I tried to think of a short title, I swear. Anyway, formal introduction - Hello, Rachel Fawn here! New website, new blog! I'll be (hopefully) posting every (or at least every other) Wednesday with tips, tricks, raves, and reviews (but no ranting, and no kissing and telling - I promise).
According to Wedding Wire's Wedding Photographer Cost Guide, "In general, wedding photographer prices in the U.S. tend to range between $1,150 and $3,000, with the average wedding photographer cost hovering around $2,000. Your wedding photographer will likely comprise about 12 percent of your overall wedding budget." So, if Mom and Dad are shelling out $20,000 for your wedding and you're looking at $2,400 for a two-photographer wedding package, you can skip this blog post entirely!
But, if you and your partner are funding your wedding yourselves and hoping to keep it to, say, $10,000 overall, you may not be able to squeeze two photographers into your $1,250 wedding photography budget. I'm here to tell you - it's okay.
I am always offering special packages at reduced prices. They change from day-to-day based on booking and demand; I usually book one or two special packages at a certain price point before changing or removing them. Although it won't last long, today I added an 8-hour package with one photographer for $1,250 (including a 2.5-hour engagement session), so I thought I'd write a post for those who are struggling with the decision whether or not to stretch their budget to include a second photographer. Is it worth it? Is it necessary? Hopefully this post will help allay your fears about hiring just one photographer - especially if that photographer is me. :)
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.
I have a very honed photo-journalistic method, and also a vision for your gallery - that we've come up with together, in detail, during the planning stages. You've marked off your shot list - written by me - of the most important shots you want, which I take great care to set up and capture in addition to your wedding photo-journal. You are in charge of how you want your story to unfold, and working with just me as opposed to bringing in a second shooter will help ensure that your vision is captured exactly the way you want it.
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 (and Western Nevada), 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?
And this is entirely possible with an 8-hour, 1-photographer package. I can spend 1.5 hours with the bride and 30 minutes with the groom and be able to fully capture both sides of the story.
I do give directions to second shooters, but it's just not a guarantee 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, usually - but, I don't mean to turn this post into a second-shooter bash-fest; I'm just telling you why it's okay if you can't afford one). During first looks, I do a circle-shooting 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.
With 30-45 minutes for the first look and portraits (bride and groom then wedding party, but we will also do bride and groom sunset portraits during your reception), I can then capture ceremony details while you all line up. That's 3 hours down, 5 hours to go - plenty of time for ceremony (est. 30 mins), after-ceremony formal portraits (45 mins), reception details (15 mins), and reception [1 hour dinner, then 2.5 hours of: toasts (30 mins), first dances (15 mins), cake-cutting (10 mins), some open dancing and/or DJ games (30 min), bouquet/garter toss (20 mins), sunset session (30 mins), and some more open dancing or a staged grand exit (15 mins)].
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 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). (Disclaimer: MOST of my second shooters have been completely amazing and 100% awesome. I'm just letting you know what could happen.)
There's also that 1% chance that the second shooter will be so brazen as to go behind the officiant (not following my very specific positioning instructions - and also, not getting hired again; and yes, this did happen . . . once). Without a second shooter, at least, all you'll have to worry about is Uncle Bob. Note: No one pays attention to Unplugged signs. This is when my horns WILL come out - quietly and discreetly but sternly GETTING BOB OUT OF THERE. Come on, Bob.
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. If you don't have a second shooter capturing cocktail hour while I'm doing your formal portraits, just be sure to let me dip into the reception area at some point before guests enter so I can capture all of those details untouched by guests - if that's important to you. If that is important to you, then one great thing about having me capture all of your reception details, instead of leaving them to a second shooter, is how much I truly and deeply care about all of your hand-made decorations, all of the little pieces that pull your theme together and tell your guests the beautiful pieces of your love story and show who you are as a couple.
Finally, while two shooters are pretty much always awesome during the reception, here are some tips to help you still get the most out of your reception photography with just one photographer (me!):
- 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 me plenty of time to capture amazing shots of your grand entrance with no second shooter needed.
- Let me eat at the exact same time as you so that when you're done, so am I, 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 I can easily capture both the toaster's and your reactions, instead of having them stand at the opposite end of the room, where I have to decide who is more important, and when.
- If one of you plans to, um, have extra fun with the cake, give me a look beforehand so I'm ready to capture 100 photos in burst of cake going in the face (or just...don't do that).
- If you do a bouquet toss, do a "fake" toss first. I will 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, I'll 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. I'll focus on him first and then on the catchers for the real thing.
All my second shooters officially hate me now. Guys . . . I'm just making some points for my brides on a budget. Y'all know not to take me too seriously. :)
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 solo - and it all turns out just fine.