Should you hire a second photographer? Here’s a handy checklist

Sleeping Lady Resort weddings: Kristen and Russ' wedding ceremonyShould you hire a second photographer? This is one of the questions we get asked very often, if a couple needs a second photographer.

The short answer is that with two photographers, you will definitely get more angles (but not necessarily more photos, since quantity shouldn’t be a priority). It also gives your photographers more breathing time, and hence more creativity. If you have room in your budget (they usually cost $100 more per hour), I would certain recommend it but other than angles and ease, what are the other factors you should consider?

Here’s a handy checklist I often run through with my couples at our consults:

How big is your wedding?

Weddings more than 150 people: Yes, you need to hire a second photographer!

While you and your family are our priority, we love to make sure we get at least one photo where a guest you invited is present. A guestlist of 150 and fewer is manageable for one photographer. Anything more, a second photographer is helpful. If making sure you have a few photos of each guest is a priority to you, hire a second photographer who will make sure this happens as the main will have to focus on you.

Cultural weddings such as Indian or Vietnamese weddings often have large guest lists and traditionally, photos of all guests are expected.

Are you getting ready at the same venue?

Seattle Sanctuary Weddings Soraya and Michael

This is pretty easy to figure out – if you’re both getting ready in the same hotel or location, one photographer is able to stagger the photos (s)he is able to make during the getting ready portion of your day (usually 1 – 1.5 hrs).

If you’re getting ready at two separate locations, and not within walking distance, it makes sense to hire a second so no time is wasted on commuting.

Are you doing a First Look or Reveal?

McCaw Hall Seattle weddings: Ally and Stephen's First Look

If you’re getting ready together – which I LOVE – the answer is no second.

If you are doing a First Look, it depends. A lone photographer can simply stagger the getting ready photos, scout the FL location beforehand, take a photo of it with our phones and inform the couple of your plan. An experienced photographer would’ve already gotten this down to a science. However, it does make it easier to coordinate with two photographers but it isn’t critical.

If you’re NOT doing a First Look, having two photographers makes sense since we can both document our one half of the couple and their families simultaneously. Since not doing a FL affects your timeline dramatically (we will talk more about this in the next point), as events will overlap for sure, having a second is most helpful.

Do you have a jam-packed day full of events that overlap?

Amy and Jeremy serving tea to their family as part of the Chinese tea ceremony.

Weddings may have more or less a similar timeline of events (getting ready, first look, portraits, family formals etc) but sometimes, things overlap especially if you’re not doing a FL. For instance, after the ceremony, you will want to get both families together for some formals during cocktail hour, so while the main is getting this nailed down, the second can grab photos of cocktail hour or the decor setup.

Does your ceremony venue have rules, like a church?

A wedding at the St Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, Seattle

Some churches will have some rules with regards to movement during the ceremony. For example, St James in Seattle does not allow the photographer to move beyond a certain point once mass begins so as not to distract. In this case, it is critical to have two photographers at different angles to cover their beautiful circular altar. Check with your venue to see if there are such rules to decide.

A lot of cathedrals and churches also have balconies from which you can position another photographer for a valuable top down angle while the other works from the front of the aisle.

Does your ceremony space limit movement?

Seattle wedding photographer: Lexi and Paul's wedding at Pike Place Market (28)

Some ceremony locations, once the chairs are placed depending on your final numbers, limit the movement of photographers. If we want to be up front to get the processional, oftentimes that’s where we’re stuck throughout the ceremony if we don’t want to be a distraction during the ceremony by moving back and forth down the aisle. We definitely do not want to do that, so it’s best to check beforehand, maybe make sure there’s enough room for the photographer to move along the sides of the ceremony to the back and to the front again if you want to avoid hiring a second. Otherwise, it’s best to get one if you want a variety of angles.

Do you want lots of photos of decor and details?

MoPoP Seattle weddings: Ally and Stephen's La-La Land Themed Wedding

Some weddings are more detailed than others. If you’ve spent a lot of your budget on the decor and details, it makes sense to get as much of it documented. We like to do this right after the setup is complete for both the ceremony and reception areas, before the guests enter, so as to get a “clean room” shot. Magazines and publications LOVE these (if you want to get published!). This usually overlaps with other critical photos like couple portraits or family photos, so having a second to have this taken care of simultaneously is wise.

Are many of the guests your parents’ friends?

The Admiral House weddings: Annie and Jeff wedding reception

This is often the case for cultural weddings, or a wedding for which your parents are helping to pay. From past experience, sometimes half of the guest list might be friends of your folks. In this case, having a second or even a third dedicated to them is nice so they feel taken care of.

But guess what? You don’t have to decide at booking!

Because wedding photographers are often one of the first 2-3 wedding vendors booked once the planning begins, details are understandably still vague. Most studios will allow you to think on it for a while. For us, all we need is 2 months’ notice so we can secure someone for you.

We hope this list has helped you answer your burning question of should you hire a second photographer! Let us know if you have other burning wedding photography questions!

JTPA has a team photographers on hand to service all your needs! With a combined 30+ years of experience shooting weddings, our independent studios have spent the last ten+ years collaborating. What’s more, we have both have built connections with many trusted local Seattle area and PNW photographers to second for us. If you’re looking for comprehensive, experienced and most importantly authentic, documentary coverage of your wedding, shoot us an email! Our 2022 is almost booked up with bandwidth for no more than ten more weddings. Hit us up soon!

Having a large wedding and need some planners? Here are two of our faves: New Creations and Pink Blossoms!

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