Changing from a Reactive to Proactive 2nd Shooter

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.

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  1. Jenelle Sewell -

    I can’t wait to get my hubs to start second shooting! The countdown begins….

      3.3.11 - 2:54 pm

  2. Ernie E -

    Excellent 2nd shooter pointers! #3-5 I’ve never considered but I’ll definitely consider now.

      3.3.11 - 2:59 pm

  3. Salonee -

    Wow! This is a great post about practical, anticipatory, and as you very correctly put it, proactive second shooting. And I’m going to put in practice pretty much everything you mentioned here. Cheers!

      3.3.11 - 3:01 pm

  4. Columbus GA Photographer -

    Really great post!! I’m not a second shooter but this list definitely helps and will be a great go to when I bring a 2nd photographer on for a wedding. Thanks JD and Jasmine!

      3.3.11 - 3:01 pm

  5. Terri Keefer -

    Thanks for the post Jasmine and JD! I know you guys shoot in RAW on the wedding day. Are you shooting in the largest RAW format or the medium? I would like to shoot in the medium, but in the event the bride may want a larger wall portrait later, I’m afraid to shoot too small. The size issue for me is not anything more than it takes a million years for Lightroom 3 to upload the largest files. I shoot with the 5D Mark II. Keep up the awesome work you two!

      3.3.11 - 3:08 pm

  6. Tanya De Leeuw -

    Thanks, JD! I just read the original article, as well as this one! Great tips to bear in mind as I head into my first assistant job at a wedding in September!

      3.3.11 - 3:25 pm

  7. mike -

    precious. too funny. How time flies, I read JD original post when it was posted back in 2009… 2009?!?!?! I swear that was only a few months ago, like late summer early fall. 2009. Really? I love reading your blog (and JD’s too!). Oh how I wish I could talk Mrs. Reed into 2nd shooting with me.

      3.3.11 - 3:31 pm

  8. Rich Park -

    these are awesome tips! thank you both for sharing!

      3.3.11 - 3:33 pm

  9. alison -

    Thanks for the great advice JD! My husband keeps telling me that he wants to be my "JD" – I think that would be fabulous, I just need to book more weddings!! 🙂

      3.3.11 - 3:42 pm

  10. Em -

    Thanks guys! This was an awesome post and will definitely be helpful for the upcoming season!

      3.3.11 - 3:43 pm


    So grateful for this!! Couldn’t come at a better time as I step into a second shooter role come April!!

      3.3.11 - 3:47 pm

  12. Gail -

    JD, these tips for second shooters are AWESOME! Since it sounds like you’re a pro at this now, I think you should spend your free time cloning yourself so those of us on the hunt for awesome second shooters can "borrow" ya 🙂

      3.3.11 - 3:53 pm

  13. Salwa -

    Fantastic tips, JD! I am focusing on second-shooting this season before making a push to take on mostly weddings where I’m the primary, so this is a very timely post for me. 🙂 I know every primary wants different things from their second shooter, but these are some great ways to be proactive. Thanks for sharing!

      3.3.11 - 4:01 pm

  14. Gaby Fuentes Photography -

    Great post JD. I already emailed this post to my second shooter.

      3.3.11 - 4:01 pm

  15. Lisa Otto -

    Perfect! Still giggling at the fact you said precious…but none the less perfect 😉 lol

      3.3.11 - 4:01 pm

  16. Katie -

    As a second shooter, your tips will definitely be helpful. Thanks for sharing!

      3.3.11 - 4:02 pm

  17. Peter hearl Photography -

    Some Great tips JD. I don’t shoot weddings with a second shooter, it can be difficult sometimes.

      3.3.11 - 4:03 pm

  18. Faith Cherisse -

    Thank you guys! You are such a dynamic Duo!! xoxo

      3.3.11 - 4:06 pm

  19. Joe+Kathrina -

    Precious 😉 Thanks for the tips JD–keep shining that armor for Jasmine!

      3.3.11 - 4:06 pm

  20. feuza -

    such great tips and so true!

      3.3.11 - 4:07 pm

  21. Janet Kwan -

    Perfect timing, guys! I’m second-shooting a wedding this Saturday so this totally helps me get in the zone! Thank you!

      3.3.11 - 4:11 pm

  22. kelsey -

    great tips going to send this post to my second shooters 🙂 TFS!

