What is it? Do you need one? Myths, facts and personal experience
An in depth look
Deciding on what photographer to hire and sorting through the different photography terminology and packages can be daunting. This is especially true when it comes to the question of a “second photographer.”
Many articles will say you need a “second photographer “on your wedding day. Often, I hear couples say they were told the needed one. Many bridal forums say the same. It wasn’t always like this but is a trend right now in the wedding industry. All this pushing for a “second photographer” has caused the wedding industry to meet the demand in many but sometimes misleading ways which may not be the best for your wedding day. This has left couples either making assumptions about what a “second photographer” is or scratching their heads as to if they need one or not. With this in mind, I decided to write this article to shed some light and bring understanding to this most nebulous and misunderstood terms in wedding photography.
Within the wedding photography industry, there are what are called lead photographers, sometimes called first photographers and then there are “second photographer”. A lead or first photographer by definition with many of the larger photography studios is a well-trained, experienced photographer with the skills, training and equipment to shoot a wedding by themselves.
By contrast, a “second photographer” by definition is an inexperienced photographer starting off in the industry without the skills and experience to shoot a wedding on their own. They often have inferior equipment, little or no experience shooting weddings, usually a small amount of training if any and little or no off camera lighting and off camera flash skills.
So how does the idea of having an inexperienced photographer starting off in the industry with out the skills and experience to shoot a wedding on their own often having inferior equipment and little or no lighting and off camera flash skills—a “second photographer” sound? Is this something you need or want or can’t live without for your wedding?
Now grant it, the company is not going to tell you this. They are only going to tell you they offer a “second photographer” in their package. And you get excited, thinking you are getting a really great deal and so you book with them! Of course, they can give you a great deal on the package because they are not paying their “second photographer” very much for the reasons listed above.
The other downside when choosing a “second photographer” is you often don’t get to see their work and you don’t know their level of skill/ style and the photos you would be getting from them. You are buying “in the dark” paying for something you know nothing about.
If this is what a “second photographer” is with many of the larger companies. Let’s take a look at what a “second photographer” is for the smaller companies and studios.
Many of the smaller companies built upon 1 photographer/studio owner may offer a “second photographer” in their package but not only you, but they often don’t know who that “second photographer” will be at the time of your booking. But of course, they don’t tell you that. And if you don’t ask you won’t know. They won’t know until a few months before your wedding or shorter when they put posts out on various notice boards and Facebook groups etc. soliciting a “second photographer” to cover for your wedding day. Often the studio owner hiring them has never worked with the “second photographer” before. They know nothing about them, their work ethic, personality and how well they will perform on their wedding day. There will be little to no training of them in preparation for your wedding day. The studio owner will hire them based upon some photos the “second photographer” ” sends to them. But not much more than that.
Good, well established lead/first photographers are booked up many months to years in advance and are not often searching on “second photographer” sites looking for work. For them to shoot as a “second photographer” they have to take a huge cut in pay over shooting a wedding under their own brand plus they lose the rights to the images they take as well. For the lead photographer/studio owner, this is not a desirable thing to do. So, guess who you get often wanting “second photographer” jobs on these photographer job boards? Yes, you guessed it!! Photographers starting off that are not established in the wedding industry. Without the skills experience etc. to shoot on their own etc. Not that again!! So how is the “second photographer” sounding now?
Not all smaller studios work this way. Some studios may hire a “second photographer” that is skilled and can work on their own to cover the main parts of your wedding or other parts of the wedding such as getting ready shots etc. Some studios will have “second photographers” that they know and work with on a regular basis. They can provide examples of their work etc. Some studios will hire “second photographers” that are actually lead/first photographers as well- Husband and wife teams can be an example of this. But this is more of the minority and once again you have to find out. These studios will often charge a higher price for their packages with a “second photographer” package because they have to pay them more because of their skill level and experience and to retain them as an employee.
So now that you learned a little bit more about the differences in what a “second photographer”
can be regarding skills, experience etc. Let’s take a look at the many why people say you need a “second photographer”.
1) I will get more photos because I have two photographers
The lead or first photographer generally provides the majority of your photos of your wedding day. That will depend on the photographer and studio but it could be as high as 80% to 90% of the photos you receive from your wedding day come from the lead/first photographer. So you are getting all excited and insisting on having a “second photographer” who is only providing as little as 10% of your images!! A studio often will have a set number of photos in their collection as part of their package. Having more photographers doesn’t translate into more photos.
