How To Start Shooting Weddings

I remember back in 2011, I had quite a few family, senior portrait and even engagement shoots under my belt #winning. Shooting weddings seemed like the pot of gold in the photography world. If you shot a wedding, it meant you must be really really REALLY good!! I also thought it meant you had “made it” in the photography world and you could finally make this photo thing into a career. I would peruse social media drooling over wedding photographers and the cute couples they got to photograph. I would occasionally get the courage to reach out to my favorite wedding photographers. Pressing that send button was kind of scary but it was more than worth it to me if I got to shoot a wedding!

To Be Honest, I Was Ghosted

Most of the time I never heard back and I was hurt and frustrated. It felt like my favorite photographers were getting in the way of my dream. Looking back now, this was selfish of me. My portfolio was no good, I had no wedding images on my website and you could tell I was newbie. I most definitely would not have hired 2011 me. I do wish that someone would have given me this advice. So often, we reach for a new goal and hear crickets when constructive criticism would have been WAY more helpful.

Almost every wedding photographer I know will only hire an assistant (otherwise referred to as second shooter) if they have wedding experience and a portfolio of weddings. This sounds a little silly because how do you get experience if you can’t even shoot a wedding?!? Stay with me and I’ll get to the good stuff.

I totally feel you on this frustrating process, but there is a reason for all of this. If I get sick on the day of the wedding, break a leg, catch the flu, my gear falls off a cliff or I get stung by 100 bees (LOL could you imagine!!), my assistant would have to shoot the wedding for me. They would have to organize the 30 person family photos, pose the couple, use flash during the reception, the whole shabang.

All of these scenarios may sound a little extreme but I’ve got some real life experience with wedding day mishaps. I won’t forget that one time my camera died mid-ceremony and I had to go run for my backup. Then there was the time my memory card was recording incorrectly and my assistant had to cover 10 minutes of the day solo.

All that to say, you might be wondering how you’ll ever get to shoot a wedding if you don’t have wedding experience. I promise you, there is another way. At least when it comes to working as an assistant for Michelle Lillywhite Photography 🙂

I had an inquiry last week from a past bride who was looking to get into wedding photography. Her email was like a breath of fresh air. I was taken aback by her humble way of seeking wedding experience and it was what prompted me to write this post.

She said “Hey Michelle! I’m starting to get into wedding photography and I was wondering if I could possibly assist you at a wedding. Not as a second shooter, but just as someone to hold your gear, get you water and whatever you need. So that I can observe and see what it is really like to shoot a wedding. Let me know!”

Rather than asking to second shoot, she asked if she could come and assist me at no cost. Carry my bags, bring me water, fan me when I need it (JK JK I’m not that bougie), and otherwise help me out. She didn’t even want to shoot the wedding, but simply wanted to help. She’s in the portfolio building phase of her business and is just dipping her toes into photography.

If you really want to get into weddings and have no wedding experience try writing an email or a DM like the one above. It’s her humble approach and her amazing personality that landed her the job being my wedding assistant this year. She’ll get a behind the scenes view into the wedding world without the pressure of delivering to clients. Eventually, I’ll let her shoot during quieter times of the wedding day to add to her portfolio.

I love this system because I can help new photographers grow while also not sacrificing the quality I give each and every client. Eventually, my assistants can move into second shooter roles and hopefully start shooting weddings of their own!

Go get out there and write those emails, reach out to your favorite photographers and chase those dreams!


Comments Off on How To Start Shooting Weddings