For any photographer, the only way to truly improve is by practicing. Over and over and over again. Practicing in this lighting, that lighting, this angle, that angle. Without trying things from every perspective, it's really quite hard to understand why the camera works the way it does. But while that may be great for improving your skill and know-how, it won't necessarily help you handle a wedding.
I've heard people say that wedding photography is one of the hardest types of photography. Why? There are so very many facets to it- the family, the details, the bride herself. You don't want to miss anything. On top of that, you've got a million chances for something to go wrong. Can you stay on top of it all?
The best way to truly grasp how a wedding works and how to handle any obstacle is by photographing weddings yourself. Of course, booking a wedding with little to no experience is pretty difficult to do,but there are plenty of photographers in the area and sometimes, with a little courage and resilience you can get someone to throw you a bone and let you assist them. Here are a few tips I've learned from second shooting myself.
1. Be Courageous
My best friend and I started Faces in Focus Photography unofficially in 2010 with a few weddings under my belt, some basic training and a strong desire to succeed. By 2011, I had realized something - I could be awesome. I could be amazing, even. But not at the rate I was going. I had to do more, be more, try more. After some encouragement from an amazing online forum of photographers, I got courageous and began researching my local photogs. I wanted to see what they did and what wonderful things they could teach me - if they were willing. I took time out each day, perusing websites and blogs. Then I wrote heartfelt, personal emails to each and every one. I told them what I admired about them, how beautiful their work was. And then asked them to have coffee. That was it. I sent about 15 different, personalized emails. Few responded at all. But one surprised me. She was sweet enough to not just invite me over to talk, she showed me photo-shop tips, critiqued my work and even invited me over again a couple weeks later! Through her I met other local photographers, and have had the privilege of building friendships with many of them. This month I'll have had the privilege to second shoot for two incredible people.
So be courageous. Take a risk. The worst thing they can do is say No, right?
2. Be Professional
If any of you reading knows me in person, I'm kind of a pipsqueak. I'm about five feet tall and my voice makes me sound like I should be in the Minnie Mouse club. So for me personally, I find it super important to walk tall, and look fabulous pretty much everywhere I go! If I carry myself well, I'll look a lot less like a middle schooler! :) Essentially I want people to feel confidence in me every aspect, from the way I dress to how I assist.
3. You Work for Them, Not You
In this transitory stage of building my own business, I have to remember that if I want the opportunity to assist, I need to keep in kind who I'm helping. If you're in it to simply build your portfolio and your business, then that's not really fair to the person taking a chance on you, is it? I know that I'm willing to carry any light stand or bag, hand out as many of the main shooters business cards that are necessary and crawl through any field if I have to. Because isn't that how you show your appreciation? I mean really and truly? You might miss an amazing shot right then but that main shooter will be happy and the next time, she might let you tag along again. And THEN maybe you'll get the shot. In the end you'll have something better than portfolio material - trust. And friendship.
4. Know the Etiquette
This will make or break your relationship. Things to remember - DON'T hand out your business cards. DONT tag their clients on Facebook. ASK before posting or sharing 2nd shooter photos that reveal the client. If all else fails, or if you're unsure - have a CONTRACT. These may seem minor or unimportant but remember point #3 -you work for them. That means full support and honesty. It will do you a world of good.
5. Be Humble
These photographers you'll meet and work with, many of them will know things you don't. They'll understand why some photos turn out wrong. So when they critique you - CHERISH IT. Bundle those words of wisdom in your arms and squeeze them tight. Have them engraved on a plaque. Or, in a more realistic manner, write it down. Don't get discouraged or upset. Take it with a smile and apply. That is how you'll truly grow!
6. Have Fun!!
Last weekend, I was a third shooter and I was so nervous. I didn't know what to expect. What if I messed something up or got in the way? What if all my pictures came out terrible?! I was nervous.
But for two hours before the wedding, I laughed, cracked jokes, dodged tornadoes, and eventually,I wasn't really nervous anymore. Becki and Judy were constant sources of advice, willing to take free moments to teach me this or that. They let me try new things, shared their equipment, and gave me tons of opportunities to build my portfolio as well. After 12 hours I was exhausted, and yet so exhilarated! I had learned much more than I already knew and had had a blast doing it! It was amazing. I remembered that, yes, I COULD be awesome. Amazing even. And I was doing things right.
I hope this helps. Obviously I'm not a know all on second shooting, but I hope this helps at least one person out there!
Thanks for reading!