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This article is to help you make an educated decision as to whether you need one or two photographers on your wedding day.
I personally work as a solo shooter for 99% of my weddings, meaning I work alone on a wedding day. After over 8 years experience as a full time professional wedding photographer and close to 300 weddings under my belt as the primary photographer, I know I can adequately capture a wedding day. Where I document the important moments – including both bride and groom getting ready, ceremony, congratulations, family photos, bridal party location shoot and the reception – all on my own.
Plus as a solo full-time professional wedding photographer I am a whole lot more comfortable knowing what images I have captured throughout the day and in my style, that way I know their will be consistency throughout the entire full wedding day. Read about the Benefits Of All Day Wedding Photography.
But there are weddings where a second photographer is beneficial. We will address those times below so keep reading.
What does a second photographer do?
Before getting into the benefits of a second photographer and having two photographers at your wedding, let’s address the role of a second photographer and what benefits they can add to the wedding day.
Part of the job for a second shooter is to capture candid moments and different shooting angles to the main photographer.
Benefits of having a second photographer at your wedding :
A second photographer allows the main photographer to focus on the important people, events and moments. When I have a reliable experienced second shooter covering the additional details, I can focus on the couple and the immediate family members, capturing all those special significant moments of the day. The 2nd photographer can then focus on guests and beautiful details that are important memories of the day but don’t distract the primary shooter from the main event, as well as supports the main photographer.
A second shooter brings a different perspective. The second photographer is always standing in a different place to that of the lead photographer, to provide a different perspective. More often, second shooters offer a more candid documentary approach as they are more in the background and not giving directions, which adds to the story of the day.
A second shooter can make the day run more effective. If the bride and groom are getting ready a distance apart, having a second photographer, allows the lead photographer to provide great coverage of the bride getting ready, whilst the second photographer can be with the groom while he is getting ready. During the bridal portraits, the second shooter can stay with guests during cocktail hour capturing candid and portraits of the guests and reception details so you can relive that time when you get your photos, plus you have lovely photos of your guests which you can print and send along with your ‘thank you for coming to our wedding’ card. Also if you are planning on having night photography, the main photographer will need an assistant to help with setting up or holding lights, so the second photographer can jump in as the assistant.
In most cases it means there is a second point of view and another perspective can be captured, but let’s break it down by the different parts of the wedding day by having two photographers will benefit the most.
While the main photographer is photographing the bride and bridesmaids during the bride preparation part of the wedding day, the second photographer can be capturing the groom and the groomsmen while they are preparing for the big day.
Two photographers allows for more extensive coverage compared to the one photographer who is covering both bride and groom preparations.
Generally the primary photographer will be with the girls for longer, right up until leaving for the ceremony.
The second photographer will be with the boys longer too, capturing them at the house getting ready and then follow them to the ceremony, where the second photographer can take portraits with the groom and groomsmen onsite at the ceremony location. This is super handy if your getting ready in a motel/hotel that is smallish inside and doesn’t have a nice garden area outside for portraits, usually the grounds of a ceremony venue does.
The second photographer can be at the ceremony capturing photos of the groom with his family members, greeting guests and ceremony details while the primary photographer would remain with the bride until she leaves the location where she is getting ready, then race ahead to get to the ceremony venue ready for her arrival.
The obvious advantage of two photographers throughout the ceremony, is one photographer can be assigned to focusing on the bride as she walks down the aisle while the other is positioned to focus on the groom’s reaction as the bride is walking down the aisle. The most requested photo I get asked for from brides is to get the groom’s reaction as she walks down the aisle, but I also feel the bride walking down the aisle is also an important photo to capture.
The two photographer option means that a photographer can be assigned to each side of the ceremony, one focusing on the bride and the other focusing on the groom, to avoid having to swap sides and move around the ceremony area as often. This can be helpful in a church where their might not be a lot of room down the aisles for the photographers to manoeuvre about or if there are also videographers setup in the aisle.
Also one photographer could cover the front of the ceremony and the other from the rear of the ceremony or possibly position in a balcony.
Both would at various times move to the centre aisle or other positions for various angles, but return to their designated side.
It’s my policy to always swap sides by going behind the guests to not interrupt their view of the ceremony, however, this can take anywhere from around 15 seconds to a minute depending on how many guests and how deep the guests are back from the alter. Having the second photographer resolves this issue.
For shorter ceremonies or traditional church ceremonies, having two photographers provides for a smoother transition and less disruption to the service whilst the photographers move about.
The two photographers can provide two different perspectives, one focusing on the guests congratulating the bride, while the other photographer focusing on the guests congratulating the groom.
Formal Family Portraits
While one photographer is posing the group of people and taking the photos, the second photographer can be rounding up the next group for a more efficient and smoother running of the family portraits.
Wedding Party Location Shoot / Cocktail Hour / Reception Details
While the primary photographer is photographing the newlyweds and bridal party on their location shoot, the second photographer remains behind with the wedding guests during cocktail hour.
The second photographer will be there to capture candids of the guests and any group photos.
The second photographer will also have access to the reception room once the venue has finished setting up the room and lit the candles which is usually 15 minutes before the guests enter the room, making it the perfect time to capture the reception room in all its glory and all the pretty details.
