When you're trying to decide where to spend your photography budget, it can be hard to figure out how to get the most bang for your buck. Like, I think longer coverage is more important than a second shooter and I think an album is more important than both. But this is all totally your call and different people value different types of coverage. So with that caveat, here's a few reasons why photographers love working with second shooters.
*Note, this is the lead photographer's second shooter. Never hire your own second shooter!
1. It's insurance. If a memory card should fail (heaven forbid) a second shooter has back up images. I always shoot with 32GB cards and switch cards between different phases of the day so that on the off chance a card fails I only loose a small portion of images. I haven't had a corrupt card yet, but I figure it's better to be overly cautious on a wedding day.
2. Grip and Grins! If it is important for you to have a picture of all your guests, a second shooter can visit tables during the cocktail hour and reception. A solo lead photographer has the responsibility of capturing all of the big moments and bridal party. Without a back-up, the lead photographer will most likely miss many of your more timid guests. If they aren't doing something to catch the tog's eye, they might not make it into the viewfinder.
This isn't everybody's priority though. The proliferation of selfies and cell phone apps can sort of bridge that gap. If you don't want to spring for a second shooter, consider pointing your guests towards a common app or hashtag to collect everyone's candids in one spot.
3. And I think the biggest reason: a second shooter can open the lead photographer up for some more creative images. If you want more than basic coverage, you'll need a longer timeline and a second shooter definitely helps.
For example, one photographer on a tight schedule simply doesn't have the luxury of creating a creative backlit night shot or setting up kick lights at your reception because they'd miss the cake being cut. If you have one photographer for 6 hours coverage, there simply won't be time to do anything that requires some creative preparation. Six hours sounds like a long time until you start looking at your timeline. If I have a couple that is on a shoestring budget, I will occasionally offer a 3 hour package- but they know ahead of time that they will only get a few shots of the bride just before walking down the isle, the ceremony, and formal portraits. It's what our parents typically had: modest and totally sufficient, but our generation is so visual! We're used to seeing the whole story told in images, from detail shots of the rings, to boozy conga lines. I love it and value it, but totally get that not everyone prioritizes the way I do!
Hopefully this helps you decide if you want to invest in a second shooter!
Claire Watson is a West Virginia Wedding Photographer based in Martinsburg; she also serves clients in Northern Virginia and Maryland.