5 Tips to make second shooter want to work for you

I’ve been on both sides, hiring secondary shooters and hiring secondary shooters. There’s a bit of push-and-pull, but I feel there’s a lot of things both sides can do to make each other’s experience great. I’ve seen a lot of articles on how to be a great second shooter, but speaking from second shooting there’s a lot the primary shooter can do as well.

I can’t stress this enough. If the second shooter is working for you and needs to transfer the data over later, it can become a huge hassle transferring or asking the second shooter to transfer themselves later. Have the cards immediately prepped and give it to them so they can get started immediately. One example is drone shots where you fly over the venue early before the reception starts, but the photo/video setup is still going on. Invest in a card holder and multiple microSD/SD/CF cards of high quality for modern cameras and don’t skimp on capacity or transfer rate. I can tell you a few drone shots, video coverage, etc can all stack up to 5+ gigs fast with the how large the files are these days.

Regarding the latter, I feel it’s fair to let the second shooter pick a few shots for their portfolio a few months down the line to show you care about their growth and are willing to help them grow. It shows you’re a caring mentor and colleague. For me, it just seems like a reasonable thing to do as a kind human.

First of all, there’s nothing worse than feeling you’re not paid your worth. Even if you’re testing someone, pay them at an good rate above minimum wage to make sure they are valued. If in the future you feel they are a great fit for your team, then you will have that trust from them to start with. Also if you offer to comp them for travel costs, it shows you really care about having them being on part of your team. Naysayers say this might cut into costs, but in the long run it shows generosity on your part and builds a good reputation with the shooter and others in the community who might want to work for you.

This is key, because if there is not, the quality of work will be mixed. Explain to the secondary shooter how your style is, your expected camera settings for them, how you shoot, your expectations, etc. There’s nothing worse than finding out later as a second shooter you didn’t produce the work for them because they assumed you knew something – never assume always confirm. Also remember to sync times before the gig! This makes them feel a part of the team and not just someone hired to press a button for hours. Do they use a different camera system, and how can they compensate their white balance so the look and feel is closer to yours for easier post production? Just very simple, yet very important questions to make process go smoother.

After all, this is still a collaboration of artist, right?

This is different from directing. You know that one boss at work which constantly checks over your shoulder everything you do? Don’t be that person – let them breathe and feel respected as an artist. Yes, this is still an art (to me anyways)! This is where screening and talking face-to-face before the gig really helps – get to know the person and their style. Explain yours and see if they’re willing to come onboard. When it comes, you won’t have to check if the shots are in focus or if the drone take is smooth because there will be that trust and innate communication already established. It may take a few gigs to sort out the kinks, but eventually the team will be running smoothly as everyone knows what to do without asking for direction.

Don’t immediately put the second shooter down if something isn’t right. Instead communicate what you want and let them try again. If it’s a new person odds are they might not be used to your production standards for your style. Respect and collaboration are things they will appreciate from you before you start throwing instructions at them.

This applies more to video than photo, but I usually never touch others’ equipment. If you need others to move their gear, ask them first out of courtesy. If you need a setting or framing change, ask them to do it. It shows you respect them as an individual. I can’t speak for others, but I get nervous when someone else asks to fly my drone or asks for dangerous low shot passes that are meant for gimbal. A drone operator might not work with you again if you recklessly ask them to fly 5 miles away for a long shot, for example. Each piece of equipment has its use, whether that’s going to be gimbal, drone, or just a static tripod shot. Use the right equipment and don’t use one thing as one-size-fits-all. Be willing to lend the second shooter any equipment you might have to help in the production as well, because in the end it’s about the end product.

I can’t emphasize this enough, especially with the large team now. For a wedding now, you typically have 2 photographers, 2 videographers with 2 static tripod setups and a gimbal operator. That’s a lot of angles to cover and all that needs to be communicated before the event begins. Otherwise someone will not get the shot, and the only person that will suffer is the client – and whoever misses the shot will get all the blame. The key isn’t to get the best shot, but to make sure everyone gets what they need for a great production. Put your ego down first if you can and if you need to get in there, do it quick to get your shot and get out of it.

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