It's been awhile since I've second shot a wedding, but the truth is I love doing it! To me, second shooting is all of the fun and none of the pressure, literally, the best of both worlds of photographing weddings.
I had the opportunity to second shoot a wedding this past weekend for Stephanie Williams, a wonderfully talented photographer whose work I really admire.  Ordinarily, her husband Isaac whom she's known since high school second shoots for her, but tragedy struck their family not that long ago.  Isaac had been having double vision so he went to the doctor for a check.  When they scanned him, they found a quite large tumor pressing on his optic nerve, so they went in to remove it.  He experienced terrible side effects as a result, including a stroke and life threatening blood clots.  He is recovering, but won't be up and running for quite awhile.
When I heard what happened to Isaac, I just really wanted to help Stephanie.  Hopefully I was able to at least alleviate her stress about having to shoot a wedding while Isaac works at his recovery.  I know that if anything happened to Jeff, it would be difficult, if not impossible for me to focus on shooting weddings.  Stephanie is a true professional--she was there all day creating beautiful images for this beautiful couple.  I'm just glad that I was able to help support her that day!
I also thought it might be fun to post about what I like and look for in a second shooter.  I have two or three people who second shoot for me, and I trust them all implicitly.  I rarely if ever take second shooters I do not know personally because a second shooter is a reflection of my brand to my clients and their guests on the wedding day!  Here is my brief guide to second shooting if you decide that it is something you'd like to do!
Tip #1:  BE ON TIME & find out from the lead photographer in advance to find out where you will be starting the day.  The last thing a main shooter needs the day of a wedding is a late second shooter--that causes the stress you're supposed to be preventing!  Stephanie decided that she would like me to photograph the boys getting ready while she worked with the girls in another room. I really enjoyed the challenge of this because as a first shooter, I normally spend most of the time with the ladies!


I got to spend much more time with the guys than I normally do, so I played around with some new angles:


And light I don't normally pick:


And the groom gave himself a little haircut (never seen that before!)


I was there for the finishing touches:




After a quick tea ceremony, Stephanie sent me over to the venue, Strawberry Farms, to photograph the setup and some formal photos of the guys.
The red barn is the signature of Strawberry Farms, so I just had to use it!



Since I was the first one there, I had a nice clean shot of the ceremony area:


When Stephanie arrived with the girls, it was time for the first look!
Tip #2: Communicate with the lead photographer about where you should be during moments you are both covering.  NEVER interfere or be in the main shooters shot, even if it means you have a slightly different angle than you'd prefer or you'll be shooting with other lenses than your usual.
For the first look, I decided to shoot with my 100 2.8L--I love that lens and hardly ever use it because I generally like to be closer when I shoot.  However, to stay out of Stephanie's shot, I needed to be a bit further, and I don't particularly like the 70-200--it's just too bulky for me!



These two were just SO sweet together! They really made it a pleasure to watch them interact and enjoy their wedding day


Instead of concentrating on portraits, I got to play around a little and see what else I could find! I absolutely love this one:


Since I hadn't seen much of the bride, I did shoot some photos of her while Stephanie worked with her from the front angle:


I mean, that light? Stop it, it was sooo delicious!


And instead of making sure I got a perfect portrait with eyes open, looking at me, that day I saw other things:


Tip #3: Do anything you can to make the day smoother and easier for the first shooter so that they can do the job their client hired them to do to the best of their abilities.
Stephanie and the girls took a little longer to get over to the venue from the hotel than planned so I had some time with the guys before they got there, which I used to shoot portraits by the barn.  But Stephanie took the whole group to this other, really beautifully backlit spot and asked me to shoot the guys again with that background while she worked with the girls.  Of course!  I was just glad she asked, instead of feeling the pressure to do that all herself with the limited time we had available.  


Tip #4: Keep shooting when the main shooter changes cards, has a problem, needs to swap lenses, etc.!
Time on a wedding day is precious!  Sometimes we have to change our cards at a less than opportune moment.  If the main shooter needs to switch while the entire bridal party or family is looking at him/her, step in!  Keep shooting, ask the bride to look briefly at you, and go around getting other angles or details of whoever is there so that there are no awkward pauses and the energy keeps flowing!



Tip #5: Shoot from a DIFFERENT but NON-INTRUSIVE angle than the main shooter!  Make sure you keep your eyes on the main shooter every few seconds to ensure that you aren't in the shot they're trying to get, and that they are not right next to you.  Most clients would rather have two different angles of things than two almost identical ones--that's one of the points of even having a second shooter to begin with!
For me, this meant that for the first part of the ceremony, I got to do the thing I love most--find a beautiful backlit angle and shoot away!  




After a few minutes in that prime spot, I moved to the back so that Stephanie could get her wide backlit shot from a hill above the site. When we convened in the back, she decided to take the backlit spot and I shot from the back of the aisle.  Hey, someone has to rock that traditional, straightforward shot--not every photo needs to be backlit :)


Tip #6: When the main shooter is getting ready for the formal shots, shoot moments that are happening!
Family photos are an important part of the wedding day, and not just because of the official family photos!  It's also a time when the couple is super excited to have just gotten married and surrounded by people who love them.  So if the main shooter doesn't need you to help with any type of setup (if they do, your first duty is to do what they need), shoot the in-between moments like crazy!



Tip #7: Shoot the setup of the reception if it looks like the main shooter will be tied up and guests are about to get sent in for seating.  Getting clean shots of a reception area is really important to everyone involved with the wedding and I'll admit, there have been a few times where the schedule is just too tight to allow me to do as good of a job as I want as well as keep the couple for romantic portraits and also finish family photos.  In these cases, I usually send the second shooter on ahead to shoot that while I finish up with the couple.
When shooting reception areas, keep it clean--no people in the background, no jackets on chairs, etc.  If you can't get a clean shot, politely ask the catering director or wedding coordinator for help clearing the room.  They'll usually help you--everyone wants that nice clean shot!  Just get your settings right first and make it quick--the servers and caterer need to do their jobs as well.






Tip #8: Shoot things the main shooter can't possibly get there in time for.  One example of this is the moments before the couple goes into the ballroom.  Most of the time the main shooter will be shooting the bridal party and couple getting announced.  This is a great time to sneak out back and get shots of the group ready to go in, and entering the room from another angle!  As always though, just make sure to not be in the main shooters' photo :)


I love shooting the first dance--it's my favorite part of the reception!


And I love bringing a little second light along so I can have backlight whenever I want :)


Tip #9: Shoot the toasts!  And shoot them from angles the main shooter might or might not be able to get
Sometimes (although not often enough!) toasts are super short.  When I work with second shooters, one of us shoots the toaster, and one of us shoots the reactions of the couple.  When I shot with Stephanie, I just tried to stay out of here photo and to shoot something different than what it looked like she was shooting.


Wedding cake is the best perk of my job:


And then they partied!


Tip #10: Help your fellow photographer
Although you might not be able to second shoot for Stephanie, there is still plenty you can do to help heal Isaac!  The thing I love most about the photography community hands down is the support we give one another when something happens.  We do this selflessly and immediately.  Isaac is healing but it's going to be a long road.  What they need most right now is prayer, and donations!  To see what you can do, please click the button below to read about Isaac's story & progress:


I hope this post was helpful, and thanks so much to Stephanie for allowing me to learn from her for a day!