Hiring A Second Shooter with Cassidy Mister

On The DMV Wedding Pros Podcast this week, I got to chat with Cassidy Mister from Cassidy MR Photography.

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