Whether you are just a little curious or about to jump head first into the wedding industry-

Here are few of the things I did before taking the lead position as a wedding photographer!

 

Become a second shooter-

Before you can call yourself a wedding photographer you have to have some experience and practice in order to provide great quality to your clients. It is so important to gain experience and the best way to do so is to be a second shooter. As a photographer this allows you to build your portfolio, learn the routine of a wedding day, observe the communication between the photographer and clients which includes bridal party, family, and guests.

Weddings are such a special day that the pressure of providing great quality service and images is something you have to learn and second shooting is the best way to do that.

 

I have photographed a handful of beautiful weddings as a second shooter, but how did I land those opportunities? And what the heck is a second shooter?

What’s a second shooter? Well, basically it’s the less intimidating way to gain experience as a wedding photographer. You are not the “main” photographer that was hired and you generally do not have contact with the clients until wedding day. Instead, you are like an assistant to the main photographer; this may include you photographing at the same time but just at a different angle for back-up, OR you may be photographing one thing while the main photographer is somewhere else (usually with the bride) in order to get full coverage since the main photographer can only be in one place at a time.

 

How to become a second shooter- Here are the THREE ways I received the opportunity to photograph a beautiful wedding as a second shooter.

 

  1. Politely STALK photographers. Not in a creepy way, but this worked for me recently as I had just moved to a new area and did not know anyone yet. I did some research and found local venues that matched the style of photography I wanted to shoot. I then followed those venues such as, “Historic Seven Sycamores” on social media platforms such as Instagram. Just about every venue will tag the vendors that collaborated on any given wedding day. So, I did some scrolling on a few wedding venue pages and came across a some of the wedding photographers that were featured. This allowed me to connect with photographers who were in a designated area that were near me as well as give me the opportunity to view their work to decide if they were someone I would want to work with. This is important because when you are new to the industry as a second shooter you will look to the main photographer as a mentor and it is important that they are a good one in order for you to truly learn. Then, simply reach out, preferably via email (it’s more professional), let them know you admire their work, that you are interested in growing your portfolio, and would love the opportunity to work with them as a second shooter…Also, DON’T ask how much they pay! Be willing to shoot for FREE. BUT- many generous photographers exist and will often pay you an hourly fee for your time, which is really nice!
        
  2. Collaborating- This term is everywhere, but what does it mean, and how do you do it? It starts with treating others like REAL people. The creative world is full of people who are willing to help you out and believe it or not, you have something to offer them as well! Collaborating allows you show off your super cool personality and create awesome content. EXAMPLE- If I am a photographer wanting to get into the wedding scene I can reach out to a local florist and offer to photograph their bridal bouquets or floral hair pieces for them. But why stop there? Reach out to a local make up artist (MUA) or hair stylist who specializes in bridal. Find a local model, someone who wants to build their portfolio! PEOPLE- This is called collaborating and it’s a lot easier than you think! You have just reached out to people who would LOVE images that feature their product, service, or themselves! While you’re at it, pass by your local goodwill and buy an $8 wedding dress. YES. I did this. Basically, you are setting up a mock bridal shoot. You have a model, hair, makeup, floral, and an opportunity to build your wedding portfolio. Not only will you end the day with practice of posing a “bride” but you will have images that say, “HEY WORLD, I photograph brides!” Without proof, brides just won’t believe you! But, WAIT! There’s more! You have just made 3 or 4 new connections. These are people just like you who are growing within the wedding industry. Not only will they have clients that they can refer to you, but they also have friends and family. You have shown yourself to be a passionate wedding photographer who is professional, awesome and eager to grow within your profession. People support people who have that fire and want to succeed. Trust me, I’m one of them.
        
  3. Meetups-There are so many amazing photographers that are online, you probably follow a ton! Make sure you also follow photographers who are local to where you live. You can always send them an email letting them know you admire their work and would love to work with them as a second shooter. Or, go out on a limb and ask them if they would be willing to get coffee so you can pick their brain a little. Every successful photographer started with nothing and put the work in to get to where they are now. Unless they have an extremely busy schedule (which is possible) I’m sure they wouldn’t mind spending on hour to help out a fellow dreamer. This will not only show that you are humble and willing to learn, but that you are dedicated and eager to improve. Showing that you are a real person and a professional will go far. Maybe this specific photographer has a permanent second shooter so they will not need you, but there is a good chance they will refer you to other photographers who are in need. And that, is GOLD.

    Meetups pt.2- 
    Instameets are a thing! This is when multiple photographers and models set a day, time and location to meet up and create art. It is as simple as that! Nathan Tecson @BringOutTheGold is an awesome photographer who recently held two instameets, one in LA and one in Orange County. These are great opportunities to network and meet other creatives as well as develop your skills. By attending these type of events you get to meet great people and gain new perspectives and techniques. This is a fun form of networking that in my experience, has even lead to booking weddings as a second shooter. It is important to stay active in photography, continuous practice and networking will offer a variety of opportunities for you, so go for it!

 

Make the most of every opportunity-

Whether you have created connections that have led you to shooting a wedding as a second shooter or you are photographing couples/engagement sessions it is important to be consistent in your quality and display the type of work you can be proud of. How can you make sure you make the most of each photography opportunity?

 

Equipment- You might not have all the equipment you want at this time in order to capture a bride’s special day or any photoshoot for that matter. But in order to build a high quality portfolio and become a pro, you have to practice like a pro. Detail shots, portraits, and candids; these are the moments you’ll be capturing and you want to make sure you are doing so to the best of your ability. Here’s my secret to starting out, rent lenses! You have probably done some research and have read about the “best lenses for wedding photography”, let me tell you, they really make a difference. At this point in your career you are probably not able to invest thousands of dollars for the top lenses, but you CAN rent them! Check out renting websites such as Borrow Lenses, and make sure you use do some research because they ALWAYS have a coupon. Don’t hesitate when it comes to renting equipment, it allows you the opportunity to try out equipment to find what you like as well as assists in the quality of your images. If you are trying to book paid photo sessions or weddings then you have to show great quality images and in my opinion this is a great way to do so. There is no need to wait until you can own the equipment in order to display the type of images you want representing your brand.

 

Offer FREE sessions- Create the look you want to SELL

It all circles back to the importance of networking and building your portfolio. In order to build your portfolio you have to take pictures and in order to take pictures you have to get people in front of your camera! I encourage you to reach out to family, friends, coworkers, or just about anyone who represents the type of photography you want to shoot. (Example: Family photographer? Find a family. Wedding photographer? Find a couple.) Display the type of work you want to do and you will be the one people think of when it comes to that style of photography. I have offered so many free sessions and every single time it has been worth it. It has allowed me to keep my content fresh and consistent, it has even led to booking paid photo sessions and even MY VERY FIRST WEDDING. Yup. So go for it, network, offer free sessions and don’t focus on money too much. After all, you LOVE photography! So go do it!

 

Good luck! You got this!

Second shooting and offering free sessions is a great way to start but at some point you have to take the lead, right!

There might not be a moment where you feel 100% comfortable or ready, but by second shooting and networking you will gain knowledge and tools that you need to be a successful wedding photographer. Create opportunities and take advantage of them when they occur.

 

Keep a look out for my next blog when I talk about my 1st solo wedding, how I booked it, how I prepped for it, and how it went!

Thanks for reading, now get out there and network!