I am a Grumpy.
How do I know this? I know this because I find myself saying things like “When you’ve been in business more than 5 minutes you can tell ME that Shoot and Share is a good idea for your profit margin” and things like that to photographers. Usually shouted at my computer screen. Sometimes after a few beverages.
I know because I refuse to upgrade from CS4 and Lightroom 2.7 . And no, I don’t care how much better the retouch tool is. You can take your Content Aware where the sun don’t shine.
I know I am a Grumpy because I have flat-out been told so.
In a blog post a few weeks ago I talked about how to make some fast cash during lean times, second shooting being one of those ways. I’m always amazed at how many photographers do not take advantage of this way to learn and grow as a photographer.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I’ve learned more practical applications for my photography second shooting than ANY seminar that I have taken AND I got paid to do so.
Here’s the general disclaimer stuff.. I’m assuming since you’re reading this blog that you’re a somewhat experienced and competent shooter, so I am going to speak to you as such. There’s better photographers than I am that have written about second shooting expectations and etiquette, such as Neil van Niekerk . And while you’re there, sign up for his Tangents blog because it’s all the lighting goodness you will ever need to know along with some of his epic rants and raves. Neil is kind of the shit.
Tomorrow I will be second shooting with a local photographer from a Facebook group I am in. In fact, I’ve never actually met him. However, in the past two years we’ve become more than friendly adversaries on our board. He’s a young buck with a very hip shooting style. As my long time photographer friend Dan Epstein would say “I have shoes older than him”
He’s a good photographer, but there is no doubt we are very different. And before you get your undies in a bundle about “Is that fair to the client” the role I am hired for is well suited for my skill set, which is capturing candids and second angles. And yes, I know he’ll put flare on some of my photos just to spite me and I will throw up a little when I see them, but then I’ll cash my check and take the extra money I earned that day to Key West for my upcoming vacation and get over it because that’s how THIS Grumpy rolls. If you can’t beat Whimsey, you can join them.
Mostly, I have no doubt that I will take away from this experience something that I will
steal adapt to my own shooting style or relations with the client. Thinking back over the years I estimate I’ve seconded with about 50 different photographers. Here is a small sampling of things I learned:
Lens Compression: Up until about 10 years ago I did not really understand lens compression. Shooting a few weddings with someone who understood it changed my entire shooting style. When I put my 28-70 on to shoot a large group formal and the photographer I was assisting said “WTF are you using that lens on a group shot? Do you want to make the people on the end hate you for the rest of your life?” was how I learned. I did NOT learn that in my 3 year photo program.
Taking Command of your Formals: This was probably the impetus for our Make That Wedding Timeline Your Bitch (it’s a FREE download, ya’ll) but the day I learned to take control of my formals changed my LIFE as a wedding photographer. It’s when I learned that at this part of the day it’s when I should be in control because it’s what people expect and pay me for.
Looking for the Details: We all get into ruts. We do things that we know, that we know work and that our clients like and that we like. I worked with a photographer a few years ago and I asked him when he did ring shots. Ring shots? He’d never heard of such a thing. I showed him what a ring shot was and it BLEW his mind. He’d never thought of it, never shown one. Similarly, I bitched a few months ago on a photographer Facebook board about my regular assistant who always takes photos of the cake after it was cut. Like the photo of the gouged out cake. I ranted that it was the stupidest photo I ever saw, I ALWAYS delete it and I didn’t know why she takes it and I was greeted by a chorus of photographers who told me that they always take that shot.
Live and learn.
Client Relations: Watching photographers relate to their clients on a wedding day to me is probably the most fascinating part of being a second shooter. We all have things we naturally do as a shooter without even knowing it. I’ve watched countless photographers do things that I’ve
stolen adapted into my workflow. The way I place people, the things I say to them? Much of it gleaned from other shooters and adapted to how I work.
One of the most mind blowing came from when I was assisting Susan Stripling a few years ago. At the end of the night, she went individually to the bride and grooms parents and shook their hands, said a kind word about the wedding and thanked them for having her. Holy hell. You’re pure class, Susan F Stripling. That right there was worth carrying your smelly Toms in my bag. Sorry about the snoring in the hotel.
So tomorrow this Grumpy is going to get her Whimsey on. Stay tuned.