Almost all wedding photographers have been an assistant photographer at some point in their career. It’s a fantastic way to get started.
These do and don’t tips are based on personal experience. In addition, I included tips from conversations with other wedding photographers and their experience with assistant photographers.
DO As an Assistant Photographer:
This might sound obvious, but help with whatever needs to be done, photography-related or not.
– Be presentable
For formal events and weddings, take into account what the dress code is. The most common and “safe” outfit is black slacks, a black button up shirt, and closed-toe dress shoes. Hygiene is also very important! Shower, comb your hair, and make sure your breath is minty fresh. My “uniform” for my team is white button up shirt, black slacks, black blazer if it’s cold, and black dress shoes.
– Use people skills
A huge part of being a wedding photographer is your interaction with others. People have to feel comfortable in order for you to capture natural looking moments, so good social skill is a must. Be friendly, warm, and smile.
– Have a great attitude
This is just as important as technical skill. Work-related or not, if you have a good attitude, people will want to be around you.
– Shoot from a complimenting/different angle
One of the main tasks of a second shooter is to capture pictures that the primary shooter does not. If you see the primary getting a shot, you do not need to get that shot too. Get it from a different angle, or capture something else completely different. For example, if the primary is shooting close up shots of the bride and groom during the ceremony, stand back and get wide shots, or look for reactions in the audience to capture.
– Respect boundaries
As an assistant shooter, you are working for another photographer/company. Although I think there are basic business practices, business ethics vary from person to person/company to company, so it is best to discuss boundaries ahead of time. One time I saw an assistant leave a stack of her business cards on the table at the wedding I was hired for. I confronted her. That is a hard no.
– Have a good work ethic
Know your task and what is expected out of you. Some of my second shooter’s tasks include: detail shots, groom + groomsmen getting ready, wide shots during the ceremony, cocktail hour, grabbing my bag if I’m in a rush, and shooting at complimenting angles for all other times.
Do NOT As an Assistant Photographer:
– Don’t take the same photos the primary photographer is taking.
I have a photographer friend who said the second shooter kept following her around taking all the same shots. She constantly had to tell him to skedaddle.
– Don’t sit around, play on your phone, or eat in front of guests
Unless given permission by the client or the main photographer.
– Don’t wear jeans, sneakers, bright colors, or anything with crazy patterns
Especially if you are photographing luxury high-end weddings.
– Don’t hand out your business cards.
Talking to other photographers, we’ve all had something like this happen to us before. As a general guideline, you should only hand out your personal business card if the client booked you directly. If someone asks for a business card at an event you are assisting at, give them the business card of the primary photographer.
– Don’t post about the wedding on your own blog like it is your client.
For me, I encourage my second shooters to use the photos they take for their portfolio, but taking credit is lying and unprofessional (i.e. “Last weekend Abby & Sam hired me to shoot their beautiful wedding in Venice Beach . . .”). It looks bad for the primary photographer and also on your part if the client or any of their guests see.
– Don’t submit your photos to a wedding blog to get published and take credit for the wedding.
One of my good friends told me this happened to him. Remember that you are contracted to work for someone else. For high-end events, if an event planning company brings me on board, it is their client, not mine. I’m not working for myself anymore but instead the event planning company. It is not a place for me to promote myself personally or obtain new clients. If I blog about the wedding/event or submit my pictures to another blog, I first get permission from the event planning company, and then credit them of course.
A good wedding photographer will explain what they need and expect before working with an assistant photographer. For me, chemistry is important so I do a couple test shoots with assistant shooters before officially bringing them on.
If anyone has any additional questions, leave them in the comment box below!