A big question when researching wedding photographers to capture your big day is “how many wedding photographers do I need?” What are the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a second wedding photographer, a photography team or duo?
Hi. I’m Wes Simpson, a professional wedding photographer. I understand how much planning has gone into your wedding and how important all the details and precious memories are to you and your family. That’s why more than 400 couples in 10 countries have trusted me to photograph their wedding.
Below is some honest, logical and practical advice about the pros and cons of hiring a second wedding photographer. Drawing from my 15 years of wedding photography experience, I aim to help with your wedding planning and to help answer the question if you need more than one wedding photographer to photograph your wedding.
For a lot of couples, the most important thing for them when considering the importance of hiring a second wedding photographer is for dual coverage of the ceremony. Most couples worry about coverage of both the bride’s entrance and the groom’s reaction when he sees his bride for the first time.
Some people (mainly 2nd wedding photographers, photography teams and duos) say you can’t capture this moment with just one photographer. FALSE! Because more often than not, the priceless reaction of the groom’s face usually happens when he’s looking straight on and when he isn’t even looking at the bride.
THE TRUTH: In this situation having two photographers can often result in them being in each other’s way? If they’re both ‘shooting’ down the aisle they run the danger of being in each others frame. Plus, more often than not, the groom nervously looks straight ahead until he feels the bride arriving over his shoulder before he turns to look at her.
In addition to this, having two photographers and another two videographers (four cameras pointing at you) in this situation can be an unwanted distraction.
Plus: Photography is about storytelling, yes the groom’s reaction is important but the MOMENT is about the bride and there is a lot more going on here than the groom’s reaction. The bride linking her father and his proud face as he walks her down the aisle (or whoever is giving her away). The guest’s reaction and let’s not forget a full-length picture of the dress in all its glory!
STYLE OF WEDDING
If you’re having a low key wedding or either of you are camera shy and don’t like having your pictures taken, I would suggest that the more photographers and videographers you have pointing cameras at you throughout your wedding day will not help make for a comfortable experience.
A lot of wedding photographers now claim to be a ‘documentary wedding photographer’, sometimes calling themselves ‘reportage, storytellers, photo-journalistic’ (it’s confusing I know) but basically, all this means is that the photographer specialises in natural, un-posed images.
The technique used in documentary wedding photography is for the photographer to be a ‘fly on the wall’ capturing the event as it unfolds without direction or being noticed. This style of wedding photography is perfect for couples that want natural-looking images and don’t want to spend their wedding day posing for pictures.
If you like the idea of having a wedding photographer that ‘blends in’ something worth considering would be if that having two photographers would jeopardise the natural rhythm you visualise? You could also potentially have two videographers, that’s four cameras pointing at you.
If you’re having a small wedding which is taking place at a small venue or you have a limited number of guests, will having TWO photographers be an unwanted distraction for yourselves and the guests? Will the 2nd wedding photographer be in the other photographer way?
THE ROLE OF SECOND WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
My style of wedding photography is described as “creative documentary” so when I bring a second wedding photographer I usually hire an additional professional photographer based on their strengths and the needs of the client, this usually results in the second photographer being more traditional and formal in style.
On the wedding day, the 2nd photographer would concentrate on formal group shots of the guests and the more traditional aspects of the day. This would free me up to capture the more creative side of the event, we would not be in each other’s way and their images would complement mine in a positive and non-confusing way.
I remain the lead photographer and it’s my ‘vision, style and approach’ that the customer is booking, therefore the style of images the customer sees on my website, in MY sample albums and at time of booking is the style of photography they can expect to receive. It’s all my photography! I do not show any other photographers work.
My approach to wedding photography is about 75% documentary, naturally capturing the day as it unfolds. If you look on my website or social media, you can see a common theme and ‘a look’ to my images. The images are not only similar in terms of context but are photographed and edited in the same style and to the same standards, this provides continuity, trust and a ‘recognisable’ style and brand.
Just like with any ‘artist’ when booking a wedding photographer you are booking a style that has been developed over time. Just like a Michelin Star Chef has a signature dish, a painter a recognisable style and a musician has a distinctive sound. For example, if you hear a Coldplay song on the radio; you know it’s Coldplay or Madonna, Elton John, Rhianna, The Beatles etc, that’s because of their recognisable style.
