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What is a Second or Associate Shooter?

In the process of booking your wedding photographer or videographer, you’ve probably come across two other options: a second shooter and associate shooter. At a glance, it might sound like a second shooter or an associate shooter are the same person that have the same tasks. They do have a few of the same tasks on a wedding day, but they have different roles and responsibilities. This post will go through the major differences between a second shooter and an associate shooter along with the advantages to having them as part of your wedding day!

Who is a Second Shooter?

To jump straight to it, a second shooter is an additional photographer on your wedding day. Their main job is to assist the main photographer with the wedding day. Either that’s grabbing materials, moving people around, and, of course, taking photos. The second shooter is hired by the main photographer. Although they are under contract with the main photographer, the majority of second shooters do own their own photography businesses.

The Advantages of a Second Shooter!

The four major advantages of a second shooter - perspectives, creativity, stress-free, and insurance.

First - Perspective

On your wedding day, there are a few moments that truly only happen once. A few of those moments include any first looks, walking down the aisle, the kiss, the introductions to the reception, any first dances, cake cuttings, garter tosses, bouquet tosses, and the exit (unless you have sparklers that burn for what feels like 15 years). During those moments, there is typically more than just one person involved or more than one way to experience it. A second shooter is key to grabbing a different perspective from the main photographer. Here’s a few examples:

  • The face of each partner during the first look.

  • The face of the bride down the aisle and groom at the alter at the beginning of the ceremony.

  • A wide shot of the kiss and a close up shot of the kiss.

  • Flash photos of the first dance photos, and ambient lit photos of the first dance.


Second - Creativity

Outside of those major, key moments of your wedding day, there are several other photos that are taken. For example; couple portraits, wedding party photos, detail photos, general ceremony photos, reception photos, and dance floor photos. Since these moments take up a majority of the day and are not happening in an instant, it seems that a second shooter might not be beneficial. Wrong! While the main photographer is focused on getting the perfect shot, the second shooter can get creative! If you’re someone that loves intentionally blurry photos, flash drag, or double exposures, you should highly consider a second shooter.

Third - Stress-Free

Say your makeup is taking longer than expected, a groomsmen is showing up 45 minutes late, a bridesmaid forgets to steam the wedding dress, your mom got stuck in traffic heading to the venue, the power at the venue went out for 30 minutes…

I don’t want to burst any bubbles HERE, but just about every wedding day has something go wrong. When time gets crunched, two people are so VITAL to keeping stress at bay - a wedding coordinator and a second shooter. The coordinator will take on all the fuss. A second shooter can split off from the main photographer to take photos that the photographer needs DONE IN ORDER to get back on track. Here’s a few examples:

  • The main photographer can take the “getting in dress photos” with mom while the second shooter grabs flat lay detail photos.

  • The main photographer can take the bridal party photos while the second shooter takes the groomsmen photos.

  • The main photographer can take the family photos after the ceremony while the second shooter grabs happy hour photos.

Fourth - Insurance

When you add on a second shooter to your wedding package, you are booking 2 photographers for your wedding day. That’s at least two cameras focused on your wedding day. As major moments are unfolding, you will have double the reassurance that those memories will be captured. If the unfortunate thing happens and your main photographer has to drop out last minute on your wedding day (and cannot find an associate shooter), the second shooter can step up as the main photographer. There’s a super slim chance that would ever happen, but it’s always BETTER to be safe than sorry.

When you’re on call with your potential wedding photographer, they might not mention this as a pro of booking a SECOND SHOOTER due to the bad connotation of not having a back-up plan if they were sick or had an emergency. All wedding vendors are human, and things do come up out of the blue. If you’re someone that wants to take a little more control over an area that you don’t have much, booking a second shooter is a great way to insure that a photographer will absolutely be at your wedding.

Who is an Associate Shooter?

An associate shooter is a photographer that is contracted by the main photographer to step in as the main photographer on the wedding day. Although your wedding photographer most likely will not be at attendance on your wedding day, they are doing all the behind the scenes AND PREPARATION leading up to and after your BIG day. An associate shooter is a trusted photographer that the main photographer has confidence in to take their place when it comes to taking photos and guiding a wedding day. Similar to second shooters, an associate shooter typically owns their own photography business.

The Advantages of an Associate Shooter?

The three major advantages of an associate shooter - style, budget, add-ons.

First - Style

Why did you choose the photographer that you did? Plenty of fiancé’s send inquiries to wedding photographers because they admire the photographer’s previous wedding galleries. If that photographer happens to be booked for your date, you can capture a similar photo style by booking that photographer with an associate. Although the associate will be calling the shots on the wedding day, the main photographer will create the photo timeline, prepare the associate prior to the wedding day, and edit the entire gallery.

By creating the timeline, the main photographer will be choosing the time of day and the flow of events throughout the wedding. If you love the photographer’s direct sunlight couple portraits, it will be common that their timelines include couple portraits in the middle of the day. The associate photographer will follow the main photographer’s wedding timeline on the big day!

Prior to the wedding day, it’s typical that the main photographer will meet with the associate photographer to prepare them. This can include walking through the timeline, explaining the layout of the venue, chatting through the family shot list, sharing inspiration images, and laying out where to take specific photos. By the end of the meeting, the associate photographer should have a solid game plan for your wedding day.

Once you’re off to your honeymoon, the main photographer will receive all the photographs from THE ASSOCIATE SHOOTER. When the photos are handed off to the main photographer, the associate photographer’s duties are done. The main photographer will edit and deliver your wedding gallery.

Second - Budget

Typically wedding packages booked with an associate photographer are more budget-friendly. Since the main photographer won’t be available on your wedding day, they sometimes offer discounts on their packages.

However, some wedding photographers straight up offer packages with an associate photographer. Which leads me to my final pro…

Third - Add-ons

With some associate wedding packages, they include additional services that allow the main photographer to get to know their couples better. As an example, my associate packages include an engagement session which is planned, shot, and edited by me. This gives me the opportunity to meet my clients in person, understand how they photograph, and get to know them better. An engagement session and a second shooter are both critical to providing the best experience to my clients without physically being at their wedding. A few other services that a photographer might put into their associate packages at a discounted rate would include film, A bridal session, A boudoir session, rehearsal coverage (possibly by an associate shooter), a keepsake book, Polaroids, or a custom bridal box.


As a quick recap, a second shooter is an additional photographer on your wedding day. With two photographers, you gain two perspectives throughout the wedding day. Having two perspectives means documenting two angles at a single moment, capturing more creative shots, and dividing and conquering to stay on track. An associate shooter is a photographer that steps in as the main photographer on your wedding day. By booking a wedding package with an associate photographer, you can take advantage of discounts and additional services that fit within your budget while still receiving a wedding gallery of your dreams.





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