Since April, I have worked FIFTEEN WEDDINGS.
In my first summer wedding season.
I started out assisting/third shooting in a handful of weddings a year ago just to get a feel for the wedding photography industry. This year, I assisted in a few more at the end of spring, but I second shot most of the weddings I worked throughout the summer. Almost every Saturday came with a new wedding adventure and lessons learned along the way. Even though for years, I always told myself wedding photography was NOT for me, I've come to find that I actually do enjoy it. As a second shooter, I essentially show up on the wedding day to wherever the couple is getting ready, get the cards to shoot on from the primary photographer, shoot all day, give the cards back at the end of the night, and I'm done. I don't edit the photos (though, I have edited some from a few of the weddings for my portfolio), set up any appointments with the bride and groom, or anything else involved in the wedding process. Being a second shooter has worked out well for me because I have my full-time job from Monday through Friday, I shoot the wedding on a Saturday, and then I have Sunday off to relax. Busy life, but it means that I still get to regularly pick up my camera and shoot each week!
I've learned quite a few lessons along the way and feel that it would be useful for ANYONE who is thinking about shooting weddings with another photographer.
ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS
Don't forget that you're shooting someone's wedding. There's only one of this day, so producing good quality work is important. If there's anything you need to know from settings to flashes to where to shoot from during the ceremony, ASK THE LEAD PHOTOGRAPHER. Having that communication will ensure that your work is in line with their expectations and that your photos are used in the final set of pictures that go to the couple.
CHAT WITH THE BRIDE AND GROOM
Since I never meet the bride and groom before their actual wedding day, I enjoy chatting with them while I'm shooting pictures of them. It allows for us to be comfortable with each other and for me to get a little insight of what their story is like. Plus, I find that they just light up when they talk about how they met, how he proposed, etc. and that always translates well in photos! I never want to be just some photographer at their wedding; I want to develop a relationship with them throughout the day so I'm part of a really positive wedding experience. Think of it like good customer service.
DO - wear clothes that are dark and blend in
DON'T - wear bright clothing that stands out (this isn't your show)
That being said, also be sure to dress appropriately for the venue, location, etc. Wearing sandals to a barn wedding definitely wasn't my best idea (I should've worn my cowboy boots to handle the mud), and wearing a lot of layers would've been a terrible choice for the outdoor celebrations, especially the ones that require running around under the hot Texas sun! Luckily, I found an amazing black maxi dress that's dressy while being incredibly lightweight. It's perfect for any venue! Don't forget to generally look put together and professional, too.
PACK THE NIGHT BEFORE
Put your camera, schedule, a pen, and all other necessary items together the night before a wedding. Charge your batteries, format your cards (if you're using your own), and make sure everything is ready to go. If it helps, make a reusable checklist to ensure you don't forget anything. Wedding days can be stressful at times, so having this one task done the night before takes away a little bit of the prep on the actual day.
PACK A SNACK, WATER, AND MEDICINE
I always have a granola bar and a couple Advil and Claritin tablets in my camera bag because you never know when hunger or a headache will strike. If you're shooting an outdoor wedding, HYDRATE! Drink plenty of water before you even get to the venue. It's easy to get overheated in the summer, especially if you're running around all over the place outside. Even though there's a chance you won't even need the medicine or snack, it's good to have just in case.
Above images shot for Tracy Autem & Lightly Photography
LEAVE HOME EARLY
Every now and then, you'll leave 45 minutes beforehand to get to a venue that's 30 minutes away to find that traffic is backed up and at a stand still. Check traffic online or in an app if the venue is farther out or if you know there's construction along the way. If you've never been to the venue before, definitely leave early to allow for the one or two (or five) wrong turns that can happen. Better to get there early and have extra time to scope out the place than arrive late and under even more stress!
GET TO KNOW THE VENDORS
Chances are, you'll be working with the same people again and again if you're serious about shooting weddings. Introduce yourself to the DJs, videographers, coordinators, etc. It's always nice to see a familiar face at a wedding, so make some friends! If you really like their work and think they did an awesome job, let them know! If I loved every song the DJ played and wanted to get out on the dance floor myself, I make sure to tell them just that!
SHOOT A LOT, BUT SHOOT SMART
One of the things I learned after my first time second shooting was not to overshoot. It just means that the lead photographer has even more images to cull through. Getting the same shot a hundred times is unnecessary. Instead, find the moments you want to shoot, and then get a few stills. You also have to be in tune with what's happening around you to make sure you recognize those moments. Naturally, this comes with time. After a few weddings, you start to pick up on those special interactions, details, etc. and it becomes second nature. Before you know it, you'll be spotting those from a mile away and shooting a large quantity of well composed and thoughtful images.
ASK TO VIEW YOUR WORK AND GET FEEDBACK
I love getting to see what I shot. I can usually look through the blog post or Facebook album from a wedding and pick out which photos I took. Especially after your first few weddings, ask the lead photographer if you can see the photos and for constructive criticism. Find out what you did well and what you can do to improve on your next wedding. Feedback is so important to grow!
Weddings are a celebration of love and happiness. Don't stress out too much on the day and just go with the flow as much as you can. At receptions, the photographers I work with and I lip sync songs at each other and always do the Wobble when it comes on (and you can definitely find me dancing to Turn Down For What if the DJ plays that). Sure, you're working the wedding, but it doesn't mean you can't have fun along the way! It's a much more enjoyable experience when you really let yourself be part of the couple's celebration. Also, eat a slice of wedding cake when possible. Very important.
If you're new to the wedding photography game, don't stress out! Be sure to work with photographers who you are comfortable around and always ask them (and yourself) what you can do to get better. Before you know it, second shooting will be like second nature!
Do you have experience in photographing weddings? What are some things that you've learned along the way? If you'd like more information about specific topics related to shooting weddings, let me know in the comments!