Wedding Photography Assistant
In this post I’ll be telling you all about my first taste of wedding photography as a wedding photography assistant. To date I have been covering events and other assignments as the primary photographer so was this a step backwards or a valuable experience?
Everything I have done so far in my photography career has been very much a lone venture. I have covered a variety of sporting, performing arts and social events on my own as the primary photographer. Well aware of the need to establish myself in my chosen niches, I was wary of spreading myself thinner and turning my attention to even more types of photography. I identified wedding photography as one avenue to leave to the more experienced pros and I didn’t really give it much more thought.
“These small openings can lead to big things.”
A thoughtful gesture from a friend saw me being introduced to two professional wedding photographers. I decided to seize the opportunity and met with both for a coffee and a chat about all things photography. Both offered me the opportunity to work with them as a wedding photography assistant to gain an insight into that world. I am always open to lifes opportunities and know only too well that these small openings can lead to big things. Needless to say, I got my diary out and committed to some dates.
The Day of the Shoot
Fast forward to the early hours of a Friday morning in July and I’m climbing into my car to drive to Newmarket. I was going to be wedding photography assistant to an amazing wedding photographer, Peter Denness. We both have the same day job and run our photography business in our spare time giving us lots in common. Peter started his photography career as a wildlife photographer and has won several international awards, most notably SWPP Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011. Be sure to check out his wedding photography site.
“This was a good compromise.”
The only thing we’d really discussed before the wedding was what to wear. I’d assumed a suit would be needed but Peter advised a short sleeved shirt and chinos would be the order of the day. Given the temperatures forecast this was a good compromise between looking the part and staying comfortable.
In my kit bag:
The first part of the day involved photographing the bride getting ready. I arrived at the stunning hotel the bridal party were staying at and met up with Peter. He had already been at the venue for some time and was well on the way to filling up his first SD card. I was introduced to everyone as the wedding photography assistant for the day and then we got to work. Peter shoots with two full frame Canon bodies, one with a 70-200mm zoom and the other with either a 35mm of 85mm prime lens. A wide angle zoom also made an appearance on occasion.
He started shooting with one body and asked me to hold the other, adding that I could fire off some frames if I wanted. It took me a few moments to feel comfortable doing this but I soon got into the swing of things and continued to do this throughout the rest of the day. It was a great opportunity to get some wedding experience under my belt without any of the pressures associated with being the primary photographer.
“I feel I contributed creatively too.”
My main role today however was that of wedding photography assistant. During the bridal prep part of the day I helped out moving furniture, positioning shoes, hanging dresses, changing lenses, mopping up spilt drinks and carrying kit. All the while I was observing how Peter worked; his interactions with people, his posing techniques, his use of light and his general thought process. I was asked for my thoughts and ideas throughout so I feel I contributed creatively too.
The Ceremony and Reception
I had a brisk drive to the wedding venue in convoy with Peter and the Bridal party where I helped Peter unload his kit and carry it inside. I stayed out of the way during the ceremony as space was tight and Peter was set up in one spot. At the end of the ceremony the guests poured out of the wedding hall and into an outdoor space. I met up with Peter again and was introduced to the second shooter, another photographer who was working with Peter to get the shots he would otherwise be unable to. We set about taking some candid photos of the wedding guests as they mingled and celebrated. I made use of Peter’s second camera and got stuck in.
“I suddenly realised quite how draining wedding photography is.”
The time for formal portraits soon arrived and I assisted Peter in rounding up guests and keeping track of the various group shots we needed to cover off. I held a ladder, looked after drinks, gave as good as I got in the banter stakes with the groomsmen and tried to sneak a few shots from different angles when nobody was looking. We whisked the bride and groom off for some special portraits in a nearby field. The results were more glamorous than it sounds, honest! I helped lugging kit, taming giant balloons filled with helium and holding a reflector to light the happy couple.
In the main hall we covered the speeches and then left the guests to enjoy the wedding breakfast. Peter, the second shooter and I sat outside and enjoyed a meal of our own. It was the first time we had stopped in hours and I suddenly realised quite how draining the life of a wedding photography assistant is. Feast over, we were straight back to work. The evening guests were starting to arrive and the main hall was cleared to make space. We set up a few flash units around the hall and I strutted my stuff on the dance floor to allow Peter to dial in lighting and exposure settings. Hopefully these pictures will never see the light of day!
“We had great fun mixing with the guests.”
After the first dance things got underway proper and I followed Peter around with a diffused flash on a monopod. My job was to point this at the people Peter was photographing to ensure they were well lit in the otherwise dark hall. We had great fun mixing with the guests and had grown to know some of them quite well over the course of the day. At one point few cheeky guests commandeered the camera and turned it on us.
It was a very long day and I stayed until the end of the night with Peter. He explained that many photographers go home after the first dance but that one of his unique selling points was that he would stay the full duration. Some of the most fun pictures taken that night will no doubt have happened on the dance floor towards the end of the night. I enjoyed myself immensely and also learned a lot. Being able to use Peter’s second camera added to that experience, some of my shots may even have made the final cut.
“I would be foolish not to consider exploring weddings further.”
It was a highly worthwhile day and it opened my eyes to a side of photography I would otherwise never have considered. Working as wedding photography assistant to an experienced professional was also a great experience and it helped me to take stock of my own progress. I’m constantly reviewing the direction my photography career is heading in and I would be foolish not to consider exploring weddings further. I have lined up a few more wedding photography assistant jobs and can certainly aim to work as a second shooter in the near future too.