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5 Reasons Why you Shouldn't be a Lead Photographer: Wedding Photography

5 Reasons Why you Shouldn't be a Lead Photographer: Wedding Photography

Now recently at a wedding, I was hanging out with my second photographer, just chatting, and she brought up an absolutely amazing point about the wedding industry. Something you see too much of is everyone trying to start being a wedding photographer without realizing what it means to run a business. Photography is fun, but on the same end, being a wedding photographer is more customer service, like I've said before.

But basically, it's 80/20, 80% being a business owner, customer service, and 20% being a photographer. And with that, I want to tell you the reasons why you might actually want to just be a second photographer.

Now, again, this came up because my second main only seconds. She can lead a wedding by herself, she can shoot a wedding by herself, and her work is beautiful, but she doesn't like to do it. She just doesn't want to deal with everything you have to be the main photographer for weddings.

So let's run through the things that you don't have to deal with when you're not the main photographer, and also some ways you can set yourself up to be a second photographer.

Starting out with the most obvious, but you don't have to deal with the business side of things

When you're the main and lead wedding photographer, you have to deal with setting up your business, getting a DBA, getting your tax ID, paying your taxes, making a website, making sure the website looks good, making sure the website brings in customers. You have to talk to those customers, you have to greet those customers. You have to have the correct kind of emails to get your customers in and to book with you.

There's so many things you have to deal with business-wise if you're trying to be the main and lead photographer. And speaking of the business side of things, don't forget to check out some of my 21 essentials for starting your own wedding photography business.

But if you just want to be a second, all you have to do is pay your taxes off of what you're paid, and that's it. You don't have to get business insurance or get a tax ID number. You can just use your normal social. All that stuff becomes so much simpler because you're basically just getting paid as a contractor.

You don't have to deal with finding clients

As a second photographer, your client are other photographers, and finding photographers who are working and need help is much easier than finding new clients. You don't have to pay for things like The Knot or WeddingWire or Thumbtack or any other services that help you find clients. You also don't have to pay for any advertising online through Google, through YouTube, anything else.

You basically don't have to find wedding clients at all. And to me, this is one of the biggest ones, because a lot of photographers complain about how do you find more work. But maybe you're just not looking to run a business, and then all you need to really look for is the photographers and how can you support those photographers, rather than having to deal with the headache of finding new clients.

You also don't have to deal with any of the prep that comes along with the wedding day. For some reason, people think photographers just show up on the day of, take photos, and get paid lots of money. But honestly, we're putting in between 30 and 80 hours per wedding, depending on your wedding.

You're talking about meeting with your client the first time, emailing back and forth for, like, a whole year with your client, making timelines for them, sending them questionnaires, doing their engagement photos, editing their engagement photos, doing the wedding day itself, traveling to the wedding day. After the wedding day, backing up all of your stuff, editing the photos, delivering the photos.

All of this stuff takes time. So while I might charge 5,000 dollars for an 8-hour wedding, you know, that split between 40 hours, which doesn't really make it that much when you look at it. But as a second photographer, you're only getting paid for the work you do. You show up on a wedding day, you support the main photographer for eight hours, and you head home. You don't even have to edit the photos.

Some main photographers are really nice and they'll let you use the photos yourself. But honestly, you just, you don't have to use them if you don't want to. And so when you compare the amount of money you're making, it's actually pretty good as a second photographer 'cause really, you're only putting in maybe let's say 10 hours for a full day, an hour drive to a wedding, an 8-hour wedding, an hour drive back, and you get paid for all that.

I mean, it's pretty much like working a part-time job. Like, being a second photographer is where it's at, and I cannot tell you how many photographers I've met who personally like being a second, rather than the main photographer. 

You don't have to cull or edit photos

Along these same lines, another reason why it's great to be a second is you don't have to cull or edit photos. Again, the work you're doing on the day of is your work. You're supporting the main photographer, you're taking additional photos, you're getting paid and you're going home. No culling through images, no editing images, no delivering images. And also because of that, there's a lot of services that you don't have to pay for, either. Pretty much, the second photographer is very low maintenance. Do a good job and that's it.

And probably one of the biggest things in my opinion is I think it'll just help out the wedding industry as a whole. The biggest pet peeve I have currently with the wedding industry are wedding photographers who just think it's photo-taking are not really treating their customers well and are making wedding photographers look bad in general. I can't tell you how many stories I've seen on some news channel of some person who paid a photographer, like, 500 bucks, and then they're not receiving their photos.

