How to get more second shooting gigs?

Back when I first got it into my head that I’d like to try to photograph a wedding I realized it wasn’t the smartest move to just go for it – a wedding is the kind of event you can’t just do over if you mess up. There’s no second chance. I figured second shooting would be a great way for me to understand the flow of the day, observe experienced photographers and hopefully gain some images for my portfolio. Here are some ways to find more opportunities to second shoot:

1. Craigslist
Yup – it generally sucks from a wedding photography perspective but if you really want the experience it’s a good place to start. The pay and hours are usually terrible, the weddings aren’t often the most amazing from a visual/portfolio perspective but it gets you out there and shooting. As you’ll likely be shooting with someone you don’t know, try to get clear expectations from them in terms of hours, pay, image use etc etc

2. Local photographers you don’t know
Way back when I was guilty of this – you’re so excited to get out there and shoot that you put together a generic email that’s all “Me! Me! Me!”, you fire it off to a bunch of photographers you’ve never met and then you get pissed when no one responds. I get quite a lot of those emails myself now “Hi! I want to shoot weddings! It would be great for me and my portfolio to shoot weddings with you. I am a great photographer and I need more experience. I have 2 cameras and 3 lenses. I think this would be a great experience for me…” you get the idea. I’ll always try to write a polite note back but if you really want to second shoot then I’d suggest putting a little time and effort into your communications. Take a look at their website, find people who have a somewhat similar style to you or how you want to shoot, send them a personalized email (spelling and grammar count!) and explain why this might be great for them. I’m not a proponent of working for free but I would offer to second shoot for free for photographers whose work I admired in the hopes that they would be sufficiently impressed and ask me to shoot for them again

3. Local photographers you do know
Photographers are a pretty sociable bunch. I know I’m 500% more likely to hire a second shooter that I’ve actually met in person so I know they’re not a complete weirdo. Go to local networking meetings, go a local conference, suggest meeting up in person with some of your facebook photographer friends. Posting a “Hi! I want to second shoot!” isn’t really specific enough and you’re assuming people will take the time to check out your work/your about me and see if you’re a good fit. Be specific – my style is X, I love shooting Y type of weddings, I’m friendly and polite, I am happy to do groom’s coverage while you do whatever” makes people more likely to pay attention.

4. Ask for feedback, listen and take it on board
If you’re really open and prepared to listen, it can be amazingly valuable to ask the primary photographer for feedback. If you’re never asked back to second shoot it may be because there’s something annoying you do on the wedding day. I’ve even gone through second shooters images with them if they’re open to critique afterwards.

If you’re a primary wedding photographer do you ever second shoot? Think back to when you first started out – how did you find second shooting gigs?

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