The Art of Being Second

January 29, 2014

In the past six months I have had the opportunity to second shoot weddings with two remarkable photographers.  Both days I was excited, nervous, doubtful, a little lost (both figuratively and literally, turns out there are two Hyatt hotels within a block of each other in Seattle) and totally in it to win it.   I was pumped to learn, to be inspired and to undoubtedly come away a better photographer.

But when I arrived at my destinations one overwhelming emotion crept in, jealousy.

I realized I hadn't been a second shooter since the very beginnings of my photography career and that was always with my husband as the primary.  When we realized soon into us shooting together that I was better with poses, timing and the herding of the proverbial cats and Noah was better (truthfully remarkable) at the candid shots when people weren't looking, we switched roles and for the first time n my life, I was first.  I say that with a little sarcasm but a little sadness as well.  As outgoing and talkative and smart-alecky as I was, I was rarely in first place and the title felt good.

I could get couples laughing and talking and being themselves with a flick of my pun-laden lips.  I told jokes, self-deprecated just enough and still commanded a room.  I had found my element and I sincerely love my job.

But being second meant my jokes weren't front and center, my ingenious system for family photos wasn't employed and my uncanny skill to remember people's names was irrelevant.  There were moments where the light was perfect and I wanted to scream "look here!" but that was not my place, I was second, and I was jealous.  I watched Erica Rose, who is amazing, shoot the majority of a wedding with one lens and get out-of-this-world perfect photos.  I watched Danielle Barnum take the skills she has learned on stage and apply it to perfect portraiture.  Yeah, I was jealous.

Then, like I should've in the first place, I listened to my very wise husband.  He has always been a great second and could totally rub it in my face that he taught me what I know and I should give him more credit, but he doesn't.  He has simply been there to capture what I couldn't and after I would calm down, I would renew my mission.

Taking second fiddle is an art form, one I sorely need more practice in.  It is a great skill to stand away from the action and still capture love, glances, smiles, laughter, hand-holding, goofiness, tears and joy.  I am so grateful to Erica Rose and Danielle Barnum for bringing me along on those days.  Shooting with each of them was delightful because we have been friends a long time and despite the fact that they are truly better than I am, they trusted me, taught me and they are still my friends.

I hope this summer brings me more opportunities to come in second place, to build up another photographer, to stow most of my jokes (not all of them, you will hear jokes) and to soak up the light, no matter where I get to stand.

Here are a few of the images from those weddings, congratulations to Ben & Elise and Anne & Jeff, thank you for letting me be part of your day.

Anne & Jeff - January 1, 2014, Downtown Seattle, Primary Photographer - Danielle Barnum

Ben & Elise - August 23, 2013 - Mercer Island.  Primary Photographer - Erica Rose

I love this picture, it's like the evolution of man, but with Tebowing.

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  1. Your photos are beautiful, Ali! Thats why I trusted you..and would trust you again any time if you want more practice perfecting the Art of Second?! Haha...but really, I would love the chance to second with you sometime because its such a valuable skill to develop.
    Thanks for the sweet words, friend.


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