I often get asked about the roles of my team members when clients are deciding whether to book or not, so I’ve decided to give a detailed explanation of the roles of my photography team here, in this blog post. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a lead photographer, second shooter, assistant, and associate photographer, this is the article for you.
Lead Photographer: That’s me! The lead photographer does exactly what you’re thinking (and more). I’m your point person throughout the entire process from booking to delivery of the product. I will be the person working with you on shot lists, getting all the main shots of your wedding day, shooting any extra sessions you book. I will definitely be the person with 3 + cameras around my neck to get pictures on color film, black and white film, 35 mm film, and even will grab the digital camera for some backup. I will style and shoot details (if a stylist isn’t available or hired for your wedding day- something to think about and read about in a different blog post), capture your first look, group photos, family photos, ceremony (from the front of the ceremony space, and all the other best angles), I will be the one who takes portraits of you right after your ceremony and during sunset, has the optimal shots of the special dances, cake cutting, and toasts during the reception, etc. After the wedding, I will be the one to collaborate with your planner if we decide to submit your wedding for publication. I will edit the images (color correct and edit blemishes) and deliver them.
Second Shooter: I don’t always have a dedicated second shooter on the job because not every wedding needs one. However, my clients are always welcome to add a second shooter for their events. A dedicated second shooter is someone who will capture backup images of things that cannot be recaptured like the ceremony, but they will also get different angles of the ceremony, be available to capture guest photos during cocktail hour if the clients and I are busy with other portraits. Some photographers will split off from their second shooters, having them photograph groomsmen while the lead photographer photographs bridesmaids. I will not do that. I believe in the shooters all sticking together on a wedding day for the absolute most cohesive imagery with the exception being cocktail hour group photos or reception group photos. The other exception is if we are running behind on the timeline, there are moments when I’ll send the second shooter to capture details I may not be able to get to. This rarely happens as I work closely with all planners to make sure there is enough time buffering our wedding day photography schedule for any delays.
Assistant: An assistant wears all the hats on a wedding day. And, let me just say, I will not shoot a wedding without an assistant. Having this extra person is non-negotiable for me. I personally believe it should be non-negotiable for all photographers, but that’s just my opinion. My assistant is usually my husband, but there are a few other photographers who I’d trust to do this job with me if he wasn’t available. This person typically loads my film for me so I don’t have to pause for a film loading break. Sometimes I do shoot too quickly for him to keep up, but for the most part, we have a great routine and smooth method of transition that we’ve developed over the years. My husband (I mean assistant) usually also holds lighting gear, carries my gear around the venue so we never have to run back for it, hands me cameras when I need to swap some out, brings water to me or anyone else who might need it, says “that looks great” while I’m styling your details. He will also be the one fluffing the veil if we are without a stylist, changing batteries in my cameras, moving items around the getting ready space and running to grab people who are not in the right place. He’s also going to be calling out names during the family portraits so that I can focus on taking the pictures. My assistant also does some partial second shooting. This one is important. If I do not have a designated second shooter with me at a wedding, my assistant is grabbing the camera and shooting backup for important moments that cannot be recreated. He will shoot the second angle of the ceremony and capture some group photos during the cocktail hour. But, this person is not shooting the whole time, and therefore, the distinction must be there. He’s necessary to the process and not going to be separate from me at any point during the day (except maybe cocktail hour).
Associate shooter: This person doesn’t shoot alongside me at all. This person is a trusted member of a photography team who takes on weddings under the Sarah Carpenter umbrella in specific cases. One such case is in the off chance that the client booked me, but I can’t fulfill my duties. For instance, during this Covid-19 pandemic, with so many clients having to postpone weddings, I’ve had to look into the idea of having an associate shooter take over the wedding I’ll now be shooting in September. In some instances, photographers have been booked out for the end of the 2020 and beginning of the 2021 seasons and would not be able to accommodate a schedule change. In my instance, my due date is the first week of October, so the wedding that’s been postponed will end up being close enough to my due date that I’m keeping an associate shooter in mind and up to date with whether I’ll need her to cover the wedding for me. In other instances, photographers may have associate shooters take on weddings that are for clients with smaller budgets than what they, themselves, can accommodate.