Should you have a second photographer at your wedding? I get asked this question A LOT on client calls. Naturally, people want to weigh the benefits versus the costs of two photographs at their wedding. Today, I’m going to walk you through the pros and cons of having a shooter at your wedding. That way you can make an informed decision. As an added bonus, at the end of this post I’ve answered other frequently asked questions surrounding the topic of second shooting. This includes how many hours a second shooter should work for, and how I personally choose my second shooters.
PS: All of these photos were taken at Manning Park during really smokey forest fire conditions!
Perhaps the most obvious reason to have a second shooter is if there are multiple getting ready locations. Typically, the main photographer will get ready with the girls and the second shooter will photograph the guys. This allows both photographers to capture the full story of the morning. This includes:
If your budget is tight you can adjust your itinerary so that you only require one photographer for getting ready photos. For instance, some couples will get ready at nearby locations (ie. separate hotel rooms). However, this doesn’t always work seamlessly. When hair and make-up fall behind I have found myself running back and forth between hotels rooms so that I don’t miss key moments. Often, if there is a delay in the schedule it results one partner receiving fewer getting ready photos.
One photographer simply can’t be everywhere at once. Often a photographer will finish getting ready photos and then head to the ceremony site. There will always be guests who arrive at your wedding super early. In a perfect world your photographer would have time to photograph the reception and altar details BEFORE the guests arrive. That way you have beautiful photos of your ceremony and reception settings without phones, purses, jackets and guests interrupting the shot. Typically a second shooter will be assigned to arrive at the venue with ample time to photograph details before any guests arrive.
This is especially true during the ceremony and first look! Imagine one photographer simultaneously trying to capture the bride walking down the aisle, the groom’s reaction and the guests expressions! Yes, it’s doable, but it’s much easier when you have a second set of eyes. When I work with second shooters I always assign them specific focal points throughout the day. For example, while I’m photographing the bride walking down the aisle, the second shooter will be locked in on the groom’s expression. When I’m capturing the bride and groom laugh at the altar, the second shooter is capturing the guests’ reactions! Essentially you get photographs from multiple perspectives at once. I’ll also get my second shooter to use a different lens focal length. That way if I’m shooting tighter, my second shooter can take wider shots.
While the main photographer is doing family photographs the second shooter can capture guests visiting.
If you’re tight on time, a second shooter can also capture the cocktail hour while the main photographer finishes photos with the bride and groom. If you’d like more candid photos of your friends and family, a second shooter will be a great fit for your wedding.
This December I took on the position of a second shooter for another photographer. I was reminded of how much creative energy a second shooter has. There is often a lot of structure to a wedding day. The main photographer has a running list of main events that he/she must capture. Meanwhile the second shooter is there to assist and has more freedom to capture unique moments throughout the day.
A second shooter can help organize family members for photographs. A second shooter simply provides a second set of eyes and hands. They can help position groups, fix hair, remind guests to remove sunglasses, adjust the bride’s dress, and make sure the kiddos are looking at the camera.
If you’re having a big wedding highly consider having a second shooter. An extra person can simply help cover more ground. More people often leads to a lot more photo opportunities.
As a head photographer it’s so nice to have an assistant throughout a wedding day. If the bride forgets her bouquet in her dressing room, a second shooter can run and grab it. I particularly love having a second shooter when a couple has scheduled a first look . That way I can set up the bride and the second shooter can direct the groom. Overall, having a second shooter allows me, the main photographer to be more creative. I will often get my second shooter to assist me directly with photos, such as holding the end of a bride’s veil while I take couple portraits. It’s also much easier for me to eat and step away for a bathroom break when needed, which keeps my energy up.
Do you have a tight timeline for your wedding? If the answer is yes, absolutely consider having a second shooter. Second photographers can make a busy schedule feel WAY more relaxed. For instance, if you’re running short on time a second shooter can photograph the groomsmen while the main shooter photographs the bridesmaids.
I almost always recommend having second shooters at winter weddings. The sun sets quite early and it is challenging to do couple portraits, wedding party photos and family photos before the light disappears. This especially holds true if you are not having a first look before your ceremony.
I do everything I can as a photographer to protect your images by shooting on multiple cameras and memory cards. A second shooter can quite literally provide a back-up version of your wedding photos. Despite my best efforts, if for some reason a specific photo does not turn out, chances are the second shooter will have a similar photograph. Thankfully I have never lost a couples wedding photos before and I never intend to do so! I’m kind of a crazy person when it comes to backing up wedding photos!
Yes, adding a second photographer means paying more for wedding photography. I personally charge $100/hr for my clients to add a second shooter to their wedding. Part of that cost goes directly to the second photographer and part covers the additional time I spend sorting and editing.
Yes, you have to feed your second shooter. Remember to account for one more meal and table setting. It is very much appreciated when you sit your second shooter and main photographer together.
It’s very typical to meet your second shooter for the first time on your wedding day. If you’re nervous about photography you might find this stressful. I personally tell my clients who their second shooter will before their wedding. However, not all photographers do.
More photos means more editing. It may take slightly longer to receive your gallery. However, your photographer typically lists their turnaround times in your wedding photography contract. This time range holds true whether or not there is a second shooter at your wedding.
Some lead photographers hire new photographers as second shooters. That way it reduces the cost of having a second shooter for the clients. A new photographer is more prone to making mistakes when operating their camera. I personally only hire experienced second shooters. More on that topic in FAQ #1.
Some people argue that second shooters are often new photographers. Let’s just be clear, not around here! It’s actually a ton of work to hire a new photographer. I choose to pay my second photographers more money in order to hire experienced professionals. In a busy wedding season the last thing I want to do is cull through a camera card of blurry photos. Yes, we all need to learn, but if my clients are paying for second shooters I promise to make it count!!! Please note I have a HUGE passion for photography education, however I always get permission from my clients to bring a student to their session.
Generally I set a 6 hour minimum for adding a second shooter to your wedding day. I do this to be respectful of a second photographer’s time, especially when travel (ferry, bus, plane) is involved. A second shooter can only take on one wedding in a day. Some second shooters will hesitate to take on half-days rather than full days during peak wedding (THE SUMMER). We will have fewer options for a second shooter if you choose to only hire the person for a half day.
I have a line-up of AMAZING photographers that I ask. They are all experienced photographers and shoot on pro-level equipment. However, I do not tell potential clients their names in advance. In the past I have had people try and hire my second shooters as their main photographer for a reduced cost. To protect my business we choose a second shooter after you book. I always make sure that my clients are happy with the second shooter working at their wedding.
Some people picture having two photographers as almost paparazzi-like. The goal of having two photographers is not to have duplicates of photographs, but to capture more of the wedding day. Now that you know the pros and cons of having a second shooter, the question remains, “Should you have one at your wedding”? Ultimately, the decision is yours. I’ve never had a couple regret investing in a second shooter. If anything a second shooter helps to take more pressure off the main photographer, which in turn takes pressure off the couple. However, not every wedding needs a second shooter. If your budget is tight, don’t overextend yourself. I can work with or without one!
Now that you’re an expert on the topic of second shooting, you may be interested in some of my other client resources:
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