. . . And Why If You Love Candid Photos You Should Consider One
A couple commonly asked questions I receive from couples who are planning for their wedding photography coverage are:
- Do we need a second photographer on our wedding day? What are the benefits?
- What is the difference between an assistant and a second photographer?
- What does the second photographer (or second shooter) do on the wedding day?
I decided to write a blog post, today, answering all of these questions and more when it comes to understanding how you can benefit from adding on a secondary photographer to your wedding day coverage! I first want to say that when it comes to designing your custom wedding package, every couple has a unique idea of what they would like out of their photography experience and every couple also has a unique budget. At this point in time, about half of my couples decide to include a second photographer in their coverage and the other half are happy with just one photographer covering the events of the day (a.k.a. me!). Every bride has her priorities and that can look different for everyone! Some brides are passionate about tangible heirlooms and physical products (like my fine-art albums and prints), others value having as many candid moments as possible captured, and some want all of the above.
I want my couples to know the options available to them, and I believe in providing the best information I can to empower couples to make an educated decision fortheir specific needs! For the sake of this post, I will dive a little bit deeper into what exactly a second shooter is and the benefits of having one on your wedding day!
I decided the best way for me to illustrate my point was to incorporate photos from a wedding where I myself was the secondary photographer! It had been a little over a year since I was available to second shoot for another photographer with my limited availability when my good friend Niki contacted me. I was so happy to have the opportunity to work alongside one of my industry peers, Niki Marie Photography this past summer! It was such a joy to photograph these moments for this sweet couple and to hang out with Niki for the day (even if I did have a temperature of 101 and zero voice when I photographed these images - a blog story for another time)!
1. What are the benefits of investing in a secondary photographer on your wedding day?
So you may be wondering why should we invest in a secondary photographer? What are the benefits? There are quite a few reasons why I believe it can be a good idea to add-on a second photographer, but here are my Top 3 Main Reasons:
- Alternate Perspectives - On a wedding day, events happen simultaneously (like during the first look or the walk up the aisle)! As the main photographer, I will focus most closely on the bride and groom and the events immediately surrounding them. I make it my goal to capture as many candid, organic moments as I can but they will inevitably be near the inner circle of the action.
In example, the main photographer can be at the front of the church ready to capture the bride's face as she walks up the aisle, but can't be in two places at once and simultaneously capture the bride and her father from behind as she walks up the aisle. The second photographer can stand at the back of the church and the main can stand at the front of the church capturing both perspectives at the same time!
Additionally during the reception events, and when the guest list starts to go up to 250 and beyond, it becomes harder for me to capture as many candids on the peripheral of the main events. If you are looking for lots of coverage during the reception, beyond just the dance floor area, a second photographer will help push the coverage past the main events all the way to the shy guests sitting in the far back corner of the hall.
- You Want More Candid Moments - As you will see in more detail throughout this blog post when you have additional perspectives covered by two photographers it will result in more candid moments. Just the nature of having two photographers instead of one will result in more photographs overall!
The main photographer is going to be more focused on the main events (like capturing the first kiss as Mr. and Mrs.) and that allows the second shooter to turn the camera to reactionary moments (while the couple kiss, the second photographer turns to capture the bridal party cheering in celebration) happening at the same time!
- If You're Getting Ready in Two Separate Locations - Sometimes a bride and groom decide to get ready for the wedding ceremony in two completely separate locations (like in this wedding shown) and the locations are a good driving distance apart.
If you are getting ready 10 minutes or more apart from each other and you want photographs of both you getting into your dress and your groom hanging out with the guys and preparing for the day, then a second photographer can help in this situation! If the timeline is tight during the getting ready portion of the day and there are two getting ready locations, I will, as the main photographer, stay and photograph the bridal details while Scott, as my second shooter, will go and capture the guys getting ready.
2. What's the difference between an assistant and a secondary photographer?
In my business, I bring along my assistant Scott (who also happens to by my boyfriend of 6 years) to all of the weddings I photograph. As an assistant, Scott is there in a non-shooting capacity, and I wanted to take a second to explain the difference between his role as an assistant vs. when he is working as my second photographer. Unless a couple decides to include a second photographer in their event coverage, Scott assists me throughout the day in a way that doesn't involve him picking up a camera.
The cliff notes version of Scott's role as my assistant includes carrying extra equipment (everything from my bag of camera gear to lighting equipment), keeping me updated on the timeline and things happening to make sure we stay on schedule, he is a professional bouquet holder and dress fluffer when necessary, and overall he's an extra pair of hands and eyes for me on the wedding day! His help is such a blessing to me and the best part of having him around is that he allows me to become really focused on being creative and the organic moments taking place at the wedding without having to worry about the little things.
Because Scott is there at all the weddings I've photographed, he has also been trained by me to act as a secondary photographer when a couple decides they would like the additional coverage! This leads me to the next question about what exactly what does the second photographer do on the wedding day?
