Do You Need a Second Wedding Photographer?

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When our Mike Staff Productions team sits down with brides, grooms and/or their families, one of the top questions we get asked is: ‘Do we really need a second wedding photographer?’ The answer…..

It depends. (Keep reading, we promise this is helpful!)


While deciding whether or not you want one or two professional wedding photographers documenting your day is 100% your personal preference (based on budget, timeline and what kind of photos you want), lets explain the difference to hopefully make your decision easier.

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Bottom line is this: Every wedding, every couple and everyone’s ‘wants’ are different. So, let’s break down a typical wedding day to *show* you how two photographers can make an impact and where one is enough.

Pre-Ceremony Moments

On any wedding day, photographers get pulled in many different directions, especially when it comes to pre-wedding activities, mainly because the bride and groom are getting ready at separate locations. One person might be getting ready in a hotel room while the other gets ready at their family home… on the other side of town! How do you completely capture both moments?

SCENARIO: Do you want photos of your bridesmaids helping you getting buttoned into your wedding dress AND photos of your future father-in-law helping your fiance´ with his bowtie?

IF YOU ANSWERED “YES”: If you’re at two different locations, then you’ll need two photographers.

Buttoning the Wedding Dress Tying the groom's tie

A photographer can’t be in two places at once. Even if a single photographer did make it to both locations, not every moment will be captured simply because the photographer is traveling from one location to another. Sure, one photographer will get great shots, but it’s the scope of coverage you’re looking for, that is really the decision maker.

Do you want photos of these moments?

  • The groom reading your handwritten card
  • The groomsmen toasting with a beer
  • You putting on your mom's corsage 
  • Beauty shots of your bridal gown
  • Your bridesmaids sipping mimosas
  • Group shots while getting ready
  • Opening up the gift from your fiance´

If you want pictures of all of these moments, and you’ll be at different locations, then you’ll want a second photographer so one can be with you and the other with your fiance´ the entire time, simultaneously. Here are some pre-ceremony moments captured when two photographers are being utilized. You can get full coverage of the girls…

bride and bridesmaids jumping on bed bride putting on jewelry bride getting ready bride getting into her dressbride and her wedding dressbride and bridesmaids cheersing

… while simultaneously getting shots of the guys.

groom reading card from wife groomsmen arm wrestling detail shot of bowtie groomsmen and socks groom getting ready

The First Look

In an entire wedding day there are few moments that are more touching and emotional to photograph than the first time the bride and groom see each other. The bride will spend hours getting ready, starting early in the morning to make sure her hair and makeup are exactly what she imagined all for that one moment when her soon-to-be husband sees her for the first time.

It used to be considered “bad luck” for the bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony.  This superstition began a long time ago when arranged marriages were common and the bride and groom weren’t allowed to even meet before the ceremony.

Today, many brides and grooms decide to see each other before the ceremony. This can be a lot of fun – surprising each other and enjoying this unique time alone together while getting rid of some wedding jitters. Plus, the images are fantastic!  

Picture this: Your groom is standing a short distance away with his back turned. You walk up in your wedding dress, carrying your bouquet, and tap your groom on the shoulder. He turns around and sees you for the first time on your wedding day... (awwww)!

When it comes documenting this moment, one photographer can get the job done beautifully (as you'll see below). You'll see and feel the love and excitement. The main difference when you add a second photographer: variety. Similar to your ceremony photos, two photographers are simply able to capture the same moment from multiple vantage points.

First Look: One Photographer

This 'First Look' is beautiful and truly shows off the talents and skills of our photography team.

Groom First Look

At first glance, it may seem like it required two photographers to pull off the height, depth and different focus elements of this shoot, but it didn't.  The solo photographer positioned themselves to see the groom faces, while the bride is walking up from behind on the balcony...

Bride first look

Right before the first look took place, the photographer stayed in place to see the brides expression...

first look bride and groom

Then shifted his position to capture both of them from the side. Simple. Emotional. Magical. Not a single element was missed. It's all about experience, planning and strategy in landing the perfect shot.

