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Four Tips for Hiring Your First Second Shooter

leader-Hiring a second shooter you haven’t worked with before can be anxiety inducing. What if they don’t show up? What if they shoot at f/16 the entire day? Whether you are new to shooting your own weddings, or need to hire a new second shooter because your regular person isn’t available there are a few things you should always remember. Here are four tips for hiring your very first second shooter.

  1. Always Have a Contract – This should be a no brainer, a contract protects both of you. It should be clear and precise and include payment terms, how images can or cannot be shared and how you expect files delivered. 
  2. Meet Them Before the Shoot – If at all possible, meet with them in person before the wedding. Go over all the details for the day. Ask them questions, become friends. It’s so much easier to break the ice beforehand than during the craziness that is a wedding. 
  3. Pay Them Promptly – Imagine working 10 hours for someone, and then at the end of the night they tell you oh well I forgot my checkbook. Not cool right? Make sure paying your second is part of your pre wedding prep. Unless you’ve worked it out beforehand of course, make sure you have their payment ready to go before they leave. 
  4. Be Clear- Giving clear and precise directions to your second shooter is vital to getting the images you’ve imagined from them. Tell them your shooting style, which lenses you use and the apertures you regularly shoot at. Overshare. Your second shooter can’t read your mind, so letting them know your expectations beforehand will reduce confusion later on.

Working with a good second shooter can be immeasurable for your business.  Finding solid seconds doesn’t have to be scary! As long as you have a good business plan in place and give clear directions it’s the start of a wonderful relationship!

Three Ways to Be An Awesome Second Shooter

three ways to be ana w e s o m esecond shooterI only take on 15-20 weddings a year, so on my off weekend you can usually find me second shooting. I love second shooting because I get to experience a lot of different wedding experiences and lets face it, there’s cake.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen a lot and the skills I’ve learned second shooting have been invaluable in serving my own clients. I know venues I may not have had a chance to shoot in, vendors I may not have had a chance to work with and most importantly, have made some amazing photographer friends who I now get and send referrals to on a daily basis.

Here are some of the most valuable things I’ve learned being a second shooter:

1.) Be Cool-  I’ve walked into the grooms getting ready area, repeating his name over and over so I don’t make a fool of myself since I had just learned it earlier in the day. One time in particular a groom was really nervous and it was hot and crowded in the getting ready room. Keeping my cool and taking the lead let him have a breather and by the time we got to the first look he was completely back to normal. The most important piece of advice that I can pass on to a second shooter is to stay cool. Things happen during a wedding that are out of your control, but it’s important to be a face of professionalism and poise. Even if the timeline has been thrown out the window and your primary throws all the detail photos on you and you have five minutes to get them done, take a deep breath and get it done.

2.) Be Prompt – I’m late for every day things a lot. I have three kids and things get crazy at my house on the daily. However, I’m never late for weddings. If the primary shooter needs me there at 3:00pm, I make sure to get there at 2:30pm. Bottom line is you never know what will happen on the way there, there could be an accident or construction traffic. Apple maps could take you to the wrong church. I’d rather have an extra 30 minutes to finish my coffee and review the timeline than have to call my primary shooter and tell them I am going to be late.

3.) Be Proactive – The thing that sets a second shooter out among the rest is the ability to read the situation and be proactive. Is the brides dress tucked in a weird place?  Jump in and fix it. Is there an aunt  that totally hid behind a taller uncle during family formals? Let the primary shooter know. If it’s a super hot day, make sure the bride and groom have water during portraits. These little things that make the day go easier go a long way in making a lasting working relationship with the other shooter, and really stand out!

If you have been on the fence about second shooting, I really encourage jumping in and going for it. It’s not only fun, but you get to face different lighting challenges and situations that will help you prepare for your own solo weddings. Plus, cake!

