The value of a second shooter

embrace vintageI’m pretty self-sufficient, especially when it comes to photography. I know what I’m looking for in a shot and I know how to make it happen. I think that many of us photographers are like this, and therefore often overlook having a second shooter. I can grab my camera and get out shooting and I can do it fast, adding someone to the mix only slows me down. Additionally, it’s one more person that you have to keep your eye on, where are they standing? are they getting into my shot? are they casting a shadow? Adding a second shooter adds a variable and a liability to the shoot.

I would honestly say that for the past few years this has been my view of second shooters and therefore I have avoided the idea of having one. I can think of only one time that I had a second shooter and it was for a wedding in Russia. It was a great experience, but I don’t know that I fully appreciated the addition at the time. As I have grown and learned more I have always had the idea in my mind, just never ventured into that realm, always focusing on the liability aspect of it.

Recently though, I shot some engagement pictures for a couple and had access to a great photographer, my wife, and decided that it would be a great addition to have her as a second shooter. It was great. We talked through the shoot before hand and because she knows what she is doing I never had to worry about her, she knew where she needed to be and what she needed to be doing.

As I have been going through the pictures, and doing edits, I am now fully appreciating the addition. We have different shooting styles, different vision, and therefore we have different shots. I am able to piece together a great story through images with shots that I would never have gotten except for her. I am beginning to see the value of having a second shooter.

I don’t know why so many times in life I think that I can go at something alone, maybe that’s part of being a guy, but what I realize is that when I do something with someone it turns out so much better. Putting this to words feels a little weird because I am such a social person, I love being around people, so why would I try and do anything alone? I continue to work on the “I can do it best” mentality and am developing the “I’m going to train you to do it well” one.

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3 thoughts on “The value of a second shooter

  1. Being a successful second shooter not only has a bit to do with the skill and talent of the individual, but it depends a lot on the relationship between photographers–it requires a level of trust and cooperation.
    Second shooters have to know their role–they’re second. They need to always be aware of and share the primary photographers’ goals, do whatever is needed to help achieve those goals and then get out of the way. A level of humility on both sides helps–if primary shooters can trust their coworkers in the shoot, they can understand the value in a second shooter’s job. Otherwise, why have a second shooter?
    In the session mentioned here, I had full confidence that Jimmy trusted me to do a great job and expected that of me. If I wanted to try a different angle or take a second to finish a shot before we moved on, he waited. We shared ideas and made it work.
    I so much enjoy working with this man, and am thankful not only for his photography talents and passion, but his willingness to let me share in the joy of capturing life in images.

  2. I actually always like to be the second shooter, mostly because I think that my amateur status would ruin the event, and because I am not very sociable as you put it, I don’t instruct well or direct well as is the case. So, as a second shooter, I applaude you 🙂

    • Michael, I can understand where you are coming from but I would like to comment on your “amateur status” and it ruining an event. You have some great shots, and you have great vision. We would be nothing as photographers without that vision. I know that there is a level of confidence required in this business but I want to encourage you that you have great skill at your craft, keep it up.

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