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Second Shooting Weddings – How to Get the Opportunity!

It doesn’t matter if you have your heart set on becoming a wedding photographer, portrait photographer, newborn photographer, commercial photographer or any other kind of photographer, without a doubt the best way to learn the ropes and jump start your own business or dream career is working alongside a professional in the niche that you are interested in.  For those of you wanting to dive into the wonderful world of weddings, second shooting weddings alongside a experienced professional is the perfect way to learn some of the ins and outs.

Unfortunately, it may seem easy to send a couple emails out asking if you could assist them or start second shooting weddings with them but for numerous reasons, it is not easy and can become downright frustrating and aggravating.

I was once there, in your shoes.  Eager to learn and gain experience without any desire for compensation but yet, still, my emails would fall onto deaf ears.  I knew that I wanted to learn the right way, by second shooting weddings but it was starting to feel like no one cared or would give me a chance.  It was so freakin’ frustrating!

But – I wasn’t doing all the things that I could have done to have made my journey a bit easier and that’s what we are going to discuss…

The main focus of this article is to give you insights and reasons as to why it is so hard to find a photographer willing to let you begin second shooting weddings with them and more important; the how you should approach fellow photographers that will dramatically improve your chances of finding a photographer willing to offer you work or even help train you.

second shooting weddings

The Why: Why would anyone want to help out a newbie?

Great question; many don’t.  There are a variety of reasons why an established professional photographer doesn’t want to help out a brand new photographer who is learning the ropes.  Here are, in my mind a few of the top reasons:

  • No time – Let’s face it, for a multitude of reasons, some photographers just simply don’t have much, if any, extra time to allow for mentoring anyone.  The time spent blogging, answering client emails, meeting with new clients, actual shooting, editing all the photos all can add up in a hurry.  Of course, this doesn’t even take into consideration if they also work another job, perhaps is a mother and busy with kids during “non-photo work” hours etc…
  • You are “competition” – It is sad but true…we are in an industry that has virtually zero barriers for entry, which means every time a new photographer pops up, they can take away business from the existing pool of photographers.  A quick Econ 101 lesson – more competition leads to greater price pressure.  What does this mean?  It means as more and more photographers enter the market each year, it becomes increasingly harder for experienced photographers to earn a living as there will always be a large percentage of consumers that will flock to lower priced alternatives, thus taking away market share from the higher priced pros.
  • They don’t have work to give – Perhaps the biggest reason why as a “newbie” you might not get a helping hand from anyone is experienced photographers already have a pool of assistants or second shooters that they regularly use and trust.  This is most likely the case with anyone who is an established studio and is actively booked with photo-shoots.  On the flip side, another reason why someone may not be willing to help you is if they don’t have enough business or shoots scheduled that would require an assistant or second shooter.
  • A sense of entitlement – Although certainly not a large percentage of pro photographers (at least I’d hope…) there are many that feel they have “payed their dues” and have struggled to get to where they are at and feel others ought to go through the same process – hard work and struggle.

The How: Contacting the Pro – Steps for Success

Now that you are aware of some of the reasons why it is so difficult to get a professional photographer to lend their helping hand to you, let me give you the things you should do to drastically improve your chances of getting on the right track and learning some amazing insight.

  • Meet in person – Emailing is easy, everyone does it, and that is the problem.  Trust me when I say many professional photographers get plenty of emails each year with people asking for the chance to second shoot weddings with them to gain experience, you have to be different to stand out and show how important photography, and gaining experience is to you.  Thus, my number one tip I can give any new photographer looking to gain experience is when first emailing is to explain that you’d love to have the opportunity to take them to lunch or coffee, your treat, to have a chance to introduce yourself in person.  If you were the pro, wouldn’t that offer make you more inclined to want to help someone out?
  • Compliment their work – Becoming a successful photographer is certainly not easy, and as artists, we all take a tremendous amount of pride in our work, if you are simply writing a generic email asking for help and don’t make any effort to complement their work and style you definitely aren’t doing yourself any favors.  Just a small compliment can go a long way!
  • Make it easy – Full time wedding pros are busy so make it easy for them to see your work.  Don’t send over a bunch of photos as attachments in an email; don’t tell them they can check out your Facebook page to see your work.  Rather, send them a polished, quick slideshow showing your best work, so they can see what you’re capable of, or send them a link to a recent favorite photo shoot.  Bottom line – don’t make them hunt for your work.
  • Do it for FREE – There may be no better way to show a total stranger over email how committed you are to education and learning a new trade than letting them know upfront that you are more than willing to assist them in any way, for free.  I am not suggesting to always work for free, but when starting out, be prepared to work without any monetary compensation as the value and education you will get from on the job real training will far supersede any dollar value anyway!
  • Focus on how you can help them – If you really want to make a positive impact right away, figure out how you can add value to them and help them out.  Keep in mind that the easy email to write is the same type of email and message that will be seen over and over again with the message and goal being asking for help, rather than giving help.  For example – a graphic designer who is trying to break into wedding photography can offer to help the photographer out with any graphic design needs they may have.

how to second shoot weddingsI hope that this info has given you some tips and insight to think about and most importantly help you get second shooting or assisting jobs that will help you grow as a photographer.  In addition to the above tips for how to best contact a fellow photographer, one thing I want to encourage you all to do is – network.  Networking is huuuuuuge!  So no matter what city you are in, do some research and find out if there are any local photography groups that meet up; if so make sure to get out there and introduce yourself and make some new friends because once people have a chance to meet you, they will be far more likely to offer you work and help you out.

Have you had any luck using any of the above tips?  Or do you have any additional tips we should add to the list?

Have you struggled with having anyone let you start second shooting weddings with them? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

For those of you who prefer to listen and watch rather than read![/fusion_text][youtube id=”5m5rcScOUc4″ width=”WIDTH” height=”HEIGHT” autoplay=”no” api_params=”” class=””][fusion_text]Don’t be a stranger,
Cole[/fusion_text]