Weddings and large-scale events are no joke. And if you want to serve clients who host three-and four-day events, you absolutely must have a second photographer. Often, we need a third and a fourth to cover multi-day, multi-event weddings.
Because no matter how elaborate or large-scale the celebration becomes, your client clearly desires a thorough, creative, and multi-perspective documentation of the event they hired you to photograph.
In order to deliver that, and exceed expectations, you’re going to need support in the form of additional photographers on your team.
Having another photographer (or two) on the job with you adds so much value to your final offering to the client, to their experience, and to your photography business overall.
One of the things KT gets asked most often is how to find exceptional second photographers. Well, here at KT Merry, there’s a pretty robust list of expectations. I know—that’s shocking, right? But thankfully, because KT’s trained me, I’ve managed to make the cut and have learned a lot along the way.
Before I dive deep into the three ways to find the right second photographer for you, I want to mention how important it is to choose someone who has proven to be trustworthy.
A second photographer needs to be someone you trust. For this reason, we always bring on second photographer candidates as thirds or fourths for our first time working together. This takes the pressure off the shooter, and off of KT and me, and allows us to evaluate their quality of work without the normal high stakes of a wedding day.
Sort of like an audition, we allow our candidates to work alongside us to make sure they compliment our style, feel comfortable working with us, and that it’s a good fit energetically.
We’re building trust right out of the gate. By giving them a blank canvas and a very low set of expectations, we’re setting our second photographers up for success and hoping they do a great job so we can bring them on a future job as one of our photography assistants.
This is why it’s so crucial to choose a second photographer you can trust, work well with, and who has personality traits and skills to complement yours to create an amazing working relationship.
But how do you find this person? There are three good ways to find reliable second photographers. Keep reading to learn more.
If you’re looking for someone new, or maybe even your first hire, I suggest you ask people you trust to refer a second photographer to you. We’ve found great photographers scattered all over the world who are willing to travel to second shoot for us.
There are so many talented photographers out there who already have their own photography business and who also already second shoot for other photographers. Not only does it add to their revenue and experience, but stepping in and working with other photographers allows you to shoot from another perspective. You can be more creative without the pressure of being the lead. And you can support other photographers, which will make you a better lead photographer and guide to your own photography team.
Working with photographers who are typically their own leads is pretty brilliant because these photographers already know how to shoot a wedding on their own. They’re also pre-qualified, meaning you already know they have what it takes to shoot for you, because they run a photo business of their own. Other successful wedding photographers are great people to hire as second photographers.
To find capable, pre-qualified second photographers, talk to people whose opinions you trust. Our little wedding photographer community is relatively tight-knit. There are way less than six degrees of separation between you and the trusty second photographer you’re looking for.
So ask around, or easier yet, you can even troll Instagram and see whose work you’re drawn to. You probably already have a mental list of a bunch of people who live near you who also produce nice work. So why not reach out to them and see if they’re interested in helping you out? I mean, hell—it might even become a mutually beneficial relationship where the two of you end up second shooting for each other.
Another approach we’ve had success with in finding great second photographers is experimentation (as mentioned above)—or, a trial run. Don’t misunderstand me—a wedding day is no time to be giving a new second photographer the responsibility of that job; there is too much at stake. You simply cannot afford to take your focus away from your job as the main photographer of a major event to provide on-the-job training to your second photographer. (Or even worse, chase behind them to re-shoot things.)
But you can give someone the opportunity to shadow you and shoot bonus material during a wedding or other major event.
We’ve found this to work quite well. You’ll likely need to pay this person, but doing a trial run when there’s no expectation of performance is a great way for both you and your second photographer to get comfortable together and to ensure you’re a fit from a personality perspective.
They’ll get a chance to witness your workflow and how you like to approach a wedding, and you’ll get to see how helpful they can be and determine if you’d like to bring them along on a future job. It’s really a win/win.
If you don’t have the means to bring on a qualified second photographer, then I recommend finding an up-and-coming star in your region.The benefit there is that they’re affordable help and often they don’t come pre-programmed with bad habits.
The downside might be that you’ll be doing a lot of teaching; but hey, if you’re willing to do the work, you could end up with a faithful second photographer who’s in your market, and who knows exactly how you like them to shoot. Think of new talent as hiring an apprentice who you can mold into your ideal creative partner. I really like to look for a great work ethic and personality, and as long as they are coachable and hungry, we can teach the rest.
PRO TIP: Once you settle on hiring a second photographer, you should always get some sort of contract or agreement with the particulars of the gig, the compensation, and the expectations of behavior in place.
We provide sample materials to our Merry Method students for this very thing.
In summary, to find your ideal second photographer, I highly recommend getting referrals from other photographers you trust, letting potential candidates take part in a trial run, and recruiting fresh talent.
This is definitely a trial-and-error process, and can take some time.
But in the end, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
That’s all for now, folks.
Thanks for reading, and I wish you nothing but the best of luck in finding the best possible second photographer for you.
've spent the past decade capturing love and chasing beauty across the globe, and I believe every story like yours is different and special, and deserves to be told exceptionally.
Drawing on years of experience in the fashion and editorial photography industry, my photographs are graceful, honest and boldly natural, while completely intentional. Whether it’s the opportunity to narrate the retelling of once-in-a-lifetime wedding days, or the ability to communicate issues of global importance, or all the stories in between, I look at photography as the method by which I get to leave the world a little better than I found it.
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