This topic is definitely one that you'll find people have a wide array of opinions on. Some people do beautiful work, capture the day beautifully, and don't ever use a second photographer. Although I think you'll find most of them still use an assistant throughout the day. But in my experience the additional perspective and creative energy - not to mention the diversity of photos - that a second photographer brings to a wedding day is essential. So every single one of my wedding collections includes a second photographer because they allow me to tell your wedding day love story the way I most want to tell it. To capture not only the big moments, but the small glances, the emotional looks, the friends dancing across the room from the bride and groom. In particular, there are five times throughout the wedding day where I find having a second photographer is key to fully and beautifully documenting a wedding story:
1. Getting Ready
The couple often gets ready separately. At a minimum, they're in different hotel rooms but often they're getting ready at two completely different locations. For example, the bride may be with her ladies in the bridal suite at the venue while the groom gets ready at a hotel. And this is also a time in the day full of special moments and traditions. The bride is getting hair and makeup done, her mom and best friend are helping her into her dress, and she’s is reading a love note from her soulmate before they see each other. And at the same time the groom is getting help with his cuff links from his dad, is trying to help all the groomsmen tie their bowties, and is toasting to his friends one final time before he sees his bride. If you don't want to miss a single emotional moment, having a second photographer during getting ready is key. While I'm with the bride, my second is with the groom and we’re able to capture these joy-filled moments of preparation for BOTH of you.
2. First Look
A first look is a time before the ceremony where you have a private reveal with your soulmate. And while this can certainly be captured by one photographer, having two allows for a more complete and creative documentation of these intensely emotional and intimate moments. While one of us sets up to capture a close up of the bride, the other can capture a close up of the groom. I’ll often set up the reveal so the bride will walk up behind the groom, tap him on the shoulder, and turn him around for the reveal. If that’s the case, one of us can get the approach of the bride coming over the grooms shoulder, while the second gets a wide shot of the scene from the side and then can capture the reaction of the groom as he turns. You will end up with a wider diversity of images and the beautiful reactions you each have when you have a second photographer there to help capture the first look.
To be honest, If you have an hour long church service with a pastor who welcomes photography and doesn’t mind the photographer moving around, then having a second photographer isn’t as essential here. However, if you’re having a shorter ceremony or your church has strict rules that limit the movement and position of the photographers (and many do) then having a second photographer is incredibly helpful. Getting photos of the bride’s expression, as well as the groom’s during the ceremony means taking photos from one side aisle and then the other. Plus, the best position for capturing the exchange of rings, the first kiss, and the processional and recessional is generally right in the center aisle. So by having a second photographer, I’m able to ensure I’m positioned in the center aisle for the major moments throughout the ceremony and that I’ll also be able to deliver beautiful portraits of the bride and groom taken from the side angles. And if there's a balcony, the second photographer can capture the recessional from above as people turn back to cheer as the newlyweds exit, while I capture the couple walking down the aisle straight towards me.
4. Cocktail Hour
If you do a first look, then your formal portraits will be done by cocktail hour – yay! And it gives your photographer time to go and create stunning photos of the reception space, escort card display, cake, and all of the other details you thoughtfully chose in order to create your dream wedding. At the same time, the second photographer can grab candid and group shots during cocktail hour of your guests enjoying themselves. If you are still taking portraits during cocktail hour, a second photographer becomes even more essential, as they’ll be able to take those reception, detail, and cocktail hour photos while the lead photographer finishes up formal portraits.
During toasts there is a lot going on and it is all so important to capture. The Maid of Honor or Best Man is speaking and sharing memories, the newlyweds are laughing, smiling, and cringing at various points throughout the speech, and family and friends are reacting to the stories and jokes as they happen. Add to that the fact that some venues have the bride and groom seated far away from where the toasts are being given and it becomes essential to have a second photographer in order to capture the reactions of everyone without being disruptive.
So if you value story telling that is brimming with genuine emotion and includes all of the beautiful details you thoughtfully chose for your wedding day, consider a second photographer as a key member of your vendor team and ask your photographer to share their own thoughts on how they utilize a second photographer or how they approach a wedding day without one.