Tips for Brides and Grooms Considering Hiring a Second Wedding Photographer

The Second Wedding Photographer

As someone relatively new to wedding photography, and hence in need of experience and a portfolio of my own, I’ve spent much of this year providing second photographer support (or ‘second shooting’ as it’s often called) to established local Norfolk and Norwich professional wedding photographers.  As such, I’ve gained an insight into how second photographers are employed and the pros and cons associated with having a second photographer at your wedding.

Having now had a number of wedding client consultations of my own, I have found myself routinely being asked about the need for a second photographer and the benefits of employing one.

Although every wedding photographer will have their own views on second photographers, I thought it would be helpful to provide a short list of considerations for brides and grooms trying to decide whether they would like a second photographer at their wedding.

Before I discuss some considerations, I thought I’d list a few thoughts on what the second photographer’s main roles are at a wedding.  A second photographer will of course have any number of duties as delegated by the main photographer but the list is likely to include:

–    capturing candid photographs throughout the day/evening;

–    helping capture the wedding details (flowers, Order of Service, rings etc);

–    capturing different angles and perspectives that complement the posed portrait shots being directed by the main photographer;

–    helping the main photographer gather and arrange guests for group photographs;

–    moving and positioning equipment for the main photographer (lighting, reflectors and props etc);

–    modelling for camera setting preparation (often when setting up flash lights) for the main photographer;

–    helping the main photographer stay on track with timings and covering any event or angle that the main photographer cannot cover alone.

This list is of course by no means exhaustive.

I’ll state at the outset that, as I don’t yet have firm views either way (and I like to leave an informed decision to the brides and grooms that book me), this article is really written to help inform potential clients of the questions that they might wish to ask themselves and the professional photographers that they consult as part of their decision-making and booking process.  So here we go, some things to consider – I hope that you find the list helpful and informative.

Things to Consider When Deciding on a Second Wedding Photographer Option

The Cost? –  of course a prime consideration for most brides and grooms is the question of what a second photographer will cost.  From my experience, there are photographers who always shoot alone, there are others who always shoot with a second photographer and who hence include a second photographer in their prices, there are photographers who sometimes bring along an unpaid second photographer and there are photographers who will offer a second photographer for an additional fee.  At the time of writing, I fall into this fourth group.  When searching for a wedding photographer, and then meeting with those that have been selected, it should become clear which category your photographer falls into and that will potentially help you in your decision-making.  Questions that should then spring to mind when you have figured out which group the photographer that you are considering falls into are covered below.

The Quality of the Second Photographer? –  here we are considering both the experience and quality of the equipment that they will bring to your wedding.  Second photographers range from highly experienced professional photographers with their own successful wedding photography businesses (and hence professional equipment) to beginners volunteering their services for free and operating with entry-level cameras and lenses (yes, that was me earlier this year, but operating with professional equipment from the outset!) .  While the second photographer role is obviously not as critical as the main photographer position, and photography is about much more than equipment and experience levels, if you are paying for the provision of a second photographer because you feel that you need one, you should check on the reliability and experience of the second photographer (maybe viewing their previous work if possible) and the equipment they will use.

The size of your wedding (venue and number of guests)? – an obvious consideration perhaps, but the larger the venue and the larger the number of guests the greater the potential for a second photographer to add value.  At a large venue with many guests (maybe 80+ guests), a second photographer should be less obtrusive than at a small and largely family affair in a confined space.  If you want lots of candid photographs of guests enjoying themselves throughout the day (often grabbed while the main photographer is busy taking formal group shots or bride and groom portrait photographs), this is where a second photographer should come into his/her own.  At the weddings where I have acted as a second photographer, I’ve always been careful to remain in the background and tried to avoid creating ‘camera-fatigue’ amongst the guests.  In a small venue with few guests, 2 photographers with potentially 2 cameras each can simply feel like overkill and will not only alienate guests but also leave little to do for the second photographer.

Bride and Groom Preparation? – with bridal preparation forming a popular element of contemporary wedding photography, I’ve seen a very useful role for a second photographer to help cover elements of ‘groom preparation’, even if it’s simply informal shots down the local pub with the groomsmen!  There are few parts of the wedding day when a single photographer physically cannot cover events but the preparation period, and perhaps the arrival at the ceremony of groomsmen and guests, is one of them.  Of course, if the bride and groom are getting ready in the same or close locations, it may be possible for one photographer to move between the bride and groom throughout this period of the day.

Male or Female? – having worked with female and male photographers, I can see that there’s definitely merit in a male and female partnership.  While there’s no reason why a male photographer cannot discretely and professionally photograph bridal preparation (or a female photographer cover groom preparation), I can see how clients might be more comfortable with a photographer of the same sex in this environment.  Also, with a good rapport between the photographers and the bride and groom fundamental to exceptional images, establishing this relationship using a male a female team could be hugely valuable.  In my view, a male and female photographer working as a team, has the potential for a very strong and complementary partnership within the wedding environment and is worthy of consideration.

How many angles do you wish to be covered? – there are times when the main photographer cannot cover every angle.  While these occasions are limited, an important time when this is likely to come into play is during the wedding ceremony itself.  Understandably, officials often restrict the activities of the photographer/s; such restrictions will usually include freedom of movement during the ceremony.  Where space allows, you  can expect main photographers to station themselves offset to the front of the bride and groom for the duration of the ceremony and this is usually where they will have to remain.  Such positioning will mean that there are few, if any, professional photographs taken looking down the aisle or from the rear of the venue during the ceremony.  If such shots are important to you, a second photographer may be essential.

Norfolk and Norwich Wedding Photographer

The photographs that maybe only a second photographer will be able to capture ……….

In Conclusion

The role of the second photographer is varied and the approach of every professional wedding photographer will be different.  Whether a second photographer will enhance your collection of wedding photographs will depend on many factors, not least their experience and equipment and the nature of your wedding.  If, once you have an understanding of the benefits of having a second wedding photographer at your wedding, you feel that you would like to employ one, it is worth asking your selected photographer about their approach to this role with particular consideration given to who they are and how they will be used.

I hope that you found this article useful and that it will help you make another decision along the way to your big day.  Of course, if it raises any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Feel free to leave your thoughts.

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