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Paying for a Second Shooter: Worth it or Nah?

Feb 22, 2018


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I got an inquiry on Instagram a few weeks ago from a sweet bride, but unfortunately I was already booked on her wedding day. She did something unexpected though whenever I told her I was unavailable and wished her the best…she asked if she could pick my brain. Um…YES.

My number one planning tip, ever, is USE YOUR RESOURCES. She wasn’t able to hire me, but that doesn’t mean she can’t ask me for advice! Of course, not all photographers will be receptive to that type of thing, but I absolutely LOVE helping couples plan for a successful wedding, whether they book with me or not. (Follow her lead and don’t hesitate asking your vendors for help when you need it!)

So anyway, one of the questions she asked was this: Is paying for a second shooter worth it?

What a great question. I gave her my thoughts on the subject, and then decided to write a blog post to elaborate a little more. Let me know what you guys think in the comments below!

ceremony set up in the mountains in georgiaImage taken by second shooter: Olivia White

The second shooter’s job

First, let’s talk about what a second shooter does before we think through whether one is really necessary. This will look VERY different for every photographer, but generally speaking a second photographer is there to supplement the main shooter’s photography. They are hired to get a different angle, a more creative perspective, and to focus more on candid photos that the main shooter may not be able to get. They’re also there to be an assistant for the main photographer. Often, they’ll help carry bags, fetch details, fluff the bride’s dress, and whatever else needs to be done on the wedding day. Normally, I help each individual couple decide whether a second shooter is right for them or not, but for those I’m not able to have a conversation with, here are some things to consider when deciding.

Why you hire one:

A Different Perspective

Some of my most favorite photos from my own wedding day are ones my second shooter took during our ceremony. She was able to capture some really great angles and candids of us and our families while the main shooter was getting other important stuff. I absolutely LOVE the side angle of us hugging after we kissed (see below). The main shooter grabbed it from the front, but I just loved this view! This is the #1 reason to hire a second shooter. (That is IF the second shooter is another experienced photographer and not just a college student looking to make money—ask your photographer who they hire!) A second shooter is able to go into a wedding day without much stress and are able to grab different angles and moments because they have a little more freedom to do that. The main shooter will be getting all of the important things, but the second shooter is a great supplement for grabbing fun angles through a mirror, a cute shot of the flower girl twirling, etc. If you’re someone on a budget though and thinking about whether a second shooter is right for you—don’t stress about this. A strong main photographer won’t miss a thing. You will be more than covered with one photographer.

Image from my sweet wedding photographer Roxanne, taken by her second shooter.


This is the second biggest reason you would want to hire a second shooter…in case of emergency! If your photographer passes out because of a heat stroke, you won’t be without a photographer. If the main photographer breaks her big toe tripping down the stairs (it’s almost happened before at a wedding I was second shooting), you have another photographer to step up and capture everything without skipping a beat. These are very unlikely, but if you have the extra cash, it’s a good idea to pay for a second shooter so you have a backup in the case of extreme emergencies. (But let me say this—the emergency would have to be EXTREME. The girl who basically broke her toe at that wedding? I didn’t have to step up and shoot for her…she got up and suffered through the entire day, and didn’t miss a second.) We know we have a job to do, and it will take something extreme to take us away from that. So honestly, don’t be worried about this!

Thinking you need a second photographer in case of equipment failure? This would also have to be an EXTREME case, because any photographer you hire should have backup equipment! Not only do most of us have extra cameras and lenses in our bag, we also own cameras that have 2 card slots so even if one memory card fails or something crazy like that, we have another one. Trust us—this isn’t our first rodeo…we’ve got you covered!

A BIG party

If you have 350+ guests at your wedding, a second shooter is a good idea. With a small guest count, one photographer is more than enough, but having an extra photographer capturing guests when the party is BIG can be very helpful. The main photographer will usually keep their lens on the bride + groom, and having a second shooter will ensure that most, if not all, of the guests will still get photographed.

Image taken by second shooter: Katie Hart

Why you don’t:

Getting ready shots

A lot of clients will say they want two photographers so that one can be with the girls getting ready and one can be with the guys (and I even thought this too when I was getting married). BUT, here’s the thing: there’s usually more than enough time for both photographers to show up in both the bride’s getting ready room and the groom’s. I find that it can get awkward if you linger in either setting for too long. There are only so many candids you can get with cameras in people’s faces—especially if the getting ready room is small. I always try to make time, if possible, in the timeline so that as the main shooter, I have a chance to get to both rooms during the getting ready portion of the day. Another thing to consider here is whether or not the groom actually WANTS to have his own photographer hanging out with him. Most guys don’t, so leaving a small time to have your photographer pop in there is usually a good idea. If this part of the day is something you really, really care about having covered well though, tell your photographer and maybe consider opting for a second!

Someone to gather family

Some photographers like having a second shooter so they can gather people for family photos. I’ve found though that second shooters aren’t really the best option for this. They usually have no clue who anyone is, so they can’t exactly make sure Aunt Betty is lined up and ready to go. I also find that it’s much easier for me to just hold the shot list myself and call out names as I’m ready. I just tend to go so much faster when I control this setting on my own without a second! During this portion of the day, my second shooters usually stand on the side and grab candids as they see them.

For double the photos

Unfortunately, adding a second shooter doesn’t mean you’ll get double the photos. It does mean you’ll get more photos than you would have otherwise, but it doesn’t mean you’ll get double. A second shooter is a supplement to the main photographer, and not a complete replica/duplicate. Just remember that quality is more important than quantity and that the actual number of photos you get doesn’t matter. As long as all of your really special moments are captured, that’s what counts! (And sometimes you only need one photographer to make that happen.)

Bottom photo taken by second shooter: Olivia White

In summary, yes, there are benefits to having a second shooter on your wedding day. And having a good second shooter who will really be advantageous to you and your overall gallery, means that you’ll be paying a pretty penny for them, so you’ll want to make sure it’s the best option for your goals and overall wedding budget.

I’ve found that most people feel like they need a second shooter, but sometimes it may be an investment you can save on. I, of course, love working with a second shooter, so I’m always excited when couples want one…but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an integral part of your day. Currently, I photograph around 75% of weddings with a second shooter and about 25% of weddings without one. It’s a decision totally up to you, and there really are so many factors to consider!

If I can give any advice though, it’s this: don’t do something just based on fear. Never make a decision (in any situation) because of fear. Your wedding day certainly won’t be ruined if you don’t hire a second shooter, and the chances that you will NEED to have one there because of some sort of disaster is so, so low. Paying for a second shooter is a luxury, and not a need. Just keep that in mind when making a decision, and don’t ever hesitate to reach out if you want to talk further about adding on a second shooter. <3


My passion is in documenting the lives of our families well (mine and yours), and teaching you how to do it too. Follow along as I share photography tips, inspiration, and beautiful portraits.

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