If you are a wedding photographer considering hiring a second shooter or if you are looking to break into the wedding industry and want to second shoot, come learn what happens from behind each of their lenses. Kristen will share how she hired a second shooter for her wedding photography business and teach you how it works. Reema will share her experiences as a second shooter. You can learn so much from their great working relationship.
Kristen’s Lens (the business owner):
I had never really thought much about bringing on a second shooter when I was in the slow process of starting my business. It was 2008 and I was just shooting a few weddings on the side of my “day-job” when I got an email from a young college student looking to assist a photography professional on the weekends. After meeting with Reema, I wasn’t sure there was much I’d end up teaching her, instead, I asked if she wouldn’t mind being a part of my company and we could learn together. I was really impressed with her work from what I saw online, and especially impressed with her demeanor in person. I knew she’d make a good match for my company, my personality and my creativity.
Now that Reema has graduated from college and was off to Thailand for the summer, I couldn’t believe how nervous I was about bringing in another second shooter to replace her position. I realized how much I had grown in to a system with her, how much my clients loved her and how absolutely crazy I felt the first wedding without her. We had been training my new second shooter since November, and I was thrilled about bringing Alyssa on as an (almost) full-time assistant and second photographer. But I didn’t expect so many hurdles to overcome emotionally!
I realized how much I relied on Reema during weddings – she wasn’t just a second shooter, she became an extension of myself. We had worked ourselves in to such a seamless system, we didn’t even have to talk to each other to know what we needed to do. We developed a system of hand motions to communicate, along with my usual expressive looks, and she had such a grasp on my own style and mannerisms, she adapted so easily it was like we didn’t even need to think about it. Her style became the perfect compliment to my own, and by the fall of 2010 (when my full-time business really transitioned in to a long-term lifestyle), we could barely tell the difference between our work.
Having a permanent second shooter has allowed my business to grow and expand because there’s a intrinsic value placed on the “second photographer”. There’s a stability and security for my clients. They get to know my second shooter and we all become family. Much like I market my own name and place value on that, I can do the same with my second shooter. She travels with me, works with me, emails and calls – they even Facebook friend her! Having a different second shooter at every wedding would never afford me that kind of relationship in my business.
When it comes to editing, having a stable second shooter actually helps cut down on final editing time. I am so familiar with how she shoots (and vise versa) that we’re more able to capture different moments from different vantage points. I have spent the time training her on the technical settings, that I know the exact quality that I can expect from her at any given time, and in any given situation. There are no surprises and I trust her completely to get even the most difficult lighting conditions under control.
She shoots because she loves the company we’re building together – not because of her own personal needs. When we’re at a wedding, she can simply look at me to understand exactly what and how I’m shooting – which lenses I’m using and which angles I prefer. She quickly adapts to provide an alternate viewpoint – and I didn’t have to take any time to instruct or request.
I have never had to worry about a conflict of interest from my second shooters because they’re a part of my company. They’re personally invested in what we’re doing together, and it’s become much like my family. They support me in every way and have been some of the greatest girls I have ever had the pleasure of working with. When Reema returns from her travels to Thailand, she’ll be back in the saddle for a few weeks helping with some of our late summer weddings, then she’s back off to her next adventure abroad. Alyssa has taken the reins, and has some big shoes to fill, but I know she’s ready thanks to the intensive training Reema provided her before she left.
Reema’s Lens (the second shooter):
After working with Kristen for nearly three years, I can honestly say that I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t started second shooting with her. This sounds dramatic, but aside from the fact that my job with her single-handedly helped me get through college, it also was an opportunity to learn so much more about myself, other people and of course, an opportunity to develop my photography skills in a way I didn’t think was possible.
Second shooting is one of the best opportunities for photographers out there who want to get experience, but for whatever reason are not in the position to start their own business. I started shooting with Kristen when I was 19 years old, and there is certainly no way I could have started a business at that point, however I was still able to use that time to learn as much as possible. By far, one of the best, most comforting things about second shooting is that there is less pressure on you. Don’t get me wrong, I have stressed and stressed over the thought of missing a key shot at a wedding, but when it comes down to it, you are not the primary shooter and you have room for error. More importantly than just room for error, you have the room to be creative, which I personally feel is one of the best parts of my job. While Kristen is getting the must-have straight-on shots, I’m lurking like a creeper behind a tree getting candid shots through the leaves. I can experiment with different angles and lighting in a way that a primary shooter often can’t. For the clients it works great because they have a huge variety of images, and for us it works too because we both work on different aspects of the day keeping everything interesting and fresh.
I wouldn’t recommend that anyone ever even consider starting a wedding business without second-shooting first. There is honestly just no way to know what you’re getting into otherwise. Starting a wedding photography business is a huge commitment, and there is no better way to decide whether it’s the right path you want to take than to second shoot. Before working my first wedding Kristen said to me, “you’re either going to love it or hate it.” Although the idea of it being so black and white scared me at the time, I found this statement to be very true. Because of my experience, I developed very real expectations of the wedding industry, which I certainly did not have prior to second shooting. The dozens of wedding shows on WE simply do not paint an accurate picture, and until you’re at a wedding, sweating with seventeen pieces of equipment strapped to you, you can’t really imagine what it will be like.
I started second shooting because I loved photography, because I wanted to get better at it and because I didn’t want to be stuck at a job that my heart wasn’t in. After my first few weddings though, I found that my job came to mean so much more to me. Getting to know clients, having clients know and care about you and actually wanting to push yourself harder for the sake of making these clients happy were parts of the job that I didn’t expect. Loving every story of how a couple met, got engaged and ended up hiring us was the most wonderful, unexpected surprise. I have embarrassingly enough cried at multiple weddings, and laughed like I have never laughed before because lets be honest, really crazy things happen at weddings. People who don’t know you will say really absurd and sometimes inappropriate things to you. You will accidentally get tons of confetti in your boss’s dinner. Strangers will try to proposition you. The possibilities are endless. All of these silly, seemingly meaningless things though are what make working weddings fun and memorable. The best part of every wedding without a doubt is the drive home when Kristen and I make a million jokes unfunny to everyone else, sign Glee at the top of our lungs and laugh about all the things that happened at the wedding, because when it comes down to it, weddings are fun. They are a unique opportunity to be a part of a very personal moment in someone else’s life in a way most other jobs don’t let you. I feel so lucky to have met all of the people I have been lucky enough to cross paths with as result of my job second shooting, and have found the last three years of my life to be completely unforgettable.
Here’s How We Managed the Relationship:
- My second shooter is paid per-hour for weddings
- They use all of my equipment, which is insured and provided by me
- I bring all the CF cards in to Lightroom and rename all images
- I edit each wedding in full
- My second shooter does not keep files, and only edits images when she’s working in my office (and uses my precise editing system so there’s no differentiation in style)
- I own all the files and she signs a non-compete agreement when she is hired
Kristen Weaver is an international and destination wedding and fashion photographer based out of Orlando, FL. Coming up on her 2-year business anniversary. Kristen has been featured in some of the most esteemed wedding publications and blogs, including Southern Weddings, Grace Ormonde Wedding Style and Style Me Pretty. She has started her own online social website, KWP Online, where she trains, discusses and shares with others. She has also started the international photography organization, Images for a Cure, which has raised nearly $30,000 for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.