Do I Need a Second Photographer? Advice from the World’s Best Photographers

March 4, 2020 | brooke

photo by Dani Purington

When it comes to the topic of whether or not to hire a second photographer for your wedding, there’s a lot of information out there. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place for advice from expert photographers around the world. We’ve put together everything you need to know about hiring a second photographer—including what they do, when you should have one, and when you probably can save that investment to use somewhere else!

The role of a second photographer (from a lead photographer’s POV)

You may be wondering, “What does a second photographer even do?” And, trust us, that’s not a bad question!

The second photographer is there to assist your lead photographer. Their main role is to capture moments from a different perspective and provide photography coverage during moments when the lead photographer can’t be in two places at once. For example, if you and your partner are getting ready in different locations, your second photographer will capture moments at one while the lead is at the other. A second photographer might use a different lens, photograph a different angle, or help the lead by providing a second pair of eyes to pay attention to details.

photo by Laura Palacios Photography; see more of this elopement inspiration here!

Common misconceptions about second photographers

There’s a lot of talk about second photographers in magazine articles, wedding Facebook groups (have you joined ours?!), and among friends who have had their own wedding experience. If you’ve been wondering what info to trust, we’re here to help! Here are few common misconceptions about hiring a second photographer:

  • You need a second photographer if your wedding is over a certain guest count. Why it’s false: Guest count typically does not mean you need another photographer there. Your photographer will be able to capture guests enjoying candidly and dancing at the reception regardless of how many of them there are. Timeline, multiple locations, and special ceremonial traditions are more important to consider than guest count.


  • You’ll get double the photos. Why it’s false: While the second photographer will be capturing alternate angles and moments that happen simultaneously to when the lead is shooting something else, it doesn’t mean there will be double the images. Your lead photographer will pick the best photos from the second’s work and deliver those.


  • They aren’t experienced. Why it’s false: Your lead photographer is hiring—and paying—the second photographer to fulfill their duties. Professional photographers are likely to only work with someone they highly trust with capturing moments in the same way they do.


“The number one misconception that couples probably have about second photographers is that you get double amount of photos when you hire a second photographer. You will get more photos for sure but in my experience, it’s about 10 – 20% more photos, not double.” — Henry Tieu

“I think that people can sometimes underestimate the benefits of second photographers.  Having a second photographer means having a second pair of eyes that capture things that the couple and the main photographer may have not even noticed.  Having a second photographer has less to do with the number of guests you are having and more about what you hope to have captured.” — The September Company

photo by Kylie Morgan Photography; see more of this real wedding here!

Here’s when you definitely should have a second photographer:

There are some instances where we—and our expert photographers—agree you should absolutely hire a second photographer. Some photographers even include one if their wedding packages if they feel most comfortable shooting with someone else there! Your lead photographer will also likely recommend hiring a second in your initial conversations about the flow of your day. If you are getting ready at separate locations, have a tight timeline, or will be including many traditional elements or activities into your day, you probably should have another person there to capture all of the moments that are important to you. It’s also customary for a lead photographer to hire a second to come with them if they are traveling for a destination wedding.

“If the bride and groom are getting ready at locations that is far apart from each other, they would need a second photographer. Or if the wedding requires a lot of ceremonies or activities and lasts longer than 01 day, they surely need one.  A second photographer is a backup plan to support the main photographer when the main one suddenly needs to go to the bathroom, or having an unexpected illness or in need of more cameras operation.” — Hipster Wedding

photo by Matthew Schueller Photography; see more of this real wedding here!

You might not need a second photographer if…

There are many instances in which you might not need a second photographer. Bonus tip: If you allocated budget for a second photographer and realize you don’t need one, you can allocate that budget somewhere else! Here are a few scenarios in which you likely won’t need to hire a second photographer:

  • Your lead photographer, who you trust is an expert in their field, feels confident shooting solo
  • You are eloping or having an intimate wedding
  • Capturing moments happening at the same time is very important to you and it’s not possible for your lead photographer to be at both of them (i.e. cocktail hour happening at the same time as family and couple’s portraits)

“Just because you have a bigger wedding size doesn’t mean you need a second photographer. You should ask your wedding photographer what they are comfortable with photographing. Personalities, comfort levels, experiences, and equipment are some of the important factors when it comes to whether your photographer need to have someone there with them or not.” —Henry Tieu

“I don’t think you should make your decision about a second photographer based off Google-ing things you need to have included in your wedding package. I shoot alone for the majority of my weddings—and, most of the time, I prefer it that way! Unless the wedding day requires a second photographer because of a tight timeline or multiple locations, then I will discourage my clients from spending extra and adding that to their package. Ultimately, hiring a second photographer is completely determined by how your lead photographer works and how your day is set up.” — Madeline Shea

photo by Henry Tieu Photography; see more of this real wedding here!

The bottom line:

At the end of the day, trust your lead photographer. We hope you have full confidence in the photographer you’ve selected to trust with all of the important moments that will happen on your special day. Have an honest conversation with them about the need for a second photographer. If finances are a concern, there are creative ways save in other areas so you can put more toward your photography budget!

RECOMMENDED READING: The Best Wedding Budget Tips from Top Wedding Planners Around the World

“Second shooters are cheap insurance in my opinion, for a small fee you get double the coverage and make sure all of the moments are covered.”Nikk Nguyen

“Always talk to your main photographer and get their opinions on this.  There’s a reason why you chose the photographer or photography team that you did, so trust them and talk to them about any hopes for your photographs.  They’ll help lead you in the right direction on whether or not a second photographer might be best for you.” –The September Company

photo by Dani Purington


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