      3.3.11 - 4:14 pm

  23. Megan -

    JD your awesome. I so wish my hubby would be as willing to second shoot as you were. Jasmine and JD make a remarkable team.

      3.3.11 - 4:17 pm

  24. Kare -

    Great list, JD!

      3.3.11 - 4:19 pm

  25. Stefanie -

    Great list JD!

      3.3.11 - 4:25 pm

  26. JennP -

    What a great partnership you and JD have, both professionally and personally. God is blessing you two! Can’t wait to see what awesomeness you’ll produce this coming wedding season… and I’m not even a professional photographer! ❤

      3.3.11 - 4:26 pm

  27. Sarah Danaher -

    soooooo good! thanks, jd!

      3.3.11 - 4:27 pm

  28. Vickie -

    This is a great article. Lots of helpful information to file away for when I need it. You guys are funny 🙂 Jasmine and the white wedges :):)

      3.3.11 - 4:33 pm

  29. Center Point Photography -

    Super encouraging. We are also a husband/wife duo and it can sometimes get a little tough. Thanks for the encouragement!

      3.3.11 - 4:33 pm

  30. anda -

    wow — jd, you are AMAZING. i think i will post this list on my blog as the qualifications in a job posting for a 2nd shooter, haha. so glad jasmine has you!

      3.3.11 - 4:33 pm

  31. Joanne thomas -

    Good things to know. Everyone should be so blessed to work with their spouse in the way you and Jaz work together, a rarity.

      3.3.11 - 4:33 pm

  32. Samantha Foster -

    I am so thankful JD wrote this! I’m pregnant and about to have to drop our of my role as 2nd shooter for a little bit and need to train and bring in someone to do what I do and it has been hard a) finding someone
    b) explaining the role
    Very excited to see what is to come.
    P.S. Jamie Delaney’s blog is on 2nd shooting as well. Weird and Great timing for me!

      3.3.11 - 4:46 pm

  33. Whitney -

    Such a great team, in life and on the job…hopefully Jack and I will find the same rhythm in our work:) xoxo

      3.3.11 - 4:48 pm

  34. Alejandra - Imaginale -

    Ahhhh, I love this 🙂 I feel like this speaks a lot about marriage too. I won’t get into all the deep stuff, but I definitely see how God has blessed the two of you. UH-MA-ZING insight by JD 🙂

      3.3.11 - 4:57 pm

  35. Rachel C. -

    This was REALLY helpful. Thanks Jasmine and JD!

      3.3.11 - 4:58 pm

  36. Orlando Wedding Videographer -

    Very useful tips, I had no idea I was re-active and now I’m gonna try to take some steps to change…

      3.3.11 - 5:05 pm

  37. Isaac Stott -

    Thank you so much JD for sharing. As a husband and a second shooter myself, this couldn’t be more helpful in giving Karen and our business the best product possible!

      3.3.11 - 5:10 pm

  38. Kali Norton -

    Great tips, some of which I didn’t realize were things the second shooter took initiative to do. Your blog posts are so informative they make me feel like I really did go to photography school.

      3.3.11 - 5:13 pm

  39. Lyn Ismael-Bennett -

    Great tips! Thank you for sharing 🙂

      3.3.11 - 5:21 pm

  40. Abbey -

    Thank you JD for the valuable tips. They will definitely come in handy for this coming wedding season. You guys are awesome.

      3.3.11 - 5:31 pm

  41. JP Sevillano -

    JD’s tips are simple yet efficient and so ‘proactive’. 🙂

    Perfect timing – Thanks u guys!!

      3.3.11 - 6:13 pm

  42. Sandy Adams -

    Thanks for the insight! Love both of you 🙂

      3.3.11 - 6:28 pm

  43. Roger -

    Watching the CL session gave us a glimpse on what happens on the big day. Having even more insight is definitely helpful.

      3.3.11 - 6:30 pm

  44. Maryorse -

    Great information! Thank you for sharing. You have a great partner. 🙂

      3.3.11 - 6:31 pm

  45. Kristin Nicole -

    Great tips!

      3.3.11 - 6:42 pm

  46. Emily Dobson -

    This is a really good post, JD! All very pratical and applicable tips we can learn from. Thanks for sharing!

