Do I Need A Second Photographer?

posted on: November 21, 2010

I have the ability to work solo or as a team, which means I'm often asked if couples need two photographers on their wedding day. I don't believe in one-size-fits-all solutions, so here are a couple things to consider when it comes to one or two photographers:

1. How big will your wedding be?
Are you going to have over 200 guests, or less than 70 guests? While I've covered a 500 person wedding on my own with no problems and great images, sometimes the sheer size of a room with many guests in it is better covered with two or more people. However, if what you want is an intimate wedding with a relaxed feeling, two photographers may be overkill and might make your guests feel as if they're always being watched. The images below are from an intimate wedding of only about 30 guests. You see three completely different perspectives from one person, and I didn't feel limited by trying to avoid another photographer being captured in my shots:

2. Will there be important moments happening in different places at the same time?
Obviously one person can only be in one place at a time, so if your wedding events involve important moments that you'd like documented simultaneous in different locations, you'll obviously need a second photographer. The next question would be, is it necessary for the second photographer to be just as skilled as the primary photographer? Some photographers bring along an "assistant" to every wedding, but that doesn't mean the "assistant" is a capable photographer- they may be more of a bag wrangler who might grab a photo if needed. Determine the importance of that second photographer and their ability to capture events when the main photographer is not around.

3. Does your location have restrictions on where photographers can be and how they can move?
Many couples may not realize the policies and implications that their venue places on photographers or videographers. Some churches won't let photographers into the sanctuary at all during the ceremony, which would completely kill the need for a second photographer. Some will allow photographers to be stationed in different parts of the church as long as they don't move around, which might mean that a second photographer can get a different angle without movement. A photographer's favorite place to shoot is obviously one in which they aren't restricted. Know what restrictions your venue has so that you can speak with your photographer about how they feel they can best cover the events.

4. How does your favorite photographer prefer to work?
As someone who shoots both solo or as a team, I can see the benefits and drawbacks to both situations. What it really comes down to in the end, is selecting a photographer for their images. Images that make you fall in love when you look at them. If you start your decision with the work, than you can allow the photographer to decide what they need in order to capture those images. Ultimately, no matter how many photographers there are, there's only one editor deciding which images are worth keeping. Some people create their best work in a team and feel completely off without a second photographer in the same room, while others create their best work when they are the lone gun, getting all of the shots they want on their own without worrying about where a second photographer is or what they're capturing. There's really only one best angle or shot at any given point in time, so even if two people are shooting the same moment, it's highly likely that only one of those images is going to be worth keeping. Whatever your wedding requires, trust that your photographer will make the best recommendation that what will allow them to get the best images for your particular event.

Myth: A second photographer means better images
Quantity does not equal quality. Hiring two inexperienced photographers over one experienced photographer isn't a better "deal" if you're ultimately disappointed with the quality of the images that were produced. The best "deal" is to hire the best quality you can afford, no matter how many people it takes to achieve that quality.

Q2 '07 WPJA

Myth: More photographers means more images
There are times when I've worked alone and captured more images than I did when I had a second photographer. Each photographer has a different style of capture and editing images down to the final selection. Ask your photographer approximately how many images you can expect from your wedding, and ask to see an entire proof gallery featuring the images of the photographer that you're going to be working with. Take notice of how many posed vs. candid vs. detail images they capture and decide if that's the same balance you'd like from your wedding day.

Myth: Males & females see things differently
Any two people will have different perspectives no matter what their chromosome structure is. Bigger factors in the way that people perceive the world may be how tall or short they are, if they are near sighted or far sighted, what lenses they prefer to use, if they like details or people more, if they prefer to be in control or go with the flow, or if they get more excited over candid or posed images.

Myth: Guests and family members with cameras will provide acceptable additional coverage
First off, if you're getting an album from a photographer, a guest's images are not going to be included in that album. Secondly, I've seen the photos your guests and family members take and I'm in no fear of losing my job to them even if they do have a "fancy camera". They aren't very good at anticipating moments, they don't know how or where they can get the best angle, they really don't understand lighting at all, they generally limit themselves to taking pictures of only people they already know, and they don't have back ups of things like batteries and memory cards in case their camera dies or they run out of memory. Oh, and you may never actually see the images they took if they forget to upload and share them.

Myth: Two photographers is more expensive
Everyone has different expenses in their personal and work life, so you can't automatically assume that two photographers will be more expensive than one. Sometimes intern photographers join me as a second shooter for free just to get experience and build their portfolio, but I also don't guarantee the quality of their work or rely on them for important moments. If all you want is an extra photographer as a back-up plan, ask the photographer if they can provide that for you rather than hiring or inviting someone else who is going to try and compete for the same important moments.

Emotional Toast

Hopefully my responses do not elicit a definitive yes or no answer, but rather points to consider. First and foremost- look for a portfolio that has imagery you can fall in love with- then talk about the rest with the photographer who created that portfolio and make sure they're a great personality fit as well. Most client relationships with wedding photographers last 1-2 years- so you really want to make sure you enjoy working together!

Recently I heard a very disturbing story about a local photographer who tells couples they'll have two photographers for their wedding day, only to send one "second" photographer to the wedding to tell the couple at the last minute that the "first" photographer was too sick to make it. In reality, this "first" photographer is booking multiple weddings on the same day, hiring a bunch of "second" photographers to tell couples the same story, while he may not even be photographing a wedding at all that day! It's people like this that make me sick to my stomach. The couples end up just being glad that the second photographer is still there, even though they've paid for two photographers and the person they met with isn't the person shooting their wedding. Please make sure you do your research before hiring a photographer. Check for online reviews and ask for references from three recent couples before hiring someone to document your once-in-a-lifetime event. Make sure that the quality of the images on their website represent the quality that you'll receive. Since a wedding day is something you can't do over, you want to make sure you're getting the best you can afford so that you'll have no regrets later.

4 comments, to add [click here]:

  1. Very informative post! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great Post! Thanks for woriting this, it confirms many of my thoughts as well!

  3. Having multiple photogs shooting the same wedding only creates loads of problems. In Nigeria where i shoot, its not uncommon to have as many as 6 photographers covering the same event. As you would expect it gets very unruly very fast. Keep it simple get an experienced photographer and ensure he brings along an assistant. Nice post @xsightn


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