When a singer collaborates with another artist, they usually go against the grain, take Jay Z rapping over a Beyonce song or Nicki Minaj with Ariana Grande. When I hire a second wedding photographer, I hire a more traditional photographer because my style is more natural.
So, a couple of things to consider when choosing multiple photographers is – do they have the same style? For example, is one photographer documentary style and the other traditional? Is one photographer into posed pictures and the other a ‘hipster?’
Will the two styles of photography blend together and compliment your wedding especially when presented as a collection in your wedding album, or will they jar and cause visual confusion?
Photography Styles: What is Documentary Wedding Photography?
BENEFITS OF SECOND WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
A second wedding photographer can be a handy addition on the morning of the wedding. If you require preparation photography and are planning on getting ready at the exact same time as each other, one photographer can cover the bridal preparations and the 2nd photographer can cover the groom preparations.
However, if the cost is an issue or you don’t need or want a 2nd photographer you can simply stagger the preparation times and a single photographer can cover both (which is what I usually do).
More often than not, I’m attending a wedding on my own, so I usually photograph the bride in the morning and then meet the groom 45 minutes before the ceremony. Simple.
Some of the best weddings in the world have been covered by pairings and they would argue all of the advantages of having a second wedding photographer or even multiple photographers cover your day.
Some of the additional benefits of having a 2nd wedding photographer would be multiple angles, they can capture images that take a little more planning, direction, set up and pose.
A second wedding photographer can help with complex lighting situations, which takes a lot more time but the results can be stunning works of art.
For larger weddings a second wedding photographer can be useful, they can take more pictures of your guests (if you require more), and they might be able to cover a secondary angle.
For large events such as a big Indian wedding, then an extra photographer is the standard recommendation, still working as a pair they usually split up and produce more coverage.
DISADVANTAGES OF SECOND WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
Wedding photography is about quality, not quantity. Will you end up with lots of duplicate images from just slightly different angles?
Are you only really paying for coverage of groom preparations?
Will it be a distraction having two photographers. Will it make people feel uncomfortable?
Will having a second wedding photographer be an extra cost that you simply don’t need?
If you are planning on a wedding album, the more photographers you have can result in a lot more images. You might need to display the images in an additional album which would be an extra cost.
For the price of two average photographers would you be better placed with one amazing photographer?
MALE AND FEMALE PHOTOGRAPHER
For whatever reason, you may want one male and one female wedding photographer. In my 15 years of photographing weddings, this has never been a problem (I’m a male). If you don’t feel comfortable with your photographer, they shouldn’t be your photographer full stop!
“I NEED MORE ANGLES”
Some brides want every angle covered other brides not so much. My photography is focused on a single vision. You are hiring me, right? for my vision, experience and the work presented in my portfolio. So why do you want other photographers?
I am a BBC trained camera operator, I’ve worked on many TV dramas together with a couple of feature films. Most classic motion picture films and TV dramas are filmed with one camera; this is to reflect the director’s vision and a personal perspective.
The use of a single camera is MOST evident on documentaries and films of a personal nature such as thrillers and romance. Action films have multiple cameras to capture the high-speed action etc. These scenes are usually void of drama and emotion is not present.
I favour single-camera wedding photography, it gives my work it’s cinematic style, it has a more personal quality to it and it allows me to get closer to the action, capture emotion and to take pictures without the subject knowing they’re being photographed.
SECOND WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER BOOKING
If you book Wes Simpson Weddings and require a second wedding photographer, I hire/supply a second professional wedding photographer on your behalf. It’s not my wife or girlfriend, it is another professional photographer.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t successful husband and wife photographers, there are some couple pairings that I really admire, however, this comes at a logical and transparent price point which is evident in the overall photography fee. Remember, it’s your wedding day and not bring your partner to workday!
THE TRUE COST OF HIRING A SECOND WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
Look out for red flags when looking at multiple photographer packages. The true cost of two wedding photographers should be reflected in the price. Let’s say for argument’s sake that you are booking a photography package that includes two photographers for £1000. You are NOT getting TWO £1000 wedding photographers, you are getting –
A) Two £500 photographers packaged up at £1000, which is great. (But do you need two photographers? If not, you’ve just saved £500). If the two photographers are of the same style, quality and experience you would expect the price to be double, right?
