As much as I love to brand myself as a one-woman show with the ability to juggle all things business and photography, I would be a fool to not give a special shout out to my second shooters that have been more than a helping hand on wedding days. My philosophy is always quality over quantity so if you are pushing the limits of your wedding budget and figuring out ways to cut down on your wedding day “extras”, this is a good blog post for you to read to see if you really do need that additional investment or if you can do without.
The first thing I want to put on the table is cost - hiring on a second shooter with me is a $500 investment. This photographer is not an assistant, they are not just getting b-roll, over the shoulder shots of what I’m photographing. When I bring a second shooter, they are a working professional with the same set of skills that I bring to the table. They are given creative control when not shooting next to me but have to familiarize themselves with my shooting style. Their job is very important because they are an extension of me on a wedding day. They allow me to get images (like the one below) that would be impossible to pull off without a second person.
I have a very carefully curated list of photographers I know and trust to second shoot for me that are familiar with the way I work and know and understand my business principles.
So let’s get to it! These are the main factors that have an influence on whether or not a second shooter is necessary on your wedding day:
Arguably the most important thing that can make or break a wedding day is a timeline. A well thought-out timeline will make your life and the life of your wedding vendors so much smoother. I recommend hiring a wedding planner or day-of coordinator to design a timeline for you that complements your priorities and allows for everyone, both guests and vendors, to have a wonderful and stress-free day.
Even if your timeline is professionally put together - you need to allow some space for error. Things out of your control will happen, people will run behind, someone will forget something, etc. If your timeline is jam-packed with activities and to-dos by the minute, you will want to have a second photographer. I simply cannot be everywhere at once.
Example A: If you have family photos scheduled from 3:30-4:00 and you have your entrance to the reception scheduled for 4:00, who will photograph the reception decor before guests enter and get settled/start moving things around?
Example B: Your couples portraits are scheduled during cocktail hour but you really want photos of your guests during cocktail hour. Who will take these photos?
The more locations involved in your wedding day, the trickier it is for one photographer to be present for everything.
Example A: You and your partner are getting ready at two separate locations, at least a 10-20 minute drive away. If you want getting ready photos of the both of you, I will either need a second photographer or a really relaxed timeline to allow me to drive back and forth.
If you are getting married in a large church, I recommend having a second shooter. Navigating large churches quickly and quietly is quite a feat for one person so being able to tag-team with someone is the best way to make sure everything is photographed in the most efficient and respectful way since running is frowned upon!
Another instance where a second shooter comes in handy is if your ceremony space is tight and does not allow for easy moving around the sides. If I’m in the front of your ceremony photographing you walking down the aisle, at some point I need to leave the front and go to the back - if there is no space for me to walk around, this is where having a second shooter comes in handy. A way around this is to coordinate with whoever is setting up your ceremony space and request there’s room on the sides for your photographer to walk around.
Every wedding is different - I’ve photographed weddings with no bridal party and I’ve photographed weddings with bridal parties of 30+ people. The bigger the bridal party and the bigger the importance of the bridal party, the more time it will take to photograph this. A second shooter cuts bridal party portrait time in half by taking care of one side while I take care of the other. Bridal party photos can be tedious because you generally photograph the entire party, each side, then each person individually with the couple. If you foresee your bridal party portraits being a cluster of people, you will want to have a second shooter.
If you just want a little more - that’s okay too! That’s what having a whole separate photographer is for. Our goal when shooting your wedding as a team is not to just get you filler images, but to be doing separate things. If I’m photographing your first dance, my second shooter is facing the other way photographing your guests’ reaction. That’s not to say I’m not capable of doing both, this just means you’ll get more. More of you dancing, more reactions, more candids, etc.
All of the images my second shooters make are still edited by me and added to your gallery mixed in with my images - the goal is a cohesive gallery that looks like it could’ve been shot by a single person!