Why I Don't Like to Shoot Weddings Alone

Why I Don't Like to Shoot Weddings Alone

There's much to be said about enriching the photography industry through positive and honest collaborations between professionals, but one thing I think we don't talk about enough is the benefits of shooting weddings with a trusted second shooter and how it can benefit your business and even your wellbeing.

I started out in the wedding photography business through second shooting myself, which made me learn plenty before I started having my own second shooters accompany me on weddings. So, why should you part with your hard-earned money and pay another professional to come to a wedding with you instead of tackling it all by yourself?

Times Have Changed

...And so has wedding photography. The expectations from couples of what wedding coverage has to include have skyrocketed. A modern wedding isn't about documenting posed groups of families, in order to record who was there to witness the couple say their “I dos,” although it's still a part of it. Today's wedding requires you to be very attentive, quick to react, and have enough energy and experience to document everything from the small details of the wedding to the fleeting emotions and expressions that disappear in a matter of seconds, to creating professional couple's portraits. Whatever your style of photography, these are the things couples expect today, with some leaning more towards candids, and others preferring more traditionally posed images. To put things in perspective, a friend of mine used to shoot weddings on film and he'd sometimes have as many as three weddings in one day. Could you imagine doing that today?

A newly married couple driving in a car.

My second shooter was driving while I was shooting.

To move on with times, we have to change and adapt ourselves. Photographers didn't use to "waste" film on shooting details of shoes, but today is all about capturing the little things and moments that make the wedding day a whole. Nowadays, couples put so much effort into making their wedding day personal and unique, so your job is to document their story, however many chapters it may include. Without my second shooter, especially if the wedding is fairly large, I'd struggle to be in two places at once to document the wedding from different perspectives. 

Most photographers will experience this when a couple requests a photographer to be present both during the groom and the bride's morning preparations. Similarly, as a male shooter you may experience your couples requesting a female photographer while the bride is getting ready. 

Things Go Wrong

Personally, I tend to worry about things going wrong when it comes to such an important event of strangers' lives because we can never go back to this day and recreate it. I can prepare myself by having a backup camera, plenty of memory cards, charged batteries, a spare change of clothes, and so on. But, what if something happens during a crucial moment? What if I feel unwell and need to take a break? What if I have an accident? Majority of these ifs can be answered by having another person by your side to take the lead when you can't.

Wedding photographer shooting a couple outdoors.

Weddings, although at glance seem a lively and exciting event, can also be a lonely place for those who shoot alone. Having another trusted professional working with you on the day can make the experience that much better by simply having someone to confide in, to share ideas with, and let's not forget, someone to complain and moan to. Even simple things such as exchanging a "help me" look with your second shooter when a wedding guest won't stop talking to you can make you feel better already. I often get headaches during weddings, and as such having a second shooter with me gives me the comfort of knowing that the wedding will be covered properly, even if I need to sit down someplace quiet for a moment.

It's the Little Things

Once you have built a good relationship and rapport with a few photographers who are happy to second shoot for you, you'll find that it's also the little things that they can help you out with that have nothing to do with photography; Whether it's running to the car to get something while you stay shooting, feeling comfortable enough to share a twin accommodation to save on hotel expenses if it's a long distance wedding, or car-pooling to the wedding together and back. Or perhaps if your couple hasn't provided any food, your second shooter can go get you something to help you get through the day without losing out on any important moments.

When shooting, it's also very convenient having someone who can either gather people you're looking for, tell others not to get in your shot, or even arrange a bride's dress. It seems like such a minor thing and yet not having to do all those things by yourself will save you time.

Only you can determine whether you need them to be on the same professional level in shooting or you simply need assistance with holding lights or other generic things that make your life easier, but either way, knowing that you have another person to rely on is a huge relief when you need to do two things at once.

A lesbian wedding couple in a park.

By the looks of it, I had more than one second shooter that day.

Invest in Building a Connection

Once you have worked with your second shooter a few times, you'll learn to see where their strengths lie and how you can utilize them for your business. Depending on what you consider your own strengths in documenting a wedding day, you'll soon start to realize which parts of the wedding you may need help with. And, if you find someone suitable who can fill in those gaps while you focus on something else, why not?

Instead of using a stranger every time you need a second shooter, consider building relationships with a smaller circle of people who can second shoot for you (and perhaps they may do an exchange of services for when they need a second shooter). The more you get to know them and their way of working, the easier it is to communicate on the day. Sometimes you get to a point where you communicate with each other just by exchanging a look. 

Don't forget, at end of the day this is about your business so why spend time on getting to know a new second shooter every time when you can work with someone whose style and personality you're familiar with. Equally, it's important to find people you trust because they'll be representing you and your business.

Have you enjoyed the benefits of working with a second shooter? Have you had any negative experiences? Share it with us.

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20 Comments

Glen Grant's picture

No wedding chap here, but I really never thought in these days that anyone would do a wedding solo. There is so much to cover in that day that is makes sense to have a partner (I would think), unless of course it is one of those simple civil ceremonies. At least none of the weddings I have attended have been anything but 2 or 3.
Mind you in today's climate you never shoot alone, all those phones backing you up :-)

Anete Lusina's picture

Believe it or not, there's still plenty of photographers who wouldn't consider having another person by their side working for them! And haha, so true. Sometimes we get Uncle Bob (or a few of them) trying to budge in while we shoot at weddings :)

Glen Grant's picture

I'm one of those loners, but for a wedding I'd for sure have me a partner to the crime.

