When your second photographer earns her Master’s Degree you have a session, tell her story and sing her praises:
Elyse was born and raised in Millersburg, PA. Her love for photography began in high school sneaking her dad’s DSLR camera when digital photography was just starting to be a thing. After high school, she entered college as a photography major and LOVED it. Unfortunately, the cost of supplies and equipment forced her to switch majors and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Kutztown University in 2012. She never lost her love of photography and constantly took pictures of family and friends.
After some years in the workforce, Elyse began graduate school at Millersville University in 2017 two months before her own wedding to her now husband, Ben. Planning her own wedding sparked her love of weddings and wedding planning. Her attention to detail in her own wedding blows my mind when she tells me stories. That, combined with her love of photography lead her to seek out more classes in photography and wedding photography specifically on the side. Hungry for even more she decided to reach out to some of her favorite local photographers. This is where our joined story begins:
June 1, 2018 I received an Instagram direct message: “Hi there! I was wondering if you offer mentoring/shadowing for fellow photographers? I am in the early stages of starting my photography business….”
I get these messages at least weekly so sometimes it takes me a while to respond but I always do.
June 8, 2018 I responded, “Hi sweetie! Thanks so much! Are you available to assist me for a wedding on Saturday, June 23rd?” It was back when having a second photographer was an add-on to my wedding collection and this couple didn’t opt for one. After shooting several weddings without a second photographer in 2017, I realized it would be nice to have an extra set of hands around to help even if they weren’t shooting (or knew anything about photography for that matter). Up until this point, I had never offered a date for someone to assist me on a wedding day without meeting them first. The thing is, even though so many people contact me asking to shadow/second for me, it has always been RARE for them to actually follow through with meeting me and making time in their busy lives to show up for a session or a wedding to carry my bags and get me water. Like, so rare that this was the first time someone actually showed up!
Elyse pulled into the parking space beside me at the church in York and I gave her a huge Megan hug. I don’t think there was ever an awkward moment between us. We just clicked right away. She was amazing. She would hand me my bag as the thought popped into my head that I needed it. I rarely needed to ask her for anything. She just seemed to know exactly what I needed when I needed it and was an open ear for me to talk at when I needed to work out a lighting situation out loud. She kept a smile on her face and kept me laughing all day. Even though she was free to leave at any time, she stayed for the entire wedding and reception eating her snacks, keeping the timeline in one hand and my step ladder in the other. She never once pestered me to take photos for her portfolio or what my settings were on my camera and as thanks, I thought out loud during any in between moment I could so that she could learn. It wasn’t much. Wedding days aren’t for teaching. I’m sure there is a lot to learn from observation but it is not a time that I am going to be able to explain exactly what I am doing and why I am doing it all day.
Elyse came along to six weddings last year without the promise of pay. The second wedding she assisted me with, it poured ALL DAY LONG and she didn’t complain once holding an umbrella over me and stayed for the entire day even though she was soaked through and had no obligation to stay whatsoever. When she says she LOVES weddings, SHE LOVES WEDDINGS, like, SO MUCH. The dedication and solid work ethic she showed me last year lead me to offer her the opportunity to sign up to second for me for this year’s weddings. I was expecting her to choose maybe 5-10 or so but she blew me away signing up for all but the 2 she couldn’t make it to (because every year she volunteers at a camp for children who have lost a parent). PLUS, she also started coming along to as many engagement sessions as she can after I told her I would be more able to teach during an engagement session than a wedding. Because of her dedication I have also set aside weekly time to teach her one-on-one in addition to coming to sessions. Now, I can safely say that when I review the photos after a session, I honestly cannot tell the difference between her photos and mine and it’s freaking awesome. THAT my friends is the perfect second photographer.
I think there is a misconception that the second photographer position is a great place for someone who is learning. This is simply not true. At the end of the day, if you have learned more than you have contributed, you are probably more suited to an assistant position. The lead photographer needs a second photographer who they can trust to take solid photos throughout the day without supervision. The second photographer needs to be confident enough to shoot the entire wedding by his/herself if something were to happen to the lead. That means choosing the best light, posing, keeping to the timeline….everything. If you can’t do that confidently (yet), you are probably more suited to an assistant position (and that’s OKAY). As my friend Lindsey Ford put it, hiring a second photographer is like buying an insurance policy for the day for the lead photographer.
Now, you may say that’s all well and good for ELYSE. She must the exception. She must have so much time on her hands to be able to do all that unpaid last year. NOPE! The entire year she has been working full time AND earning her master’s degree in social work all while being married with 4 fur babies and planning to build a new house. Success is not for the chosen few people, it’s for those who choose it.
You will make time for what is important to you. And, if you want it. You will find a way no matter what your situation. Elyse was willing to talk about what she needed to work on and what she didn’t know back then. She is willing to learn before expecting to have a successful business. She understands the sacrifices building your own business comes with. My family of SIX lived off ONE income for THREE YEARS while building my business…that’s a tight budget my friends. Elyse is smart enough to have a solid foundation and full-time job to support her passion until she gets to the place she wants to be in her business. It takes time. They say it takes 10,000 hours of experience to become an expert in any given field. That is a lot of clicks of the shutter. Because no one is born knowing how to work a DLSR camera and photography is largely technical with a side of creativity, it must be learned. Having an “eye” for photography is about 5% of it. In my opinion, you either know how your camera and different lenses work, or you don’t. If you don’t yet, you can learn. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. There was a time I didn’t know either! You simply start where you are and take the next logical step. One day you will look back and realize that all of those little steps added up to success. Success is like a mountain. It looks so majestic and awesome from a distance but when you get closer to it, you realize it’s actually just a pile of regular rocks and sand.
Grit. It takes grit and I have to give it to my girl Elyse. She’s got it. She’s about to graduate in May with her Master’s Degree in Social Work. She will sit for her licensing exam in June in hopes of obtaining her licensure in social work in PA so that she may continue to work in the mental health field in some capacity while continuing to take those steps towards building her mountain. With her beautiful heart and awe-worthy work ethic, she is going to not only build her mountain, she’s going to move them too and I’m going to be so proud to say that I know her.
Elyse, I hope you know how much I appreciate you and your time and your dedication to me. I know I say it all the time but I love you girl and I’m so grateful to have met you. You invoke motivation in me and remind me constantly of my own goals and that you don’t have to fit the mold to be accepted. At the end of the day, “have courage and be kind” (and watch FRIENDS). I can’t wait for everyone to meet you this year and hear your laugh! I hope you love this sample of my favorites from your session. And, because I know how hard it is to wait, there are some surprises in your inbox RIGHT NOW so go check! Congratulations on your graduation. XO – Megan
Hair and Makeup: MKUP The Beauty Studio