… before being the first.
This would have been my advice to myself when starting out with wedding photography. 2nd best doesn’t mean not being good enough, but it means being the 2nd shooter at a wedding so that you learn the ropes while shadowing another more experienced photographer. This means that you still get to take pictures of the happy couple but the pressure is not on you to get the shots bang on. You will learn what you need to do through those mistakes you will most definitely make. Most of all, you’ll be part of a day that is full of smiles and opportunities to see what you can do with your talent.What is not to like?
Yes, you can take the plunge on your own but when you do, you really need to know how to swim, particularly when the water starts to go over your head, you feel a little wet behind the ears and there is no one else going to be there to help you out.
Personally, I don’t think I did enough 2nd Shooting myself and this realisation has came to me by looking back at some wedding pictures that I have taken. I cringe at the mistakes and the poor lighting/camera settings I used. Even more I wonder if the couple were truly happy with my work. Self-doubt creeps in – even now.
The wedding day isn’t a dress rehearsal. It is the one and only night and you need to be sure of your lines. Worse still is that you have an audience of 2 people who have paid a decent sum of money and want a good showing.
Experience comes from mistakes, but these mistakes shouldn’t cost a lot – for either party. Yes, there will be the couple who are happy to let you take pictures just because you are either cheap or they like some of your non-wedding portfolio – or you have even been recommended by a friend or they just want to help someone starting out. But it is a massive ask if you don’t have the experience or the skills you really can only learn on the actual wedding day.
If anything this is what puts many a photographer off from offering their services for weddings. There is the self-doubt and then there is the self-worth – they’ve seen the prices other photographers charge and think they are nowhere near that good enough to ask that. So why risk it?
This is why a 2nd shooter at a wedding is the ideal time to test all that out, what is more it is a time to watch other photographers and how they work, by how they use the light, by how they get couples to pose, by how they speak and how they direct people. Doing this you will also learn not what to do or what you think could be done differently. The main photography will not always be 100% right. If anything, no photographer is anywhere near that.
So my thoughts are if you want to get into wedding photography then contact an experienced wedding photographer and ask them if they take on 2nd shooters and of course ask what you will get in return – you should at least be given something if your images make it to the final cut. Be prepared to show some portrait work and show you know the photography basics.
It is a big step to take, but it’s better than falling on your bum when you try running up those steps too fast and bring an unhappy couple down with you.