B) For the £1000 price tag, maybe you are getting one main photographer at £800 and the 2nd wedding photographer is £200. Ask yourself “how good is the second photographer?” and will their style and approach complement your wedding budget?
C) Often, a second professional photographer is recruited last minute or closer to your wedding day by your main photographer (resulting in a discounted fee), if this is the case the main photographer should be able to point you in the direction of the other photographer’s website or be able to show you examples of their work.
D) The more you have, the more you’ll be shown and the more you will need and want. Having 2 photographers might result in more pictures. Is your contract ‘capped’ or will you be shown additional pictures at an additional cost?
E) The second wedding photographer has little or no experience and isn’t being paid. They might simply be the main photographers enthusiastic (or insecure partner), tagging along for the day, a student, trainee or helper. Therefore the price should be transparent and reflect this and not be packaged as two photographers.
*The points outlined in this article about hiring a second wedding photographer are my personal views and considerations from 15 years of experience working in the wedding industry. They do not reflect that of any governing body.
Check out Wedding Photography Costs: An Ultimate Guide for 2021 Wedding Planning.
SECOND PHOTOGRAPHER NOT ASSISTANT
The role of a second wedding photographer is very different from that of an assistant. Even though at times an assistant wedding photographer can provide extra coverage there primary role is to assist the main photographer in the smooth running of the day.
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS ASSISTANT
The role of assistant wedding photographer includes carrying equipment, swapping lenses, holding lights and even driving the car between locations.
If you’re on a budget, the addition of a student or trainee wedding photographer is a great way to get some extra shots at a low cost and you’re also helping to kick start a potential career.
Something to consider when hiring an assistant wedding photographer would be insurance and knowledge of wedding etiquette especially during religious ceremonies, high society weddings and formal parts of the day.
ARE TWO PHOTOGRAPHERS BETTER THAN ONE?
When choosing a wedding photographer it can be confusing, there are so many styles to choose from and it’s easy to get tempted by offers such as a free engagement shoot or two wedding photographer packages.
I believe hiring a wedding photographer is exciting and one of the most important parts of planning your wedding. Regardless of how many wedding photographers you have, it all comes down to price, quality, style, experience and how much you value wedding photography and your precious wedding memories.
SO 1 WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER OR 2?
Once you’ve decided on the style of photography you like you will what to meet with a photographer who specialises in that style. You will want to know more about what they offer and if their personality and experience will be a good fit for you and your wedding day.
When faced with the question “How many wedding photographers do I need.” Firstly, speak with the photographer you are considering hiring. I usually meet or FaceTime with my customers to answer any questions and to asses their needs and the requirements for the wedding day.
My advice when asked “do I need a 2nd wedding photographer for my wedding day,” would be to remove all the clutter, offers, promotions and simply ask yourself – “How good is the photography?” and “What type of day am I planning?”
CHOOSING ME TO PHOTOGRAPH YOUR WEDDING
Choosing me as your wedding photographer means you won’t be away from your family and friends for too long. Nothing will be staged or over posed. Every photo will be a true insight into your wedding and a timeless reminder of the best day of your life.
When I photograph your wedding I capture everything – the details, hugs, smiles and tears. I will show you things that happened that you never knew about.
I am an available light photographer which means I don’t use big distracting lights. I use professional equipment and a range of lenses, my favourites are called prime lenses – 35 and 50mm which give a similar field of view to our eyesight, this is perfect for natural-looking images with a nice blurry background.
My approach to wedding photography is about 75% documentary, capturing real moments as they happen. These are the types of images that trigger memories in years to come. I mix this with some creative portraits, which my couples call “works of art” and proudly hang on their walls.
BOOK ME TO PHOTOGRAPH YOUR WEDDING
Choosing the right photographer to capture your precious wedding memories is exciting and one of the most important parts of planning your wedding, after all, you only take two things away from your wedding, your rings and your wedding pictures.
If you’re planning a wedding and would like a free consultation to discuss any hopes and dreams you have about hiring a wedding photographer, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to hear from you.