Michael Caswell Photography

One Photographer or Two?

I often get asked by couples whether they should have one photographer or two for their wedding. My album packages include a second photographer (it can be added to the photography-only Basic Package as well), and you do have the option of removing it to bring down the cost of the package if you determine that you just need single-photographer coverage.

If you are not sure about this decision, it's best for us to have a discussion about the particulars of your wedding plans. But here are some factors to consider:

The Benefit of Two Photographers

A second photographer is especially useful for certain situations. Most notable is during the pre-ceremony portion of the wedding day if you want extensive and / or simultaneous coverage of both of you getting ready, especially if this involves you getting ready at different locations. Alternatively, if you're both getting ready at the same hotel (or nearby), and if the timing permits, I'll typically have the second photographer stay with me in the bride's room and help with detail shots for a little while before heading over the guys' room (since they typically don't need to start getting ready until a bit closer to the ceremony or first look time time).

For first looks, I'll typically assign the second photographer the task of getting an alternate angle of this moment.

Having two photographers makes it easier to get various angles during the ceremony (especially for large church ceremonies where it would take an individual photographer more time to move from place to place), and my usual preference is to place them in the choir loft (if available) for the beginning of the ceremony, and then have them move down to the left side of the altar so that they can concentrate on getting close-up shots of the groom during the ceremony while I capture the close-ups of the bride, along with wide shots from the back and closer shots of other important moments from the center aisle.

For the reception, a second photographer provides another set of eyes capturing candid moments, and if the venue is particularly large, it's helpful to split up, with one of us covering the action around the dance floor area and the other roaming around looking for opportunities to photograph guests who are mingling elsewhere, though if there's a lot of dance floor action going on, we'll both stick mainly to covering this area, typically taking opposite sides of the dance floor.

Also during the reception, if we'll be sneaking out for a bit to do some couple portraits outside or around the venue, the second photographer can remain behind continuing to capture reception action.

For second line parades, one photographer can stay up front with the couple most or all of the time, while the other can concentrate on capturing images of the guests. Or, if the second line is going from the ceremony to the reception, my second photographer can handle transporting any equipment we might have with us, which frees me up to more efficiently be able to shoot.

In some cases, a second photographer can also help with capturing details and room shots before the ceremony and reception.

When One Photographer is Sufficient (OR EVEN PREFERRED)

For the pre-ceremony portion of the day, some guys are not as enthusiastic about having a photographer in the room the whole time as the girls usually are. So have a discussion about that topic to find out how much prep coverage he wants (if you're both getting ready at the same hotel and just want a few shots of the guys getting ready or hanging out, it's not a problem for me working as a single photographer to briefly pop into the groom's room for this as long as we have enough coverage time booked). That said, the lack of a need for extensive groom prep coverage is not necessarily a disqualifying factor for a second photographer, as there will be other things for them to do during this pre-ceremony time, such as helping with bridal prep coverage or capturing detail shots of the ceremony and reception spaces.

Aside from your prep coverage needs, the size of your venue and, secondarily, the guest count are the main factors that should be considered. In a relatively intimate venue like a small French Quarter courtyard or a bed & breakfast, the benefits of a second shooter are not as pronounced as they would be when shooting in a large church, a spacious ballroom, or other event space where we can spread out a bit and work different parts of the space without being in each others' way so much.

Two photographers can also feel out-of-proportion for receptions with lower guest counts. With 200-300+ guests in attendance in a large venue, multiple photographers will blend in easily with the crowd, but might be a bit too prominent and visible for a 40-60 guest reception in a smaller space.

One question that comes up frequently is whether or not a single photographer can capture both the bride coming down the aisle, and the groom's reaction. Ironically, even when I'm working with a second photographer, I as the main shooter am the one who typically gets both of these shots, as they are both ideally captured from the same spot (front of the aisle, near the waiting groom). When the bride first comes out, I concentrate on the groom's reaction, then once the bride comes a little further up the aisle (within the range of my lens to get good framing), I focus on getting the shots of her.

No Worries Either Way

Of course, these are all just general guidelines and not unbreakable rules; while it's true that larger weddings can usually benefit tremendously from two photographers and smaller events might actually be better off with just one, I've also photographed many very large and extravagant weddings working by myself, and conversely have utilized two photographers for some smaller, more intimate weddings.

So, in summary, whether you choose two-photographer or single-photographer coverage, rest assured your day will be captured beautifully! Because of my extensive experience, having shot over 800 weddings over the past 18 years or so, I'm perfectly comfortable and confident working alone, but I can also make very good use of a second photographer if you choose that option.