Tales of a 2nd Shooter

November 04, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Many of you know that I've started taking on more and more wedding work in the last year.  With some very kind referrals, I've shot 4 weddings in the past year as the primary shooter.  They have been amazing!  I've learned so much just by shooting those 4 events.  Mostly, I learned (the hard way) how to manage the flow of a couples wedding day and ensure they get the photos they deserve so they can look back and remember their magical day 10+ years later.

With that being said, I would be arrogant if I had thought I knew everything about wedding photography.  Recently, I've been 2nd shooting for a number of AMAZING local wedding photographers.  The first to take a chance on me was Brian Minson.  He's been in the business for over 20 years and has been rated Top 5 wedding photographer in Arizona and has been the recipient of the Brides Choice Awards in 2011, 2012, and 2013.  Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me.  To ease the pain of meeting Brian on the day of a Brides wedding, we decided to meet on my way home from Albuquerque's BlackLight Run in Lakeside for some Ice Cream.  Meeting before hand was great.  We got to feel each other out and I think we both understood what the other could offer.  This made shooting the event at Heritage Square easy!  He knew my abilities and turned me loose assigning me to take care of the Groom and Groomsmen portraits for the day.  From there, he allowed me to shoot the entire ceremony from a more creative point of view.  Without the pressure of needing to nail the ring and kiss shot, I did things I would've never had the chance to do as a primary.  I took an artistic approach to capturing candid/in the moment type photos.  I really feel like I got some great shots and learned a ton from Brian.  Mostly about how to keep your Bride relaxed.  It's all about making her and the groom feel like the photos are fun.  It keeps them engaged which makes for MUCH better photos.

My next 2nd shooter adventure would be for Chadwick Fowler.  Chadwick needed a skilled 2nd shooter to help his new primary photographer Cassandra Tomei with a wedding at The Pointe Hilton.  The event was great!  We had the pleasure of working with a very laid back couple.  The timeline was a bit tighter than the previous event with Brian so there was a little more sense of urgency, but overall, the bride and groom were very easy to work with.  During this wedding, I got my first experience using a studio strobe and softbox for formals.  Looking at the industry standards, it's something I'll need to incorporate into my future wedding work.  It's something that really sets some photographers apart from others.  Another thing I noticed was the use of an ultra wide angle Canon 16-35 f2.8L lens during formals and portraits.  As a fairly traditionally styled wedding photographer, I would've never thought to use the wide angle lens with people.  As it turns out, the results are amazing.  The lighting and lens distortion create VERY dramatic images.  Something I'll surely be blending into my wedding work.

My most recent shoot was easily the most challenging. Nearly last minute,  I was asked to help Bradford Jones with a wedding at The Scottsdale Resort.  At first sight the venue looks amazing.  You walk through a vine/bush covered walkway into a very beautiful lobby.  Unfortunately, everything else is very neutral with classic styling.  Most walls have been painted a mute tan and dark brown paint has been applied to all wood accents.  While you may thing this is a bad thing, it really wasn't.  it was a blessing is disguise! It forced Mike (Bradford's lighting assistant) and I to think outside the box.  We were tasked with the ever important ring shot and were drawing a blank for an abnormally long time.  Finally, we decided to shoot the rings on the ledge of a fountain.  The shot just was not working!  It didn't look bad, but both Mike and I knew that it could be better!  Mike began looking for things to help liven up the shot.  In a stroke of brilliance, he picked 3 flowers from what I think was the only plant on the property in bloom.  One white with a purple center, one yellow with a purple center, and one blue with a yellow center.  We set the rings on the flower arrangement and voila! it was done!  The actual site of the ceremony also presented what I would consider difficult shooting conditions.  The bridal arch was only a few feet away from a beautiful pool.  That meant that I had to shoot with a long 70-200mm 2.8L from all the way across the pool!  On top of that, there was immobile pool equipment that was just begging to be a distraction in most photos.  These obstacles made me creatively compose shots to limit their intrusion.  Overall, the night was a great success and Bradford paid me a very welcome compliment.  He said that I was "the best 2nd shooter he has ever worked with" and that he has an event on December 14th that he would like my assistance with.

Overall, I'm very pleased with all of the photographers I've recently worked with.  I appreciate all of their art and recognize the benefits of being able to experience working with each of them even though all of their styles are worlds apart.  I also love knowing that I can be tossed into any situation and create images aligned with such different styles.  It really makes me feel like I can shoot in any condition presented to me and I love having that confidence.  Thanks again to all of the primary photographers who have employed me recently and let me learn through their events.


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