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Second Shooters: The Truth Behind Hiring a Second Photographer

Over the years, I’ve had countless clients ask me what the benefits of second shooters are; should they hire a second shooter? Will two photographers be a wise investments?  Is it actually needed or just a trend?  We discuss the topic, answer their questions and they then choose what it best for them.  But what about all the brides and grooms who don’t get a chance to have that conversation with me?  Well, thanks to the trusty blog, I decided I would openly discuss the truth behind hiring a second shooter and touch on both the pros and cons of having two photographers.  I’ve written many other articles about having a second photographer at your wedding and I will make reference to them throughout this post.  Second photographers is a very broad topic and can’t be covered in simply one post – but hopefully you’ll find the information contained herein to set you forth on the right path for your wedding day vision.

Before diving too deep into this post, I wanted to make sure my readers understood what a good second shooter is worth.  Like any product of service – you get what you pay for.  Take a minute to read about the cost of hiring a second photographer to help you understand the significance of some of the points I’m making below.  I want to stress that the points I’m making below are only valid if the second shooter you hire is a genuinely talented, motivated and professional photographer (not a student who is learning or someone who has never/rarely shot weddings before).

Two Different Locations

In the event that one photographer cannot reasonably cover both the bride and the groom getting ready in the morning, a second photographer may be necessary.  If; however, the bride and groom can be reasonably flexible with their schedule and make it possible for 1 photographer to do the job, then they can save on the cost of hiring a second shooter.  Brides… don’t forget to ask the groom if he really wants a photographer present in the morning, though!  I can’t count the amount of times I’ve shown up at a groom’s house in the morning and he rolls his eyes at the idea of being captured on film.  Photographing a slightly-unwilling subject isn’t fun… trust me!

A Different Perspective on the Day

A second photographer can capture the reactions, emotions and action from a different perspective than the primary which can be a really nice addition to your images – that is, if the second shooter and primary have a working relationship with one another.  If the second shooter is new to the industry or new to working with your primary then the results may not be worth the additional investment.  On that same note, hiring a second photographer for the purpose of getting one or two select moments can be risky as there’s no way to predict whether or not those moments will actually happen!  The best example would be the bride who hired the second photographer to get great photos of the groom shedding a tear as she walks down the aisle.  But what if the groom is just standing there?  What if he’s not reacting the way the bride is expecting him to react?  What if instead of shedding a tear he looks like a deer in headlights?  Would she still consider her investment into a second photographer for that sole purpose a wise one?

A Backup to the Primary Photographer

Your primary photographer should have backup gear (and if they don’t – why are you hiring them?!?) but in the few moments it takes for them to go a gear switch out and replace their broken gear with fresh stuff, a few moments might be missed.  Having a second photographer there will help ensure that as few moments as possible as missed.

More Candid Photos

The primary photographer is there to get the must-have images and candids when possible but the second photographer is there to focus on the candids.  Now, it’s true that a second photographer can get some really interesting candid shots (especially while the primary may be in a different location with the bride and groom still) it’s important to understand that a photographer can only get candid photos when there’s actually something to shoot!  Let’s take cocktail hour for example: Guests can get tired of having their photo taken and often start turning away from the camera when they feel like their personal bubble is being intruded upon.  And the dinner?  No one likes being photographed with food in their mouths.  Having a second photographer is great for larger weddings (250+ people) because, well – simply put; it’s less annoying for guests!  When there’s more people to be photographed the likelihood of the same person being photographed over and over again will be diminished which leads to more variety in images and happier guests.

Double the Photos… NOPE!

I threw this one in here because it needs to be said: hiring a 2nd photographer will not automatically double he number of photos you receive.  Regardless of the number of photographers present, your photographer will cull the images; removing the ones that are blurry, repeats, unflattering, were photobombed or were test shots.  Although having a second photographer may increase your overall number of photos, it absolutely will not double it.  The second photographer is there to compliment the primary; not to mimic them.

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There are also a lot of reasons to not have a second photographer at your wedding.  The majority of my clients opt for single photographer coverage and have been more than pleased with the amount and variety of photos they receive.  If you’re hiring a competent, passionate and energetic primary photographer you will rarely be in an position where needing a 2nd will add much value.  Two photographers can be very overwhelming – not only for brides and grooms but also for guests (especially when a videographer is hired, too).  There is such a thing as having too much of a good thing; when there are so many photographers and videographers around that you have your own personal paparazzi you risk losing on the actual story of you day.  The more people present the less likely it is that they can be unobtrusive (even if they try really hard) and this can change a naturally unfolding day into more of a production.

To sum it all up for you; yes, there are advantages to hiring a second photographer.  There’s no doubt about that.  But if you want a good second photographer who can produce images that are as consistent as possible with the primary photographer’s images then you can expect there to be a reasonable fee of at least several hundred dollars if not more.  There are also reasons to not have a second photographer; if budget is of concern to you, it may be wise to simply forgo the second shooter and opt for a super-talented primary photographer instead.  Remember: if you’re being offered a second shooter for free – or close to – they may not be producing what you’re expecting and may ultimately leave you disappointed.  Talk to your soon-to-be-spouse and decide which of these pros and cons of having two photographers you agree on and make the decision that you feel best about.

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