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How To Prepare For Your First Wedding As A Second Shooter

Through my networking I have built a network of friends in the Photography industry. We all share ideas, tips, videos, etc. all in an effort to help make each other better. One year ago to this day, a friend asked me to second shoot a wedding. 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…

  1. Research – Looking at other wedding photographer’s galleries – Seems obvious, but I found that it is not always easy to find pictures on line that are taken by a second shooter. Most of the pictures that are shown off are the pictures of the bride and groom.  I had to figure out what images I was expected to take and what was expected of me.  There were plenty of detail shots to look through, and also groomsmen shots. Since I am a big fan of Jasmine Star, I went to her website and started looking through her images and reading her blog posts.
  2.  Practice shooting events  -  Since candid shots are a big part of what a second shooter is responsible for,  a  local farmers market is a great place to start. Look for “people doing interesting things”. If you get there early enough, you can catch the merchants setting up their booths. Since candids are one of my weaknesses, this was a great way for me to practice before the event.  I also made sure I practiced taking shots from different angles and moving around.

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. A second shooter will be responsible for capturing the guests reactions during the ceremony and at the reception. At weddings, there is lots of cheering, clapping and hugging. You will need to be able to capture these moments while the main photographer captures the bride and groom.

  1. Practice scouting – A second shooter is often responsible for taking pictures of the groom and his attendants before the ceremony. You will need to quickly spot locations wherever you happen to be in order to set up some formal and informal shots of them. 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. Since every wedding is different, you never know what you will be working with. 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 so you can move on.
  2. Working with details – A second shooter also is responsible for getting all of the details of a wedding. From place settings, and flower arrangements, to special mementos tied around the bride’s boquet as a remembrance of someone who is no longer with them. 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. When you are 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. You can put shoes, bracelets, and necklaces together in one shot. When you are out practicing, you don’t always have the ability to move things around without permission. 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.
  3. Know your lenses – practice with the lenses you will be using for the wedding. Know what each one will be used for and when you will be using it. Shots of the 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.

Written by Jessica Ford