Brittany + Dan, a Rustic Wedding at the Vineyards of Mary’s Meadow
Kacie + Josh, a Romantic Wedding at Newton White Mansion
Katie + Ryan, a Dulany’s Overlook Wedding
August 8, 2017

Tuesday Tips – Second Shooting a Wedding


Hi everyone! Kelsey here!

A little about me:

I’m Brooke’s sister (no surprise there!) and her second shooter for weddings. I have been second shooting weddings with Brooke and sharing in the excitement of the wedding day for Brooke Tyson brides since 2013.

When not photographing weddings, I keep myself busy as a full-time pharmacist! I earned my Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in 2015 and love that my career keeps me on my toes. Its also a huge benefit that I am able to have a flexile schedule to be able to work with Brooke for weddings. I am a huge cat lover (shout out to my boy Kobe!) and enjoy jogging and yoga.

Thats all great information, Kelsey, but why are you writing instead of Brooke this week? I’m glad you asked!

I’m here today to discuss how to be a second shooter! Many photographers start out as second shooters in order to build their portfolio, and countless photographers wear both hats and switch between being primary and secondary shooters in collaboration with other photographers. With four years of experience behind the lens (and under the 50 pounds of gear we carry around), I want to share with you some tips and tricks to being the most effective, efficient, and successful second shooter you can be.

Tip number one:

Know when to take charge, but also when to step back.

Oftentimes at weddings, Brooke and I will divide and conquer at the begging of the day to get all of the “getting ready” shots. This means that Brooke is with the girls getting those insane detail shots that we all drool over, and I head off to spend some time with the boys. When we divide, I know that it is my time to “take charge.” When working with my groom and groomsmen, I am their photographer- not the second shooter.

It is so incredibly important that when you do have this opportunity on your own without your primary, that you exude confidence and really bring your A-game. For me, this means that I am directing the guys in their schedule (“Just about 10 minutes left until we need to head outside!”) and I am getting in the shots I need to make those memories happen. I also use this time as an opportunity to form a relationship with my groomsmen. By the time we get the entire wedding party together, the guys are comfortable with my reminders to put their hands in their pockets and I’m able to address them by their names.

So you have walked into this wedding day and taken charge- great! Now its time to take a step back.

When Brooke and I get back together to work with the couple and the bridal party, I need to resume my role as the second shooter. This is when Brooke does her magic, and I assist her.

Tip number two:

Take initiative!

This is piggy backing on the take charge/step back conversation in tip number one. As the second shooter it can be easy to keep asking your primary “Where would you like me now?” and “What should I do next?” This is something that I had to train myself to stop doing and I’ve gotten much better as I’ve grown more experienced and confident. As the second shooter, you need to always be aware of the priorities and the schedule, so that you don’t need to ask these questions of your primary. I’m going to promise you this: You already know what you need to do next without asking!

Since I work exclusively with Brooke, we are pretty much always on the same page during the wedding day, but if you don’t already have experience working with a primary, then asking questions is an absolute necessity. It is best if these questions (Where do you want me during the ceremony? Do you want me shooting from the side during the portraits or assisting in other ways?) can happen before the wedding starts or during down time. You know what you need to do. I want to inspire you and challenge you to take initiative as the second shooter:

  • Arrange groupings- keep the list of groupings and family portraits with you and when its time to start these, get people together, call out groupings, and keep the schedule moving. When a large group starts arranging for a shot, Brooke is tweaking one side of the group and I immediately go over to get those shoulders turned and hands placed on the other side. This saves time and helps our couple get all of the shots they want.
  • Do all of the behind-the-scenes things: Fix the bride’s dress and hair, ask people to move if they are in your shot, change lenses

It can feel like taking initiative is stepping on your primary’s toes, but it works very well for me and Brooke. By taking initiative, I am able to free up Brooke to focus on getting the best shot possible.

Tip number three:

Stay out of the shots.

Everyone is sitting there saying “No brainer, Kelsey,” but this point is so important that it needs to be emphasized. When I’m shooting, I am constantly aware of where Brooke is shooting from. Its my job to move out of her shot, not her job to move out of mine. The easiest way for me to stay out of her shot is to never shoot diagonally across from her (so when we’re getting the first dance pictures, I am 180 degrees from her) and to be aware of what lense she is using (For example- when Brooke is using her 70-200 at full zoom, I could literally be sitting on the bride and groom and it would still be just them in the shot).

The bottom line- I want to minimize the amount of pictures Brooke gets of me looming in the background with my camera poised at my face unaware of the gorgeous shot I’m starring in.

Tip number four: 

This is a biggie….The number one most important part of being a second shooter…

Support your primary shooter!

You need to be there to make sure that your primary shooter is best able to perform her job and capture the wedding day. A wedding day is fast-paced and can at times be unpredictable. Being able to support the primary shooter to ensure that she gets the best shots is the most important part of being a second shooter.

  • If your primary shooter needs you to arrange portraits, then you need to have that list ready in your bag with you at all times and take the initiative to start grouping people.
  • If she/he needs you to carry the gear because there is an unbelievable-can-never-happen-again picture that she/he needs to get, then you need to pack up and haul that gear with a smile on your face.
  • If the wedding couple or primary photographer need a drink, I am here to get water or hold a fan to help everyone cool off.
  • If it is raining, help out by stashing the gear somewhere dry and then holding an umbrella over the primary photographer (and her camera) so that she can keep shooting.
  • If the primary shooter wants to test out a location or set up nighttime lighting, being a stand-in model can be so helpful (that’s where so many of our funny behind the scenes photos come from!)

The bottom line is that you are a major support system for the primary photographer, so anticipate how you can help provide that support throughout the day.

It’s been so fun sharing some of my tips as a second shooter! I would love to hear from other second shooters about their tips on the wedding day!