I have plenty of wedding photographer friends from all over the world, all who are very different from the other. Just as I am different from other local Nashville wedding photographers I am friends with. Second shooters are a common wedding blog topic and a common selling point of many wedding photographers. There are some wonderful world class teams out there. There are also a slew of very mediocre or horrid ones too. I also know some world renowned wedding photographers and have been mentored by them, who document weddings solo. Why no second photographer for some?

Wedding blogs and other photographers create the dogma –

Personally, I admire any skilled wedding photographer who develops their system, whether solo or with a second shooter. I don’t care HOW they work. I also don’t care what camera they use, the camera is a tool. There’s no direct correlation to the quality of wedding photographer / storyteller they are, because of using or not using a second photographer. Of course a husband and wife team will tell you that a married team is what you need because they understand love. Who could blame them? Use what you can use. Easter dresses and suits, Sunday school, white picket fences, puppies, and happy families drinking hot cider with a cinnamon sprig around a fire. Yeah, that’s all a fine image, but once again, there’s no correlation with that and photographer(s) qualifications, or the quality of the finished product.

Let’s not forget the random wedding blogger. Brides and engaged couples listen to them, and they have great influence as they’re seen as a neutral party. Yet, most of them have probably never set foot at a wedding as a professional service provider. One piece of advice may translate well for some, not for others. This is where I would challenge prospective clients to think for themselves and use logical reasoning.

As for me, I have built my system over the years based on my experiences, most effective and efficient means of working, and style of storytelling. Others have built theirs differently, which is fine. This is not to discourage or disrespect anyone who works differently, only to put a different viewpoint in perspective. I work solo, with an off-camera lighting assistant. I value that type of assisting more than I would a second shooter, which for me would add redundancy, clash of storytelling style, and extra intrusion. Why no second photographer for me? I’ve photographed over 200 weddings and I’ve never used one. I rely on my sense of observation and fluid motion to document real human emotion, in both the critical moments and open reception, even the outtakes in between.

Being a documentary wedding photographer, my aim is to be very non-intrusive and deliver a consistent signature style of work, that flows together as a powerful story. My lighting assistant works with me to ensure no waiting for setup, and we position ourselves to get the lighting characteristic I want. One really good wedding photographer is more than capable of telling a story effectively. It’s just a system that has worked for me. Obviously, a couple who wants more portraiture than I do wouldn’t choose me to begin with, if they paid attention to the portfolios vs. what they want.

Bottom line- I could TELL you anything, none of it should matter. If I show a prospective couple a sample wedding album, or online gallery, that is what should be the decision maker for them. Not the fact that I use a second shooter, etc. If you like how a photographer’s work flows, how their storytelling is, and personality, there’s no reason to want it differently because a random blogger says so, right? If a second shooter is part of another photographer’s system, that’s great. The question should always be, WHO is that photographer, primary or second?

I’ve seen this countless times on community groups. “Oh, my second shooter backed out, I need a second shooter for this weekend, anyone interested”? At that point, they’re hiring someone potentially unknown, at the last minute to save face with the couple, basically heaping a second shooter in. What value can that have? Better them than me.

A wedding photographer should be hired for signature style and qualifications, not bragging rights or showmanship. I’m an author. I didn’t have a second writer. Movies don’t have two directors. I remember attending a wedding as a guest. The second shooter was in the back of the chapel doing almost nothing. The primary ONLY noticed the couple. I sat there and saw an adorable toddler age boy protruding in the aisleway snacking on crackers. Neither of those two captured that. Tunnel vision. Sure, it was a portrait heavy event, and they split that up, but nothing I saw made me question my own approach, though theirs is different. It’s about where you end up, not how you got there.