Hiring A Second Shooter with Cassidy Mister
Cassidy Mister has been a professional photographer for about six years, with a background in graphic design. She's also the leader of a Tuesdays Together group in Easton, MD, and she loves lifting others up by being a leader in the community. On today's episode we talked about how to find a second shooter, how to set expectations for a second shooter, and how to make sure they fit your style and your brand.
Hey Cassidy - I'm so excited to have you! Tell us a little bit more about yourself.
I'm a photographer and graphic designer from Maryland. I use my background to help educate others, and I serve clients in weddings and portraits!
We are going to talk second shooting today. I think I want to get started just by asking you - if someone wants to get into second shooting, how would you recommend them going about that?
I would just say put yourself out there. Go on local Tuesdays Together groups or House of Flynn groups or any photography-based groups and post, "Hey! I want to get into weddings. I'm not really experienced. Can I shadow?" Sometimes people can be a non-shooting assistant first. I had one of my past brides become a non-shooting assistant for a couple of my weddings. She wasn't comfortable enough to have the responsibility of shooting yet. I told her she could be my non-shooting assistant and shoot a little bit for fun if she wanted to, but there was no obligation. That way she could learn how a day flows and what I'm looking for.
You just have to dive right in - find a photographer willing to give you a chance. The Honeybook community groups are also a great place to look. Once you become more comfortable with a wedding timeline, you can start putting yourself out there as a second shooter. Or even tell the primary shooters that you work with, "I'd love to work with you all year if you can give me all the dates." If not, "Hey, do you have any photographers friends you can refer me to?" There's always people in Facebook groups that are looking for second shooters!
As people starting out in the wedding industry, we always dread getting asked "How many weddings have you shot?" I mean, it's a valid question, but I think what's more important is what kind of experience you have at weddings. With photographers and videographers in particular, if we know how weddings work we are much better at our jobs. Weddings are a different game than portraits, or whatever other type of photography you get into, and to understand how a wedding timeline works and be able to anticipate the events at weddings is an invaluable skill. That's definitely something to think about too, just in gaining experience. You're gaining experience on how a wedding day runs.
Yeah, exactly. And that's something I find a lot of brides, grooms, bridesmaids, and groomsmen struggle with, too. Being a part of the wedding day. If they've never been in a wedding, or even to a wedding, they just aren't familiar with how things can be run to be less stressful. That's really the end goal, to make the day as easy-going and stress-free as it can be for the couple.
So then if you're looking for someone who's a little bit more of an experienced second shooter, where do you usually go to find them?
So, kind of the same thing as I mentioned when you're looking to be a second shooter. You can post in the Honeybook community about your budget. You can say, "I pay my second shooters X, Y, or Z, or this amount hourly, or with this package they get this amount. I'm looking for someone who shoots with this gear, prime lens, and has whatever experience." There is a second shooter and lead shooter Facebook group as well that's made primarily for people to find second shooters, and lead shooters to refer to if they're booked. Even asking your other reputable photographers in your community, "Who do you use for second shooting? Do you know anybody that might be available XYZ? Do you know anybody in this area that I could use?" Basically just expanding within your community because there are some photographers that don't share that they second shoot, and they may be a prime second shooter that is making your day as a primary so stress-free, and you won't know unless you ask.
That's awesome! I have only had a second shooter with me one time in five years of shooting weddings, so it's definitely not an area that I have a lot of expertise in. It's not something I've thought about before, how much a second shooter can really help a primary day-of.
Oh, yes. I include them in all my wedding packages. I, too, have shot weddings without a second shooter. That was also at the beginning of my business, but it's so much less stressful having a second shooter because you always have back up. If you sprain your ankle, they can get up and shoot the first kiss or whatever happens. If anything happens to you on the way there, they've got you, and vice versa. Also in terms of data files and stuff like that, there's always additional pictures, even if it might not be at the same perfect angle. It's still content. And clients who aren't creatives or photographers are not looking for perfect. I mean, they want perfect, but they don't see it the way that us creators do, they just want the content. It also just feels good having someone to talk with during the day so you're not lonely. Teamwork makes the dream work!