3. What does a secondary photographer do on the wedding day?
A secondary photographer by definition is simply a second photographer who photographs alongside the main photographer on the wedding day - pretty self-explanatory right? What's not always as clear to brides is what is expected of the second photographer on the wedding day. Every photographer has their own set of rules for how they like their second shooter to capture the day with them. For me, Scott's primary role as the secondary photographer is to capture alternative angles and different perspectives from my own and to capture candid moments while also performing some of his assistant duties.
For the remainder of the post, I will talk about where the main photographer is normally located throughout different parts of the wedding day and where the secondary photographer is in relation to that!
At this wedding where I was the secondary photographer for Niki, she had me start at the groom's getting ready location while she photographed the bride getting ready in a separate location.
It is the job of the secondary photographer to act as the main photographer when they are in a situation without the main photographer present. I had to be sure to capture multiple perspectives of the groomsmen preparing for the wedding ceremony, the groom's details, as well as all the formal groom and groomsmen portraits.
I love capturing all the details, big and small, throughout the getting ready process!
For the groomsmen portraits in the morning, they wanted it to be a little more relaxed so I focused on capturing their interactions as candidly as possible while still capturing those traditional portraits that the main photographer wanted!
After the guys are finished getting ready, the secondary photographer will then meet-up with the main photographer to finish capturing the bride getting ready. I really loved all the intimate moments happening with the bride and her girls right before they all walked down the aisle!
A candid heart to heart.
In this moment, the main photographer is talking with the bride and the bridesmaids and as the second shooter I just kept shooting through the moment. If I had put my camera down and started talking too I would have missed this moment happening and the lovely smile the bride had!
This moment gives me alllllllll the heart eyes right here!
I know as the second photographer that the main photographer is photographing the bride's face and expression so instead of capturing the exact same thing I will focus on the small details or other things that might be happening in the room at the same time to give variety to the couple.
Another fun part about being the secondary photographer is you are a little bit more free to get creative with your angles and perspectives! I know as the main photographer you have to be sure to get the shot and then get creative if there's time - but as the second shooter I can look for interesting perspectives knowing that the main photographer has the "safe shot".
I loved this candid moment of prayer between the girls and how I captured just a hint of the bride's face and smile in between the shoulder gaps!
Just as when I'm acting as the main photographer, it's always a good idea to get both tight, up close photos and ones that show more of the scene and what is going on. A good way secondary photographers know which distance to be at is by looking to the main photographer and what lens they are using! For example, I know Niki was shooting with a relatively wide lens so I made sure to be shooting in more closely - again, it is all about giving variety as a secondary photographer!
About 20 minutes before the official start of the ceremony, the main photographer heads into the chapel to prepare for the processional. The main photographer normally hangs out near the alter and photographs candids of guests arriving, any decor the couple has brought in, and the groom's waiting reaction.
During this same time, the secondary photographer hangs out with the bride and bridesmaids at the back of the church to capture those last moments before the bride walks down the aisle!
One last deep breath before the walk down the aisle! (It always helps calm the nerves when you have attentive bridesmaids looking out for you, your dress, and veil like these ladies did!)
As the secondary photographer, I also captured guests arriving, but I focused on moments when they interacted with one-another or with the bride.
That veil though!
As a general rule of thumb, whether I'm the main photographer or the secondary, I am hunting for emotional moments like this one. This bridesmaid sees her beautiful friend and then has to wipe away a tear of joy!
I feel like these last little moments with dad are just so very precious and I know these will be images that will be remembered and cherished!
The secondary photographer has to do a balancing act as the bride walks down the aisle. You must balance between being hidden from view of the main photographer at the head of the aisle shooting towards you, but also ensuring you capture an iconic photograph from behind as the bride is lead down the aisle by her father.
As the father hands off the bride, the main photographer and secondary photographer circle the church from side to side as discretely as possible (invisibility is the name of the game) while capturing the main ceremony events as well as candid moments.
The secondary photographer's job is to keep an eye on the main photographer throughout the ceremony to ensure they aren't capturing the same moment or the same angle. I always make sure to be on an opposite focal length when it comes to the lens I'm using as well (if the main photographer is wide, the second photographer is shooting tight and vice versa).
If the ceremony is on the shorter side in length, the secondary photographer will focus more heavily on the candid moments and the main photographer will be sure to capture the main events. I was passing by the pews and heading towards the back of the church when I saw this moment happening.
I can't be 100% sure what is going on, but I like to think that I stumbled upon a moment between a father and his young daughter. Maybe they are talking about how one day she'll be getting married too and all dad can do is smile and then give her a sweet kiss on the forehead. I can't be sure that's what's happening, but split second moments like this speak to me so I make sure to document them just in case.
Here is a good behind the scenes shot! I am up in the balcony of the church getting an overhead angle and Niki is down low in the center aisle capturing tighter, close-up moments! (Can you spot Niki?)
At this point, I just shoot from above getting the safety shots while the main photographer moves backwards down the aisle as the bride and groom walk towards her. The main photographer will actually go right out the doors with the new Mr. and Mrs. and it is my job as the second shooter to capture the rest of the recessional.
