Pro Photographer Vanessa Joy’s Checklist for 2nd Photographers

Vanessa Joy

Vanessa Joy and Rob Adams

Vanessa Joy is an award-winning wedding photographer and is married to wedding cinematographer Rob Adams. Together, they travel the country teaching the art of “fusing” together still images and video.

I was 2nd shot at a recent wedding with primary photographer, Kay English. Using these examples, you can see what I do when I’m second shooting, which mirrors what I expect from my 2nd shooters.

1. Details, details, details.

If wedding photography were like real estate, those would be the Three D’s of Wedding Photography. As a second shooter you want to capture all the little things throughout the day.

2. Shoot from different angles.

If you’re working with the same subjects, at the same time, you want to try and photograph the same thing, just differently. Use different angles, make sure your lens is a different focal length than the main photographer, and try to photograph something that isn’t the main point of attention.

3. Capture the bride. Differently.

As in step 2, shoot the bride, but not the same exact way that the main photographer is photographing her. Find different spots to shoot from, places with interesting foreground or backgrounds. For my 2nd photographers, I usually like to have them use a longer lens than I am using.

4. Vignettes.

During group pictures, I like my 2nd photographers to capture parts of the group. So if the photographer is shooting the bridal party, take pictures of little groupings of them like this shot in the video of the three bridesmaids or the little kids.

5. Kids.

Little kids are always good to concentrate on, not only because they’re so cute, but because they can sometimes be difficult to photograph. As the 2nd photographer, you tend to blend into the background a little more, so you can sneak a few shots of them when they’re not looking; getting more natural smiles and real expressions.

6. The ceremony.

Respect the sacredness of the actual marriage with smaller movements to get great shots. To do this, a 2nd photographer is critical. Talk to the primary shooter to see where they will be and where they want you. For example, the main photog is usually getting the bride walking down the aisle, and the 2nd photographer shooting the same scene from behind the bride with the whole congregation smiling at her. In a nutshell, be where the other photographer is not.

7. Bridal party details.

As the 2nd photographer, you’ll want to take this moment to capture as much as you can like the ties, flowers, shoes, etc, as well as different angles and the vignettes that we talked about before. This is a great opportunity for amazing photos; don’t miss it.

8. Back up.

An advantage to having a 2nd shooter is that if you get car-jacked on your way home and all the pictures are stolen before you can back them up (hey, not likely, but us photogs do worry about these things!), chances are your 2nd shooter made it home safely. Take time to backup shots of important moments like the bridal party pictures and traditional shots of the Bride and Groom, just in case.

9. Bride and Groom.

It’s important to remember at this point, that the main photographer is the director during this part of the day. Let the photographer do what they need to do before you start throwing out your ideas. If you do have ideas, share them discretely, so that no one else can hear. This lets the primary decide what to do and doesn’t damage your relationship with the main photographer if they think you’re being pushy.

10. Cocktail Hour and Reception Details.

Once again, you can never capture enough of the detail. During the cocktail hour, it’s also always appreciated if you offer to get the main photographer something to eat or drink! A lot of photographers won’t eat or drink on their own and will run themselves ragged until dinner is served. You can help your primary keep their energy going with a snack.

11. The Reception.

Make sure that you’re not standing in the main photographer’s picture or the videographer’s footage either if they have video. Understandably, you both might get in each other’s pictures from time to time, but remember to be aware.

Final Note

There are certain 2nd photographer rules that are pretty standard in the industry, like don’t hand out your personal business card and dress appropriately. Then there are others that may vary like how and where you can or can’t use the images you took, shooting in RAW or JPG, and how much you’re getting paid. Be sure to discuss these things beforehand so there’s no confusion.

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