When I started my photography career, I specifically told myself, “I will never shoot a wedding.” I was serious about it. Not because I didn’t like weddings, but because I was afraid of them. To a new photographer, wedding photographers are the “elite” group of individuals who make the money, get the killer shots, and can most likely say they have been through everything. I envied those people. I looked up to them and strived one day to be able to take a portrait half as good as they could.
Fast forward a few years to the day I took the leap and decided I would attend a wedding workshop. I was going to conquer this fear one way or another. For those that know me, it is common knowledge that I refuse to fail…EVER. I left the workshop that day completely overwhelmed. I didn’t have the gear, I didn’t understand the lingo, there were so many people there who had wedding experience. I didn’t even know where to start. But everyone has to start somewhere. For me, I started as an assistant…and wow what a rush that was!
2017 was the year I decided to focus my business on wedding photography. Me, the girl who said she would never shoot a wedding. Its funny how those things work. As a gal fairly new to the industry, the best way for me to get out there, shoot, fine tune my craft, and have the time of my life, was to be a 2nd shooter at every opportunity I got. Lucky for me, I got a lot of opportunities. This blog is for you, fellow photogs, who may be thinking of taking the plunge into the world of weddings. Fear not! After the stress, anxiety, dry heaving, panic, and every other adverse reaction you may have, weddings are incredible…and here is why, step by step, I love being a 2nd shooter. From the beginning of the day, until the end:
As a 2nd shooter, you get the benefit of starting almost mid day. You got to sleep in, eat a big breakfast, have a few cups of coffee, and if you eat lunch early like I do you’ve also had a nice big lunch. Even with all that dilly-dallying in the morning, I still make it to the venue early to take some establishment shots. As I have been taught by a very educated, very patient and extremely tolerant wedding photographer, the gallery you deliver to your clients tells a story. You have to establish the scene. Where is the couple? What are they seeing that day? Most often the primary photographer has done this first thing in the morning, but many times the bride and groom with get ready at different locations. Different scenes. As a 2nd, my focus is on the groom so I take this opportunity to create my own scene and begin my own story of his day.
Groom Prep and Groomsmen Portraits:
So I won’t lie. This initially stressed me out. Mostly because I’m an introvert. Weird for a person who makes a career of photographing people, right? Well it is something I quickly got over. I feel like, and this may not be the case, that for grooms there is a stigma behind having a female photograph them while they are getting ready. There is usually a lot of drinking, cussing, inappropriate jokes, and at times some partial nudity. So ladies, if you’re considering being a 2nd, stand up for yourself! Take control of the scene, reassure them that you are not easily offended, no you don’t mind if they take shots and tell dirty jokes in front of you. Capture it!! That’s your job! And I’ll tell you, it makes for the best photos. Since grooms usually don’t have many “details” for you to photograph, you find them. Anything from cigars they are smoking, cufflinks, shoes, a watch…it can even be the food they are eating, what they are watching on TV, what they are listening to. Bust out that macro and make art out of it. Its all part of setting your scene.
As a 2nd, heres where you get lucky. Its pretty much the only opportunity you have to get photos of the bride and groom together. The primary photographer will always handle the newlywed and bridal party portraits, so when I see “first look” on the timeline, I get super excited. My job when shooting a first look is to photograph the scene unfolding from a different perspective. The primary will be focusing on the bride, so as follows, I focus on the groom. Again, you have to set your scene. What is the groom doing while he waits on his bride? I try to create some anticipation with my images so that when they are added to the collection, the scene flows seamlessly. Emotional grooms are the best, although I have yet to photograph one. Its ok to cry guys, seriously. Once the couple has had their moment, the primary will work with them on a few posed shots, and if you’re lucky you can squeeze in a few shots of your own before heading over to photograph the ceremony details. Which leads me to our next event…
Ceremony Coverage and Details:
So my job is to get to the ceremony location before the guests and wedding party and photograph all of the details, architecture, florals, archway, aisle, candles, programs, basically everything I see. I take my safe shots, and then bust out my macro and get in close. I usually don’t have that much time before the guests arrive, so I hustle. Then, as the guests arrive, I shoot them finding their seats, talking amongst themselves, greeting other guests…I try to capture the connection between the people. These shots are great to transition from one scene to the next. Once the ceremony begins, the primary will take center stage, capturing all of the head-on shots of the procession and the couple. My job, again, is to capture the scene from a different angle/perspective. Almost paparazzi-like if you will. I focus on the reactions of the guests and wedding party, and if I’m lucky I can get an aerial shot of the ceremony…I really love those.
Newlywed and Wedding Party Photos:
Sometimes, SOMETIMES, I get lucky and have time to tag along for these. Its usually only for a minute or two before I have to run off to photograph reception details and cocktail hour, but sometimes thats all you need. My focus for the day is not the couple, so these shots are just an added bonus. Most of the time they are candid shots, but when they are added to the final gallery, they really complete the story. And finally, my favorite time of the day….
The stress is over! You made it! The couple is finally married, all of the portraits have been taken, and now the eating, drinking and dancing begins! Well, the stress is almost over. Now you have to set up your lighting. Most receptions take place after dark, so off camera lighting skills is a MUST. It took me a while to truly understand this, but now I’ll preach it from the tallest mountain….LEARN YOUR LIGHTS PEOPLE. In my opinion, your lighting will make or break a moment at the reception. Fellow photogs, if you are considering wedding photography, please for the love of God fine tune your OCF game. Not that I am an expert… I am NO expert…but I have come so far from where I started that I fell comfortable saying, “know your shit”. So before the first dances begin, the bouquet is tossed, the garter is retrieved, set your lights, AND TEST THEM. These things are important, and you don’t want to miss it all messing with your lights. The primary relies on you to have your crap together, because if something goes wrong for them, your shots are all they have as back up. No pressure or anything. Be their back up! Its your job! The good news is, once that minor panic is over, you’re good for the night. As has been told to me no less than 100 times this year, “get in, get close”. Get those facial expressions, conga lines, grandmas twerking, the whole nine.
The best part of the night for me is getting to my car, doing a quick review of my images, and thinking “damn I got some killer shots.” Yes, as a 2nd, your gallery for the day is incomplete…only one half of the story. But when you see your images in that final gallery it really is something to be proud of. I have learned SO SO much this past year about myself, my business, and the amazing community of photographers I am a part of. No matter how many years you’ve been at it, whether weddings are your thing or not, everyone has something they can learn from someone else. As photographers, we are all in the same boat, and I have nothing but love and support for each and every professional in my network. I must give a great big, super huge thank you to Jeremy Scott Photography and Jonathan Fanning Studio & Gallery Inc. for asking me to 2nd shoot so many awesome weddings in 2017. Jeremy, you’re an incredible mentor…I appreciate you.
So there you have it! Still thinking weddings may be for you? Good! Go out there and get after it!