Starting out in the world of wedding photography is a tough game. You definitely can’t just jump into weddings unprepared, but sometimes it happens whether you like it or not. This blog post is all about how to get wedding photography experience if you are newer to the wedding photography industry. One of the things I see is newer photographers looking to get into the wedding photography industry and asking how. Lots of times other photographers answer with, “second shoot for someone to get practice.” However, I think many photographers have experienced how hard it is to end up with second shooting positions when you’re just starting out. As a photographer who started the business from the ground up and didn’t second shoot until many years into photography I can speak to how tough it is to start out. On the other side I can also speak as an experienced wedding photographer and what I look for in a second shooter. So…onward to the tips!
1. Be Realistic – Here’s the thing. A lot of hopefuls want to dive right into second shooting, but don’t have a lot of experience. A lot of main photographers want the benefit of having an experienced second shooter by their side, one who they could trust to take over the entire day in an emergency and deliver the same quality of photography and customer service you would have to your clients. This means sometimes it can be tough to get a second shooting gig when you’re just starting out. Experienced photographers want someone who has some experience under their belt and gear that meshes well and matches their own. If you’re just starting out with weddings and you were told to be a second shooter before really going out on your own into the wedding world you’ll probably experience this little jumble of oddness. It’s that you don’t have a lot of experience, you want to get some, but when you email photographers to ask for second shooting gigs you’re turned down. If you’re wanting to gain experience try offering to intern instead. Be realistic about what the main photographer might look for and actually need in a second shooter. Offer to carry bags, set up lights, and do whatever else with them in exchange for the opportunity to learn. While not all photographers are willing teachers, there are plenty that would love to have someone along to help them with the other stuff so they (and even their second) can focus on shooting.
2. Personalize Your Communications – Like any job, if you’re brave enough to email photographers in your area and ask for second shooting or intern opportunities you need to present yourself like a professional. They’re considering having you along with them at a wedding, which is a once-in-a-lifetime event (hopefully) for the clients. That means you want to show off your ability to be a professional right from the very start, especially if you’re emailing photographers out of the blue. Take the time to really look at their work and see if you would be a good match for them before emailing. When you do finally email or call to discuss possible opportunities to be a part of their business make sure you address them by name and personalize your email. You might be surprised at the amount of people that send template emails addressed to “Hello” and not to me personally in my inbox on a regular basis. You’ll stand out from the crowd if you personalize your communications. Grammar and spelling are helpful too! 😉
3. Don’t Troll Bridal Shows Looking for Jobs – Maybe this is a personal peeve, but I’m adding it to the list anyway. If you’re new to an area or looking to network with other photographers who might want to hire you to be a second shooter, please don’t go to bridal shows to hand out your business card. Here’s why: it’s completely unprofessional. Keep in mind that the photographers who have booths there also paid to be there, and they usually pay a LOT of money to be there. I’ve paid anywhere from $650-1000 just for the cost of the booth. Not to mention all the product samples inside. Those photographers are there to meet potential clients, so when you wander up to their booth asking for a job you’re taking time away from their opportunities to meet clients. If they’re seen as busy being chatted up by you, who knows, an awesome client who would have booked may have just walked by because they looked busy. They could be losing money. Being a business owner is hard and it means that there’s a lot of hustle involved in keeping your business alive and thriving. Getting clients is key to survival and paying to keep a roof overhead – so don’t take those opportunities away from them. The way I would recommend is to Google search and email photographers you are interested in working with. Offer to take them to coffee!
4. Join Local Photography Groups on Facebook – There are tons of local photography groups for almost every large area on Facebook. Some are just general groups and some are specific to photographers who need second shooters and they may post ads on there regularly searching for help. These would be a great place to join and put out a call that you’re looking for experience.
5. Take Every Education Opportunity You Can – Weddings are a crazy thing so in order to be the most prepared as possible, you should take every opportunity to learn as much as you can. Mentor with a photographer you love, you may have to pay for their services, take classes online, go to workshops in your area, or pay to travel to one you really love. The more you learn the more experienced you will be when you’re out there doing the hustle for yourself and trying to get more wedding experience!