When working on large photography assignments, like weddings, couples often request a second photographer to ensure that all of the important moments are captured, particularly for bigger weddings. Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a second photographer for the first time, with myself as the main photographer. Although I wasn't entirely satisfied with our collaboration, it was a valuable lesson for me on what to expect from working with a second photographer.
Here are 5 important issues that should be discussed with the second photographer before beginning TO WORK together to avoid misunderstandings. While reviewing portfolios and signing a cooperation agreement are obvious steps, the following issues should also be addressed:
1. Establish clear boundaries for photography.
While it may seem obvious that photographers are capturing people, there are certain boundaries that should be respected. The second photographer should know that their role is to capture events that the main photographer may not be able to, such as the groom's reaction to the bride's entrance or the reaction of the closest family. The second photographer does not need to capture the exact same shots as the main photographer unless asked to do so. After reviewing the second photographer's photos, I noticed that the couple was photographed in every possible moment, even when nothing significant was happening. While photos are important, the couple's comfort should be a priority as it is their special day. Being surrounded by photographers from all angles can be intimidating, and the couple may feel overwhelmed. Therefore, it is crucial for the second photographer to understand their duties.
2. Avoid the desire to take a photo at all costs.
The main photographer is responsible for guiding the couples and the guest in terms of photographs being taken at the right place and time. If the main photographer is taking a mini session with the couple during breaks between events, it is unprofessional for the second photographer to interfere and try to take their shot from their perspective. At the last wedding, I noticed that the second photographer felt the need to capture their shot of the couple at all costs, even after I had told the couple that we finished and they could return to their guests. This behaviour can be tiring for the couple and can make the main photographer appear unprofessional or they may be confused about who is actually in charge.
3. The second photographer should know when not to take photos.
I thought it should obvious for someone who photographs at weddings in England, but after reviewing the photos, it turned out it may not have been. There are moments, such as signing documents during the wedding ceremony or talking to officials before the ceremony, which should not be photographed. If the second photographer does this, the main photographer may appear unprofessional in the eyes of these officials or other people leading the wedding. There is a moment after they officially sign the documents where the photographer can take a photo while they pretend they are signing some papers.
4. Just because someone has a portfolio of photos on Instagram or a website, it doesn't mean they know how to take photos and use their cameras.
It's not about framing, but about using camera settings. If the second photographer gives you photos from a 5-hour celebration, and there are 1500 of them, but 3/4 are blurry due to a long exposure time, probably because they were afraid to raise the ISO, it's a sign that something is wrong. Out of 1500 photos, I was able to choose 150. Potentially cool photos were so blurred that they were completely unusable. I wasted a lot of time making the selection. When I take 1500 photos myself, I'm able to choose at least 400-500 very good ones. It's difficult to notice these details when asking someone to show their finished portfolio. However, when you look at someone's RAW files, everything becomes clear immediately. Problems with overexposure of photos, poorly thought-out compositions that include elements that could have been removed by slightly adjusting the camera, or blurry photos because someone was afraid to increase the ISO. It's also worth mentioning the difficulty of taking group photos, where the aperture value should often be raised if people are standing in rows one after another. The further back someone is, the more blurry they will be, especially at f/2 or lower. For me, such issues are already decisive when choosing a potential second photographer.
5. The rules for posting photo results on social media or other sources.
The second photographer often posts photos they took on their own social media unless the main photographer did not give permission. Personally, I don't have a problem with this, but it's worth discussing with the person when they can post such photos and that they should tag you as the main photographer in their posts. Personally, I think such photos should be posted on the second photographer's social media or website only after the couple has received their photos. If the main photographer has not yet delivered the photos, and the second photographer is already posting theirs on Instagram, the couple may accidentally but not necessarily see them, which can cause unpleasantness.
That's all for today. These are my 5 observations to consider when choosing a second photographer to work with. I was always doing the job myself and would say have a little experience working with the second shooter. If you never done is as well or maybe wondering why the photographers you used to work do not contact you anymore it may be the reason.
My name is Emilia Czarnota, and I'm a professional lifestyle and wedding photographer. I do maternity, family, and engagement photoshoots in England. If you're looking for a photographer, contact me by clicking on contact. You can also sign up for my newsletter below to receive notifications about new posts. If you're a photographer interested in these types of topics, also sign up for the newsletter and follow me on Instagram! I do write for photographers and for photography clients! :)