GETTING THE GIG
Many photographers work with a regular second shooter or book one
months in advance from a selective roster. Well-established shooters
rarely need to look for new additions to their list, since aspiring
seconds contact them. When lead photographers do need to recruit
someone new, they tend to look to their professional or social network
To vet candidates, leads look for portfolios that demonstrate an
ability to get consistently good shots in constantly changing scenarios.
“I’m really looking for images that they didn’t direct,” says New York
studio head Ira Lippke. “It’s actually rare to find photographers who
are really good at knowing how to be in that right place at the right
time, and find the composition and know how to work with light.”
That’s especially true when the lights go down. “The technical piece
that tends to be lacking is the ability to shoot motion and shoot in
darkness,” says Brian Dorsey, another prominent New York shooter.
It’s the photographers who can show strong flash-lit candid images of
moving subjects that get his attention.
At least as important as technical skill are personal traits. A second’s
personality should reflect the lead’s brand, whether that means being
unobtrusive or more outgoing. Getting along with all kinds of people
is a must. “If you take a single lousy picture, we can delete it,” explains
Dorsey, “but if you say something that offends a client, there are no
After reviewing their work and having an initial conversation to get
a feel for the candidate’s personality, many leads will offer a trial gig
first. Those who get the job can look forward to being paid at least
reasonably well. Fees for a full-day wedding shoot vary by geography,
skill and experience, starting around $250 and topping $1,200 for
the best shooters in upscale markets. Many photographers prefer to
head off misunderstandings by drawing up a contract that covers fees,
copyright ownership and image usage rights.
THE BIG DAY
Being a second shooter does not mean showing up second. “Probably
the worst thing is being late,” says Yoshi Morimoto (below), who has
been showing up early to second shoot for L.A. photographer Dina
Douglass since 2004. Second shooters are generally expected to
bring their own gear to weddings, although some leads will lend them
lenses, memory cards or lighting equipment. One thing they should
leave at home is their own business card. “You should never work at
cross purposes to the photographer or self-promote,” says New York
City lead photographer Ryan Brenizer.
The wedding day is usually the first time second shooters meet the
clients, but lead photographers should brief them in advance with
a schedule, details about the couple and their guests, appropriate
attire (it’s not always basic black) and a rundown of any specific types
of shots the lead wants them to cover. When meeting the clients,
OPPOSITE PAGE: An emotionally stirring moment captured by Callaway Gable
lead associate photographer Lauren Belknap. BELOW: Yoshi Morimoto (on
ladder), who second shoots for Dina Douglass in L.A., is shown here hard at
work at a recent wedding.