Over the past year, I have built a network of friends in the photography industry. We all share ideas, tips and videos in an effort to make each other better. A month ago, one of these friends needed an assistant at a wedding and asked if I would like to be a second shooter. I had never shot a wedding before. As nervous as I was, I knew that if I wanted to take my photography skills to another level, I had to put my insecurities aside and say yes.
Then my friend asked me, “What are you going to do to prepare?”
Here are the steps I took to get ready for my first wedding:
Browsing Other Wedding Photographers’ Galleries
Wedding photographers are easy to find online, but it is not always easy to find pictures that were taken by a second shooter. Most of the pictures that are shown off are the pictures of the bride and groom, though you’ll find plenty of detail shots to look through.
Since I am a big fan of Jasmine Star, I went to her website and started looking through her images and reading her blog, which has lots of great articles and a few videos that were informative and inspiring.
Practice Shooting Events
Candid shots are a big part of what a second shooter is responsible for. At weddings, there is a lot of cheering, clapping and hugging during the ceremony and at the reception, and you will need to be able to capture these moments while the main photographer captures the bride and groom.
Since candids are one of my weaknesses, I needed to find ways to practice before the event. If you have kids in school or sports, go to their events with your camera. Focus on the people watching the events, not just your kid. Capture their reactions to things happening. I also recommend you practice taking shots from different angles and while moving around.
A second shooter is often responsible for taking pictures of the groom and his attendants before the ceremony. Since every wedding is different, you never know what you will be working with, and you will need to quickly spot locations for formal and informal shots.
When you are out, always be on the lookout for spots and settings that would look good for a background. You should practice this everywhere you go. If you can quickly spot the perfect little area with just the right light, it will save your nerves and you will get the images you need quickly.
Working With Details
A second shooter is also responsible for capturing details like place settings, the flower arrangements, or the special mementos tied around the bride’s bouquet. You need to practice “looking” for all of the little things that make the bride and groom’s day unique and personal. Street Fairs are great places to practice looking for details. There are usually musicians, jewelry, food, lots of art and people out for a stroll.
At a wedding, you often have the luxury of being able to move some of the details around so you can create the shot you need. When you are out practicing, you don’t always have that luxury. If you are taking pictures of someone’s booth or artwork, always remember to be polite, ask permission, and say thank you. It will go a long way!! You can also practice with your own things. Hang up a dress or a suit and see how creative you can be with it. Get out some costume jewelry and arrange it with some high heels and try out some different arrangements.
Know Your Lenses
Practice with the lenses you will be using at the wedding. Know what each one will be used for and when you will be using it. Shots of details will most likely require a different lens than the candids. If you are familiar with your lenses, then you can quickly change them so that you can capture the right images at the right times. As Zack Arias says, “Know what you will see through the lens before it even reaches your eye.”
If you are sitting on the sidelines, nervous about what it is like to shoot a wedding, tap into your network of friends and see what kind of arrangements you can make. See if you can tag along and watch a professional photographer in action. Offer to carry bags and hold equipment. Do whatever it takes to get a foot in the door and get some experience.
Etiquette is important. If you are invited to tag along, remember this is not your event, it’s the person who is getting paid the big bucks. Ask questions at the appropriate times. Use common sense. The lessons and the experience will take your skill and your confidence to a new level.