Two of the most important things that I did when I was first getting started as a photographer were assisting and second shooting for other photographers. I began assisting a photographer one summer during my college years, and it was there that I began to pick up the “pace” of weddings. I learned what happened when, and where I needed to be to capture it. I learned how to balance both taking images and managing the client. I then was able to move on to second shooting which allowed me to put everything I learned to practice, and develop my photo skills at the same time. I didn’t have any of the pressure of delivering on every single shot, because the main shooter was responsible for all of that which meant that I could explore different angles, different settings, and get used to the camera being an extension of my mind.
So, for starters, I HIGHLY recommend assisting and second shooting. To give you an idea of how important I think it is, I still second shoot for other photographers several times per year, and I’ve been shooting professionally for 9 years. If you’re just starting out, there is nothing better. Even if you’re in your first 3-5 years of business, find some photographers to assist and second shoot for.
When photographers DO decide to pursue second shooting for another photographer, unfortunately, a lot of the time, they don’t think through the business and branding end of what it means to be an assistant or second shooter for another company. While you might still be forming your company, your style, and your brand, the established company you’re assisting or second shooting for isn’t. They have a very concentrated vision that they take to each wedding, and a very specific brand to uphold. They need to bring along a second shooter that fits their style, can carry their brand, and uphold their reputation. They need to be sure that you are punctual, courteous, tactful, respectful, well-dressed, and personable – beyond being a good photographer!
I get several emails per week from photographers wanting to assist or second shoot. For the most part, they are very similar. They all start the same, say the same things, and end the same way. And you know what I do with them? Put them straight into the trash can. I don’t even click on the links they provide, usually don’t even get past the first line. The reason being that they violate some version of the DON’TS I have listed below.
Here are my DON’TS when it comes to the business side of becoming a Second Shooter:
1. Almost every email starts with “Hello,” Thats nice, I like Hello. However, the email always moves on without anything else. Folks, you need to personalize it. I’m not dumb – I can tell you just emailed that to 45 photographers! When you don’t use my name, you’re telling me you don’t care enough to work for MY company. You just want a job. And, while that might be true, you have to personalize the email. You have to send the signal that you’ve looked at MY website, that you like MY work, and you think you’d be a good fit for MY photography studio. Start your email with “Hello Jared,”
2. The email continues to tell me about how photography is a passion of yours and you provide a link to your work. None of that is bad, I want to hear that you’re passionate about it. And I want to see your work. Typically, though, I’ll go to the person’s website, and won’t have anything to do with weddings or portraits. Its flowers, or deer in Yosemite. It is still life’s of a birthday cake. Now I understand that you might not have a ton of experience with weddings – thats why you’re emailing me, but I have to see that you at least know how to take a picture of a person, before I’m going to want to bring you along on a shoot. And, when the next person emails over and they have some portrait session pictures on their site, they look a lot better to me! If you’re going to apply to shoot weddings or portraits, just make sure you have SOME images up from those situations. Go shoot your family, your sister, your teacher, your friend’s baby – you can find something!
3. And then the email ends. Usually with a courteous goodbye, or something like that. It doesn’t end in a mean way or anything. But it ends. And the person never told me why they would be good for my company. They told me about how much THEY wanted to learn. They told me how much THEY wanted to get into the photography industry. They told me about how THEY had passion. But how are you going to contributed to MY company? Why do you think you’re a good fit for MY company? How will your work compliment MY work? I don’t want to paint the picture that its all about ME, because it isn’t. Seriously. But, you have to understand that a full time professional photographer sees A LOT of emails from aspiring photographers. How are you standing out? Are you making it all about you, or are you doing your homework and seeing how you can make it mutually beneficial? Are you taking shortcuts, and not personalizing it? Remember – it is essential for you to advance your craft by assisting and second shooting. And, just as important, you have to be smart and professional about how you go about looking for that position. When you’re a second shooter , you’re not shooting for you – you’re shooting for someone else!
Written by San Diego Wedding Photographer Jared Bauman of Bauman Photographers.
Jared is currently touring the country speaking at different Pictage User Groups on the topic of “Do you own your business, or does your business own you?”. Following every PUG stop Jared also puts on his “Prevail in Business” seminar. For more articles like this one you can visit BaumanResources.com.