Why You Need a Second Photographer on Your Wedding Day

Most of the couples we photograph choose to have a second photographer (sometimes called a second shooter) as part of their wedding photography package. But if you’re on the fence and wondering whether or not you need a second photographer or if it’s worth it or not, you’ll want to read this post!

For most couples, having a second shooter is a top priority. For many years, we have always included this option in the majority of our packages. In my opinion, having a second shooter is one of the most important things you can include in your photography package.

Here’s why we think you need a second photographer on your wedding day and why it’s so invaluable

1. Automatic backup and built-in insurance.

There is no better and more cost-effective way to have a bit of photographic insurance on your wedding day than having a second photographer. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to take risks or you’re at all worried about “missing” something on your wedding day when it comes to photography or moments, make sure your package includes a second photographer. It is automatic built-in backup on a wedding day, which is worth FAR more than you are paying because it gives you something that is priceless: peace of mind. 

2. Different perspectives.

The ability to capture different perspectives is one of the best parts of having a second photographer. When you have a two photographer team, there are interesting candids, fun little moments you may not have known about, and little details captured. While the primary photographer is focusing on the main events occurring, the second photographer can focus their lens on the reactions and moments you may not have even been aware of. Their photographs tell the supporting story of the greater narrative of your wedding day.

The example below is from Brooke & Levi’s wedding, and while these are couples portraits, there’s already more variety than if there was one photographer.

3. Increased creativity.

There is greater opportunity for creativity as a primary photographer when there is a supporting second shooter on a wedding day. This is perhaps THE biggest reason I believe you should have a two photographer team. Our second photographers are fully trained and capable photographers with an incredible amount of talent. When you team up TWO talented photographers, this unleashes a ton of creativity in one or both of us!

Wedding days have a LOT going on, and there are many ‘must-have’ shots that are artistically a bit more safe. There are also opportunities to be creative and epic. It is difficult to wear both hats as a solo-photographer and manage each of these competing perspectives and still capture everything on a wedding day. When there are two photographers, we share the responsibilities and the creative juices flow much more easily. It’s difficult to overstate how much of an impact this has on your final images since the opportunities are endless.

All that being said, here are some instances where you need a second photographer on virtually any wedding day:

1. When the bride walks down the aisle.

This is the one time during the wedding ceremony where I can’t be two places at once that I wish I could be. My goal is to capture as many of the raw and real emotions as possible. Both the groom about to see his bride walking down the aisle (a BIG moment!) and the bride having those final few seconds before heading down the aisle. The emotions are often at their peak and I love photographing this portion of the day! But unfortunately, unless I were to be completely disruptive and dash down the aisle immediately preceding the bride, it’s just not possible during most ceremonies to photograph both of these moments solo from the same vantage point.

This is where it’s vital to have a second photographer. They can be in the places that I can’t be. Capturing the bride with her dad for those final we’re-about-to-get-married-moments, while I am at the front capturing the bride processing and the grooms reaction. Unless it’s a very small or very casual wedding, having a second photographer is vital to having both of these moments photographed, and I think it’s really difficult to prioritize one over the other.

At Brooke & Levi’s wedding at Rollins Mansion in Des Moines, I knew ahead of time that their wedding ceremony was going to be emotional – they both warned me! These moments were captured by our team with one photographer at the front (myself), and myself second photographer at the back on a balcony overlooking so that we could BOTH photograph the emotions happening at the same time.

Rollins mansion outdoor wedding ceremony
Groom looks on as bride walks down the aisle at outdoor wedding ceremony at Rollins Mansion
Groom gets emotional during the wedding ceremony as the bride walks down the aisle

2. Cocktail hour 

A lot of our couples love hanging out and spending time with their friends during cocktail hour, but most couples do have some portion of that time where they are NOT present, either taking photos or visiting a bar or something else. When I have a second photographer, they can photograph cocktail hour and the social time with guests, while I photograph details, a few extra wedding party or couples photos, etc. 

3. First look

Most couples do not want a paparazzi during their first look, but it sure is nice to have photos of both people’s faces during this sweet moment. Usually in a pinch, I can photograph a first look solo, though it means a bit more orchestration on my part, which I try to avoid when possible. When I have a second photographer, I focus on one person while my second focuses on the other, ensuring both experiences are altered. If your first look is more casual and laid back, this is not as much of a concern overall.

A few quick examples from a first look with two photographers, which enabled us to get multiple angles and lots of emotions.

First look with bride in Pella Iowa
Emotional first look between bride and groom captured by a second photographer in Pella, Iowa

4. Candids of guests, family, and VIPS

One of the things I encourage my second photographers to prioritize is photographing all of the most important people on your wedding day that aren’t the couple. TO get the reactions and experiences of your parents, best friends, and family members – it’s a bit day for them too! They catch extra moments on the day, either when the MAIN moment is happening, they are looking elsewhere with their lens while I’m focused on the main event, or they are physically somewhere else where I am not.

5. Groom getting ready

It is MUCH easier to photograph the bride and groom getting ready in separate locations when we have two photographers. If you are in the same building, it can be doable with one photographer, but it is still MUCH easier when we have two people an do’t have to worry about difficult/slow hotel elevators, finding keys, etc and one photographer can just take their time and let moments unfold in each scenario.

An example below from Elyse & Andrew’s wedding. Even though they were getting ready at the same hotel, I knew I didn’t want to miss the moment Elyse’s mom helped her into her dress, but we also wanted to photograph Andrew getting ready too. By sending my second photographer to photograph the groom getting ready, we were able to capture both without adding any stress to the day, and allowing each moment to unfold organically.

Second shooter captures groom getting ready on a wedding day
Lead photographer captures a photograph of the bride and her mom getting ready on her wedding day

For couples thinking they’d rather skip having a second photographer, here are the scenarios where I suggest it would be okay to bypass the option:

  1. You’re having an intimate wedding, elopement, or smaller guest list.
  2. Your wedding venue is small. IN cramped spaces, having two photographers (in addition to a videographer) means we’ll just end up getting in each other’s way or in the way of the guests if the space is too tight. This is rare, but it has happened. 
  3. Budget….however, before you skip having a second photographer because it costs more, consider this:

    According to The Knot’s survey, one of the top 5 regrets couples did have about their budget was not spending enough on their photography! In this survey, many wished they’d spent less on their invitations, dress, even booze (I mean we still want a party!) so they’d have had more to spend on their photography.

Remember, your photography is among the very few things you’ll keep after the wedding to remember the day.

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Reasons you should consider hiring a second photographer on your wedding day
All the reasons you NEED a second photographer on your wedding day
Top reasons you should have a second shooter on your wedding day



Hey there, and welcome to the JWP blog!  We are a photography team based in Iowa and we’re glad you’re here!  We hope you’ll enjoy viewing our most recent weddings, tips brides, and business and educational resources for photographers.  


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