Definitely. I started bringing a non-shooting assistant with me sometimes, and it's so nice to have someone to just breathe with when things slow down.
And also let's talk about behind-the-scenes! That's one of my favorite reasons to have a second shooter. If they can capture me in the moment with my couple in the pictures, then I have more content to share how my experience is. Here's me showing up! Here's me doing what you see! I think that's one of the best parts.
Absolutely. And I'll say too, even if you're someone who is shooting without a second shooter, if you just make a conscious effort to take a few photos of other vendors as they're working, they are going to looooove you for that. They're going to want to share that photo, and tag you in it, and share how much they loved working with you. We all want behind the scenes content, we all want to show off what we're doing on a wedding day. So, pro tip, take pictures of everyone.
Yes, and pro tip - make sure your email is on your website and not through a contact form. So when said photographer is ready to send galleries, they can find your email instead of having to ask and beg for it, because then we get too busy and just won't get to it. You'll have to come after us!
If you are somebody who is looking for a second shooter and have found a few candidates, are there some questions you like to ask to sort of screen people?
Oh, definitely. I'm someone who loves people who are just starting and I believe in them, but I'm at a different type of wedding level that I can't necessarily have a newbie be my second shooter. They could be my third shooter, or my non-shooting assistant, but they need to be someone I can rely on. That means getting the lighting right if it's speckled, harsh, or raining. They can handle any obstacle; especially if a disaster happens on the wedding day, they can handle it and roll with it.
If I haven't shot with them before, I ask them specific questions, like what kind of gear do you have? What camera do you have? What kind of lenses do you have? Do you have prime lenses? How many flashes do you have? Even what type of battery they use in their flashes because the recycle time depends on what you use. I ask how many weddings they've shot or second shot, if they primarily shoot for themselves or if they primarily second shoot. What's your favorite thing about second shooting? And, what's your end goal? I have worked with second shooters who wanted to be a main second shooter for me, but once they started to learn a little bit more they wanted to become their own primary shooter. Which is great, but it also put me in a pickle because I was relying on them to stay my second shooter. So I always ask, do you like second shooting? Do you plan to keep second shooting? If I have a good working relationship with you, can we keep this going beyond this wedding season? What about next wedding season?
Beyond that, the biggest thing too is, can you show me a portfolio of your second shooting? Show me some pictures from when you second shot, edited and RAW. Do you know how to over expose or under expose? Can you shoot light and airy if you edit dark and moody? I also like to speak with people on the phone or FaceTime just to see if we vibe. I'm someone who is very particular about how the energy is around me on a wedding day. I need someone who is reciprocal, uplifting, bubbly, and easygoing. That way the whole experience for my client is stress-free and they feel good, and they feel connected. I want them to feel connected and supported.
I've interviewed some people on the phone that don't really mesh with me. I love their work, but energetically they didn't feel like they fit my company's philosophy or perspective. Sometimes our energies just don't mesh as well, maybe because they were more serious or calm. It wasn't the same kind of high energy. We didn't vibe. You know what I mean, sometimes you're just around somebody and you're like, "I like them!"
I'm also looking for connection. I want my second shooters to become friends, more than just seeing them on a Saturday. I want to have a connection with them, know about their life and why they love photography. I want to have a friendship beyond them working for me, but they also need to treat my clients the same way I would. Essentially, my second shooter always shoots the groom and groomsmen, or whoever the other side of the wedding party is, whether that's another bride and bridesmaids. They would go do that, but I need to know they are going to treat that side of the bridal party just as I would treat them. So being easygoing, rolling through portraits in a fun and charismatic manner. They feel light and supported and just fun. Breezy. That's really important to me.
