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When to Hire a Second Shooter

  • Summerana 

You may have heard that some photographers like to shoot with a second photographer by their side, usually referred to as a second shooter. This photographer is not exactly an assistant, though they may perform this function at other times. Their purpose is to capture the shots that you cannot get, normally because you already have something else to capture. They are most commonly required for weddings: while you get the wide shots, the portraits, and collect the essence of the big day, your second shooter can do close-ups and detail shots. Similarly, while you shoot the bride getting ready, your second shooter can be with the groom.

But at what point are you ready to hire a second shooter? Should you hire one if you are working in another area of the photographic industry? And how do you do it? Let’s take a look at this topic in more depth.

Hire When You’re Busy

If you are feeling frazzled and worn out because you are working too much, it might be time to hire a second shooter. It is a lot of work to run around trying to capture everything, and you might not be able to do it all on your own. As well as capturing all aspects of a wedding, there are other scenarios when you might need a second shooter, such as:

  • Capturing a festival, where many things are happening at the same time
  • Covering an event or party where it is important to take photographs of as many guests as possible
  • Setting up a very complicated image that you only have one shot at, for example setting fire to something or covering stills on a movie set
  • When your studio is so busy you can double-book


Don’t Hire

There are some situations in which you absolutely shouldn’t hire a second shooter, and these ought to be fairly obvious to you; however, as you try to feel your way forward in this business, it might not become clear until after you try it. Here are the scenarios in which you absolutely shouldn’t hire a second shooter – and you may be surprised to see that they can even contradict or rule out the situations where you should!

  • If you are only just making enough money to pay your bills, but don’t feel you can raise your rates
  • Your bookings are more sporadic than consistent
  • You are hired for a very specific look and style that is unique to you
  • When you have built a personal studio brand which leaves customers expecting you and only you behind the camera

You can hopefully see how some of these can be really problematic. In addition, if you have been hired directly by a client such as in the festival, party, or movie set scenarios above, you should always check with the client before bringing in someone else. Having a second photographer around may affect their insurance policies, their ability to get you in the right place at the right time, and so forth.

Hire With Knowledge

Once you decide that you are ready to hire a second shooter, you should not be blindly hiring just anyone. You absolutely need to know that you are hiring the right person – they are going to be representing you and your brand, and if they let you down, that reflects badly on you as far as the client is concerned. In photography, there are very often no do-overs. If you hire someone with little experience who gets it wrong, then you have missed out on those shots and can’t get them back.

It’s important to know the quality of someone’s work before you hire them. Just seeing a portfolio is not enough: you need to actually work with them before you can trust them fully. Someone that you have already worked with in the past would be a good choice, but don’t pick them just because you are friends. It needs to be about the quality.

If you don’t know any other suitable photographers and need to interview for the position, set up a scenario where you can put them through their paces as a test. It’s really important to know that they can deliver consistent results for you.


Hire From Where?

So where do you find a second shooter if you don’t already have one in mind? There are several directions you can take. Advertise on local job boards, both online and in traditional newspapers. You can also use general job and recruitment sites, which are good for hitting a wide range of people all looking out for work.

You can also use social media, though this may be a less reliable method with a smaller pool of candidates. Facebook groups are a good source, though not all of your enquiries will successfully feed back potential shooters. You can also use your own mailing list as a place to hunt for a second shooter. You may have a fan following your updates that would love to work with you.

Another option is to go to local colleges or universities and ask for someone who is studying photography. This way you may even be able to offer work experience, and give them a trial for free! They may not be as experienced or developed, but this should allow you to offer them a lower rate of pay until they have earned their stripes.

Finally, you could also try local photography groups for both both amateur and professional photographers. These photographers are usually keen to shoot as much as possible. Recruiting from their ranks could give you someone who will be reliable in terms of availability and drive.

One last note is that when you take on a second shooter, be sure to update your own insurance. Otherwise, you will be liable for them in the event of any accidents or other eventualities!


Do you have a second shooter? We would love to hear the story of how and when you got together, and how it works for you. Comment below, or share your story with our Facebook community, Summerana Photography Society!

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