Mentorships with (Wedding) Photographers


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Jul 30, 2013
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The reason for my topic is sort of straight forward. I've gotten involved with photography as a part of my journalism program and it sort of evolved from just photojournalism to an enjoyment with everything else that comes with photography. One thing I found myself thoroughly enjoying is wedding photography, as with my love of everything else wedding (took a wedding planning course two years ago and got 99% on it) but I've hit a snag. As many know, weddings can be one of the most difficult type of photography and given I don't want to risk ruining someone's memories of their big day, I haven't advertised myself as a wedding photog.

However, I've been e-mailing several wedding photographers in my area (an area of about 250,000 people) and while a few bites (3) have asked me to get in touch in the fall (when I return to school) many have never responded. One of my friends who is involved with portrait and landscape photography said it could be that since my area is heavy with competition because it is a smaller city, they're likely not going to want to train someone, let them second-shoot or even just mentor them without pay (the option I've been asking for) because they don't want someone eventually becoming competition nor stealing clients.

As such I'm wondering if people have any advice of how to get training on being a wedding photographer. I've noted on here some people suggest given amateur status you should do stuff for free which I'm not opposed too, however it's my understanding many professionals feel that those who do things like weddings for free are ruining the business because without pay the photog has no real commitment to the couple to deliver quality shots or even show up. (No offense to anyone on here who does go free, from what I've seen you are not these type of people but I've heard of many in my area). So like I said, is there any suggestions you'd have? I'm currently reading books on wedding photography like posing, what goes into it, the details for the normal day as a wedding photog, etc. I've gotten into going out and shooting but finding models in this city is also rather difficult because my friends apparently are camera shy.

So yes, as I said any help would be much appreciated and sorry if any of this is confusing.
Stop e-mailing and start pounding shoe leather!!! It's dead easy to ignore an e-mail, it's a lot less easy to ignore a well-dressed individual with a portfolio of good-quality images. Are you planning on remaining in the area when your schooling's complete? If not, let them know, that may well help ease their minds about the competition aspect of things.
It can be very difficult to find wedding photographers that are willing to take "interns" but not impossible. you just have to keep trying until you find a photographer that wants to deal with a mentoring type situation. its not easy, especially during something like a wedding where a lot is going on.
Welcome to the forum eh!

Keep looking and as mentioned, you might try more than just an E-mail. Try not to come off as pushy or desperate though.

Yes, part of the issue is that some photographers don't want to train their competition, but I think that shows a lack of confidence on their part. If they are worried about competition, they should improve their own skills & marketing, rather than holding others back.
Part of the issue is that some photographers get bombarded with requests like that. A friend of mine (an outstanding, long time professional photographer) says that he even gets e-mails from people overseas saying that they want to move here and shoot with him until they get established. :scratch:

My advice would be to check out PPOC (Professional Photographers of Canada). They may be able to set you up with someone who is willing to mentor you.

And of course, the key is networking. Get out there and meet other photographers. If you don't have a local branch of PPOC, look for other camera clubs or groups. The more people/photographers that you meet, the more likely you are to find a gig.

I got lucky. I was shooting a wedding and was thus unable to accompany my wife to her friend's wedding. As a single guest, she was seated at the same table with the photographer for that wedding. They got to talking and pretty soon I was second shooting with that photographer and her partner. A few years later they started a photography school and I was the first instructor they hired.
Turns out, I had met the photographer before, we sat next to each other during a photography night class, a few years earlier.

That brings up another option. Look into more photography classes and seminars. I've attended many, and while I sometimes know most of the material already, it's well worth the time to meet the instructors and other students.

And lastly, you're on the right track by joining a forum. I've met a few photographers from forums and there are many who I consider friends, who I've only 'met' on-line. You can likely find other photographers from your area, and that can be your connection for further networking.

So what part of Canada are you from?
Wedding photographers are all crazy people. Why do you want to be mentored by a crazy person?
Lol amolitor, I suppose I'm a bit crazy myself that's why :p Plus I just love weddings and what goes into them. I'm not even as much about just going to a wedding to watch, I like the behind the scenes (hence my taking the wedding planning course).

Mike, I see your point and I did consider calling photogs. I live in Southwestern Ontario, specifically Windsor. Didn't realize it wasn't in my profile. It's about 250,000 people but that's combining Windsor with surrounding towns like Amherstberg, Kingsville, etc

I was on another forum and two things a member had to say was 1. my e-mails were coming across and giving the photographer NOTHING about what they get out of mentoring me, only what I would get. (Perhaps the Gen Y entitlement aspect which I hate that my e-mails came off like that :( ). As for workshops and such, I'd love to take them however I'll admit I haven't got tons of money to afford that given I've still got second year of school plus a possible Master's degree. I suppose I could mention I plan on moving from Windsor after second year though how would one even say that in an e-mail or phone call? lol cause you don't want to bring up me as competition or anything like that cause then you'd just insult them. As for workshops by a photo type place, Henry's camera store is in Windsor and they host workshops but I'll admit it's possible I'm thinking I'm past beginner when I might not. That's all they offer at the moment, just like helping those who are buying cameras, those who have started but from the description I feel like I'd just be learning what I know (aperture, ISO, WB, etc).
your emails came across as not indicating what a photographer gets from mentoring you? Is it such a world now that noone does anything strictly for the satisfaction of helping someone with a common interest? Maybe all the teachers should stop teaching so their students don't learn too much and take their jobs.
It always amazes me the amount of bitching photographers do about newbies that turn "pro", yet do nothing to help when a "newbie" is clearly willing to put in the effort to learn.

