Changing from a Reactive to Proactive 2nd Shooter


A few days ago, JD and I spoke about how things have changed. In life. In the business. In my shoe collection. When we thought back to specifics, it was a perfect way to measure growth and mistakes. Oh, like that pair white wedges I bought out of impulse. Do I need to repeat the white part again? Because, really, they’re as tragic as they sound. JD–the normal person in this duo–spoke about his role as a second shooter. If you’ll remember, he posted a Top Ten List of Tips for Second Shooters in 2009, but much has changed for him since then. Besides having to walk next to me while I wore white wedge heels (oh! the! embarrassment!), his approach and vision has changed when it comes to photographing a wedding.

As JD recounted the differences, I asked him if he’d be willing to list a few of them in a blog post. Lucky for me, he agreed, so this post is like an addendum to his previous tips. And, yes, I fully realize how lucky I am to have such an incredibly handsome extremely competent photographer at my side. Rawr.

One of the biggest things that’s changed for JD is his desire to be proactive (acting in anticipation to my needs) instead of reactive (responding to my requests), but I’ll let JD get more into this by using examples…

From JD:
It’s crazy to think back to my very first wedding as a second shooter as I enter my fifth wedding season with Jasmine. Time has definitely flown by, but throughout the last four years as a second shooter, my approach to a wedding day has evolved for the better and I thought I would share the pivotal parts of my evolution.

The number one thing that has impacted my approach to a wedding day is learning to be proactive instead of reactive. During my first two years I would find myself doing things in reaction to what was going on throughout the day. My job was to shoot the groomsmen as they got ready and I would do just that. If asked to shoot cocktail hour, I would do just that, shoot cocktail hour. But now, instead of only doing things I’m asked to do, I’m finding ways to diversify the wedding portfolio as well as doing things that will benefit the main shooter at a later point in the day. In order to explain my thoughts further, here are five tips to being a proactive second photographer on a wedding day.

1. Photographing ceremony location and ceremony details, while first shooter is photographing family portraits.
I always found myself gathering members for family portraits, and after, would stand and watch Jasmine shoot the 10-20 different variations of the family. Now, after gathering the family, I use that valuable time to photograph candid moments in between the formals and then quickly walk to the ceremony site and shoot detail photos before guests arrive. I know Jasmine needs an overview photo of the ceremony site as well as detail photos of undisturbed chairs, programs, and floral decor, so I get a jump start before she arrives.

2. Photographing groomsmen individually, and collectively, with the groom.
Shooting the groomsmen hanging out and getting dressed is always on my to-do list when I first arrive. Once the groom and groomsmen are dressed, I continue shooting the groomsmen while waiting for the bridesmaids to get ready. Most of the time, I shoot photojournalistically (candid moments), but there are times (especially when the wedding schedule is packed tightly), when I’ll ask the groom to pose with each groomsmen. This saves Jasmine time so she doesn’t have to take these photos later in the day, when time is stretched and precious. Yes, I just said precious.

3. Reception photos.
Once inside the reception site, we don’t have very much time to photograph the room before guests arrive. I make it a point to look for the table best illuminated (be it with natural light or pin light) for the first shooter. From there I begin to move the less desirable items from a table (i.e. salt/pepper, butter, water/iced tea pitchers). This saves the first shooter valuable time and allows us to focus solely on table details.

4. Assessing lighting situations in advance for first shooter
Finding ways to compliment ambient lighting in advance is always helpful. As a second photographer, it’s common to carry around a lot more equipment than the first shooter. I make it a point to always carry a variety of lights in case I need to set up artificial lighting to enhance photos for the first photographer at a moment’s notice. When time is of the essence, and I pop out pin lighting in a pinch, Jasmine looks at me like I’m a Knight In Shining Armor. It’s one of the job perks!

5. Creating a mental checklist of all detail photos and going over each look with first shooter.
In a sea of details throughout a wedding day, it’s easy to forget one or two detail photos. Making a mental checklist of certain photos (did you photograph the rings? The ring bearer’s pillow? That picture of Uncle Tom and Aunt Susie that the bride’s mom asked for?) and discussing it with the first photographer during dinner is a great way to tie up any loose ends that might have been overlooked.