And they just make it look like, oh, these wedding photographers are stealing our photos. Look, you hired someone who is not good at wedding photography. And again, wedding photography is mainly customer service, not photos. 20% photos, 80% customer service. So if you don't like customer service jobs, if you work at Best Buy, if you work at Starbucks, if you work at Apple and you're like, "Ugh, I wanna get out of this retail customer service," bro, don't get into wedding photography.

Don't. Don't do it, because it's basically the same, it's just what you're selling is different and the whole system is a little different, but it's still basically the same stuff.

So at the end of the day, the way this would help the wedding industry is if the people who didn't really want to run a business just stick to being a second, there would be a lot of eligible second photographers who'd be able to get paid a lot, and then all the high hitting, really putting in the work wedding photographers can make the industry look good as a whole, rather than there being such a huge gap between, like, the really amazing photographers and then just these people who are trying to make some random money.

So again, if you're new to wedding photography and you're really considering it, but you're not sure if you want to run a business, consider just being a second photographer. I mean, really, think about it. You can get paid just about the same as working a part-time job only working two days a week, Saturdays and Sundays, and then have the whole week off. Seriously, consider it. You can get paid really well as a second photographer, especially if you're working every weekend.

So now that we're talking about being a second photographer, let's talk about some ways you can break into being a second.

Reach out to wedding photographers in your area

Now, be careful with this. Being a second photographer is not to build your portfolio. It is to support the main photographer. So when you reach out to them, reach out to them for them. Offer them help. Don't go at it like, hey, I'm new, I want to build my portfolio because that's making it too much about you. Make it about them, tell them how you can support them, and then ask them if they need any help and just hit up a whole bunch of photographers in your area.

Make sure you're hitting up photographers that you like their style and their approach. Don't just go for any photographer. Find the ones you really like and enjoy, and then go from there. A simple email will do, but again, make it more about them because these professionals are busy, they have a lot going on, and you need to be able to offer them something of benefit for them to want to get back to you, 'cause there's a lot of people out here trying to be seconds and trying to build their portfolio, and also just thinking about themselves.

Build yourself a second photographer website

Now, this is something very straightforward. It can literally just be a single page. My second photographer has a second photographer page on her site, and it's really awesome 'cause it lets you know the work she's done and gives some examples of what she has done in the past with other photographers, as well. With a second photographer website, basically, just tell them about your experience, tell them about you yourself and how you can support them, show off some of your photos, and leave links to how they can get in touch with you. 

Support the main photographer

Make sure to remember that being a second is not about building your portfolio. Building a portfolio is something you can do while you're being a second, but keep in mind that the point is to support the main photographer. When I get a second that I want to work with multiple times and that I call back, it always has to do with how they support me as the photographer, not the photos they're taking and not the fact that all they care about is building themselves a portfolio.

The photographers who were only concerned about making a portfolio for themselves always end up being the worst second photographers because they don't care about the day and they don't care about what I need. They're just running around trying to get photos, and half the time what happens is they either block me or they overstep me and they try to pose the couple while I'm trying to do work, and that is, like, the cardinal sin of being a second.

Don't overstep your main photographer. So seriously, support, support, support. Offer value to your main photographers, and then get the photos while you're there. Don't be so concerned about yourself. What you need to get will come when you need it.

Make sure to always be practicing and shooting

Even if you don't have wedding photos, make sure to be getting out with friends and family or couples you might know and take engagement photos. If anything, do mainly engagement photography and then be a second for weddings. That is hands down probably one of the best ways to make money because there's not so much responsibility on it. That's how I started.

I did engagement sessions all the time before I really got into weddings, and I would tell anyone else to also get into it, as well. And you can use those engagement photos on your second photographer website, as well, just to show your work. No photographer is gonna turn you down because you don't have wedding photos. Obviously, you're trying to second for a reason. But if you can show that you can make good photos and you have good work, that's what matters most of all.

So I hope you liked all of these tips about why you shouldn't be a second photographer, and if you're trying to be a second, how you can start getting into the world of being a second photographer. Let me know in the comments below tips you have for other people trying to become a second photographer. Again, we're here to share knowledge and all learn together, so I'm gonna hear what you all think in the comments below.

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