During formal family portraits inside the church, the secondary photographer sets down their camera for that 30 minutes and simply helps organize the family groups. The main photographer is the only one capturing the traditional portraits because it can become confusing for certain people when there are two photographers and they don't know where to look!
To avoid the confusion only the main photographer captures those.
The main photographer and secondary photographer then head out to capture the bridal party portraits and the bride and groom portraits. Here you can see the main photographer, NIki, doing a great job getting the group organized!
During both the romantic bride and groom portraits and the bridal party portraits, the secondary photographer is always shooting from an angle and capturing candid interactions while the main photographer is normally capturing from directly in front of the couple.
We always make sure to tell the bridal party and the couple to only look directly at the main photographer during the portraits unless they are otherwise directed.
In this photo, the main photographer is capturing the group walking straight towards her, while I scooted off to the side to get a different angle as they walked.
I also zeroed in on specific people and their reactions!
As a bonus, the secondary photographer can capture behind the scenes moments for the main photographer! It's kind of a nice gesture to give to the main photographer as most of the time us photographers aren't in front of the camera that often!
Here Niki is talking with the bride about what she'll have them do next and I just kept shooting straight through the moment for her!
Inevitably you can end up capturing some funny and/or awkward behind the scenes moments of each other! Here I remember Niki and I were laughing about something and the rest of the group was sort of oblivious to what we said. . . Story of #AwkwardPhotographersLives.
There are times during the romantic portraits when the main photographer gives creative control to the secondary photographer, but it's not usually for too much time. In this moment when the bride and groom looked at me, Niki was changing her camera lens and in an effort to make the most of our time she had me just keep shooting the couple.
As the secondary photographer, you pretty much walk around the whole day with the camera stuck to your face and what could be seen as an anti-social attitude! Ha! Here the main photographer is just out of frame to camera left, leading the couple to our next location and I thought the movement of the dress and the way the groom offered out his arm to help her was just too great a moment to pass up. This is why I trip over things in all honesty.
Throughout the big group portraits the secondary photographer will focus on individual groups of people and their reactions while the main photographer captures the overall view of the scene.
The wind was crazy at this moment, but it was so effortlessly organic both Niki and I were like little kids on Christmas morning! So pretty!
I think another really cool part about working with a secondary photographer who approaches wedding photography in a similar style that you do as the main photographer is that new creative ideas flow freely! It's almost like you can feed off the other photographer's excitement!
These two were seriously so dang fabulous!
Candid moment as the bride descended from the stairs after Niki took a big group photo.
Another one of my favorites from the day! Here I am wide but I know the main photographer is actually way farther back and capturing a ultra wide angle where the whole exterior of the church is in view.
Remember when I talked about new creative ideas? Well on the way to the reception the main photographer Niki and I drove past this field of yellow wildflowers and Niki said something like, "Oh my gosh wouldn't this field be perfect for sunset photos?!" I replied, "Uh. Yeah it would!!" and then she ran it by the bride and groom and next thing you know we are in the field of wildflowers!
I was having Wizard of Oz flashbacks while the couple walked through the yellow sea of steams and Niki took a second to capture a snap for her business SnapChap. I'm not sure why but I just really liked this behind the scenes photo so much!
To show where we were at I stepped back for a couple more behind the scenes shots for the main photographer.
As the secondary photographer I was moving all over the place focusing an getting an alternative perspective for the couple!
And when angles were maxed out, I focused on the small details like the bride's bouquet while the main photographer shot the overall scene!
Can you see them? Ha! It really was like a sea of flowers out there!
The same approach continues into the reception events. The main photographer is capturing the grand entrances from a straight on perspective (camera left in this example) while the secondary photographer is further away from the door and off to one side.
The secondary photographer normally doesn't capture quite as many detail photos as the main photographer but if I see an interesting perspective of something, like the cake, I'll snap a photo.
And P.S. I loved this Cinderella cake topper! So cute!
After the grand entrance and as the speeches are given, the main photographer will focus on the speaker and bride and groom while the secondary photographer will scan the room for reactions.
Another one of my favorites!
For both photographers, candid is the name of the game as the party gets started! This interaction was so sweet between the groom and the flower girls!
During the formal dances, the secondary photographer will either be shooting tight and close-up or wide depending on the lens that the main photographer is using. The secondary photographer also should scan for emotions and reactions to those watching the dances.
I thought this photo of Niki was adorable and she fit in perfectly with all the cute little flower girls excitedly watching the dancing!
At the very end of the night, the main photographer will sometimes have the ability to photograph one last creative end of the night shot with the bride and groom! The secondary photographer will either need to help execute the shot by helping with lighting or they can shoot along side the main photographer to get a different perspective.
Join the Conversation!
Did you enjoy something about this wedding?! Did something about this couple's story speak to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts and read your comments below! I want to thank you all so much for participating in my community and joining in on the online conversation. If you would like to share what you've read, please use the share button below!