2) I have getting ready photos in 2 locations
I often hear this reason repeated why couples need a “second photographer”. They have getting ready photos of the bride in one location and getting ready photos of the groom in the other. Although a “second photographer” can help in a situation like this there are other ways to get around it which I use all the time to photograph them both myself. I simply stagger the getting ready times. I often start off with photos of the groom and groomsmen getting ready and when finished, I photograph the bride and bridesmaids. The groom and groomsmen usually have to go to the ceremony earlier anyway and by me shooting both getting ready photos, I know the quality of photos and work that I am able to provide for them.
3) I have a large guest count at my ceremony
Another reason people say they need a “second photographer” is they have a large guest count. My shooting doesn’t change much if there are 50 people at a wedding or 200. Getting ready shots will be the same as there are no large number of guests there. During the ceremony the main focus is on the bride, groom bridal party and parents’ reactions. Guests' reactions are included but the guest count doesn’t change the shooting. The greatest limiting factor regarding photos is the duration of your ceremony. A short and sweet ceremony can be as short as 5 minutes. 10 photographers can only do so much in 5 minutes. By adding personal vows, readings, a sand ceremony you will turn that 5-minute ceremony into a 20 minute ceremony providing for more opportunities for photos.
4) I have a large guest count at my reception
Another reason I hear the need for a “second photographer” is a large reception guest count. Like the ceremony, the main focus is always groom, bride, parents and bridal party. Guest are important to me and I always included and I try to capture photos of every guest at the reception. This can be done through candid photos or table shots etc. Receptions take up a lot of time, often 4 to 6 hours. There is plenty of time to take many candid photos of guests all through the reception including dance photos. I can easily deliver over 500 photos of just the reception to my clients.
5) I have a large wedding party
Another reason often mentioned for needing a “second photographer” is a large bridal party. I am skilled at working with large bridal parties and have photographed 30-person bridal parties. Once again having a “second photographer” doesn’t aid in the process much. At that point of the wedding the “second photographer” would be shooting other things such as cocktail hour, reception details and not photographing the wedding party anyway.
With all that being said about how a “second photographer” may not be needed and a experienced first/lead photographer can capture all that you need for photos on your wedding day. What are the benefits of a “second photographer” and when are they helpful?
1) Capture reception detail shots
A “second photographer” can be handy to have at times no doubt about it. One way they can be helpful is to shoot reception detail shots during the cocktail hour while the lead/first photographer is shooting portraits of the bride/groom, wedding party and family.
Once again, I have many ways for workarounds as a single photographer to get the reception detail shots. One way is to go to the reception early before the wedding starts. Another workaround I do when laying out the couple’s wedding timeline is to take their portraits of the bride and groom and wedding party before the ceremony and often combine them with a first look. Not only does this provide for more photos for the couple by not limiting their portrait time to the cocktail hour, it frees up the couple up to enjoy the cocktail hour and gives me the time to shoot the reception detail photos and cocktail hour photos.
2) Capture more angles
True a “second photographer” can capture another angle or perspective for fast moving parts of the wedding such as the wedding ceremony, first dances and parent dances during the reception. This is probably the best reason to use one. But since the "second photographer" often adds a very small amount of the photos to your collection is is it worth it to have the majority of your wedding photos suffer or be less than if you have a less capable lead/first photographer shooting your images as part of that package?
With that being said, I have work arounds as a single lead photographer. I shoot with 2 cameras on a harness with different lenses. So not only do I have an instant back up camera but also by having different lenses I can provide very different angles and perspectives from wide angle to close up zooms and can switch cameras instantly providing an amazing collection of photos as if there were 3 photographers shooting. Clients are consistently amazed by the number of photos they receive and I have been given the nick name of “photo ninja” for my ability to move and cover wedding ceremonies and receptions.
3) Have an extra hand and helper
Yes, a “second photographer” ” can jump in and help where needed and even be an assistant at times, but is it something that is needed and a must have and is it worth the extra money you have to pay to get one? I personally don’t think so. I shoot over 30 weddings a year without the need for a “second photographer”. I even had clients comment on how they could enjoy their wedding more with me as a single photographer rather than having the distraction of 2 or multiple photographers.
So hopefully at this point you learned more about what a “second photographer” is and isn’t and the pros vs. cons of having one. If money is no object or you have a very high budget for your wedding photography needs having a “second photographer” that is a lead/first photographer can be a great thing to have but if you have a budget to work with and staying within that budget forces you to go with a company that uses a less experienced “second photographer” and a lead/first photographer that is not as experienced as well then your photos and your wedding photography experience may suffer as a result If on the other hand you go with a very skilled single lead/photographer such as myself whose work you like and studio provides great services. you would probably get much more out of it for your money as well as have a better wedding photography experience.
