Wedding photography is so much more complicated than it used to be, and the role of the photographer has grown a lot over the years. How many wedding photos did your parents, and grandparents before them get? Did they even have a professional there? I remember tagging along with my dad a few times as a kid while he shot weddings in the early 90's. It's such a production now by comparison. But wiith so many new options, it can be hard for brides to decide where to get the best value. Today I want to talk about one of those options - the second shooter. If you're not familiar with the term, a second shooter is another photographer that the photographer you hire brings with them.
Who is this second photographer? A second photographer may be the key photographer's employee, understudy, or even spouse. Perhaps the photographer has a relationship with other pro photographers who swap out second shooting for each other. Be sure to ask who the second shooter is, and how experienced they are. Like me, once they've found a great second shooter, most photographers will consistently use someone they trust with proven results.
I almost always recommend my clients to opt for the second shooter. The most obvious reason is that you will get more images. You probably won't get twice the images, but perhaps a 25-50% increase. And even more importantly, you should receive multiple angles of moments that happen very quickly. When the bride walks down the aisle, one photographer may only have time to get one angle. Another photographer could get an entirely different perspective. Or focus on the groom's reaction as he sees you the first time in your dress. One photographer can not physically capture all of those quick moments, and there's several of these opportunities throughout the day. Another benefit is having one photographer during preparation with the bridesmaids and one with the groomsmen. In general, having two photographers means being able to capture moments at two different places simultaneously.
Although hopefully never realized, another great reason to have a second shooter at the wedding is insurance. As a professional, I bring two or more of each piece of equipment to every wedding I work. That's to make sure I can keep shooting if a camera or flash goes down. It's comforting to have two photographers scheduled to be at the wedding in case of a worst-case scenario, such as extreme illness. Every wedding professional knows that there is absolutely no "calling in sick", but I feel confident that if something unimaginable prevented me from attending a wedding, my second shooter would take the lead role, and the client would still have a fantastic, complete set of wedding photos. Luckily, so far this has never personally occurred! (Knock on wood...)
Although I'm an advocate for hiring second shooters, it's not a perfect fit for every wedding. If your wedding is very small, either in budget or guest-count, a second shooter may not be much value for you. I've seen the second shooter option range in price from $200 - $800. If you're on a very tight budget, focus on getting the best photographer you can afford, and not spending extra on a second photographer. If you're having a very small wedding with less than 75 people total, two photographers may be a little much. I'd also like to mention that any experienced professional shouldn't necessarily need a second shooter to still deliver amazing, complete wedding coverage at almost any wedding. It is definitely not a requirement, but an "extra" that I think will add great value to your photography. I hope this insight makes it a little easier to decide if a second shooter is right for your wedding. Be sure to talk with your photographer and discuss your second shooter options, and good luck planning your big day!