Getting started at anything is never easy. If you’ve already begun looking for work as a second shooter, you probably already know that the well-established, talented photographers in your area are inundated with people looking to shoot with them. From less-experienced professionals looking to improve their skills, to complete novices who are willing to shoot for free (and in some cases, pay to second shoot), differentiating yourself from the pack is key. For the first installment of this series, we’ll assume that you’re just beginning the process of looking for work.
Talk to the Working Photographers You Already Know
There is no greater asset to the beginning stages of your “career” as a second shooter than the photographers you already know. Depending on your relationship with the person you’re contacting, your experience level, and what you’re looking to accomplish by second shooting, you might consider asking whether they’d be willing to let you “tag along” on one of their wedding gigs at no cost to them. If you’re more experienced and can show a relatively strong body of work (wedding-related or not), feel free to ask them to keep you in mind if they need a second shooter. Remember, someone you follow on Twitter who has no who the hell you are is not “a working photographer you already know”.
Check the Craigslist Gigs Section
I know, I know. Craigslist sucks. But, it’s not uncommon for people to post (most often last-minute) ads for second shooters in the “gigs” section. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some good people who I’ve found through Craigslist (and admittedly, a few people who I wish I had never met).
Join a Local Photography Group
Most cities of a decent size have at least one local photography group. Many of these groups meet on a regular basis to talk shop and mingle. Groups like these are great ways to get to know other photographers in your area, talk about what you’re looking to do with your photography career, and seek advice about moving forward. It’s important for your participation in these groups to not be completely hollow. The last thing you want to do is alienate yourself from the people in your community who are making a living with a camera in an industry you want to be a part of.
Assuming you’ve created some decent work in the past and you’re reasonably likable, it shouldn’t take to long to find your first gig. For obvious reasons, how difficult it is to find your first gig has quite a bit to do with your rate, too. Shooters who are willing to work for free can typically find second shooting gigs very quickly, whereas photographers looking for even $100-200 for a complete wedding may have more trouble. Either way, stick with it!