While many photographers have their second photographer finish at this point, my second photographer packages have the second photographer remain at the wedding for as long as I am at the wedding.
Two photographers at the reception provide two different perspectives during speeches, cake cutting, first dance as well as candids during the evening.
A typical wedding day photography timeline for one photographer
Below is a rough guide to creating your wedding day photography timeline for one or two photographers. There is a more detailed version of the Wedding Day Photography Timeline here.
Bride & Groom Preparation
I typically start photographing groom preparations before heading over to the bride’s camp for the bride preparation photos. Typically I allow 1 hour for groom preparations and 1.5-2 hours for bride preparations, roughly starting 3-4 hours before the ceremony start time including an allowance for travel between venues. This timeframe allows plenty of time to photograph:
- groom details
- groom and groomsmen dressing ie. cufflinks, ties, shoes, jackets etc
- pinning the boutonnieres (buttonhole flowers) on the groom, groomsmen, father of the groom and mother of the groom
- portraits – groom, groom with groomsmen, groom with each groomsmen and any pageboys, groom with family members
- bride details
- last of the hair & makeup preparations
- the bride dressing ie. wedding gown, jewellery, shoes etc
- portraits – bride, bride with bridesmaids, bride with each bridesmaid and any flower girls, bride with family members
capturing any candid moments
- bride pinning the boutonniere on her father and mother, or might be placing a corsage on her mother’s wrist.
- giving of gifts to bridesmaids/groomsmen/parents
- bride/groom reading a love letter from their future husband/wife
Following the preparations, I like to arrive at the ceremony around 30 minutes before the ceremony is due to start. This time allows for:
- ceremony details and location photos before guests arrive
- any photos with family members if they weren’t present during the preparation time
- if the boutonnieres (buttonhole flowers) weren’t available during preparation time, then time for putting on the boutonnieres
- the groom greeting guests
- candids of the guests
Ceremonies can last anywhere between 20 minutes to 1 hour. Small intimate ceremonies are at the shorter end, anywhere from 20-30 minutes where as more traditional Catholic or church ceremonies can last between 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Following the ceremony, wedding guests will congratulate the newlyweds. This time can vary depending on the number of guests, however usually around 15-20 minutes is sufficient.
To view photos of how I photograph the newlyweds being congratulated – visit the page on congratulations photos.
Formal Family Portraits
These days with couples wanting more natural, candid wedding photography, the Formal Family Portraits at a wedding are usually kept to a minimum and consist of immediate family only – mum, dad, siblings and the grandparents – with extended family photos happening throughout cocktail hour or the reception in a more candid fashion.
If having photos of your extended family and guests is a priority, then more time should be allowed. Alternatively, we recommend bringing in a second photographer so they can focus on capturing these photos during cocktail hour while Im away with the bride, groom and bridal party on the location shoot. Whilst you wont be in the ‘family photo’. its a portrait of the couple/family together and will be in your collection of images, but also a nice gift to present them after the wedding as a little thank you for coming.
The family portraits can take around 15-20 minutes for just immediate family members and up to 30-45 minutes for extended family. I like to create a list with my couples before the wedding day to have a detailed list of the groups for the family portraits.
Bridal Party Location Shoot
Following the family photos, it’s time for the bridal party location shoot. I typically attract couples that love this part of the day and therefore allow 1.5 hours.
The bridal party photoshoot is an opportunity to create a mix of natural candid photos with their best friends, the bridesmaids & groomsmen, as well as beautiful portraits of them as a newly married couple.
After the photos with the bridal party, I like to take the newlyweds away to have some alone time together and capture those romantic intimate couples photos. It’s a chance for the newlyweds to absorb the events of the day, where they can relax together away from the guests and craziness of the wedding day, and not have people watching them during their romantic portraits.
I typically like to find one location for our bridal party photoshoot that has multiple types of scenery. A combination of gardens, trees and some form of building structure in one location will offer a variety of backdrops. However country fields are some of my favourite places to photograph – amongst nature, surrounded by trees and greenery, provides a beautiful backdrop for photos.
To view photos of how I photograph the bridal party photoshoot and the newlyweds intimate portraits – visit the page on bridal party location photos and couples portraits.
Following the photoshoot it’s time to head on to the reception. Reception coverage can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 4-5 hours depending on what the couple feel is important to be covered by the professional photographer.
5-6 hours of photography coverage would allow around 30 minutes – 1 hour coverage at the reception which could include reception room details, bridal party entrance and a cake cutting – either a fake cutting of the cake or bring the actual cake cutting forward to the start of the reception.
An 8-9 hour photography package would allow around 3 hours coverage at the reception which could include reception room details, bridal party entrance, speeches, cake cutting, first dance and candids of the guests.
All day photography coverage (generally 9+ hours) allows from bride and groom preparations right through to when the newlyweds depart the reception at the end of the evening, so if you are planning on a sparkler exit, the all day photography package will cover that too.
Hopefully this article provides you with sufficient information to make an informed decision whether to have one or two photographers on your wedding day.
You can always ask me about my photography packages and whether you require one or two photographers. Plus I can always tailor a photography package to suit your needs so you can have one or two photographers. If you are still unsure, feel free to shoot through an email.
Great news, there’s a stack more tips from where this article came from!