      3.3.11 - 6:44 pm

  47. Evonne & Darren -

    Thank you both for sharing! It’s definitely helpful when we’re also a husband and wife team. We love you!

      3.3.11 - 6:57 pm

  48. Faith -

    Wow this post is awesome! Bula! (hello) from Fiji, I am a second shooter and I cannot wait to be more proactive rather than reactive!Thanks Jasmine and JD.

      3.3.11 - 7:15 pm

  49. Kathleen Frank -

    Yay for a JD post! Thank you! Such a helpful list. I would like to try second (or third!) shooting soon, and I am seriously nervous about it. These insights make me feel much more prepared 🙂

      3.3.11 - 7:27 pm

  50. Elizabeth at Seaport Photo -

    Thank you, JD!

      3.3.11 - 7:30 pm

  51. alicia schneider -

    Awesome! Thank you so much for this! My hubby is gearing up to assist me at his first wedding and this information will be so valuble to give to him! thanks JD! 😉

      3.3.11 - 7:58 pm

  52. Brian Kraft -

    Thanks, great tips!

      3.3.11 - 8:01 pm

  53. Jessica Chavez -

    You guys are just awesome!! Thanks for sharing this tips with us! It’s amazing how you’ve grown together!!

      3.3.11 - 8:30 pm

  54. Chris Massie -

    Thanks, JD, for the refresher as we gear up for wedding season. May you and Jasmine have a successful year!

      3.3.11 - 9:56 pm

  55. Shilpy -


      3.3.11 - 10:12 pm

  56. christina {simply modern} -

    great post j*! oh, i also have a pair of white wedges i bought on impulse…now i think why?

      3.3.11 - 10:14 pm

  57. desiree -

    this is a great post from JD’s view! i love the idea of being proactive rather than reactive! you guys really are a perfect team!

      3.3.11 - 10:56 pm

  58. Norman -

    Thank you and JD for posting this! As a second shooter myself, it’s nice to hear tips/ methods from a pro.

      3.3.11 - 11:30 pm

  59. Brittani Gonzalez -

    Great post, and just in time!! I second shoot my first wedding a week from Saturday!! =) Thanks Jd. &heart;s

      3.3.11 - 11:30 pm

  60. Yuliya -

    Thank you guys so much for being open and honest. JD your tips are awesome and challenge me to be a better photographer

      3.3.11 - 11:53 pm

  61. Mikaela + Shane -

    Yay JD! Thanks so much for sharing more insight with us. Super helpful for both main and second shooters alike 🙂

      3.4.11 - 12:08 am

  62. Maria -

    Loved this post. I just forwarded it to my hubby, who happens to also be my second-shooter! He looks up to JD and I know he’ll get so much out of it. Thanks for sharing!! Air Kisses 😉

      3.4.11 - 2:49 am

  63. Erica Velasco -

    Great post!

      3.4.11 - 3:37 am

  64. Christina Hastings -

    Those were wonderful tips! Very helpful to see them laid out in a concise manner.

      3.4.11 - 3:45 am

  65. keren macklin -

    Thank you this was very helpful information and your work shows your attention to detail.

      3.4.11 - 4:18 am

  66. Lydia -

    You’re awesome, JD! Thanks!

      3.4.11 - 5:13 am

  67. daria bishop -

    J.D.~ Haha…i love that you said *precious*
    Great post!! 🙂

      3.4.11 - 2:49 pm

  68. Chelsea -

    JD, I loved getting to visit with you after Jasmine’s talk at WPPI. I told my husband about how you got started and he’s been a lot more interested in the idea of shooting with me. Thanks for your time and words! And I’d love to hear more from you on Jasmine’s blog, you’re a great writer as well!

      3.4.11 - 2:57 pm

  69. Brooke{BrookeB Photography} -

    I am 2nd shooting my first wedding next month! These tips are PERFECT! Thanks for the amazing insight!

      3.4.11 - 4:34 pm

  70. Kathleen -

    Thanks for the tips, JD! I am so excited to direct my future second shooters to this post.

      3.4.11 - 5:37 pm

  71. michelle gunton -

    cant wait to share this with my 2nd photographer, thank you.

