This past weekend, I had my first experience “second-shooting” (as they say in the photography world) an entire wedding with my wife.

I felt I had a pretty good idea of what to expect as I had heard the stories of every single experience my bride had gone through each time she shot a wedding and went into it with a good amount of confidence things would go smoothly.

According to her, things went well. Although, we were dead tired by the end and were secretly hoping our 3-year-old daughter would put us to bed for a change.

Of course, being this was my first real time and having all of these feelings freshly floating around the semi-creative zones of my brain, I had little option but to share my revelations with the world.

So, here are a few things I learned from shooting my very first wedding.

#1 – Thigh Muscles are Necessary

No semi-decent photographer wants to take the same, straight-on shots of anything. So, bending, stretching and otherwise placing yourself in compromising positions is a must. I have literally never squatted so much in my life. And it wasn’t just for the shot either. At times, I was trying to discretely (not much of an option at my size) stay low and move into positions without distracting anyone during the ceremony. This required ninja-like bends and agility well beyond what my body was prepared to do. It was ridiculous. On a more positive note, I sent a copy of the wedding video into a local dojo and I was immediately awarded a black belt based on my flexibility alone.

#2 – Kids are Difficult

Sure, we all know attempting to coerce a stubborn little bundle of moodiness into a semi-genuine smile for a photo is hard, but I am referring to more of the “handling of the child in a professional manner while he is throwing punches at your crotch or rear end with toy Hulk gloves as you are taking pictures” scenario. Thankfully, I have been fully trained in the art of giving the Look of Death and found it to be fairly affective. The key is to give it while no one is watching and really bulge out the right eyeball while squinting with the left and tilting the head down to give the child a good view of the crazy.

#3 – Everyone is a Photographer

Yep, they have a cell phone with a camera so their shots are now of equal priority as those of the actual, professional photographer who is loaded up with equipment worth more than most cars. And let me tell you, there is nothing a bride wants more in the shot of her coming down the aisle than five outstretched arms holding cell phones and getting their own blurry photos to post on social media during the ceremony. Sarcasm aside, I might need to learn how to get away with a light hip check on some of these amateur moment catchers because saying “excuse me” and stepping in front of them doesn’t seem to get the point across.

#4 – Background Matters

I never really thought the documentary I watched on cattle herding would actually be of use at some point in my life, but then I shot a wedding. Not only do you need to get all of the wedding party, the immediate and extended portions of the bride and groom’s families and every other conceivable variation in place to get the post-ceremony pictures taken quickly, but you also have to control the rest of the crowd. Stragglers aren’t aware of what you are trying to do so you have to use your loudest whistle, bell or shout to try and direct them out of the shot. You know who could make good money off of wedding photographers? Dog trainers. A human-herding border collie would be worth every penny.

#5 – Reception Deception

Before this weekend, I figured there would be some great moments to be captured during the reception. Think about it, guests are dancing (many of which the bride and groom don’t have much time to speak with), relatives are catching up with each other and alcohol is flowing freely which means someone is going to be making the evening interesting. I was wrong. The images most couples could care less about come from the longest time of the night. Sure, it’s nice to get a shot of a cute kid doing the Funky Chicken or great-great-great-great grandma laughing hard over a plate of half-gummed ribs and a variety of other soft foods, but the reality is there are few good shots in these settings. (Next time, I plan to just watch the open bar and see who goes up most frequently, and then just follow that person around the whole evening. Something good has got to happen with that guy/gal.)

Overall, it was a beautiful wedding and a great experience. Lots of lessons learned from this first one and I am looking forward to these times where my wife and I actually get paid to hang out together and exercise some artistic muscles in the process.

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