the detail shots that help hold the wedding story together.

To be a good crust, or second shooter, you have to be supportive. The crust supports the top and the bottom of the pie. As a second shooter, the ability to find a picture within the big picture can be a huge help in telling the full story. For example, the next two pictures were taken during big group shots. The main photographer has to pay attention to getting everyone in the shot. The second shooter can focus on capturing the little moments within the big picture.

There has been lots of debate about who should own the images of the second shooter. Second shooters want the rights to their own images, but first shooters don’t want multiple pictures of the same wedding posted on the internet, and that is totally understandable. What Kelly and I have worked out is that she has the copyright to my images but I do get to use them for my website. I just need to be sure that her website is also attached to the images. I think it’s fair and Kelly is very good to me. If she posts one of my pictures on Facebook she will give me photo credit. It’s like the apples are saying, “doesn’t my crust taste good!”

When I make an apple pie, I make it from scratch. That’s right, I peel and chop my apples. I grind my own wheat and roll the dough. I love sharing my apple pie because I’ve put a lot of effort into it. It’s the same principle for second shooting. It’s lame when a second shooter gets pictures identical to the ones that the main shooter is getting. A second shooter’s job is to mix it up a little bit and come up with something outside of the box by doing something out of the ordinary. It’s the creative homemade pie, instead of the store bought, plastic-tasting pie. In the photo below, choosing to focus on the horse instead of the couple is not a typical shot.

My favorite way to make my piecrust is to criss-cross it. But, there are other ways to make the top pretty. I’ve seen it with cut out leaf shapes or stars cut into it. Either way, there is room to play. The same concept goes with second shooters. Because there is not as much pressure on them as the main shooter, the second shooter has more room to play. They can test out new lenses or try out new angles.

Finally, the crust needs to taste good with the filling. In the same way, it’s important for second shooters to apply good business practices with the main photographer. There might be a slight temptation for second shooters to post the wedding pictures that they got as their own gig. This isn’t ethical, so that’s why a contract is so helpful for the first shooter to have Just remember an apple pie with just the crust and no apples is gross.

When the sweet yet tangy apples mix with the perfectly browned crust, that’s the moment that the pie is done. In the same way, as the main shooter is in charge and makes the pictures happen and the second shooter offers support. When it all comes together is when the wedding story fully unfolds.

Sara Chapman is an Atlanta based wedding photographer [who sounds like she also happens to be an amazing cook.] She is a recent graduate from North GA Technical College, and has an associate’s degree in Commercial Photography. Telling stories with her camera is her passion and she hopes to continue sharing memories with her clients for years to come. Follow her ongoing adventures as a wedding photographer at her website

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