If you are a newer photographer and looking to gain experience in the wedding industry, second shooting is an absolute must.  You will never, ever find a bride who is willing to let you photograph her wedding day as a solo shooter if you have never photographed one before.  I’m often asked by my mentor students about how to find second shooter jobs; this question is the theme of today’s post.

When you’re a new photographer, you need to get as much experience as you possibly can and really put yourself out there in hopes to be noticed not only by brides, but by established photographers who are looking for assistants and second shooters.

Find a mentor: A mentor is someone who has experience in the industry and a passion for teaching.  A mentor can help guide you during your journey as you transition from amateur to professional and provide insightful advice and tips.  A mentor may have second shooter jobs for you; but a mentor may also direct you to other photographers who require second shooters.  A mentors job is to push you to be the best you can be and help you achieve your goals.

Introduce yourself to other photographers in the community:  Whether you live in a small town or a large metropolis, introducing yourself to the established photographers in that community is a great start towards getting second shooter jobs.  There’s no need to make appointments with them in order to introduce yourself, a simple email or phone call will suffice.  Introduce yourself, tell them a little about your experience and your goals, and let them know that you are looking for opportunities to be a second shooter.

Don’t be afraid to volunteer:  Some established photographers will ask new second shooters to volunteer their time for the first wedding together; this is a form of an interview.  They want to see more than just your portfolio – they want to see you actually working on the day.  Although your bank account may be aching for a paycheque, if you’re offered a volunteer opportunity that may lead to future jobs, consider it as an amazing opportunity and jump on it!

Have/rent good gear:  Second shooters need long lenses – preferably something along the lines of a 70-200mm f2.8 lens.  These long lenses let you take great candids from afar without intruding in on the space of the primary photographer.  If you don’t currently own this type of equipment, ensure that you rent it for your gig or, even better, include this in your introductory email.  (I, for one, will not hire a second shooter who doesn’t have appropriate gear and who does not express interest in renting it.  No gear = no job.)

So now that you know a few ways to help you find second shooter jobs, there are also a few things that you absolutely should not do!

What not to do when looking for second shooter jobs:

  • Do not put your name out on Craigslist or Kijiji if you’re expecting good wedding photographers to contact you.  Experienced wedding photographers do not need to go out and look for second shooters; second shooters come to them.
  • Do not send a bulk email out to every photographer you can find.  Send individual emails to individual photographers after you’ve done your homework about them!  Some photographers always work as a team and thus, do not need second shooters.
  • Do not tell a primary photographer what your rate is.  Every primary pays differently and if you do not agree with what they are willing to pay, do not accept the job.  Remember, second shooting is incredibly competitive – the primary does not need you… they have a dozen more second shooters waiting in the wings who would gladly take the job.
  • Do not assume that you can use the images in your portfolio.  As with second shooter rates, every primary also differs with how they let their second shooters use images (if they let them use them at all)
  • Do not take any job that doesn’t have the details outlined in a contract.  Many new photographers have terrible experiences second shooting simply because they did not insist on having the details listed in writing.  Payment amounts, payment dates, your expected must-have shots and image usage rights are just a few of the issues that should be clearly outlined before you take your lens cap off.

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