First look bride and groomAdmiring the bride's dress

First Look: Two Photographers

Again, the main difference with a two photographer shoot: variety. Two cameras allow the first look to be captured from multiple angles. The first photographer was positioned to capture the grooms face and the bride walking up...

Outdoors First Lool First lookFirst look bride and groom

While the second photographer other focused on capturing the same moment from a different angle. In this case, it was a side view, where you see the bride's hand reaching out to touch groom. Keep in mind, you don't necessarily get more photos with two photographers, you simply get more variety. That's where your photography style and personal wants come into play.

first look tap on shoulderoutdoors first lookfirst look kiss

Your Wedding Ceremony

There is a lot that goes on during the ceremony. This is the main event on your wedding day: you’ll have excited guests, emotional father-daughter moments and the look on the grooms face while you’re walking down the aisle (priceless). You’ll want to capture as many of those moments as possible. Whether or not you’ll be able to get them all depends heavily on location, location, location.

Getting married outdoors? At your reception venue? In a chapel? 99% of ceremony rules don’t exist outside of a church. Which means your photographer (whether you have one or two) will, more than likely, have the freedom to move around your ceremony space as he or she pleases, allowing them to capture photos from multiple angles WITHOUT limitation. That’s a huge bonus.

Getting married at a church? Most churches have rules, guidelines and restrictions for photographers (some of them strict) which can severely limit the variety of photos you get from your ceremony.  This is where serious planning and research comes in. The challenge is making sure your photographer is able to capture all of the important elements you want while NOT disrupting the ceremony – which is precisely where two wedding photographers can make a difference.

In most cases, churches do not allow photographers to roam around at their leisure during the ceremony, which can be a bummer when trying to get the best coverage possible. Restrictions can vary from priest, pastor and church location so it’s important to ask about photography limitations whenever possible.

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Common church photography rules include:

  • Photographers are restricted to shooting from the middle of main aisle.
    • Not allowed to move to the sides to capture various angles.
  • Photographers are not allowed to shoot closer then the last row of guests.

Having two photographers can help get around some of those church limitations but it isn't the only option.

Let's show you…

The Bride Processional

The first area you’ll notice difference when it comes to one vs. two photographers is the bride processional. Why? Getting a variety of photos of the bride walking down the aisle is challenging due to the church photography restrictions we mentioned above. In this two photographer ceremony, one photographer was setup at the altar to capture the bride and her father from the front, while the second photographer was able to capture that gorgeous veil shot from the balcony above without missing...

Bride walking down the aisle

the grooms expression at the altar while his bride walks down the aisle at the same time.

bride and groom walking down the aisle

In this one photographer ceremony (below), you can see right away you're going to get shots of the bride and her father walking down the aisle...

Father walking bride down the aisle

... and the grooms expression.

groom watching bride walk down the aisle

But those shots won’t happen simultaneously and,  because the photographer has to stay in the aisle due to church rules,  limitations may prevent the photographer from getting the veil shot from the back.

The main difference: all of the processional photos will be shot from the one position the photographer is restricted to, the center of the aisle. You won't 'miss out' on any photos with one photographer, you just don't get the variety of different angles two can provide.

The Architecture

There are so many beautiful elements to church weddings, most prevalent, breathtaking architecture. Having two photographers gives you the piece of mind that all of the important moments of your ceremony will be captured along with leaving wiggle room for creative shots featuring different depths and focus. These can be truly stunning photos that add history, culture and dimension to your final wedding photography gallery.

In the same two photographer wedding, one remained setup in the balcony to capture this wide shot of the church from above, while the main photographer focused on what was happening with the bride and groom at the same time

Wedding ceramony wide shot

In the one photographer wedding, you still get the close up and wide shot but from the same position in the middle of the aisle because solo photographers cannot move around once the ceremony begins.

wedding ceremony

You can see in the photo below, the photographer is stationed behind the last row with people in it and that's where photographers are required to stay for the entire ceremony. So, having two photographers simply gives you more variety in your photos.

wedding ceremony photo

Ceremony Moments

Let's keep walking you through…

During the vows with two photographers, a photographer was able to be on either side of this couple. Capturing the brides expression AND the grooms all at the same time.

