hi there! i'm michelle, southern california based photographer and curator of the coco gallery.

welcome to my blog where i share my life, my latest adventures, photo projects, random nuggets and the occasional stray thoughts.

for clients: to view my portfolio just click on this link - theCOCOgallery.com. to book sessions please send me a message through theCOCOgallery.com or contact me via michelle@thecocogallery.com | 949.734.0604

Monday, August 2, 2010

mila | 2nd photographer etiquette

second shooting for someone is fun!  i get to experiment and shoot great events with less pressure.  but it's also a lot of responsibility.

when a photographer asks me to second shoot with them i consider that an honor.  to me that means they love my work, they get along with me well enough to stand spending a whole stress day with me and they believe in me enough to count on me in case there is a problem.  and i take that seriously.  i pack a full gear and i shoot responsibly.  three things that i always do as a second:

  • stay out of the primary's shot
  • shoot from an angle that is different than the primary (i'm there to add to the portfolio not create duplicates)
  • try to shoot with a lens that is different than the primary

it HAS happened.  the main photog's battery died, the card was full, the flash stopped working, the camera wasn't cooperating.  it was my job as second to be right there, ready to take the necessary shots.  i'm always fully aware of where the main photographer is and what's going on with that person.  so when disaster strikes, there's no stress, no shock, things run smoothly and the bride didn't even feel a thing.

taking pictures is exhausting.  sometimes i'm just the fire that lights that main's ass and pushes in a second wind.  (that sounds bad huh?)  i'm the critical second eye that notices out of place details and steps in for the correction.  i'm also the stylist, poser, water runner, light finder and whatever.  when i'm the second, it's my job to be the primary's entourage and support.  when i'm the primary i expect no less from my second.  luckily, in this world, we're all friends coz that's a whole lotta responsibility.

other things to note when i play second photographer:
  • they are NOT my client, this is NOT my job and i am NOT operating as milaPhotography on that event.  so the photos are NOT mine.  if the main photographer allows me to blog or post on fb any of the pictures then i am very very grateful.  if the main photographer uses my shots for their port, slideshow, album, etc.  then i am flattered.  in no way are they obligated to credit me for a shot taken at their event. 
  • should i be allowed to blog about the even i always credit the main photographer.  ALWAYS.
  • to call a shot "my own" means that i found the light, the background, the pose and the composition.  so if the main photographer sets up the shot then i can't call it mine now can i?  subsequently, this is also the reason why we put into our contracts that other pro photographers (or people with pro-like cameras) are not allowed to shoot at our weddings.  it's too easy for a shot to get setup by someone else and then 10 people stand right behind the photographer and take the picture.  

things i DON'T do as a second:

  • contact the client via fb, twitter or email.  
    • any kind of social media in this industry is a marketing tool.  contacting the client would be all kinds of wrong.  
  • tagging the client's pictures on fb.  see above.
  • blogging images BEFORE the primary (and without permission).  
    • blogging is also a marketing tool.  to post photos before the primary posts photos would be stealing thunder.  bad idea.
  • give out my business cards at the event.  
    • on the day of the event, the second (and third) photographer is working under the primary's company.  giving out business cards that are unrelated to the primary is a conflict of interest.
  • i will NOT use any of the photos for my online portfolio.
despite how harsh some of that stuff sounds trust me, 2nding really is fun and a great opportunity to stretch myself as a wedding photographer.  

here's some shots i took as hanssie's 2nd at this rad wedding she invited me to.  the bride was soooo my kind of DIY gal.  she thought of everything and added the cutest most genuine touches of craftiness to her wedding.


    1. Great article! I'm gonna share it...

    2. You are my favorite second cause you follow all the rules, lol! And you pull out rockin' images!

    3. I like to call my 2nd shooter to the stars. ;) My M.O. as a 2nd shooter has always to make the primary photographer shine and know my role. Thanks for the great write up!

    4. Great post, I second shot the only wedding I was ever involved in as a photographer and you're right, it's a blast :) Looking back I'm glad to note that I did and didn't do all the things you said to and not to do, w00t ;) Thanks again for this post!

    5. Awesome post and great images, Michelle.

    6. One of the best posts I've read this year... I've had a couple of HORRIBLE experiences with seconds... One going so far as to collect a testimonial from the B&G... Incredible.

      Thank you so much for writing this up! You're ALWAYS welcome to shoot with me ;)

    7. Very good read!!! I am going to re-post too!

    8. this is awesome.. i appreciate all the info!!

    9. Beautiful work Michelle! Love the article!

    10. great great images~~ I have been second shooting a lot and agree with most of what you have said, very well written,
      I love second shooting because I learn so much about different kinds of style and the main thing is being there and for the main photographer and making their day easier

    11. This is awesome Michelle! It's great that you spelled it all out and I love how you wrote it in a 2nd shooters perspective.

    12. Michelle, this is an awesome article!! I pretty much draft the 2nd shooter contract based on what I read from your blog. Thank you!!!! It really bothers us when i hear when 2nd shooters contacts the clients or post images before the main. It totally burns the bridges and ruin the clients' surprise seeing the studio's images for the first time.

    13. Michelle,

      Thank you so much for sharing this with me! I needed to read this! This was very well said and super helpful. Beautiful work by the way :)