In Wedding Photography, Your Second Shooter Is Your Secret Weapon

March 17, 2023

By Ben and Erin Chrisman

When it comes to the wedding day, there is often a lead photographer and a second shooter. The second reports to the lead photographer and is often able to getting different angles or cover things that the lead photographer cannot. Below are our 6 top tips for maximizing time with your partner or second shooter.

1. Don’t shoot the same things the same way.
Whether you’re shooting with a seasoned partner or new assistant, you may both see the same important moment. Capturing it from the same place and angle will cause you to miss opportunities. If you find yourself shoulder to shoulder, get a new perspective. Of course, if the shot is critical and you’re working with someone new, take it. Then go across the room and look for something entirely different. Trust that they’ll cover what they see and get on with finding the next shot.

2. Make a plan for the ceremony.
Designate one of you to be the “aisle person” who photographs the processional and gets all the moments. The other person should be the risk taker. If you’re in the latter position, shoot from the roof, a balcony, from inside a window, and from vantage points no one would expect. If the risks don’t work out, you’re still safe because the key moments have been covered. However, more often than not, your risks will pay off big-time, so go for it! (Note: It’s okay to switch positions—just always watch the other shooter and fill in where you need to.)

3. Nail your portraits.
If you’re like us, coming up with creative portraits on the fly can be stressful! To make it quick and easy, one of us shoots and one of us holds the light. Whoever is not actually shooting thinks of the next shot. Try to play leap frog with your second shooter, and give each of you mental space to think of where to go next. For example, if the person shooting is using natural light, once again, don’t shoot the same way. Scout nearby options and get ready for the next scenario. You’ll double your ideas and take the pressure off whomever is currently shooting so they can be creative as well.

4. Creatively cover the First Dance.
Break up this important event by having one of you shoot it tight, getting all the good emotional stuff. The other should try for something epic and compositional—high up shooting down, shooting through something (candles, lights, anything!). Bring in other elements, such as guests watching, servers pouring wine, the band’s instruments, and anything else that helps add interest to your storytelling and composition.

5. Make the party magic!
You’re probably in for several hours of the same people dancing, so even though it’s tempting for both of you to stay on top of the couple, it’s better to spread out and find different things to shoot. The couple must be photographed, of course. But go out and find other people too—the sleeping kids on the couch, the smokers on the deck, the elderly aunt and uncle holding hands at their table. There are always stories to be told and gems waiting to be discovered!

6. Enjoy being on both sides of the scene.
If you don’t regularly work with the same second shooter, that’s okay; you can still make the day turn out beautifully. Just be sure you are clear and direct in telling them what you need and what you expect. Don’t assume they know what they are doing. Take the time to explain every detail, down to the lens choice, ISO, aperture and shutter speed. It’s surprising how many photographers don’t pay attention to their shutter speed and end up photographing moving people at 1/30th of a second. Weddings are too important for simple mistakes, so be assertive. Once they get your style and know your expectations, you’ll have support to reach out to for your next big event. Over time, you’ll develop an unspoken communication that will make your partnership golden.

Ben and Erin Chrisman have worked as a team since they met in 2008 and later founded Chrisman Studios. Quickly realizing the power of having two strong photographers at every wedding, the Chrismans taught themselves and their teams to go way beyond shooting getting ready shots separately. They work seamlessly together on lighting and composition, frequently creating award-winning photos in their distinctive documentary style. 

Ben and Erin offer private online mentoring through the Educator’s Circle at World’s Best Wedding Photos and would love to help you catapult your skills and create the profitable business you know is possible. Learn More.