      3.4.11 - 6:50 pm

  72. Jayme -

    I can’t wait to share these tips with my second shooter! I am very blessed to have my very own incredibly handsome "JD" by my side as well 🙂

      3.4.11 - 9:12 pm

  73. Jodi -

    I love these ideas! I shoot with my husband, too, and its so nice when you have someone to work with that knows you so well they are always one step ahead of you!

      3.4.11 - 9:18 pm

  74. Ashley -

    JD! Your posts are the best! I’m gonna make J read this. Really good advice (: P.S. I missed seeing you at WPPI!

      3.4.11 - 10:50 pm

  75. Wedding Photographer New York -

    Great post. I love your ideas. I admire your work.

      3.5.11 - 12:06 am

  76. Ashley Kate -

    Thanks so much for this JD! I’ll definitely use your tips to up my game as a second shooter =)

      3.5.11 - 1:41 am

  77. cassandra-m -

    awesome JD! such wonderful info. happy to see a post from you :))))))))

      3.5.11 - 3:42 am

  78. Laura Leslie -

    Thanks for sharing this! 🙂

      3.5.11 - 5:12 am

  79. Jorge Tortajada -

    Thanks, great tips!

      3.5.11 - 2:49 pm

  80. Paula Franco -

    Thanks for sharing!! Great post!

      3.5.11 - 3:08 pm

  81. Ivana -

    Awsome advice, i have only been hired as a permanent second shooter and i find its so much more easier to be proactive then to be standing around waiting for order’s!You two are such a great team…

      3.6.11 - 7:24 am

  82. David Hartstein -

    These are all great points. I think all too often second shooters "play it safe" and sort of wait for directions. Being more proactive will definitely help get those unique and special shots to compliment the work of the first shooter. Thanks for the post!

      3.6.11 - 11:40 pm

  83. Emily Kicklighter Photography -

    Great article to send to my second shooters! Thanks!!

      3.7.11 - 6:47 pm

  84. amanda thiessen -

    such a great read! definitely great points!!

      3.8.11 - 5:18 pm

  85. Kimberly Kay -

    These are fantastic and valuable tips to put into practice. Thank you for sharing! ~K

      3.9.11 - 4:19 pm

  86. image masking -

    excellent wedding photography! very nice job my friend!

      3.10.11 - 7:51 am

  87. anthony quesada -

    Way to go JD!
    Jasmine is so lucky to have you.

      3.10.11 - 8:25 am

  88. -

    I remember that post. I’m glad you have posted the revised list!

      3.11.11 - 12:59 am

  89. Amanda Hagood -

    Great post! If I have to use a temp 2nd shooter then they usually ask me what I want, and I actually have a little checklist like this 🙂 Way to go JD, being proactive is awesome!

      3.12.11 - 4:45 pm

  90. Deidre -

    Perfect list 🙂

      3.15.11 - 2:16 am

  91. Danny Shum -

    JD, I think you are awesome! Thanks for the helpful tips. I just started reading Jasmine’s blog not this month, and I’m loving the fact that both of you are growing together.

      3.15.11 - 11:24 pm

  92. Jamela Robledo -

    Amazing blog post guys. Thanks for sharing!

      3.22.11 - 2:48 am

  93. Jenna Danelle -

    I have found that I am now helping some of my photog friends when I have gaps in my own calendar to keep honing my skills and I thank you for all your great tips JD! It has really helped me to be a great support as a 2nd shooter, which is such a change of pace from when I’m primary in my own business!

      3.22.11 - 4:43 am

  94. Samuel Burns -

    Interesting points, thanks for sharing

      3.23.11 - 2:14 am

  95. DC Events Planner -

    awesome great info this will help in future thanks.

      5.5.11 - 12:56 am

  96. Charlotte Wedding Photographer -

    I will have to have assistant wedding photographers read this post. As a wedding photographer in Charlotte NC I shoot a lot of weddings and have worked with a good amount of second shooters. As a wedding photographer with S L Media Productions I do not like to micro manage. I agree with JD points a second shooter should photograph what is asked but they also should be proactive by finding additional shots etc. This is a great post very informative.

      5.10.11 - 6:26 am

  97. Adriana Morett -

    lol! precious… I’m sure J* knows how precious your work as a 2nd shooter is, and I’m totally making my hubby (and 2nd shooter) read this post! 😉 Thanks a LOT JD!

      7.7.11 - 12:27 pm

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