Let's start out by clarifying the title of this post. Do I mean EVERY bride? Not necessarily — but the majority of weddings I've photographed have greatly benefited from a second photographer. So, who doesn't need one? Small, intimate weddings of less than 50 people such as elopements or second marriages may not need a second photographer. Now, let's get to the benefits of having a second photographer:
1. Complete Coverage - Having two photographers photographing a wedding tells a much better story of the day. Simply put, one photographer can't be in two places at once. I often photograph brides getting ready in a separate location from the groom while my second shooter covers the groom. Some of the most wonderful moments have occurred during this time: The groom and best man laughing together putting on their ties, the last few moments of the groom and his parents together, the groomsmen having a great time before the wedding — the moments go on...
Speaking of complete coverage, when I go off with the bride and groom to do their portraits after the ceremony, the guests are often enjoying cocktail hour. This is great opportunity for a second photographer to cover the guests enjoying the wedding. Also, a great second photographer can capture the reception and all the details the couple worked hard to put together before the guests arrive. i.e. table centerpieces, card/gift table, favors, flowers, etc.
Even if both photographers are at the same location, I've been amazed with how we each pick up on different moments as they occur. For example, the bride and her father are preparing to walk down the aisle and I'm with them photographing them as they walk. At the same time, the mother of the groom is in the front row with a handkerchief in her hand taking in this emotional moment.
2. Backup - I can't explain enough how much I over-prepare for a wedding. However, a malfunction or equipment failure is a possibility: memory cards randomly can become corrupt, flash batteries die, a camera setting is accidentally changed; these are all occurrences that (while rare) do happen sometimes without warning. One example I experienced as a second photographer was when the lead's flash battery died just as the bride and groom were being announced into the reception! Luckily, I was there to cover the entrance while the lead photographer changed out their batteries.
3. Creativity - the lead photographer's job is mostly to capture the "safe shots." They spend a lot of time with the bride and groom and are ready for a family portrait on a moment's notice. This doesn't leave a lot of room for the lead photographer to wander around and find creative angles or details. Second photographers have the creative freedom to capture the wedding from another perspective. Some of my favorite photos have been taken by second photographers thinking creatively at a given moment and telling the story from another perspective.
4. More images! Who doesn't love that?
At this point a bride may be wondering, "why do I need a second photographer when I'll have 50 guests there with cell phones?" There are countless reasons why relying on guests is not a good idea!
1. Quality - let's face it, there's only so much quality you can get from a cell phone. Uncle Bob's got a DSLR? Is he trained in weddings enough to know exactly where he needs to be or where I'll be for that matter? That leads me to my next point:
2. Teamwork - Guests who act as photographers can often hinder the lead photographer's abilities. They want to capture the same moment from the same angle the lead photographer is covering. That usually ends up in the "guest photographer" getting in the lead photographer's photos. When I work with a second photographer, we are a team. We communicate before and during the wedding so that we know where the other will be so that we won't be in each others' photos. We also want to ensure that we are offering the couple another perspective rather than 100 photos from the same angle.
3. Cohesive coverage - when you put "Uncle Bob's" images side by side with a professional photographer's images, will they blend together? Chances are, the answer is "No." I work with professional photographers whose styles are similar to my own. Images are post processed together to bring about a seamless story of the wedding day from beginning to end.
And remember, a wedding is too important of a day to sacrifice wedding photography coverage. After planning for months or even years, wedding photographs are what will stand the test of time in preserving your precious memories.
A special thanks to my second photographer, Autumn Wells for shooting alongside me and producing these wonderful images.