I recently was asked if I wanted to be second shooter at a wedding. I’ve never really shot a wedding before and it’s not typically the genre and style that I enjoy shooting. So when this opportunity presented itself my first instinct was to turn it down but then I thought, “You’re never going to grow as a photographer if you don’t get out there and push yourself.” I think that’s true of life in general. We grow the most when we push ourselves beyond what we think we are capable of.
I had no idea how hard wedding photography is. It’s non-stop shooting and I was beat by the end of the day. Not only that but I must have used some muscles that haven’t been used in a while because I woke up a bit sore the next day. I think it was from all the crouching. But it was good because I learned a few things besides wedding photography being so physically demanding.
For one I learned that lighting can be tricky and it’s a good idea to have fast lenses. I’m typically a landscape shooter so fast lenses have not been a priority for me. I shot with my Canon 5D Mark II which does pretty well at high ISO settings and I had my Canon 50mm f/1.8 and a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 but I found when shooting indoors I could have used the Canon 50mm f/1.4 or the Canon 85mm f/1.2L. I guess if I had my choice I would choose to shoot with the 50mm f/1.4, the 85mm f/1.2L and the 70-200 f/2.8 IS. With what I had to work with I found myself shooting at ISO 1600 and f/2.8 during the indoor ceremony which gave me reasonable shutter speeds. At other times I was able to utilize my Canon 580EXII flash unit.
The most challenging aspect of shooting the wedding was getting the wedding party together and organized for the photos. It’s a wedding so things are a little hectic and it always seems like there are too many chefs in the kitchen so getting people organized and at certain locations at certain times is problematic. But the photographer I was working with was really good with people and bossy enough (in a good way) to get them organized.
Large memory cards are a must. I went with two 8Gb cards and two 2Gb cards and I went through those really fast and I’m not an indiscriminate shooter. The photographer I was working with had at least five 16Gb cards so I used one of hers. I’ve never had a need for more than the two 8Gb cards but I can see that shooting weddings requires more storage than I typically use on my landscape shoots. Now I’m eying some high speed 32Gb compact flash cards for future wedding shoots.
You have to be creative and use your surroundings to create compelling photographs. When I’m out shooting nature I look for the most compelling scene that really speaks to me. I was a bit out of my element shooting this wedding as I really have little experience posing people to create those memorable images or putting myself in the position to capture those images. I learned a lot from the photographer I worked with and came away with some ideas I’d love to develop more in future shoots.
It’s going to be a long day so when you have the opportunity to eat and get something to drink make sure and take it. You may not get another chance for the rest of the day. You’re not going to do anyone any good if you pass out from dehydration or can’t concentrate because your stomach is grumbling. The last thing you want is your stomach growling like a grizzly during the ceremony.
Don’t be shy. Get out there and get the shots you want. You have to be bold and personable to get the shots. Don’t be afraid to stick that camera in people’s faces and click away. Some people may be a bit shy but there are plenty of others who are more than happy to pose for the camera. And mix it up a bit. Get some posed as well as candid shots.
Overall it was a good experience as a second shooter and I can actually see myself doing it again in the same capacity. In fact I’ve got another wedding lined up with the same photographer for September. As I said earlier you can’t grow unless you push yourself a bit and that is certainly what I did. So to all the wedding photographers out there I salute you for the demanding and highly skilled job you do. Cheers!
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