I've always assumed I would continue shooting weddings with a second shooter for as long as I could, but maybe I have been wrong all along. Perhaps, I won't always need to.
Ever since I started out in wedding photography, I have always shot weddings with a second shooter alongside me. I always thought that this was the right way of working to firstly ensure that both partners have their morning preparations documented and secondly, to maximize the variety of angles, compositions, and moments in each gallery. As a sole shooter, I always assumed that it is not quite possible to obtain a well-rounded visual story of someone's wedding day, because I can't be everywhere at once.
This line of thought has also entered in some of my previous articles, such as my advice on encouraging more photographers to second-shoot before jumping into weddings, discussing the idea of training your partner to become your second shooter, and more importantly, an article about why I don't like to shoot weddings alone. Clearly, there is a pattern in my way of doing wedding photography, but I am also now ready to admit that maybe I have been too quick to dismiss the idea of being a sole shooter. Let me explain.
I recently got booked to photograph a very last-minute wedding that was also very low key, and the coverage itself wasn't very long either. I rarely photograph such short weddings, but seeing as I was free on the date and the location was not far away, I agreed. With the couple's budget, there was no viable way of me hiring a second shooter to come and shoot with me, and my partner was not available to assist either, so I agreed to cover the wedding by myself.
It may seem that shorter wedding coverage is easier to do as a sole shooter, but with only a few hours at your disposal, that needs to be split between three different locations. I realized this would be a good test to see how I do covering weddings by myself. Turns out, although everything I said in my previous articles still stand true, it was not actually as bad as I imagined.
Being able to freely move in a house that has limited space worked in my favor as a sole shooter. I felt the freedom of not having to consider anybody else apart from my subjects when I composed my shots or when choosing which part of the room I wanted to stand in. Furthermore, there was no confusion whatsoever when I conducted more traditional group shots for my couple as they focused only on me. Them knowing that I could not be in two places at once meant that they reduced their group shots to a minimum to ensure I had time to document the day in my signature documentary style.
It may come across as selfish, but knowing that you are only responsible for yourself was something that came as a surprising thought on the day. As much as you trust someone to be your second shooter, they still represent you, your values, and your brand, so it can feel liberating knowing that you do not need to even think about it while you are working. Additionally, you have to evaluate whether having a second shooter does not unnecessarily increase your workload. Communication, preparation, payments, and inevitably, culling and editing hundreds if not thousands of additional images from potentially different camera systems can add unneeded hours of work. Perhaps, what you produce on your own is already good enough and does not need anything extra to take your work from already good to perfection, when it may not actually make a difference big enough to be recognized as such by your clients.
Undoubtedly, you do still make compromises in that you lose out on having that additional pair of eyes. They don't just add another dimension to your gallery, but also can make the whole working experience more positive and enjoyable, especially if you have a good rapport and they understand your needs. However, I have come to realize that I may not always need that, and each booking needs to be evaluated individually. Turns out, stepping back and scrutinizing what we do or what we have always done in our business can actually be a good opportunity to notice the changes we need to implement. And these changes are not always as daunting as they may seem at first. Who knew?
Do you prefer to shoot weddings by yourself? Do you use a second shooter as an additional service or include it?