2 Photographer Wedding Coverage - My thoughts

I often get inquiries that know for certain that they want 2 photographers, and then I get others that ask if they HAVE to have more than one photographer.  The answer to that truly depends on the factors of each individual wedding.

No two weddings are alike.  There are some days when I’m at a private beach house covering a 10 minute ceremony in the backyard with no more than 20 people in attendance and I’m only there for 2 hours to take some shots of the family and the couple alone.  Would I need a 2nd photographer for that?  No.  The location is small and I can move around quickly to get a variety of angles.  If someone asked me if they needed a second photographer for something like this, I would tell them no.  They certainly would have the option to have two photographers, but it wouldn’t add a whole lot to the final product delivery, other than just a few more shots.  Keep in mind that these types of weddings are the exception, and I rarely do them because my summer/fall Saturday coverage is for 6+ hour weddings.

I mainly do weddings with 100 or even 200+ people that are all day formal affairs, in bigchurches or event venues, with bridal parties of 10+ people.  These also tend to have receptions taking place in large venues.  I highly recommend a two photographer package for this situation.  This is because with the size of venues and the amount of people will be best covered when one photographer is capturing details and interactions between guests while the other is handling other formal shots, handling the "safe shots" setting up equipment, etc.  In short, having two photographers allows one to be much more creative and to get the alternate angles and miscellaneous moments that would otherwise be missed while the main photographer is busy with another shot.

Now, I’ve been a part of the West Michigan community of photographers for a few years now so I do chit chat with others and some photographers have different philosophies about having a second photographer.  One photographer told me that they never use a second photographer because they can "get what they need" on their own.  I can get "what I need" on my own too.  If I am alone, I will pick the safest angles, but that won’t get you the complete perspective.  Complete coverage is about getting more than just "what you need".  It is about giving you not only the big moments, but all the little moments that make up the day.  It is about having one photographer capture the groom close up with a tear in his eye looking down the aisle at the bride, while the other photographer captures the dramatic wide shot from the back showing the bride and her dad linking arms, dad looking over at her, with her dress flowing behind her.

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Unfortunately, like I mentioned previously, some photographers are trying to convince couples that they do not need 2 photographers - that they feel it is ultimately a waste.  Because of this, I feel that it is necessary to address some of these criticisms made by photographers who insist that second photographers are not needed.  I'd like to clear up some of these claims.

Claim #1.  2nd photographers just take photos of the same things.  The coverage tends to be redundant.  They are just there to help carry gear.

This is simply not true.  I have worked with several other photographers as their 2nd photographer over the past two years and have had a few other professionals work for me as my 2nd photographer.  The key to making this work is clear communication between both photographers about what each needs to cover and in what ways.  The 2nd shooter is there for a reason, and it is to get the ALTERNATE angles, not to hang over my shoulder and get the same thing.  Any photographer who is doing this is hiring an ASSISTANT who happens to have a camera, not a true second shooter.  True professional second shooters mostly work independently to get things that are different than the main photographer is getting.

Clients want your style.  A 2nd photographer can never truly match the main photographer’s style.

It’s true, a second photographer brings their own gifts and talents to the table.  Sometimes I ask my 2nd photographers to go ahead and set up a couple of shots of their own or they will think of a shot that goes great with some of the shots I am taking.  This is awesome!  The key to having a 2nd shooter is communication and understanding.  I work with just a few favorite second shooters who shoot in a similar way as me, yet also bring their own unique style so that we can collaborate.  Also, all photos are edited by me, so there isn’t all kinds of editing techniques thrown together in a hodgepodge.  I often upload all of my photos as well as my 2nd photographer’s photos at the same time, and they get strung together by the time they were taken.  Because I edit all of the photos together, you won’t be able to tell who took what.  Now, some photographers hire people who are willing to work cheap, have cheap gear, and very little experience, and it would certainly be a challenge finding usable shots from using this type of shooter.  I only use other photographers whose work I’m very familiar with and who have gear that is similar to mine so I do not run into this problem.  When I’m charging you for 2 photographers, I’m not going to screw you over by hiring some intern that just shadows me all day.  I only hire confident professionals who can be turned loose to get what I need.

You don’t need someone to get the details in the reception hall.  The main photographer can do that before they start with other things.

Sorry, this almost NEVER works out.  I would say about 90% of the larger weddings that I have shot, the reception hall isn’t even finished being set up until the hour before people start walking in the door.  The idea that these things could be shot first thing in the morning before I come to do the getting ready shots is just not going to work, unless you want photos of empty tables, unlit candles, and various venue staff running around trying to get set up.  The best way to get your reception area looking pristine and gorgeous is to send the 2nd photographer in about a half hour before guests are allowed to come in.  Once guests come in, purses are thrown on tables, glasses are filled with various drinks, soda cans get set on tables, people start sitting down, and you won’t get that gorgeous full decorated room shot with no one in it, because people will be everywhere.  By the time we are done with bridal party formals, people will already be in the reception venue before I can get there.  So, about 90% of the time, there is no way I can go in there and get everything looking untouched and pristine.

(Above: Photo credit to my 2nd photographer - Christian VanAntwerpen)

Other reasons I highly suggest going with two photographers

Even the best equipment sometimes fails.  I see photographers posting daily in private groups about memory cards failing, flashes failing, cameras erroring out, etc.  This stuff almost never happens, but you wouldn’t want your wedding to be the one that it did happen at.  With two photographers there is that assurance that someone got the shot, even if the other person’s flash didn’t fire.  Someone got the shot, even if uncle Bob suddenly held up his Ipad in front of one of the photographers right when the bride and groom first kissed as man and wife.  Then there is always that time when the girls and the guys are getting ready in different areas, sometimes even different addresses.  One person can’t be both of those places at once.  I’ve found this works out best when one photographer stays with the girls and one stays with the guys.

Lastly, you might be thinking there are plenty of people who will be there with their iPhones and they will get whatever the photographer misses.  Maybe, and that maybe comes with almost a guarantee that the photo quality will be sketchy.  It also almost guarantees that the professional photos will be loaded with shots of people holding their phones and iPads into the air in the middle of your wedding, and trust me, these don’t look good in photos.  In fact, I highly encourage everyone to have an “unplugged” ceremony, but that is another blog for another day!

So please, go ahead and get a two photographer package.  You put all the work into planning out the perfect wedding, why not make sure you get FULL coverage?