The advantages of hiring me as your wedding photographer over a large studio or adding a “second photographer” is you know who your photographer is. There are no mysteries, unknowns or surprises. You have seen my images on my website and portfolio. They were all shot by me, not by an employee that left years ago. You can read the seventy plus 5 star reviews praising my services and work. I have received numerous prestigious awards for my reviews and client approval. When you choose to hire me, you are hiring an extensively trained photographer with over a decade of experience, skilled in how to create beautiful images in the challenging lighting conditions common to weddings.
My clients are blown away with the number of photos they receive (close to 2,000 ) on average per wedding, beautifully edited photos with two collections, one in color and another in black and white plus all the varied angles and perspectives I can provide with my method of shooting with two cameras and varied lenses. Shooting this way helps me keep my costs lower and at the same time provide beautiful work for my clients which many photographers charge 2x to 3x for the same quality of work.
You are also getting many other benefits that my studio provides such as a fast 2 week turn around editing time on your photos. No cut off date on your online gallery. Free wedding planning assistance to help lay out your wedding day timeline, shoot list, and wedding needs. Free vendor referrals from some of the best vendors in the industry. You also get to work with a caring photographer that will make sure every step of your wedding day goes smooth and easy. This individualized care and attention comes through in all your photos.
Visit my website page “The John Munno Wedding Experience" Working with John to find out more about the services I provide and the pros of working with me.
If you decide to go with a “second photographer” make sure to find out who they will be. Make sure to see examples of their work. Find out how long they have been shooting weddings and their experience level. Ask to meet them so you can find out what their personality is like and if you feel comfortable working with them. I wrote an article called "How to choose your wedding photographer." Many of the same questions could be asked of a “second photographer”.
Feel free to contact me with you questions and concerns and I will be happy to address them.
I will leave you with a lengthy testimonial from the mother of a bride regarding her amazement of my ability to capture the moments of her daughter’s wedding as a solo photographer.
This lengthy testimonial is very appropriate as it sums up the advantages of working with me as well as my ability to capture the moments of your wedding day.
"John is an amazing artist with an uncanny ability to perpetuate an air of calmness and serenity in what could potentially be a frantic day. I didn’t know how to finish lacing up the back of my daughter’s wedding gown. John did! He jumped right in a knew exactly how to tie off and hide the sashes.
I had no plan B for a picture taking location in the event of rain or soggy fields. John did! Knowing that the weather was predicted to be poor, John scouted out the neighborhood days before the wedding and found a perfect alternative. Not only did he find the best setting for the photos, but he asked for permission to use the property in advance so that it was all carefree the day of.
I was worried that not having a videographer would mean not being able to “relive” the wedding. That is absolutely not the case. John captured beautiful candid moments throughout the entire day and night; from the teardrops streaming down the father of the bride’s cheeks as he walked her down the aisle, to the crazy antics of a slightly inebriated dance floor crowd attempting their best live rendition of Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” John caught it all. He caught it all, but he never got in the way! He was constantly on the move getting so many different angles and perspectives. This was great not only for us because of the many fabulous pictures taken, but for the guests as well. John’s mobility never left anyone with a blocked view. There was never any bulky photo equipment parked in front of anyone’s table or causing any unsightly ceremonial visuals. So even our guests’ personal cell phone pictures have unobstructed views of the events. I wish I could write a better review, because John deserves the greatest praise for his artistry and kindheartedness. John was so much more than a photographer at my daughter’s wedding. He was a caring friend and now, as everyone who attended that wedding agrees, John is a member of the family." Frances H
John respects his clients! Caring, comprehensive, courteous, creative...
John Munno has my sincerest and highest recommendation!
Yes, John is worth every dollar of his very reasonable rates.
Yes, John’s expertise will have him providing you with answers to questions you didn’t even know you had (before, during, and after the wedding.)
Yes, John is a dynamo getting those pictures back to you edited and exceptionally quick. Ours came back in less than two weeks, and it’s prime wedding season!
Yes, the photos were beyond our expectations. Everything from timing, to lighting, to composition, to originality, to the expressiveness of the moment was met with perfection of detail.
For those reasons alone, John would be the only photographer I would recommend, but John was exceptional in so many more ways.