Giving the rings shot

In the one photographer wedding, the first kiss will, of course, be a priority to capture, it's just church restrictions and rules only allows the one photographer to only capture the moment from the middle of the aisle and no other angle.

First Kiss Photo

The vows, the kiss, the recessional = ALL CAPTURED! Nothing to worry about there. But as you can see, it’s all from the stationary position in the middle of the aisle, which is standard at most churches. So, discuss what you want from your photos with your fiance´, talk to your church about any rules they have and figure out what works best with your budget.

Details of Your Day

How many months have you spent planning your wedding, so far? By the time the big day has finally arrived, it’ll feel like forever (trust us). That’s why so many couples want every detail of their day documented. I mean every detail. You worked hard to create that beautiful room -- it should live on forever. From your dinner place settings to your centerpieces, to an overall view of the room before a single guest arrives -- that is the challenge -- snagging those photos before people fill the space. Here’s why…

wedding day head tableceremony shot without guests

Following your ceremony and before your reception kicks off — your main wedding photographer will be shooting what’s often referred to as your Romantics, with you, your husband (finally!) and your bridal party. Consider these images the ‘meat and potatoes’ of your photography. With one wedding photographer, OF COURSE you’ll get the most stunning ‘Romantics’ ever, but you may sacrifice some coverage at the hall to capture the details of the room before guests arrive.  

Having that second photographer, allows one of them to go straight to the venue and capture the details of the space you created before the crowd arrives while the other stays with you, your husband and bridal party.

But here’s the beautiful thing, if photographing your wedding favors, cocktail hour space or Chiavari chairs in all of their untouched glory is not a priority, then a one wedding photographer package is worth considering.

Take a look at these examples of detail shots that need to be taken before guests arrive

bride and groom chairs head tableempty reception venue Mrs and Mr sign wedding favors Head table Reception Hall Reception Place Cards Reception Table Settings
WHEW! After all of that -- what do you think? Are you ready to choose between having one or two photographers on your wedding day? If you want more advice -- here is some straight from a handful of our professional wedding photographers at Mike Staff Productions!

A Photographer’s Point of View

Shannon, Mike Staff Productions Photographer-Extraordinaire

"I try not to allow one vs. two shooters change the amount of coverage I capture. But that could mean extra hours to ensure I get every shot the couple is looking for. For example; when I'm solo, I still have to capture groomsmen getting ready (if the clients wants that), groomsmen individuals, reception room details before cocktail hour, etc. Where the timeline can get tight is in the case of a reception room that has cocktail hour inside of the same room. If a client wants venue photos and detail photos completed before guests enter the room, this will cut down on their romantics time because we don't have another shooter to dedicate to it. Usually, the number of photos stay the same, but the vantage points and angles change significantly. I would say that if a client loves candid style or photojournalism, a second is a great recommendation for them. Overall, I think most couples prefer having a second photographer,, just so that their day is a little less hurried and there is more time to capture those special, intimate moments they’ll cherish forever."

Julie, Mike Staff Productions Photographer-Extraordinaire

"Personally, I think the day is less stressful and easier for the couple with two photographers.. They will have the comfort knowing that if they hire a second photographer, they won’t miss a single beat of the day. Pre-ceremony photos are a perfect of example. The main photographer can concentrate unrushed and solely on the bride and her bridesmaids getting ready, while the second shooter is concentrating just on the groom so they both can see every part of their day.."

Mary, Mike Staff Productions Photographer-Extraordinaire

"When it comes to a photographer’s perspective, for the most part, my day doesn’t change if I’m working with a second photographer. When I am working a wedding alone , I am responsible for every photo of the day but I do have to plan wisely when it comes to getting certain shots; for example, the groomsmen getting ready (if that’s something they want) and the signing of the marriage license. Those details are essentially guaranteed when there are two photographers but may require extra planning when I am solo. Depending on the timeline of the day I’d also try and get reception details and cocktail hour photos, too.

When a couple chooses to work with only one photographer it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get fewer photos, what it means is they’ll get less coverage because one person can’t be in two places at once.  If you want photos of groom prep and cocktail hour, then I recommend a second. Also, certain church layouts benefit a lot from a second."

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