When I was starting out with weddings, I yearned for the day that I was in charge. No more bag carrying or boring support shots. No more shooting in a style that wasn’t my own. No more holding back if I wanted to do something. Eventually, after a few years, that day did come and I ran with it. Cultivating a style all my own was thrilling and liberating. Slowly though, and without me even realizing it, my work was starting to grow a little stale. It’s one thing to have a signature style, it’s another to be totally predictable. It happened so subtly that I didn’t even notice it at first.
Then, when a good friend of mine needed a second shooter on a weekend I happened to be free, I decided to take the gig. I thought that it would be fun to work with her, though I admit I was a tad intimidated because I’ve always really respected (and been a little in awe) of her work. Since then, I can confidently say that other than going to photography school, it was the best decision of my photography career. Second shooting opened up doors I didn’t even know were closed. Watching another photographer’s approach helped confirm methods I was happy with and gave me great ideas for improving methods that maybe weren’t so great. Ever wonder why some photographers make it just look so easy? Second shooting and just watching another photographer’s body language and hearing how they speak when they interact with the couple can be eye opening. Observing choices in lenses, positioning, posing are all great information for resetting your brain and getting it out of auto pilot.There are the benefits on more than just the shooting side. Once a wedding is finished, I try to ask the photographer I’m shooting for to have access to the gallery so I can go through and see what they picked of my work. It’s almost like being back in photo school on critique day. Getting to see what images made an impression on them, enough to put their name on it, is not just flattering, but can help piece together clues for you on what you’re doing right.Another side benefit no one really thinks about is travel.
Second shooting has opened up a world of destinations that I may not have otherwise had the opportunity to go to. It’s taken me as close as 3 blocks from my house, to thousands of miles away in India, and all sorts of places in between. The communication that goes on when you’re traveling to and from a wedding is invaluable. Talk about the schedule of events and get a glimpse into someone else’s point of view of operations. Talk about business methods, rates, difficult wedding “horror stories”, anything to pass the time and everything that gives you more tools to cultivate a different perspective.After all, isn’t art all about growth? We can’t grow doing the same things over and over. We must break the mold. We must not confine ourselves to a hum drum existence. Stay excited! Stay inspired! If you really admire someone’s work, reach out and offer to second shoot for them. They might already have a regular shooter, but you never know when that person can’t do a gig or you never know when they might need even a third along. So why not throw your name onto their radar? You’ve got nothing to lose but bad habits.
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