One of the things I will probably continue to say almost every episode is how important it is that a couple feels like they really mesh well with their photographer, videographer, and usually planner in general, because those are the people you're going to spend the whole wedding day with. And the same goes for a second shooter, and I love that that's something important to you - that when you reach out to second shooters, you're making sure their vibe goes with yours, and the day as a whole.
Yeah! And in terms of imagery, we're the ones as a photographer or videographer capturing images. The energy you have when we're shooting you, or what we're saying to you and how we're making you feel, shows up in your eyes and on camera and in the images. You do want someone that you feel connected to, and you can really be yourself and we can capture you for you. As opposed to an instance where someone might be not directing you well, or you feel stiff. And there are people that are regal and firm and dry, and they like that! And there are photographers out there for people like that, too.
I love that. I'm gonna start using that as well! Let's talk second shooter expectations. When they are showing up on a wedding day, or even preparing for the wedding day, what are some things you like to go over to make sure they are prepared?
If this is a new second shooter for me, I give them the whole gist. I explain, "Hey, you're going to be doing this type of shooting. You'll be with the one side of the bridal party while they're getting ready, and then do their portraits and details. During the ceremony, this is the one shot I want you to do - usually it's the bride and her dad coming down the aisle full width. Beyond that, I'm flexible, just grab what you can." But I also tell them the kind of posing I'd like to see. So I might send them a sample gallery from a past wedding I've shot, or a second shooter has shot with me, that shows them the posing I like and the variation I'm looking for. That way I'm not disappointed when I'm going back and editing images for my client. I want it to feel as if I was there and shot it all, so it's all seamless with my experience.
I don't want to set a second shooter up for failure. Sometimes people just don't know what you need, or what to expect, unless you tell them. You can't expect someone to show up and shoot exactly how you would shoot if you don't tell them.
I always tell my second shooters to dress professionally. Joy Michelle is another photographer who does a lot of education. I talk about how the way second shooters dress is really important to me, like they need to wear a modest dress and closed-toed shoes. They need to dress like they're a guest at the wedding. I've had second shooters before where I failed as a primary by not explaining. They showed up with messy bed hair, flip flops, and a short summer dress, and I was in a dressy dress and ballerina bun with makeup and earrings and stuff, dressing professionally, and it didn't mesh. Joy Michelle actually makes a little guide that she sends to her second shooters that shows the color palette of her brand and what they should wear, which is also a great idea! Someone might show up in orange or red and could be distracting in pictures if you happen to get them in the background. So she puts navy, blush, gray, black as like the colors that you should wear, and explains what kind of clothing material and style she would want you to wear. Giving them a visual representation and making it a fun way to style yourself. She said as soon as she started sending that, she didn't have second shooters showing up unkempt or in a way that didn't mesh with her brand.
I was like, I'm adding that! But I've also been working with the same second shooters for a while now, and they just know, so I don't really have to. I think it's a great idea for someone who's budding a relationship, or even starting an associate photographer program. It's basically like a uniform. Any other job you have to wear X Y Z, so it's not asking too much for someone to show up for your brand the way you would show up.
I think that's an excellent point, and probably something people don't really think about, especially if they are seeking out a second shooter for the first time. Now, tell me how you handle second shooters keeping all the images to use for their portfolio, or handing them over to you. I know that every photographer's process is a little bit different, but how does it work for you?
I like to be kind of open-ended because I know the second shooters I use also shoot weddings on their own. They don't need as many examples. As a second shooter you'll find that the angles you get are not something that you can use to market yourself as a main shooter because they're a little more awkward if that makes sense. So sometimes people don't get as much use out of the images as a second shooter unless they are trying to get more second shooting positions.
I put in my contract that they can share 10-15 images online, on social media, or wherever. But I put stipulations that the couple's face can't be in it, and they can't tag the couple. I have these put in place, but I'm also pretty flexible. I've only ever had one second shooter who used pictures all the time as if she shot the wedding primarily, which caused some confusion. I've heard stories from other photographers that when second shooters share images it causes confusion for people trying to find the photographer from the wedding day - for instance, if a guest is super impressed with the primary the whole wedding and finds an image of the couple that the second shooter tagged, basically the primary shooter lost a lead after doing all the work to get that client.
