I can’t talk for other wedding photographers but I too flat out say “no” to anyone wanting to second shoot or assist. First of all, anyone shooting at my wedding reflects on my business. As soon as you point a camera, you are working for me and represent me. “Learning” second shooters always say, “I’ll stay far back and not get in the way” but eagerness for the next shot invariably leads to them getting more and more intrusive and possibly interacting with the couple and guests. At the least, you may take their attention from me and that’s a huge no-no. And then, you’ll have to realize (at least in the country where I live), that any shot you take is mine. You may not use them for a portfolio unless I give the ok. And that’s what a lot of photographers won’t like. It’s bad enough setting up a beautiful shot and having mom or aunt Sue shoot over your shoulder and proclaim they “got the shot” (not that it happens to me as I don’t allow family and friends to shadow me), but many photographers don’t like working hard during the day and before it (actually working hard to sign the couple up) and seeing the day on someone else’s site as “your” wedding.
Then there is the “I’ll carry your stuff”. Well, there is more to it than just lugging gear. You’ll have to set up the gear and set it up where I need it. Do you know that? Of course not because you’re new to the job. It’s not a criticism, just the way it is. So it’s of little help to carry some umbrellas and assorted gear. Anyway, I have (usually) little time to do my job. Or at least, many times less time than I’d like but I get it done because I have reliable staff that knows their job and I don’t have to second guess what they are doing. It just gets done. I’ve done formals in as little as 15 minutes and you’d think I had 2 hours. It’s because we know what we are doing. Having someone who has never seen the “behind the scenes” is quite frankly a hindrance. I have a lot of work to do, I have to make it enjoyable for the couple and their friends (make 20 minutes seem like it was 2 hours) and guests, and I don’t need the extra distraction of wondering what the trainee is doing/not doing.
Now, that all sounded harsh I’m sure and it’s not meant to be cruel but I think brutal honesty is needed. I too get many who want to shoot or lug gear. I don’t have time for those who don’t know what they’re doing. A wedding day is not the time to train someone. I actually have a job to do (the old cliche of not being able to go back and do it again is true) and there are already many distractions I have to ignore and I don’t need another. So I would recommend (if you haven’t already) is not to offer to shoot or lug gear. Your best bet is to ask to shadow the second or assistant(s). Do not bring a camera. Do not carry/move/hold and equipment. Do not interact with anyone. Remember, you’ll be part of the photographer’s crew and you actions reflect on him/her. A comment that may seem harmless to you can deeply offend people, reflecting on the photographer and his/her business. Your best bet is to stay behind the second or assistant and do nothing but observe and smile. Oh, and then you have to hope you get a decent photographer to allow this. Ideally of course, you’d like to follow someone who really knows what he/she is doing on the day.
Now that all said, you may find you can’t even get an invitation to shadow. “I understand that they don’t want to be training up someone who may eventually become their competition but surely everyone has to start somewhere no?”…is not the problem for all the reasons I stated above, at least from my perspective. Whether I “train” someone or they learn elsewhere, they will become my competition. You can’t stop it. But back to you. Do a fake wedding. Do you have any friends? Ask them to be the bride and groom and spend some time with them. Get feedback on how your are directing them. And timing. Don’t lose track of the time. You don’t want to get someone to their reception late.
Then the next step would be a real wedding. Now, I hate to see any couple on their day get sub-par photos. The stark reality though is that there are couples out there is a budget so low that a photographer is out of the question. That is your opportunity to do the job for them. Be completely upfront and let them know your experience level (zero). But do what you can and that’s to be as technically proficient with your gear that you can be. Hone your “people skills”. Know how to read people and make them comfortable. And don’t lose track of time. With luck, and tons of hard work, you will improve and gain confidence. And use each and every moment of the day as a learning experience and take that into the next wedding and make every shot and moment better than the last. Good luck.