Do you need to hire a second shooter?

As you’re doing your wedding planning research, you may have heard or seen the phrase “second shooter” pop up a few times and wondered what it meant. You’re looking to hire a wedding photographer, now you’re wondering if you have to hire another?? In this blog post, I want to break down exactly what a second shooter is, what they do, the role they play at a wedding, and why you may or may not need one! 

What is a second shooter

First, let’s talk about what a second shooter even is. A second shooter is a second photographer who assists the lead photographer (aka the wedding photographer that you hire) during the wedding day. One thing I wanted to be clear on, is that if you decide that a second shooter is right for your wedding day, your wedding photographer will take care of hiring and working with the second shooter! That’s never something that you will need to do and I’ll explain why further down. 

What does a second shooter do?

Now what does a second shooter do? Really they are assisting the lead photographer in a lot of ways! Primarily, they are there to capture any photos or angles that the lead photographer is not getting. They also are there to help carry gear, set up lighting if needed, and overall assist in any way that the lead photographer needs. A second shooter is different from an assistant though because although they may help with things like grabbing things for the lead photographer or helping hold a veil, their main job really is to be capturing things that your lead photographer is not. 

What are they capturing?

So let’s dive deeper into what the second shooter is capturing. An easy way to think of it, is that they are pointing their camera wherever the lead photographer is not! While the lead photographer may be capturing the bride’s face as she walks down the aisle, the second shooter could have their camera focused on the groom’s face. During a first look, each photographer could be focused on one person instead of having to capture both! They also capture moments where the lead photographer just may not even be able to, like cocktail hour! Cocktail hour is the time when the lead photographer is typically taking family portraits or photos of the newlyweds, so the second shooter can be in with the guests who are enjoying cocktail hour to take candid photos. It’s basically a way for the lead photographer to put themselves in two places at once, without actually cloning themselves. 

Do you need one at your wedding?

Okay, you now know the role of a second shooter, buy why might you need one at your wedding? There are a few key reasons that you may want to consider! As I mentioned above, the second shooter is capturing the angles or moments that the lead photographer isn’t able to. This isn’t to say that the lead photographer isn’t capturing the important moments, because they absolutely are! However, the second shooter is able to get angles that otherwise may have been missed on camera. For example, during the first dance the lead photographer could be capturing photos of the couple dancing while the second shooter is getting candids of the guests watching the couple dance. If being able to see even more viewpoints of your wedding day on camera is important to you, then a second shooter may be worth adding to your day! 

Another situation would be to simultaneously capture getting ready shots of the bride and groom. On most wedding days, the lead photographer is going to be with the bride and bridesmaids in the morning, getting photos of the details and girls getting ready! However, if having those getting ready photos of the men is important to you, then having a second shooter is a great idea. That allows the second shooter to be with the men in the morning so that they can capture those moments while the lead photographer is with the women. This is especially helpful if the men and women are getting ready at different locations! 

If you have a larger than average wedding or larger wedding party, it’s also smart to consider a second shooter. If you have more than 150 guests or a larger than average wedding party (typically 5 on each side), then your lead photographer will need extra time throughout the day to capture photos. Having a second shooter for the day can help save on that time! That second shooter can help to capture photos alongside the lead photographer so that they can make the timeline stay on track. For example, while the lead photographer is taking bridesmaid photos, the second shooter could be capturing groomsmen photos. It’s a great way to pull double duty! 

Finally, having a second shooter is like having an insurance policy. It is rare, but photography equipment is just that; equipment. It can fail or malfunction. Having a second present means that there is always going to be a backup! If one of the lead photographers’ cameras were to break during the first dance, you would know that the second shooter has their camera and can capture the moment for the lead photographer. Having a second shooter also means that you are going to receive more images in your final gallery! Since there is a second set of eyes and hands capturing moments, that is going to give the lead photographer more images to work with as they sort through and edit your gallery. 

Before I leave you with my final parting words on second shooters, I did want to talk about who the second shooter is working for so to speak. Your job is to hire a wedding photographer that you trust and like. From there if you decide that you’d like to have one at your wedding, it’s then your wedding photographer’s job to hire a second shooter that they trust and like! The lead photographer gives the second shooter instructions throughout the day, pays them directly, and has a contract just for them. All of the images that the second captures are given to the lead photographer, who will then go through and edit the images to include along with the photos they captured themselves! 

With all this being said, I think it’s still very possible for a solo photographer to capture a wedding day and capture it well. It really comes down to if you think it’s worth having a second shooter for your wedding day! If you are unsure whether or not you should hire a second shooter, chat with your photographer and they will be able to guide you in the right direction. 


Ashlynn Shelby

June 16, 2023

Hi! I'm Ashlynn. When you choose me as your photographer, I promise to extend everything I have into your experience and your photos. You deserve the best experience possible and that's what I plan on providing.
My blog is where I share love stories I've been a part of, and resources for couples planning their engagement , wedding or elopement. I hope you can find some helpful information here to help you plan your big day. 


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