With wedding season in full swing for most southern photographers, and ramping up for the rest of the country, the need for second shooters for the 2016 season is ramping up right alongside it.

A second shooter can make or break your wedding day flow: hire the wrong person and you could find yourself spending more time managing them than doing what you actually came to do or find the right person and suddenly you’re an ultra efficient wedding shooter machine, snagging every shot, without ever getting in each other’s way. (this paragraph is clunky, can you edit for me?)

Before you start booking second shooters, here are our tips for second shooter success:

Consider Your Needs

Sit down and write down the tasks you want your second shooter to perform. There’s a subtle, but important, difference between a second shooter and an assistant, and it boils down to the jobs you’ll need done the most. A second shooter is there to capture the event alongside you, because you simply can’t be in two places at once. They can be tasked with shooting the things you’re less excited about, like details, or wide shots, so you can focus on your sweet spot. An assistant, on the other hand, is there to carry your gear, hold lights, and corral subjects. Once you know what you’re looking for, this list can help form the contract you’ll create, with clearly written expectations of the tasks that will be completed.

How to Find Your Second Shooter Soulmate

Reach out to your network, first. Ask for referrals from your community, and drop into your local groups with the dates you’re looking to cover. Be sure to include a brief overview of the tasks you’ll be giving them, any gear you require your second shooters to have, and your own portfolio, so that any potential second shooters can get a clear picture of your style.

If you can’t find anyone through your local connections, consider adding a page to your website, and collect applications for second shooters throughout the year. Store these on file, and get on the phone when you’re ready to start booking.

What to Pay Them

Pay will depend on a variety of factors, including the area you live in, the experience level of the person you’re hiring, and the tasks and requirements you have for them. Though most inexperienced photographers  are happy to shoot for free, pay them anyways! Many second shooters are new to the industry, and shooting for their portfolio, or the experience, but paying them is a vital piece of this equation. It shows them you value their time, and their effort, and it helps the industry overall.

If your second shooter will incur other costs, like travel, parking fees, or gear rentals, be clear about which expenses you will cover, and which you won’t.

Constantly Communicate

Create a clearly worded contract that states the dates, times, expected tasks, and pay. Be as detailed as you necessary – the less you leave to guesswork, the more fluid this relationship will be. Include how you expect your second to dress, and when they will get breaks in this contract.

On the day of the wedding, ensure your second shooter understands and is comfortable with the tasks you’ve assigned them. Some photographers create simple hand gestures for communicating from afar. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something isn’t working. Be prepared to answer questions if you’ve hired a newer photographer, or if you’d rather not, ensure they know they can ask after the wedding instead. Sync your cameras, and have fun!