What's the Point of Second Shooters?

Are Two Photographers Really Better Than One?

Second Photographer Warning

There are numerous conspiracy theories surrounding the death of professional wedding photography or the exponential race to the bottom as it’s known in the office. I’ve mentioned a few reasons for the decline here on the Secret Wedding Photographer blog, such as free engagement shoots. Some will claim that the big camera manufacturers don’t care about us pros and much in the same way that Apple virtually ditched development of professional workstations and support for professional applications (farewell Aperture) the big camera companies are now focused on making photography easier and cheaper for consumers. Let's leave for another post! 

There is another far sinister factor - the Second Shooter, lurking in the background. I’m old enough to remember life before the second shooter. The days of a now mythical creature - the photographers assistant. A useful beast who knew his place. I even employed one once who didn't want to be a photographer. He liked assisting. Having an assistant is great. They carry your bags. Make sure everything is working. Move lights around and hold reflectors. They were a fantastic thing. Unfortunately, they are rarely seen now. Commercially no one will pay for them. They have been made extinct by the birth of the second shooter. Another disastrous idea for the wedding photography business.

Like free engagement shoots if you ask clients to pay for an additional photographer they won’t. Of course, they don’t have to because now virtually all wedding photographers include them in their packages. Many new photographers would probably freak out if they had to shoot a wedding on their own. The argument for having a second shooter is laughable - better coverage. More angles. Better pictures. Amazingly you can now see the exchange of rings from the back of the Church as well as the front! Not if the vicar won’t let you shoot from the front of the Church you won’t.

This approach reminds me of some of those films made in the 60s. You’d get the see the action from several angles all at the same time. It’s just annoying to watch. 

You’ll also get to photograph the groom getting ready as well as the bride. This is the bride’s idea, and the groom isn’t bothered, and he’ll probably tell you to go away. 

The most significant flaw in the second shooter argument is the better pictures. Really? I mean who is this second shooter? A spouse given a camera by the primary photographer is favourite - mainly because you don’t need actually to pay them. A student - handy because they’ll do it for the experience. A wannabe wedding photographer building up their portfolio - perfect because they’ll do it for free. Bit of a theme developing here.

Fact is that if you wanted an additional photographer to contribute anything worthwhile you’d need to pay a wedding photographer to do it. Problem is if they are any good they’ll have their own bookings to shoot. Where’s the wedding photography coffin - I need to put another nail in. 

So if you’re getting married this year don’t get carried away with the need for two photographers for your wedding - just book one really good professional and I promise you everything will be fine. The second one is just there for show and getting in the way!

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Comments (8)

  • Paul


    05 January 2015 at 16:10 | #

    Great points and well made.


  • Phil


    05 January 2015 at 17:04 | #

    I don't know whether your post is just designed to be controversial, but if not it shows a lack of understanding of the reasons some photographers use a second shooter. And how most are actually a cross between second shooter and assistant. Mine, who is paid a decent rate (because she's a good photographer but as it happens, doesn't want to run her own business), has been working with me for 7 years. Knowing she's there enables me to get on with the job without worrying. If the bride's preparations are running late, she'll be at the church to meet the guys and cover that bit. She'll take additional group shots while I'm doing mine (last Saturday, she shot the bride's sister who'd come over from Australia with her husband and young family, while I carried on with the rest). And she'll help gather the guests when needed, to keep everything quick and efficient. During the speeches she'll concentrate on the guests reactions while I'm shooting top table. Plus she'll do much more besides, including helping with lighting to create shots that otherwise would be difficult or impossible alone. You may think none of that is important. But many brides think it is, and that it adds value, and your dismissal of it tells us that you're not really that bothered about what your customers want. Of course, taking your stance allows you to keep costs low, and take maximum profit from each shoot, doesn't it? ;-)


  • MA


    06 January 2015 at 16:55 | #

    Great article - you are currently the only photographer making any sense to me. I'm sick of young photographers reeling out their 'adapt or die' mantra' and the endless hero worshipping of mediocre snappers running wedding photography workshops.


  • David - London Wedding Photographer

    David - London Wedding Photographer

    08 January 2015 at 09:00 | #

    I agree with everything in this article - always amuses me when I see so called documentary wedding photographers offering two photographers and on the same page stating how they are influenced by Cartier-Bresson etc - can't imagine him requiring backup to tell the simple story of a wedding!


  • Lina Orsino-Allen

    Lina Orsino-Allen

    23 March 2015 at 15:37 | #

    Bah humbug. Phil's response is spot on. Your blog reeks of bitterness. As a company who market ourselves as 'unisex' rather than Bride focussed, Grooms love us being able to shoot their prep too. In six years and hundreds of weddings we have only ever had two ask us not to bother. They're pleased to deal with a company that actually cares that they are there. Two photographers will undoubtedly cover more of the day, we give our couples so many more shots of their guests having fun too. Maybe the difference is that one of us is not an assistant, rather we are of equal standing but have different strengths. Saying that, I don't think two photographers automatically means better, just offers more than a singular view of the day.


  • dd


    10 April 2015 at 08:46 | #

    Evolve or retire my friend. There are many many positive to second shooters, but only if they are experienced, professional and polite.


  • Amy


    03 December 2015 at 09:20 | #

    Hahaha oh dear, this article definitely reads like it's written by a cynical old photographer who pines for the good old days of film only, before he decided all of these whipper snappers were bought a DSLR's by their daddies and demanded to be a wedding photographer... yawn. Sorry gramps, but you gotta make way for the new! Gone are the days when "photographer assistants" would need to hold such things as reflectors at weddings!! A reflector at a wedding!! I've never heard the like. We aint plopping bouquets on brides trains any more either y'know, Mr Old Timer. Most weddings these days are covered in a documentary style... and when the wedding has over 100 guests (sometimes over 200), one photographer with 2 DSLR's (even an old pro with a film SLR) wouldn't be able to document enough guests. And with all the new couples wanting shots of the details in their venue at the same time as they are getting their wedding portraits shot (which we no longer just shoot in 10 mins at the church near the gravestones any more, gramps)... how the hell are we meant to be in 2 places at once. Oh, hello second shooter!


  • ocube


    03 December 2015 at 09:24 | #

    So true.... I was in a shoot, bridal prep took a while. Then the bride took off without warning, by the time i got to the Church the ceremony had begun. Fortunately there was a second shooter present to capture her walking down the aisle.


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