Shooting Fireworks, part 2 – Tripod

Shooting Fireworks(1)Today is Independence Day in the United States and fireworks displays are a huge part of the national celebration. They also happen to be one of my favorite things to capture in my camera. Not that I do anything with the images – I just love capturing them. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years of shooting these gorgeous light displays. (And if you are out without your tripod, see my post from last Friday about shooting fireworks handheld.)

  1. Use your best lens. I use a prime lens because it’s my best glass. My nifty-fifty is my favorite because it allows me to get a great overall image.
  2. Use a tripod with a super steady mount. You don’t want camera shake because your photos won’t be as crisp.
  3. If your camera has a timer that allows you to set it to take X number of exposures over a set period of time, use it. My Pentax allows me to do that and this is the bulk of what I use it for. The last Saturday of June I attended a fireworks show and set it to take 40 pictures 4 seconds apart with a 3 second exposure at f/11 and 100 ISO. The image above came from that shoot.
  4. Your settings are super important – for me, the best shots come when I shoot at 100 ISO, f11, for 3-5 seconds. Practice and check your camera screen for results to see if you like the 3 second shot better or the longer shot. I like both for different types of fireworks images. The shorter ones give me a sweet definition while the longer ones give me a better idea of the total explosion. So I really like the longer exposure for the grand finale (5-6 seconds). The shorter exposure (2-3 seconds) works really well for the individual explosions.

So go out and have fun! Enjoy your local fireworks shows tonight and don’t forget your tripod.

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Shooting Fireworks, Part 1 – Handheld

Shooting Fireworks

Most everyone will tell you that shooting fireworks handheld is a mistake. And I’m not entirely disagreeing with them. But I also don’t think it’s really a mistake. You can still get some incredible images you will love and enjoy as long as you pay attention to a few details. Things like shutter speed and ISO are super important. So here are a few lessons I learned in shooting fireworks over the last several years.

1 – Timing is everything. You need to be very aware of your camera and how it performs. It’s especially important to know how long it takes for the shutter to release. This will help you with knowing how far in advance of what you want to capture you need to press the button.

2 – Burst mode is very helpful (might be called continuous on your camera). This will enable you to capture several images very quickly and then you can stitch them together in Photoshop (or a similar program) to create more depth to your handheld image.

3 – Adjust your ISO, not your shutter speed. Especially when handheld, it’s important to leave your shutter speed fairly fast so you don’t have camera shake. I’ve gone through my images from last year when I handheld my only fireworks images and they are pretty shaky. They would be less shaky if I had bumped my ISO instead of changing the shutter speed.

4 – Capture part of the background to give depth to your images because you won’t have as much depth to the actual fireworks. Even if it’s just a tree or a roofline, sometimes having something else in the image gives a perspective that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

For the image above, my settings were as follows: ISO 100, 50 mm, .5 second exposure, f8. Looking back, I should have left the shutter speed at about 1/125 and bumped my ISO to 800. I think it would have created a stronger image. On the other hand, it was fun hanging out with family and lighting off fireworks in the street (yes, it’s legal here). And sometimes, fun is more important than perfect.

If you’re preparing for the holiday weekend in the U.S., don’t forget your camera. And take time to enjoy the fireworks displays with family and friends.

 

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The biggest mistake I’ve made | You’ve been warned

