How to go about entering the wedding industry as a photographer?

So you've have been thinking about photographing a wedding but have had no prior wedding experience. The most common and effective way of doing so is to second shoot with a photographer who have had experience in the field. The opportunity may not come easy, as the lead photographer is putting their name and brand on the line.

There is no right or wrong rules for someone second shooting, as every photographer may have different thoughts on what they would like when hiring on a second. However, here are some basic advice and etiquette that can help you along your journey.

  • Build a genuine relationship with a photographer you are inspired by and ask to follow along and assist. This does not necessarily mean you will be asked to help shoot, but a great opportunity see how a wedding day unfolds for a photographer.

  • If you do get the opportunity to shoot with the lead photographer, it is a very humbling position. The important thing to remember is you are shooting to assist rather than for your own portfolio. The goal in most case is to help give additional coverage from a different angle from the primary photographer that adds to the client gallery.  

  • Bring your own equipment and gear, but coordinate with the lead photographer on what type of lenses is preferred and a flash. This also include a back up SD card if you and the lead photographer agrees that you may also keep a backup of the photos.  

  • Ask for feedback after the event. This helps both you and the lead photographer to grow and deliver a better experience and result in the future. This brings me to the next topic of communication, copyrights, and credit.
Communication between the lead photographer and second, regarding image sharing should be talked about before hand. 

When a client hires a photographer for their wedding day, they have agreed and contracted based on the photographers portfolio of past work. The primary photographer has the discretion to review and make a decision for photos that make the "final cut" that still overall represents the client full wedding day. If a second shooter sends or share photos outside on their own to the primary photographer client, you now potentially have a disappointed and/or confused client. To keep things simple between all parties, always wait and speak to the primary photographer about photo sharing.

Some photographers may allow their second to use the photos they took for their portfolio but not online such as social media or website. While other photographers, may allow their second more privilege as long as credit is given that states who the leading photographer is and states you as the second shooter.

Now let's talk about the pro's of having a second shooter. There are several advantages of having a second shooter at a wedding.

  • Coverage: Two photographers can capture more angles and moments simultaneously.
  • Backup: incase of unexpected issues, a second shooter can step in to ensure less disruptions.
  • Efficiency: a second shooter can be task to coverage another area or help manage groups photos more quickly so the couple can spend more time enjoying their day.
  • Comprehensive storytelling: The combination of photos from both photographers can provide a more complete and nuanced storytelling of the wedding day.

Overall, being a second shooter is about being a reliable, supportive, and skilled team player, helping to capture beautiful moments and deliver a great experience for clients.

What if you do not get the opportunity to second shoot?

Getting started in wedding photography is challenging, but it's not impossible. This was actually my own personal journey being too scared to be a bother to other experienced photographers.

Here are some tips to break into wedding photography:
  • Build a strong portfolio that showcase your photography skills of work. Start by photographing family and friends during an event that does not interfere with the contracted photographer.

  • Develop your skills through self study, workshops, or even mentorship to learn about equipment, lighting, post-processing and such.

  • At some point, start offering your services to build your experience and reputation. However be completely transparent with your couples about your experience in general photography and whether or not if you have had any wedding photography experience.

  • Invest in building your business plan, contracts, release forms, invoice system, photo delivery  and logistics of running such business.

Be patient, keep learning and improving your skills in order to providing exceptional customer service and beautiful storytelling through your photos.