So you’re planning your wedding and are closing in on choosing your wedding photographer. Congratulations! There’s a lot to navigate, including answering this question: “Do I need a second photographer at my wedding?”

There’s a lot navigate when you’re making your wedding photographer decision. The issue of booking a package with a second photographer is one of the most important ones.

This post will help! But first, here’s a video from my YouTube channel if you prefer to watch and listen:

(Unless otherwise noted, all photos in this post were taken by me.)

Frequently Asked Questions About Wedding Second Photographers

As wedding photographers, part of our job is to make sure that you, the couple, know what you’re getting into. This includes the issue of having two photographers or just one.

Here are some of the most important questions about booking a wedding photography package with a second shooter:

What is a second wedding photographer?

When trying to decide if you want or need a second photographer on your wedding day, you’ll first want to understand the concept. Simply put:

A second photographer (or “second shooter”) is a contracted employee reporting to your booked wedding photographer on your wedding day.

A bride prepares to get on the trolley to Castle Hill.

Here are more details about how the concept of wedding second photographers work:

  • Once you select your wedding photographer and book a two-photographer wedding photography package, your wedding photographer selects and books their second photographer.
  • The second photographer is an extension of your wedding photographer. They are their to take direction from, and help, your main photographer.
  • Many times, your main wedding photographer might hire the second as a contractor (i.e. for just one day’s worth of work). More common for larger business, some wedding photographers have their second photographers as regular employees on payroll.

One thing to make abundantly clear: You, the couple, don’t select or book the second photographer.

A groom gets ready in a hotel in Newport, Rhode Island.

Any professional photographer, no matter how much they charge or how good their work is, will own up to the task of vetting and hiring a solid second photographer to work with them for your wedding.

A quick analogy: you don’t choose the sous chef when you go to a nice restaurant. Likewise, you trust your booked photographer to choose the second photographer at your wedding.

(By the way, I’m leaving out national chain photographers, which I wholeheartedly recommend avoiding. Book an independent, directly owned and managed wedding photography company that’s going to actually work directly with you.)

What does a second photographer do during my wedding day?

During your engagement session, you learn all about how your main photographer works. On your wedding day, however, you’ll be meeting the second photographer without knowing much about their work. But don’t fear! Here’s why:

This is pretty easy to answer and the answer is pretty standard for most photographers. On your wedding day, the second photographer will do basically whatever the main photographer tells them to do.

Usually, this means, that they’ll be taking photos of the secondary partner during the getting ready portion of the day. During the ceremony and reception, they’ll get great photos of your guests and different views of what you, the couple, are doing.

Perhaps most importantly, the second photographer can really allow your main wedding photographer to flourish. The second is the main’s helper and backup, which can be great for you!

What does a second photographer do before and after my wedding day?

When considering if I need a second photographer at my wedding, think about having multiple angles of important moments such as this first look.

Nothing, really! You won’t meet the second photographer until your wedding day. And the way I operate (as do most of my wedding photographer friends), the second’s job is done once they turn over their images and receive payment from me.

What value does a second photographer bring to my wedding day?

If done right (as in your main photographer knows what they’re doing), a second photographer can bring huge valued to your day. Here are some factors.

Insurance

The bride and groom have their backs to the camera while they save to their guests during the cocktail hour of their Graduate Providence wedding day.
A bride and groom salute their guests during cocktail hour at The Graduate Providence.

We all hate to think about it: the possibility of anything going wrong on your wedding day. But emergencies and unexpected things do happen. Such is life, even during weddings!

If an injury or emergency occurs for your wedding photographer, their second shooter can generally step up and take over. Remember, the second was handpicked by your main.

More Photos in Your Wedding Gallery

A reception scene at The Lace Factory.

Generally, having two photographers means that your gallery will end up being bigger. From different angles to copious reception details, most photographers give their seconds clear direction on what to capture throughout the day.

Another Vendor Who Is on Your Side

So if you have two wedding photographers during your wedding detail, you have the second shooter as well as the lead photographer on your team to help you out.

Do I have a say in choosing the second photographer?

Rhode Island State house wedding day photo of a bride and groom staring lovingly at each other next to a classic Rolls Royce car.

Generally, no! But it depends. There are legitimate needs and/or preferences that you may have about your main photographer’s choice of second shooter, such as cultural considerations.

Second shooting is a delicate science (just like running a wedding photography business). Any good photographer is going to take their second shooter choice very seriously.

Guests party the night away at The Society Room of Hartford.

As with any other wedding vendor, my opinion is that you should only book a wedding photographer whom you trust. As I explain in this post about choosing a wedding photographer

Please, trust the process! And of course if your wedding photography experience doesn’t meet your expectations, provide this feedback to your wedding photographer.

Second Photographer Photo Examples

Addressing the photos you’re seeing in this post, there’s some of the following:

  • Getting ready: Booking a package with two shooters means that each partner will have a photographer with them.
  • Cocktail hour: Usually, I’m taking family and wedding party group shots with the couple. Sometimes, I’ll send my second photographer off to cocktail hour for candid photos.
  • Two angles of the same scene: Being in two places at one time isn’t possible! But with two wedding photographers, you’re likely to end up with two views of important moments.

Wedding Photographer Creative Freedom

Previously in this post, I touched on the issue of a second photographer benefits. I saved my favorite for now: second photographers inherently provide freedom for the main photographer to get creative.

A helpful comparison graphic showing the main photographer and second photographer's versions of the same wedding scene.

When creating some of the photos you’re seeing in this post, I (lead photographer) was able to set things up according to my vision while my second shooters were able to capture safe pictures.

Personally, having more freedom to create images helps me do my job well. There have also been some weddings where I chose to capture key moments in a “regular” way while allowing my second photographer to be the creative one.

A helpful comparison graphic showing the main photographer and second photographer's versions of the same wedding scene.

How to Decide

If you’ve made this far, you’re probably wondering this: How do I decide on having a second photographer at my wedding or not? Fair question!

My best advice is to follow the following wedding photography checklist:

  1. Find your best wedding photographer candidates. Google, Instagram, and TikTok are great sources.
  2. Start researching your prospective choices. This starts with their websites; any good photographer is going to give you a lot of solid starter info before you even speak with them.
  3. Interview your most solid picks. Again, this post has you covered on questions to ask your wedding photographer prospects.
  4. During the interviews as you share information with each wedding photographer, flat out ask them what they think about the issue of your booking a package with a second shooter.

It’s About Trust

As you can see above, the last step of my checklist is to just ask your wedding photographer for their recommendation. It goes both ways though. So, tell them info that will help them make a recommendation tailored to your wedding:

  • Your high-level plans for your day, from start to finish
  • What’s important to you, such as creative portraits, key moments occurring during the day, level of interest in photos of objects/details, the intricacies of your venue, and/or more angles of the same scene

Not all wedding photographers are equal in capability and style; one photographer heavily recommending a package which includes a second is not necessarily directly comparable to a different photographer recommending against it.

On the front lawn, a bride and groom hold hands and run through an arm tunnel created by their wedding party during their Eolia Mansion wedding.

If after thinking it over you’re still not sure, ask your prospective wedding photographer for multiple options in the quote they send you. Having your options written down in front of you will probably help, in the end. Consider the benefits and potential downsides of having two wedding photographers.

If you’re looking for your wedding photographer…

I can help with that. Just click below for more info.

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