Hello, Rachel Fawn here! New website, new blog! For my first post, I'll explain why you don't need a second shooter - and in fact, you (and your photographer) may even be better off without one.
Please note: When I say "you" in this article, I write as if talking to the bride-to-be, since around 95% of my clients are brides. However, I also proudly serve same-sex couples, and sometimes my clients are grooms-to-be, wedding planners, or even moms or dads. Please forgive me if you fall into those other categories! It's important for me to be all-inclusive and non-discriminatory.
As the administrator and founder of the Northern California Assistant Photographers and Videographers Network, which is growing weekly, I have worked with and have access to a variety of second shooters from all over Northern California, but there isn't a photographer around who shoots exactly like I do. Most photographers that I've met and worked with have a traditional, classic, posed style. They take one photo at a time after setting up a shot with you, as opposed to shooting in burst mode from an un-intrusive vantage point to capture an entire, organic moment. So, with a second shooter like that, you will have all of the emotional, heartfelt moments on the bride's side, while on the groom's side, you may get only posed portraits (when the groom's "getting ready" is captured by a "classical" second shooter). So, why not have your lead photographer capture it all, for consistent style and flow? It's possible to schedule your day in a way to have you primary photographer capture both the bride and the groom getting ready. (Update: Check out my Sample Timeline post!)
During first looks, I have a method to capture each angle at the right time - always the groom's face at the very first look, then from there I circle a bit, from farther away with a 70-200 zoom, to give the couple some privacy while still capturing the moment. Second shooters do tend to get in the way and get in the shots during this time more often than not, and for couples who want this to be a special, intimate moment, having two photographers there can also intrude on your privacy and make it feel like you're onstage. So, two photographers during a first look simply isn't entirely necessary.
I always focus on the groom's face when he sees his bride for the first time at the ceremony, regardless of a second shooter, and regardless of a first look. I shoot back and forth between the groom and bride seeing each other, and I then go around to capture the back of that beautiful dress as you walk down the aisle, while the groom watches you (tears flowing, we all hope), and I follow you up the aisle to then be in position for dad (or somebody) handing you off. I shoot with two cameras on my body at all times, one with a 70-200 telephoto zoom and one with a 24-70 wide-angle zoom, shooting on both cameras for both wides and close-ups the entire time, and I can switch between them in less than a second if anything ever goes wrong with one of them. Most second shooters use only one camera, and if a second shooter is standing in the position that I want to be in for an important shot (i.e. the second shooter didn't follow directions, or he or she simply isn't aware that I'm using my wide wide angle for the shot, and the second shooter is in or is blocking the shot), then I'm sometimes forced to capture the less-than-ideal angle rather than make a fuss during your ceremony. But, if said second shooter's only camera malfunctions during that money shot - then it doesn't get captured from the proper angle at all (cue sad music).
There's also the chance that the second shooter will be so brazen as to go behind the officiant (not following my very specific positioning instructions - this has happened to me twice). Without a second shooter, at least, all you'll have to worry about is Uncle Bob. Note: No one pays attention to Unplugged signs.
Cocktail Hour and Reception Details
Sure, it's nice to have a professional photographer capture cocktail hour, but, guaranteed, you will have 1,000 selfies from your guests (and you can do a photo guest book as well) that you can always compile into an album if you want. It's also likely that your photographer will bring an assistant if they are charging $1,500 or above, and the assistant often covers cocktail hour. If you're worried about your reception details not being captured before your guests enter the reception, simply schedule some time in your timeline for your photographer to be able to do that.
That and, when I work with a second shooter, I give directions, but it's never guaranteed that those directions will be followed. It can be a hectic day, and second shooters are typically less experienced than lead photographers (that's why they're second shooting instead of shooting their own weddings). And finally, they will always be less invested than I am in getting the shots I want for you. I work very hard to capture every single one of your reception details when working alone; when I have a second shooter, that responsibility is designated to him or her, and, invariably, I have found, the second shooter never quite gets all of the details I've asked him or her to capture. It's simply better if I do that myself.
There's a lot that goes on during your reception, but it's still possible for it to be adequately captured by one lead photographer. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your reception photography with just one photographer:
- Have your wedding party (as well as you as a couple) do a fun pose or dance on the dance floor upon your grand exit, making sure you don't all simply rush to your seats. This gives your photographer plenty of time to capture amazing shots of your grand entrance with no second shooter needed.
- Let your photographer eat at the exact same time as you so that when you're done, so are they, ready to follow you from table to table to capture you interacting with your guests - and if you allot time for it - a portrait with each table (est. 3-5 minutes per table).
- Have the guests who are giving your toasts stand up next to your sweetheart table, so your photographer can easily capture both the toaster's and your reactions, instead of having them stand at the opposite end of the room, where the photographer has to decide who is more important, and when.
- If one of you plans to, um, have extra fun with the cake, let your photographer in on it so they're ready to capture 100 photos in burst of cake going in the face.
- If you do a bouquet toss, do a "fake" toss first. Your photographer can focus on your face for the "throw" - but don't let go at first. The ladies will get a kick out of the adrenaline rush of the fake-out. For the real throw, your photographer will focus on the catchers and be ready in high-speed burst to capture that catch.
- For the garter toss, have the groom hide a nice dinner napkin in his pocket for his fake-out. Your photographer will focus on him first and then on the catchers for the real thing.
As of today, I've shot exactly 60 weddings as the lead photographer. 39 of those 60 weddings, I shot alone with no second shooter, while 21 of them did include a second shooter. So, more often than not, I shoot weddings without a second photographer, and it turns out just fine!
Just for fun: Watch this awesome interview with one of my favorite, award-winning photojournalistic wedding photographers, Cliff Mautner, below.