Just in case you feel that there isnt a single person willing to help out a fellow photographer, I will direct you to a recent (and very successful) project of ours (me and the wife) and its aftermath.
I will concede however, that I can absolutely see how bringing an unknown person to a wedding shoot with the intentions of them learning from you can be difficult. We enjoyed the experience though.

this was my initial post looking for an interested photographer.

aaaaaand, this is how it went. (very well indeed)

for outside help, this forum is full of talented photographers, and most are more than willing to explain and show examples of how different techniques are done. as well as a large range of built in product testers eager to give reviews of things they have used.
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This was the type of e-mail I sent just so you can get an idea pixmedic:
My name is <my name> and I'm a journalist here in Windsor. As part of my program in journalism we learned photojournalism and through several different stories, I developed a real love of photography. From portrait and landscape photography and especially wedding photography, I've come to love all aspects of photography. I was also named Photojournalist of the Year by the program.

The reason I am contacting you is I want to learn more about photography composition and what goes into photo shoots. Wedding photography is something I've really taken an interest with after shooting a wedding show in January and while the show is obviously different, I really want to learn what it's like to shoot weddings and other photo shoots. I've done two shoots in the past couple months with friends and shot both the Run for Rocky and LifeWalk for Hospice events, but I still have a lot to learn.

I've seen the photographs you've taken from weddings, engagement shoots, etc and feel I could learn a lot if you would give me the opportunity to tag along on some weddings and other shoots. I realize you may have assistants already, so even if it's not the case of being able to second-shoot, being able to learn how you compose shots, etc. I would really appreciate the chance to learn.

I currently have a Canon Rebel T3 and four lenses, a wide-angle 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, a 75-300mm telephoto lens f/4-5.6, a portrait 40mm f/2.8 and a 50mm standard f/1.8 lens and a universal flash.

Let me know your thoughts and I hope to hear from you,

As for the second-shoot aspect of your message, very cool :) Looks like you guys had fun :)
I think the problem is that you're not really selling yourself too strongly and the letter is too generalist with reference to the person you're contacting. You can indeed send that email to anyone, but it just feels generic. The words to describe their skills are so general that they won't feel like you're personally contacting them and rather that you're just sending out 10001 of these to anyone with a photography website.

Yes there are many to send, but the market is niche and small enough that you really should be tailoring each email to the person your sending it to. If you can't be there in person then at least be personal with your communications. Also consider that a few A4 prints combined with a strong and personal cover letter could also do well - also note you didn't mention anything about a link to your photography in the email .
I don't really know why I missed my website. I realized after sending I missed adding my website but it was too late, sending a second e-mail would be just foolish cause if they haven't responded to the first, why would they respond to the second even if it does give my portfolio. I haven't exhausted all the photogs in this area, but given the lenses I have and such...I'm not even sure if I have the equipment to second shoot. As far as I know, none of the lenses I have are even prime lenses and except for my 50 and 40mms, the slowest aperture I have is my 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and the 75-300 f/4-5.6 is likely too soft to create good shots in low light...
I'd leave the equipment list off - chances are they have their own gear and if they want a second shooter a pro will have spares to ensure that they have a backup or that anyone who works for them has insured company equipment of a suitable standard to use.
Ok. Good to know. Makes sense too, given I've only just started out my equipment isn't insured at the moment.
Find a local camera club - they usually have access to great workshops which, if not free, are usually offered at substantially reduced rates over those offered to the general public. You're also MUCH more likely to find mentors there, and while it may not get you in the business, it will get you skills, and many of the old, retired pros who often join camera clubs know people who know people...
I agree about leaving your gear out of the E-mail. It's probably adequate for an assistant or second shooter, but it's not really pro wedding gear. Discussing gear is something that should be done, once you have established contact...hopefully at a face to face meeting.

I also noticed that you didn't link to a website or even a portfolio. That is certainly important. On that topic, I'd suggest that less is more. Don't send them to a gallery with 100+ photos. They will likely glance at a few of them and be done with it. Instead, have a portfolio of only your strongest images. I'd suggest 20 or less. Include images that show that you understand and can control things like tricky metering situations, DOF etc.
We tend to judge ourselves by our best work, but others may judge us by the collective work that they see (or by the worst that they see) by only showing the best of your best, someone would likely have a higher opinion of your (your photography).

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