General People Photography Video

Being a Second Photographer at a Wedding

Earlier in the year, my friend Chris of Simply Photo Studio asked me if I was interested in being a second photographer for one of his weddings. His usual second had a higher paying event to cover. While I’ve taken photos at other weddings before, this is the first time that I’ve photographed a wedding for people I don’t know. Plus, I was going to be paid. I wanted to try it out and had an intent to make some type of video for the YouTube channel about it.

Check out the companion video on YouTube for this article.

We started out the day with a gear check after meeting up at the ceremony location. Initially he had wanted me to take photos of the groom group at their hotel, but that didn’t work out. Apparently the hotel rooms were really bad and cramped. It would have been a lot more effort for me in driving around, so I’m glad how things turned out. The actual wedding location was really nice as well.

The first task was taking photos of the location before guests arrived.

This was a long day. If anyone complains about the expense of a dedicated wedding photographer, they need to get a reality check. And that’s not even considering the days of editing. As a second photographer I didn’t do any editing, but Chris must spend a huge amount of time on that. There are periods of waiting around on the wedding day, but most of the time is active.

In the companion video and here I’ll be showing you some of the photos I took, but the faces are blurred out. I want to show respect to the wedding couple. You should get the general idea. The photos shone are basically out-of-camera. Just and export with maybe slight adjustments like auto contrast.

A lot of the time I was trying to get a few photos while not getting in Chris’s way.

Gear wise I was using the pair of Canon EOS M50 bodies. The EF-M 22mm f/2 lens, EF-M 32mm f.1.4 lens, and an EF 135mm f/2.8 soft-focus with the official Canon EF-EOS M standard adapter.

I ended up with 1754 files at 48.6 GB, though some of those files are video clips. My guess is that’s a bit below average, but it felt like I was constantly busy taking photos while I was at the wedding. Quite a few images are probably “double taps” or more duplicates so I could avoid blinks or other natural facial expressions that don’t work well in photos.

For this section of the event I tried to stay out of the way. Chris was a lot closer.

Here is a list of the main sets of photography at the wedding in chronological order…

  • Photos of the event area.
  • Both sides getting ready.
  • Photos of the two groups before the main event. Each group separately. The two groups together. Obviously the bride and groom together is excluded.
  • The ceremony area and entrance ceremony where everyone walks to the stage.
  • The ceremony.
  • Groups and singles after the ceremony. There were a lot of combinations of people to take photos of.
  • Extended photos of the couple and groomsman and brides-women together in different areas of the venue.
  • Photos of the event and eating area with it full of people.
  • First dance and related.
  • We mostly avoided photos of the eating, but I think there were some serving time photos.
  • Talks, speeches, and related.
  • Bride dance with the dad.
  • Aspects I missed that Chris handles: sunset photos and dancing. (flash or constant lights, 1/40th sec or faster)
I liked the focal length of the 135mm on crop, but the lens wasn’t performing as I had hoped.

I changed the batteries in my two M50 cameras three times. The new Wasabi batteries I bought for the M50 cameras didn’t appear to last as long as OEM, but not too bad. I changed out my memory cards three times to limit the loss if there is a card failure. I made a mindful decision to not deleting anything through the camera. There were a few times where I would have, but decided against it.

Autofocus on the M50 cameras was decent, but I still had challenges with the cameras in that high paced situation. There are moments where you need a specific photo and not much time is available.

Chris has Yongnuo YN300 LED constant lights for later in the night (I personally didn’t see this in action). He uses the large Sony style NP-F batteries. For each wedding they are used around 2 hours.

There isn’t much time for lens switching. It looks like Chris has perfected his technique. He leaves the rear lens caps off of his lenses and uses a messenger bag to hold. I think it was 4 lenses total. The 90mm macro lens he uses for a few photos only, so mostly switches between 3 other primes.

The guys getting some time with the bouquets.

The Sony camera system seems tailor made for these situations. Chris was mentioning using eye AF with a button and switching off to it. He also uses servo mode with eye AF and that works really well.

Learn to photograph groups. With cosplay photography that I do most of the time, it’s easy to avoid taking photos of groups. In wedding photography it’s an absolute necessity.

I don’t think the equipment I have is a great match for the speed that things happen, though I never had an issue with the buffer at all. It’s more than sufficient. Using full manual mode was challenging and lead to a few missed photo opportunities in my case. The reason I do that is because I don’t trust the M50’s aperture priority mode. It doesn’t have a minimum shutter speed and tends to give me a bad shutter speed or too high of an ISO. I tried to prioritize highlights when I could, but in some situations I needed to brighten up things for the face.

The 22mm lens is nice for for groups (while trying to not get in Chris’s way)

Looking at the photos… The 32mm f/1.4 did the best job. Certainly the highest quality photos. The 135mm f2.8 SF I had at the time lens isn’t good. From what I’ve seen in comments to my videos about the lens I probably had a flawed copy. Even at f/4 it’s just not that decent. The 22mm lens did well, but not quite as nice as the 32mm.

Chris has a dynamic with the people. He knew what to get. I’m sure all of that comes with a lot of experience. When you take photos at so many weddings there is probably a point where it becomes second nature.

While the guys were getting ready it got really emotional at one point…

It’s a strange feeling being at a wedding with people you don’t know (besides one person I knew that attended, surprisingly). I feel glad and happy for them of course. It’s just an odd mix of feelings to be in there and in someone’s lives for a day. Almost like after watching a movie you really connect with, but more extreme. I’m sure in time it’s easier to manage that and adjust your perspective.

“Use what you have” is a good well meaning statement, but sometimes it’s just a necessity. If I had the funds to afford a camera kit for work like this I’d go with 3 or 4 full-frame mirrorless cameras of the same body that have dual SD card slots. A 70-200 would be nice with my style, though I’d also consider a prime lens between 135 to 200mm. I’d probably go with a few primes lenses as my main wider lenses. The equivalents of 35mm and 50mm work pretty well. As backup to get focal length overlap I could see a few zoom lenses.

All that said, it was an interesting experience! I definitely learned a lot in the process. I also enjoyed not having to edit photos, haha.