a view on second shooting, from the perspective of a second shooter.

When I first decided I wanted to pursue my passion for photography, I had absolutely NO intention of taking on weddings. I was interested in photographing families, newborn babies, children, seniors & boudoir… basically everything BUT weddings. In fact, I was SO certain that newborns were going to be my primary focus, that I invested in a newborn workshop with Julie Paisley, of Julie Paisley Photography. Little did I know that investing in that newborn workshop would turn out to be the best investment I ever made for photographing weddings instead. <3

I was asked to photograph my very first wedding in December of 2010. Since then, I have photographed 31 weddings. When I think back on my journey since my very first wedding, I can’t help but feel that there are SO many things I wish I would have known back then, that I have realized now as an experienced and confident wedding photographer. That is the reason for this blog post. I am determined to reach out to aspiring wedding photographers & to share some of my personal experiences in hopes that they will benefit you in someway. I will also say that I am NOT claiming to be the “know it all” of wedding photography, or to seem as a superior to anyone at all. But with the weddings I have shot over the past year and a half I have gained enough experience and confidence to feel that what I have learned may be insightful to others aspiring. I do not intend to offend anyone, please understand that.. I am only writing this to be honest about my own experiences.

When I took on my very first wedding in December of 2010, I was the main shooter. I had ZERO wedding experience, and no clue what I was doing. (I believe I charged the bride $500, and thought that was a pretty awesome deal! ;)) HOWEVER- the most important thing I did, was to make sure I informed my bride that I had never shot a wedding before, that I did not have “professional” gear, and that I really didn’t know what I was doing. All I knew, was that I could snap some pictures for her. This bride was completely 100% okay with that- so I agreed to photograph her wedding. I shot the wedding with a Canon 50d, and I rented the 24-70L, since the only other lens I had was my kit lens. Looking back now, I cringe at the pictures I took for her. But that’s just the thing… I have experience now, and I know what I would expect as a bride from MY photographer. As wedding photographers WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL THE WEDDING MEMORIES. The bride and groom may not look back at their album too often- but do you know who will? Their children, Their children’s children… it is YOUR JOB to be HONEST with your brides. You need to gain that experience so you are able to show them a portfolio. Talk to them about the experiences you have had (main and second shooting), let them know what you are (and are not!) capable of. When a bride hires you, she is putting TRUST in you to capture some of the most precious and priceless memories of her entire life- you need to be PREPARED to take on that responsibility, and to not take it lightly. That is why I believe that *EVERYONE* who intends to photograph weddings should gain experience as a second shooter first.

In working with Julie Paisley Photography as a second shooter, these are some of the most valuable lessons I have learned;
1. CONFIDENCE. I have gained the confidence to know what goes into shooting a wedding. I know my responsibilities, and what is expected of me as a photographer on wedding day. And BONUS!!– as a second shooter, I am given the freedom to be creative and to master my technique as a photographer, without all of the stress that goes into being a main shooter. Main shooters often have to worry about getting so many important shots during the day, that they may not have the opportunity to get those creative angle shots, or to capture those beautiful details that the bride and groom put so much thought into. ALL of those things need to be captured. Being given the opportunity to master my skill and learn who I am as a photographer has been the best lesson I could have hoped for.
2. The camera does not MAKE the photographer, but it definitely HELPS. :) My Nikon d700 is able to handle noise & low light better than my Canon 50D- hands down. When working in dark reception halls, sometimes you need to bump that ISO! Can I get the shots that I need with my Canon 50D at ISO3200? Probably. Will the noise reduce as well on those images as it will from my Nikon d700 at ISO3200? Probably not. If you are calling yourself a professional photographer, invest in professional gear. It will only benefit you. (If you are not able to invest in professional gear right away- ROCK what you GOT! That means you better learn that camera manual from front to back in order to get the best possible shots with what you have available to you!)
3. How to deal with stress & crises! I have learned that not everything is going to go perfectly on a wedding day. But it is the photographer’s job to adjust accordingly & to make changes to accommodate the bride! Watching another photographer deal with issues the day of the wedding is reassuring that it will happen, but and it’s all about how you react & deal with it- that is what makes the difference.
4. Finding a mentor is so important. Put yourself out there, find someone who does work that you love. Message them, and attend workshops. Offer to second shoot for them. If you don’t put yourself out there, you’ll never know. When you work under someone who has already gained that experience, you are able to watch how they work and handle all aspects and situations that may come your way. Seriously, what could be better than following someone you aspire to shoot like, and learning how they do what they do? :)
5. Finally- Practice makes perfect. I believe that you can read all the manuals you want. Posing, technique, lighting… it’s all good and dandy. But NOTHING beats hands on experience and PRACTICE. Would a doctor perform a major surgery without learning & practicing first? No way! It’s the same basic concept for us photographers… it’s crazy to take on a wedding without learning and gaining experience first. The more you shoot, the better you will become. Period.

Having said all of this, I hope I have opened a door & inspired anyone who might be thinking of taking on weddings to consider second shooting. I hope everyone who reads this takes it for what it is- my personal thoughts and opinions. I am by no means saying that you cannot be successful unless you second shoot. I am only sharing how this experience has benefited me, and what it has done for my confidence and craft in hopes that it might do the same for you.

Here are some of my favorite images I have taken while second shooting with Julie Paisley Photography.

*posed by julie paisley.

*my favorite shot to get as a second shooter- the groom’s face when he sees his bride.
*i got the back view looking toward the crowd during this wedding. creative angle for their first kiss!
*i have TIME to play with details, and be creative.
*posed by julie paisley.
*shot on behalf of julie paisley.
*posed by julie paisley.
*snapping a creative angle while julie was focused on the main image.

Thank you for reading, friends! :)
xoxo; Jenn



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Great article!


Jenn, this is a great blog and had some good points for aspiring photographers! I only dabble in the subject, but you made second shooting sound like so much fun! Love and hugs from the Mitten, kitten! ;)

Gorgeous images and sage advice! Thanks for sharing.

Thank you Jen for posting this, I’ve kind of fallen into wedding photography on accident. I had the opportunity to assistant and got to shoot about 90% of the time and all the pressure was off and I actually enjoyed myself!!! Your shots are beautiful and I hope one day I’ll gain enough experience and hopefully talent to shoot amazing shots like you too!

Beautiful expressions! Keep up the great work!

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