The cinematic vlog

The cinematic vlog

When we blog here, we are often talking about gear, concepts, and techniques to help you all further your craft, but this time it’s going to be a bit different. You see, I want to talk about something that had really been weighing on me a few weeks ago, and how I got over it. In order to set the story properly though, you need to know a bit of background about me (Bobby). I always loved taking photos. Since as far back as I can remember I had my own camera that shot those rolls of film that sorta look like the profile view of a telephone. I probably didn’t take one good photo with it, and I don’t think I was able to use it whenever I wanted, but taking photos was always a part of growing up. The first time I remember making a video was early in grade school. We had to do a book report, and we could do it however we wanted.  My family had just gotten a new video camera and I really wanted to play with it, so making a video seemed like a great way to accomplish both tasks at hand. Through that project I found what I consider to be one of my only creative outlets. You see, my entire family is artists, My grandma was an artist and documentary film maker, both my parents went to art school, and I just recently found out my grandpa was an avid photographer. However, I could never keep up in anything even remotely artistic, and quite frankly I didn’t enjoy it. That is until I made my first movie. Fast forward a few years, I had probably made a few other things when I was allowed to use the camera, and my brother and I had also made some movies together for fun. A few years beyond that was high school, which offered a couple video project opportunities, and I had continued making some things on my own. In my senior year I started an internship, which eventually turned into a job in the film world, and then I left for college to pursue a degree in cinematography. Making videos has been a part of my life for the better portion of the parts I can remember, and it had always brought such joy.

 

When I started college I started shooting weddings for a few companies in California (I had already been shooting them for maybe 2 years or so). Around the same time I started booking my own shoots, and that quickly took off. It is absolutely amazing to get to film weddings, commercials, and many other things for a living. I was literally living my dream. But something happens when you start to do what you love for a living. It becomes work.

 

We have ALWAYS limited the amount of weddings and other projects we take on per year, and that has been mostly put in place to protect us from burning out. We love what we do, and we want it to stay that way. We know far too many people who shoot 60 weddings a year and then leave the industry after just a short while because they just can’t take it anymore. We wanted to do everything we could do to keep that from happening, and it’s done well so far. This is my 9th year shooting weddings and I still love it. However, loving what you do for work is not quite the same as doing what you love for fun, and I was made abruptly aware of that just a few weeks ago.

 

We were at a wedding, and a guest came up to me and asked if I did video work. Being that we shoot DSLR for video and often get mistaken for the photographer, I politely responded “yah, we are actually shooting the video today!” The man explained that he knew that but was curious if I did any narrative films or anything like that for fun. I kid you not, my direct, word for word response was “no, not anymore.”

 

The minute those words left my mouth I realized that somewhere I had lost the drive to do what I love. Sure I love what I do, but again, it’s not the same. Creating stupid videos, documentaries, and even large narrative projects was something that brought me immense joy. Now, that’s not to say that wedding films and commercials don’t bring me joy. There is rarely a greater feeling than when a film just comes together perfectly, or completely captures the couple in the few minutes you have to do so, but it’s just not the same. When you are shooting for work, you certainly express yourself, and your fingerprint is left on the project so to speak, but you also have to express the desires of your client. When you do something purely because you want to, you are able to enjoy it completely.

 

I didn’t take that exchange lightly, and thought on it for a few days. Around this same time I had, through a series of connections, found a vlogger by the name of Casey Neistat, who is pretty well known around the world for his daily videos. With his, and a few other vloggers videos fresh in my mind, I decided to try my hand at putting together fun videos of my day / week / weekend / whatever timeframe I felt I had enough content to do so with, and it has been amazing. I truly feel I have recaptured that feeling. It allows me to do what I love without any of the stress attached. If a shot is a bit overexposed or shaky but I still like it, who cares, I have nobody to please but myself, and that is the freedom of doing what you love.

 

So, the cinematic vlog was born. I’m not really sure what shape it will take, and I’m not committing to daily videos at this point, but I have loved having my camera with me almost everywhere I go, and putting together videos of all of our adventures! (example of one of the first ones below)

 

Not only have I found enjoyment through making these videos, but I also think it has had a positive effect on the videos we do professionally. When I am doing something completely for me, I can do whatever I want with the camera. I can test out shots, settings, color grades, anything I want, and that was something that I found less and less time for over the years. I didn’t want to take my camera out when I had free time because that was “work.” Now, I am shooting more than ever, editing more than ever, and in turn finding more techniques, settings, etc, that lend themselves well to continually growing in our paid work as well.

 

So, I realize this was more of a personal post, especially compared to other blogs we’ve written on here. I just feel that I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to make sure you do what you love, and don’t just love what you do.