What is a second shooter and why are they important?
One question clients ask me a lot is ‘Do I really need a second shooter?’ My answer used to go back and forth between ‘yes,’ and ‘no,’ depending on the requests of the couple and the size of the wedding. However, with more experience under my belt, my answer now is always a definite ‘yes!’
A second shooter is a secondary photographer that will capture moments of a wedding day simultaneously with a lead shooter. They also provide assistance when needed, and they can help ensure that everything is running smoothly.
Before I begin, let me start by saying that just because I say that couples need a second shooter, that does not mean that one photographer can’t shoot an entire wedding by themselves. It is typically possible, and usually, the results will come out on par. However, while some weddings (especially these days) may be small, short, and sweet, having a second shooter always guarantees better coverage and more creative opportunities. Let me explain.
Having a second shooter means more ground covered.
If, for instance, a couple has a tight wedding timeline and they want to take bridal party photos quickly, it is always easier to accomplish this with a second shooter. With two photographers, one photographer can be taking photos of the bride and her bridesmaids, while the other can simultaneously be taking photos of the groom and groomsmen without sacrificing any time in the day’s busy schedule.
For example, in the case above, I was the lead shooter and I captured the photo of the bride with her bridesmaids and flower girls. My second shooter simultaneously took the photo of the groom with his groomsmen and ring bearers in order to save time before the ceremony began.
The idea of having a lead shooter shooting one thing while the second shooter simultaneously shoots something different can be applied to many different parts of a wedding day. A lead shooter can capture the bride getting ready while the second gets photos of the groom getting ready. A second shooter can get photos of a reception hall before all of the guests arrive while the lead shooter takes family formal photos. This method can even be applied at the end of the day where the lead shooter is outside preparing to shoot the grand exit while the second shooter continues taking photos of the last dance at the reception.
Having a second shooter allows for a greater variety of photos.
I can’t even count how many times I have been setting up for a specific shot or taking a particularly posed photo while my second shooter takes more candid photos that bring a wide variety of shots to the final gallery. Not only does my second shooter have a different vantage point, but they also have different equipment and often try different settings, so their photos are always going to be unique from mine as the lead shooter.
Here are a few examples: The photos I took are on the left, while the photos my second shooter took are on the right.
More helping hands mean more opportunities for creativity.
Us photographers try our best to take high-quality photos in a reasonable amount of time. If we have a say, we will communicate this to couples long before their wedding day and incorporate our reasonable amount of time into the wedding day timeline. Having this allotted amount of time allows us to ensure we’re getting those high-quality photos and using every ounce of creativity that we possibly can. However, if there is a second shooter, this can make photos go much faster while still allowing for the same amount of creativity, if not more.
My favorite example of this was at a wedding I recently covered. This wedding was a post COVID-19 wedding where their big day had to be rescheduled twice and they had to drastically cut their guest list. My goal as their photographer was to make their day go as smooth as possible (especially after everything they had already been through), but I also wanted them to have amazing photos so they could reflect on their special day and remember it as one of the best days of their lives.
This couple wasn’t from Austin, but they loved the Austin vibe so they decided to have their special day here in central Texas. When we arrived at the reception venue, I realized how close we were to Congress Ave. and I knew I had to at least ask if they wanted the iconic Austin photo with the State Capitol in the background. My second shooter and I were totally stoked when they responded, “Yeah, let’s do it!”
These photos would not have even been remotely possible without my second shooter as this was totally a two-person job. We only had a few seconds of time in the crosswalk for each photo, and I knew that I wanted to backlight the couple in these shots. In order to have these photos appropriately lit, I had my second shooter hide behind the couple with a speedlight while the couple posed, and I took their photo with another speedlight on my camera lighting the couple from the front. We probably walked through this crosswalk about 5 times to make sure we got what we wanted, and I think it was absolutely worth it.
Currently, the packages that I offer all include a second shooter. Having this extra person not only provides a variety of photos, but they, overall, make everyone’s day that much easier. While my packages can be customized to fit my couples’ needs, I will always highly recommend including a second shooter on your big day.