How To Get Wedding Photography Work Experience | Dear Devlin

Dear Devlin.

I’m having trouble finding jobs as a second photographer to gain experience or shadow other photographers.

I know how to use my camera. I have a website and portfolio but I just want to see and learn how other photographers work.

I’ve sent nice polite emails asking if I could possibly have a chance to shadow or assist them but no one ever replies or if they do reply they say the market doesn’t need any more new photographers as there are already too many 🙁

How do I try and get into the business when I can’t photograph any weddings for experience? None of my friends are getting married and I’ve already tried workshops which are amazing but not real weddings 🙁

Any advice would be amazing! Thanks. ?

Hardworking Photographer ISO Experience

Hey Hardworking,

This is a great question so thank you for asking. Also, I love how you are focused on gaining experience and not just boosting your portfolio.

So right now you are getting frustrated as your approaches to wedding photographers don’t seem to be working. You are sending nice polite emails but it sounds like you are not eliciting responses or the ones that you do get are more than a little rude.

Imagine if no new photographers came into the market, it would soon get very stale! New photographers bring fresh energy and inspire all of us to be better.

But we can leave the grumpy ones to themselves and get on with answering your question. The most popular blog post on the Farm site is this one on How To Gain Work Experience in Photography. The advice in there is very relevant to wedding photographers. So I’d say grab a cuppa and have a read. In addition, I would say this…

First of all, if anything that you are trying is not working then think, ‘How can I 180 this?’ By that I mean what’s the opposite of what you are doing now?

Often the answer is in the opposite.

I’ve not seen your emails but I do get A LOT of these. Typically they are written all from their perspective, from their needs and wants. If you want someone to do something for you, you need to tap into their needs and wants. I REALLY do not need someone shadowing me at weddings and I do not want to give away how I work. That’s actually incredibly valuable to newer photographers.

However, I do use second photographers at weddings and I do allow people to assist me on smaller weddings where there’s no budget for a second. How would someone get their foot in the door with me?

First of all, flattery really does go a long way. Most photographers have fragile little egos and they love to hear nice things about themselves and their work. I would say that at least 90% of the emails I get mention absolutely nothing about me or my work. In fact, they feel like they’ve been cut and pasted to several people at once.

So my first tip is to personalise each approach, research who you are targeting, and go to town on saying what you genuinely like in their work.

Then figure out not what they can do for you but what you can do for them. Here is what I would find useful –

Carrying My Bags
Bringing Guests Into Group Shots
Supplying Snacks And Water

In exchange for making my day a little easier or less tiring, I will happily answer any and all questions whilst the meal is being served. If nudged after I will share the gallery with you so you can see my images.

In addition, I’d say don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to these people. If you’ve emailed and not heard back, try giving them a ring. They are much more likely to bear you in mind if you have spoken IRL and shown that you have the guts to make a call.

Another tip is to find photographer communities and keep an eye out for second shooting or assisting opportunities. There are many terrific Facebook groups, including ours for Farm. If you are not already a member and wish to join, just request it and tell me that you sent this Dear Devlin. There are also several second-shooting groups on Facebook and as the season hots up, you will find more and more opportunities in them. Don’t be afraid to open a thread in these groups saying you want to get experience.

You might find that people are more responsive in groups as they are just scrolling around social media instead of going through their emails. Inboxes are hard places to grab anyone’s attention. You are fighting in there with a sea of spam, plus emails from their clients. Requests such as yours will get pushed to the ‘deal with later pile’ which often is the ‘look at never pile’ for someone who is busy.

You say that you have a portfolio and a website. What about this idea? Make a page on that site, especially for this. Show some images that you’ve shot as a second photographer, and get a testimonial or two from people that you’ve shot for. List your useful skills and show your personality. Now if someone sent me something like this or posted it in a group, I would be impressed.