When I first started shooting weddings I wasn't a huge fan of them. They stressed me out a ton. I would stress myself out thinking of the wedding that I had coming up. I would get there and it wouldn't be nearly as stressful as I made it out to be in my head. I imagine this is what it feels like to plan your own wedding. I shot most of my first several weddings by myself. This makes the day a little more stressful if you aren't used to it. I had tried a couple of second shooters and assistants but I didn't exactly know what to expect from them or how I could best use them to my benefit.
In 2008 this all started to change. I was working as a flight attendant for Mesaba Airlines. I was shooting a bunch then but it was mostly music photography and pictures of friends. The more you start posting halfway decent images, the more you start to get asked to shoot weddings. The inquiries are usually from a friend who doesn't want to spend much money but they know you take better pictures than their bird-watching-great-uncle-with-a-giant-camera. I started to shoot weddings more and take them more seriously around this time. There was a flight attendant at Mesaba that I kept hearing about. Jess Nolan. Everyone would ask if I knew her because she, too, was a photographer. Well one day we finally met. I asked if she was the other photographer and she asked if I was Joe. We kept seeing each other around and would talk about photography when one of us mentioned shooting a wedding together. Well on June 29th, 2012, she shot her first wedding with me as my second shooter.
If it weren't for me meeting Jess and having her shoot with me, I might still not like weddings. Jess taught me the importance of having a good second shooter and how I could really benefit from it. It also helped that we get along great and work really well together. I am a huge people person. I love talking to people when I'm shooting to get them to loosen up and to get great reactions out of them. This helps create emotion. Jess is great with people, too, but one thing she is much better at than I am is details. She will notice any little detail that is out of place, like a crooked tie, or a lose strand of hair, and she will point it out. She initially taught me how to better pose formal group photos and how epic telling everyone to fake laugh can be. (Pro Tip: Get everyone to fake laugh and they will all start really laughing.) She has made shooting a 12 hour wedding day so much less stressful and has been great company.
I think Jess and I have shot 30 weddings together now. It's 30 or 31. Anytime she has a wedding booked and I don't, I second shoot with her. I always reach out to her first for my weddings and even sometimes when she says no, I beg her to come shoot. I have used other awesome second shooters. In fact, I am lucky to have so many good photographers in my group of friends. However, after 30 weddings together I know where she will be for a shot without asking. She knows where I am and what comes next. Even when she has had a wedding 9 weekends in a row or when she has a brace on her leg for an injured foot, she gives me 110%. She has really set the bar for what I look for in a second shooter. She's been a huge part of the success I have had as a wedding photographer and I can't thank her enough.
I have shot at least one photo of Jess at every single wedding we have photographed together. She hates it. She rarely gives me a serious look when I point the camera at her and it's great, haha. I'm going to post at least one shot from every wedding below. Here's to an awesome second shooter who has helped me immensely with my business and become an even greater friend. Can't wait for 30 more weddings and endless amounts of Kiddie Cocktails. Thanks, Jess!