Some photographers say second shooters can share images 6-8 months after the wedding, or any detail pictures as long as they don't have pictures with the couple's faces and they don't tag them. I like people to have examples, and if they're spending the whole day with me I want them to have pictures they love, too. I'm flexible. They can use it on their website as much as they want, for me it's just less social media and tagging. Every photographer is different. I've heard that some just take the SD card and delete all the photos before returning them to the second shooter, they don't even let them see them.
When I've been a second shooter, I've never even used the pictures, I don't even go through them. As a second shooter, it's so much more freeing just to shoot for creativity and fun. Not that it doesn't matter, but it's not the responsibility side. You can get angles that are fun and really artsy, that can add to the primary's gallery, but are also fun examples for you. I'm cool with my people sharing whatever they want to in order to get more second shooting positions, but for me I don't want them sharing online like it was their wedding, which might cause confusion with potential leads.
Editing is something that can cause confusion, too. If a photographer hires a dark and moody second shooter when they shoot light and airy and the dark and moody person goes and edits a picture and posts it on their page, the couple might see their page and all the sudden they want all their pictures like that.
I think that's a good distinction to make, too. Like you mentioned earlier, it's not a requirement that someone's editing style matches your own because in general you'll be the one editing the images. But, I definitely think that's something to keep in mind since it can get a little weird.
And I ask anyone who shoots dark and moody, "Can you shoot a little over exposed for me because I like to shoot a little brighter?" It's an important thing to ask, if they can handle the settings changing quickly.
I know we talked a little bit about how you want to make sure your second shooter matches your vibe, and that the feeling for the couple is very cohesive. Do you have any kind of guidelines for how they're interacting with other vendors at the wedding?
I just ask them to be aware of other people. We're not the only vendors of the day. And in terms of guests, I ask them to act like they are working a wedding. If a guest is trying to walk by when you're crammed between tables, you step to the side and let them go by. When it comes to other vendors, I just ask they be friendly and communicative, and maybe even grab pictures of them, or get pictures with me in them too, like a double behind the scenes working as a team. Being upbeat, maybe even grabbing their social media handles for me or doing something beneficial for me and my business while I'm serving the couple. Even seeing if the videographer needs help. Just coming together and working as a team instead of just separate entities.
I think no matter what role you're playing at a wedding, you should lead with service. To your couple, to your other vendors. How can you be of service and helping everyone during the day? You know, I've run errands for parents and bridal party members. My assistant is really good at helping the photographer or going to grab whatever we need. Just going in with service in mind will really benefit you, your business, and your reputation moving forward.
Absolutely. The more love and help you put out, the more you receive. It makes the day better when everyone comes together to serve the couple.
Tell us why second shooting is something you're so passionate about.
Second shooting is really close to my heart because I have second shot before where I felt like I didn't serve enough, or didn't have enough communication, and I don't want anyone to feel that way. I also know how I felt going in as a primary and how scared I was to miss certain things. Through experience, I've found what helps me run a wedding day most efficiently, how to connect the most with my couple, how to get the best images. I want to share those nuggets as knowledge and show everyone it's not as scary as it sounds. Getting second shooting experience is amazing, and the photographers that are willing to put community over competition, take you under their wing, show you the ropes, and make it a fun team are the ones you want to cling to. There's just nothing that tops that. Creating together is so fun - they can bring a dynamic to your wedding day that you couldn't have done by yourself. They can really add to the experience.
I just want to drive home one more time how much value you can bring as a second shooter just by serving the people around you well. Even just when things slow down, grabbing a water for your primary, making sure they're hydrated and can keep doing their job. I think people under-estimate the value in just being a good human!