Hire a Second Shooter: Wedding Planning Tips from Those Who've Been There | Charlottesville Virginia Wedding Photography

This urban Charleston, West Virginia, styled wedding shoot had all of the moody winter wedding vibes.

Most wedding photographers that I know operate solo, while giving their couples the option of adding a second photographer, commonly known as a second shooter. If your photographer offers a second shooter as an add-on, accept the offer. To be honest, not having a second shooter is the one regret I have from my own wedding.

When I got married, we went with a talented photographer who gave us beautiful images, but she missed a couple moments I would have loved to have had and didn’t give us as many angles of the ceremony as I think we would have gotten had there been two photographers.

So what is a second shooter?

Generally, a second shooter operates as a contractor under the lead photographer. Their role is to supplement the lead by getting different angles and perspectives  (e.g., shoot wide while the lead is shooting close). Or they may capture half of the getting ready photos — especially if the couple is getting ready in two different places — as well as effectively act as backup for the lead shooter in the event of equipment malfunction at key moments.

After the wedding, the second shooter hands over the memory cards to the lead photographer, who does the editing so that the photography style you (as a newly married couple) booked is consistent throughout your entire gallery. When you get your gallery, you won’t be able to tell who shot the image — the lead or the second.

My second shooters are all experienced photographers who own their own successful wedding photography businesses. When they don’t have their own  booking on a particular date, they are generally available for hire as a second, and I do the same for them. Many wedding photographers love second shootings because you can watch how someone else works, learn from another professional, have the space to be creative, and get unique angles you might not feel comfortable tackling when you have to nail “the shot.”

In the beginning of my career, I shot all weddings solo, but I’m moving toward the direction of including a second shooter in almost all of my packages.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. I really believe that having two perspectives adds a lot of value to your gallery that’s more than worth the investment. Imagine one photographer at the back capturing the groom as the bride walks down the aisle and then another at the front capturing the bride’s expression at the same moment. Or one photographer getting a closeup shot of your first kiss while the other takes a wide shot of the crowd cheering while you kiss. You only get married once, so telling the story of your day in as comprehensive a way as possible is invaluable. (And please don’t fear your day being dominated by photographers – experienced wedding photographers, whether acting as the lead or the second, know that the day is about YOU, not them, and they work hard to blend into the background while quietly doing their vital work.)

  2. When I’m working a traditional wedding solo, certain parts of the day are easy for me to capture on my own — the reception, for instance. But others, like getting ready, are much more difficult, because generally key moments are happening at the same time. And when I’m running back and forth between two different spaces, it interrupts the story of your day. For instance, you may have to wait for me to get back from the groom or the bride to put on the dress or finish up makeup or open gifts or read letters rather than simply allowing your day to unfold as it would naturally.

So let’s take a look at a few images from one of my 2018 weddings so you can see side by side examples of the same moment from the perspective of two photographers.

This is the third part of my series Sixteen Tips Wedding Photographers Knew When They Got Married. You can find the first two parts on style and cost by clicking the words or going here and here.