What is a "second photographer" or "second shooter"?
A second shooter, or second photographer, is an additional photographer that attends your wedding and works alongside your primary wedding photographer. They photograph different angles, locations, and assist with logistics of wedding day photography.
Do You Need a Second Shooter At Your Wedding?
There are so many decisions to make when wedding planning, and wedding photography is one of the most important considerations.
A lot of couples ask me if I think they need a second shooter at their wedding. It's not a straightforward choice, and there is no right or wrong. Isn’t one wedding photographer enough? Won’t it be expensive to hire another photographer? Every blog and magazine article will take a different stance of whether you should have a second photographer for your wedding, some will say "you absolutely must have a second shooter" and others will say "it's not worth having a second photographer".
So, here are a few considerations if you're considering asking for a second photographer to shoot your wedding, to help you decide whether it's the right decision for you.
Top reasons to have a second photographer on your wedding day
Two photographers provide coverage from different angles.
Your wedding photographer cannot be in two places at once. There are a number of situations during your wedding day where having photographs from two different angles may be beneficial. Two heads are usually better than one.
As the bride walks down the aisle, one photographer can focus on them, whilst the second shooter focuses on the groom and other guest reactions. During the ceremony, your main wedding photographer can focus on the bride & groom and get all the essential shots, where the second shooter can find more creative angles, and capture the reactions of your family and guests. The same applies to speeches and other elements of your wedding day, like cocktail hour when your main photographer is taking portraits with you and your other half.
Candid shots of your guests
The more guests you have, the less likely it is that I am going to be able to get round to take photos and candid's of all your wedding guests. If you really want to maximise the number of candid photographs you of your guests, and their reaction to your wedding while I'm focusing my attention mostly on you, get then a second shooter is a good shout and is definitely recommended for weddings with over 100-day guests.
Coverage of prep of both the Bride & Groom
Sometimes, if you are both getting ready at the same venue, a single photographer can flit between both locations. But if you both want comprehensive coverage of your prep, or you're getting ready in different locations you might want to take the option of a second photographer to make sure important moments and details are not missed.
It can be really great to look back and see what you were each getting up to in the lead-up to your ceremony. Couples have often said to me that being able to see the little moments they miss in the rush of their wedding day is a precious experience.
For same-sex weddings, I definitely recommend a second shooter if prep shots are really important to you.
Working with lighting (and carrying gear)
If you're having a winter wedding, or want night-time shots that require lighting, an additional photographer comes into their own to assist with the lighting. It's not impossible for your primary photographer to set up lights on their own, but the extra pair of hands helps - and gives more room for artistic creativity.
A backup photographer for your wedding
In life, things don't always go to plan. Albeit very rarely, things can go wrong. Having a second photographer gives you that peace of mind that should anything happen to your primary photographer you aren't going to be left without images. The second photographer will be able to step in a takeover if needs be.
That being said, I always make sure I have minimised all risk of accidents and always carry backup equipment so that if technology fails me your memories will still be captured.
Reasons Not To Have a Second Shooter for you Wedding
Your Wedding Budget
Often, in life, things can come down to money. I'd love to have a Rolls Royce, but alas. That being said, wedding photography is one of the best investments you will ever make. Some couples will feel it a better choice to spend their budget on their dream photographer, rather than settling for one that offers a second photographer within their price range.
You're having a small wedding or micro-wedding
If you're having a small wedding, elopement, or micro-wedding with 50 or less guests, you might not feel the need to book a second shooter. That being said, no matter how small or large the wedding, you'll get more angles and a greater variety of shots with two photographers.
Who Will Be Our Second Photographer If We Book One?
That will depend on your chosen wedding photographer. Some wedding photographers always work as a pair. Some photographers have second shooters in their packages as standard but it is not always the same photographer they work with. And some, like myself, have the option as an additional extra that you can add on to your wedding photography package.
Due to the way the industry works, weddings generally being booked two, sometimes three, years in advance it will be impossible to say at the time of booking who your second shooter will be if you book with me. I don't work with a regular second photographer. I have a good network of photographer friends, and when we are not shooting our own weddings we shoot as second photographers at other weddings.
This means that you'll always get a great second photographer. I always use photographers who I trust, and who are highly skilled because they photograph weddings as primary shooters themselves. Because of that, those photographers in my network will want to try to book their own wedding in the first instance, so these arrangements are usually sorted out much closer to the wedding than the booking.
So, you might not know exactly who that is at the time of booking. But, rest assured it will always be someone I trust and who compliments my style as a wedding photographer.
But Do I Really Need A Second Photographer?
Well, no, it's not strictly necessary. Although you'll find value in booking one (the two images below were taken when I was a second shooter for another photographer).
I will suggest a second shooter where I feel the guest numbers or situation warrants. But at the end of the day, it's a personal choice, and most of my couples choose to hire me as a solo photographer.
If it were me, I'd rather spend my budget on a wedding photographer whose work I really love. Then again, if you have the budget and some of the elements I listed above are super important for it, go for it - if you're already thinking about it, would you regret not having a second photographer? Investing in wedding photography is one of the most important things you can do after all.
If you have any questions, I'd love to talk about your day! I'm always happy to answer questions to help you get the right wedding photography coverage for you.
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