Nowadays, everybody that just purchased their first SLR camera wants to call themselves a wedding photographer. I don’t blame them. Heck, I was one of them at one point. I bought my first Rebel Ti about 4 years ago and shot my first backyard wedding. I actually shot that wedding without ever 2nd shooting or assisting on a wedding. It was a family member’s wedding who chose not to have a wedding photographer to start with, everything I was able to capture was just bonus for them. But how exactly does somebody start as a wedding photographer with NO portfolio? In my upcoming 2013 KICKSTART WORKSHOP I will be teaching about the exact steps one needs to start as a wedding photographer! In my first year in this crazy business, I followed a system that allowed me to 2nd shoot 22 weddings. I also booked 7 weddings on my own. So in my first year, I was able to get almost 30 weddings under my portfolio. This really helped to solidify the foundation I needed to get my business off to an awesome start! And I eventually quit my architect day job in 30 months after I shot my first paid wedding. you can read how I got my start in this post. In the 2013 KICKSTART workshop, we will also be going over how to build relationships with other photographers so you can also have a steady stream of weddings!
For my studio, I never, never, NEVER hire portfolio builders to be a second photographer. In fact, if somebody comes to me and says “I need help building my portfolio, can I second shoot for you?” The answer is an automatic NO. I count on my 2nd photographer’s images to be professional, well executed, and similar to my style. I think it’s great when somebody is trying to build up their portfolio, don’t get me wrong. We all have been there. But a wedding is the wrong place to ‘practice’ your skills. The stake is too high on a wedding day. Instead, portfolio should be built doing workshops, assisting/shadowing other professional wedding photographers. I only hire other professional photographers who take wedding photography as serious as me. I know it sounds like a catch 22 situation; how can one build up his/her wedding portfolio, if wedding photographers don’t hire portfolio builders? Don’t worry, I did it. And so can you. Again, this is one of the many topics I will teach at the 2013 KICKSTART WORKSHOP. If you are a client reading this, this might also give you a glimpse into a little behind the scenes look on how I choose my 2nd photographer.
Here are the 5 requirements!
1. Be professional, courteous, and easy to work with.
I very rarely shoot with photographer I have not shot with already. Wedding days are long and stressful, the last thing I need is to shoot with a 2nd photographer who I can’t get along with, or adds more stress to the couple. If I haven’t shot with a 2nd photographer before, I check out their references, interview them either in person or on the phone, and check out their wedding galleries from start to finish.
2. Professional grade equipment
I only shoot with professional grade Canon equipment; L-series lenses, 5D Mark III and 5D Mark II camera bodies. I require my 2nd shooter to have the same equipment. This is for a few reasons. First of all, the image quality cannot drop from my images to my 2nd photographers. 5D Mark III is a 23MP full frame camera, which allows superior quality photos once they are enlarged. I expect the same from my 2nd photographer. Not to mention, if my own equipment gets stolen in the course of the wedding (happens all the time), I can grab my 2nd shooter’s camera and keep shooting.
I require my 2nd photographer to have shot at least 10-15 of their own weddings. This means either being an associate photographer for another team, or their own weddings. Let’s say if I get hit by a bus during the course of the wedding (let’s hope not!!), I need my 2nd photographer to be able to take over on a moment’s notice. This will obviously require somebody who has enough experience, and not a portfolio builder. If you are still in the portfolio building stage, I do open up my weddings for assistants who can shadow me on a wedding day. It’s like a wedding day crash course!
4. Get a different perspective
This is another reason why I don’t hire portfolio builders. I need my 2nd photographer to get the photos that I can’t get. For example, while I am shooting bride & groom portraits, I need my 2nd photographer to cover cocktail hour, take details of the reception room, get guest candids, etc.. I don’t need my 2nd photographer shooting over my shoulders and getting the same shot I am getting. For most portfolio builders, they would want to get the ‘money shots’ to boost their portfolio. I.e. bridal portraits, shots of the bridal party, bride walking down the aisle, etc.. I don’t need the same shots twice. When I am shooting the ceremony, I expect my 2nd shooter to get creative angles, shooting from 2nd floor, etc.. Surprise me. 🙂
5. Be helpful
I am not one of those photographers that will tell anybody to “hey, get my water.” We are all part of a team that the clients have trusted to make their day a memorable experience. I expect my team members to help each other out; if it means getting water, carrying bags, move equipment, setting up lights, etc. We should all jump in and help!
So that’s about it! It might sound harsh, but I’ve worked really hard to develop my business, and create a brand that’s truly unique. All these requirements help me to protect my brand and ensure highest quality for my clients!
Since every blog post is better with an image. Here’s a picture I took while I second shot for my good friend Brian Leahy a few months ago!