A lot of people shoot weddings solo even today. Much of it, I think, has to do with the couple's budget. Remember, there are still plenty of people who do not value photographers and adding even a dollar for a second shooter is outrageous in their minds.

Anete Lusina's picture

I can see that, that's why I think it's our job to educate our clients in regards to this. Luckily, photographers vary in styles and price brackets so every couple will find something suitable for them.

Tim Behuniak's picture

I definitely agree. I would never shoot a wedding alone unless it was extremely tiny. The weddings I have photographed were all with a second shooter. Having that other person with me helped get shots I missed, helped gather people/crowd-control, as well as assist with all the countless "little things" throughout the day. Not to mention: having one photographer photograph the groomsmen and the other photographer the bridal party is ridiculously helpful. Great article!

Jozef Povazan's picture

Here is a fellow wedding photographer who is old dinosaur in your point of view :) since I do photograph alone :). It does not matter if it is a helicopter elopement on the top of the ice field, destination wedding in Bali or multi day Indian wedding with 1000 guests !!! It is me and only me :) Brides want my vision and my story how I lived their wedding day, and they have it. I know amazing teams of wedding photographers who would not dare to shoot a wedding as single shooters but I also know amazing solo shooters who are such strong storytellers. So this is very personal to any photographer and I do think solo wedding photography is something which can and it is done in very high level :) Happy shooting guys.

Glen Grant's picture

Being a loner is one thing.
As the key photographer on any large scale project it truly is your vision and indeed what the client is after. Having help to take care of other details is to me of importance. There has got to be much missed and work harder to do any sizeable wedding solo.
Destination weddings maybe I can see given the potential serious added cost, but I'd still try to recruit me some local or some help.
Tim Behuniak says it well.
No way would I do a commercial shoot solo without my assistant(s), 90% of my normal shoots has an assistant. I am a loner but having qualified help for me is not taking anything away from my clients expectations or my role, it is just having someone there to aide and support.
But I get it, it's old school and it's your most comfort way.

Gabriel SAP's picture

I shoot 95% of my weddings with a second shooter, but I always say he is there basically to do three things:

1. Shoot the groom preparation, because I'm usually on the other side of the city with the bride
2. Shoot wherever happens while I'm eating (brazilian weddings are kind of a mess, where everything happens at the same time, theres no program)
3. Feel some gaps here and there.

But in the end I should be able to deliver a decent job even if my second shooter loses all his images.

Anete Lusina's picture

That's exactly how I see it. When I work I try to think, "what if my second shooter had an accident or all cards went corrupt, would I be able to still deliver a decent coverage?"

Oli Aponte's picture

"Brides want my vision and my story how I lived their wedding day, and they have it." When you have a good second shooter, even a half decent one.. the brides have probably already seen the second shooter's picture without even knowing it (just by looking at your previous work).. I've been a second shooter for plenty of weddings, and some of my images are part of the final images delivered by the main shooter. I'm sure the bride or anyone else cant tell which picture is from the main shooter or the second shooter.. (without actually thinking hard about it.. like "how did he get that picture when he was in front of us the whole time?")

A good well paid second shooter is worthwhile. I just find all the good ones are too busy with their own weddings.

Rex Larsen's picture

Covering a wedding wearing blue jeans ?
Explain how that is ok.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

I am not exactly an expert but I wonder if anybody could make a living from being just a marriage photographer in the Netherlands. Official marriages (we also have something that is called: "registrated partners") aren't that popular anymore in our country and those that do seldom seem to have a paid photographer. I could be wrong of course but the big marriages seem to be a thing of the past.
But as I said, I am not sure.
I shot three marriage for fun (I am just an amateur) and I found it nerve wracking. No going back and doing it again. I made a video of two marriages and found that marginally easier (although far from easy). As long as your video is running and you are in the right spot, it probably will be alright.

Goran Vrakela's picture

Totaly agree. I always have the second shooter, and she shoots and helps me with lights and posing when needed :-)

Gabriel SAP's picture

Here in Belem (north of Brazil) most wedding photography teams are formed by 3 ou 4 photographers and I think it´s too much. Sometimes there's EIGHT people in the altar (photo + video companies).
I usually take just a second shooter or two if the wedding has more than 200 guests.
In Portugal, 90% of the weddings are covered with just one photographer, but I thinks its because the portuguese really like to save money.

Anete Lusina's picture

Wow, that is a big team! I bet it is not that easy to ensure shots do not have any of the team members in the background!

Gabriel SAP's picture

Yep..
Not to mention that we have a lot of cheap professionals here, who likes to film the bride and groom with a 24mm lens, less than 3ft away and a LED light at maximum power.
It´s like those "professionals" think the pictures are more important than the experience of the clientes and the guests on the moment.

Anete Lusina's picture

We had this at an Asian wedding. A team of 2 photographers and 2 videographers and we managed to stay out of each other's ways but a guest had brought his camera and literally stood by our side as we worked, he even moved videographer's equipment at one point and ended up getting elbowed because videographer was moving as he filmed, and didn't see the guy stood next to him.

Anjanette Arnold's picture

I attended a wedding in the Philippines. Their photography vendor had 3 people and videography about 6. That's because producing both a same-day photo slideshow and highlight video is very common and even expected. I believe if you don't offer these services, you will not get booked. Both groups would have multiple shooters and a runner to deliver the memory cards to someone who is doing all the editing somewhere in a different room.