Wedding Planning 101

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Wedding Planning 101: Hiring a Third Shooter

It’s pretty standard now in the wedding photography industry to have a second shooter present on any wedding day that is 8+ hours. Every lead photographer will utilize their second shooter differently based on the way they run their wedding day, how they build their timeline, and the specific elements of the day their second shooter is best at. Some photographers hire the same second shooter for every single wedding, some are husbands, some are not wedding photographers at all, and some are full time wedding photographers that just do second shooting on the side when they’re available.

This blog, however, is not about second shooters. This blog is about a new up and coming offer sweeping this industry: THIRD shooters. Did you read that right??? You sure did. THREE photographers in one day? Probably while you also have at least a team of two videographers (sometimes three). The amount of cameras pointing at you can feel like a lot, but here’s the thing I want to address in this blog post. Why in the world you would want three photographers. What the heck they are doing that the second shooter can’t do?

This blog post is 100% written from my perspective. It’s written from the way Amanda May Photos runs our wedding days, builds our timelines, and utilizes the second and third shooters’ skillsets. This in no way is saying that this is how your personal photographer will do it if it’s not me. Just keep that in mind if you’ve found yourself here without being an AMP couple. 

I think to best explain this, I will also be explaining what I am shooting and what my second shooter is shooting while the third shooter is doing their various tasks of the day. The lead photographer will always be there the longest. They get there before the second and third shooters, and they leave after the second and third shooter. The second shooter is the next on site and will also stay later than the third shooter. The third shooter just shows up for the craziest part of the day when the maximum amount of things are unfolding at one time.

Depending on the collection you choose, I will usually arrive anywhere from 1-3 hours before you step into your dress. In that time, I am photographing your bridal details, which includes your flatlay (invitation laid out and styled pretty with ribbons and ringboxes and fresh florals), jewelry, dress on a pretty hanger, all three rings, perfume, shoes, veil, headpiece, heirloom pieces, etc. In that time, I’m bouncing in and out of the hair and makeup area getting candids of you and your girls getting all dolled up. This is also the time I get your robe shot with all your bridesmaids and a champagne bottle being popped if you want that!

Your second shooter will arrive just before it’s time for you and your groom to get dressed. Sometimes, I have them shoot groom details, and other times, I shoot them while I’m doing bridal details. Either way, when it’s time to get dressed, I go with the bride as she steps into her gown while my second shooter goes with the groom as his mom or dad or best man helps him straighten his tie, flip down his collar, and pin on his boutonnière.

The third shooter will arrive right at the tail end of you getting dressed just before we go into the first look with your bridesmaids, dad, and groom! Here is how I utilize all three perspectives during these moments. I typically shoot over the bride’s shoulder at the person turning around. My second shooter typically shoots over the person’s shoulder to get the bride’s expression. While the third shooter shoots with a wider lens 90 degrees from the first look to get a profile view of both parties turning and reacting at once. All three perspectives of a first look are beautiful.

After the first look unfolds, the third shooter becomes the primary dress fluffer, bouquet holder, and veil tosser. They’ll also be shooting, but they’ll be ready to make sure your dress is laid out perfectly at any given time. Slight changes in posing can shift the train and veil so they’ll always keep it looking perfect. If I don’t have a third shooter, it’s usually me doing this or asking the second shooter do this, which takes up time because we’re having to stop, walk in, fix it, walk back, and shoot more. I will always use two perspectives of shooting during all of your portraits. My second shooter will always be shooting the opposite of what I’m shooting. If I’m horizontal on a tight lens, they’ll be vertical on a wider lens, etc. And I’ll typically deliver a lot of second perspectives because of this. The third shooter is more utilized here to run in like a tennis ball boy and get everything perfect so myself and the second shooter can roll through photos faster and get you more good content in a shorter period of time.

After the first look and bride and groom portriats, we will roll into bridal party portraits. I will be doing the girls while the second shooter does the guys, and then, we’ll switch. We usually have you for an hour. While we are doing this, your third shooter is going to go check on your ceremony and reception set up. A lot of times, venues don’t have the finishing touches ready on either location until the last 1-2 hours before the ceremony. So, we can’t shoot them earlier in the day because we would just have to reshoot them later. So with a third shooter, they’re getting that for us while we are getting our bridal party photos!

After the bridal party photos is the ceremony. This is where I REALLY love having the third shooter. During the ceremony, I am getting the groom’s reaction up close. Even if you do a first look, there is ALWAYS a separate and super important moment right here (read more about this on my first look blog post here). The second shooter is at the back of the aisle to get you and your dad‘s (or whoever you choose to walk you down the aisle) facial expression when the doors open/curtains open/ or you round the corner. Now, here is what I love. The third shooter is with you and your dad/aisle walker behind the closed doors behind the bridal party getting those final few moments documented for you. Most of the time, there are hugs happening here. Forehead kisses. Watery eyes. Prayers. Laughter. So many emotions. I used to have my second shooter get this moment, but that means I sacrifice the moment the bride and groom lock eyes because there’s no way for the second shooter to come down the aisle after the bridal party but before the bride. Can you imagine? Hahaha everyone’s turned around waiting for the bride, and here comes the photographer running into place?? Hahaha that is obviously not an option. So, the third shooter is focused on that.

Then, throughout the ceremony, the third shooter’s main goal is to get your guests’ facial expressions. Wiping tears, laughing, holding hands, etc. I want them to be focused on getting all the people in the crowd while the second shooter and I take turns being in the middle back getting the center view and being off to the side to get close up facial expressions of you and your groom.

As soon as the kiss happens and your officiant announces you as husband and wife, the third shooter gets an epic shot of everyone clapping, and then, they head straight to cocktail hour to photograph details there before guests start arriving. This area is almost never finished setting up until during the ceremony because they move the guestbook table to be part of the décor, set out appetizers they wouldn’t want sitting out for too long, etc. Your second shooter follows the bride and groom to get you celebrating with all of your bridal party and family members, and I hold down the end of the aisle getting the recessional.

After cocktail hour, I let the third shooter go. There’s no major benefit to them being there after that, which means they have a shorter day than the second shooter. This translates into having to pay them less, which means it doesn’t cost as much to you! I know it may sound over the top or a bit much, but I promise, I wouldn’t have spent two hours writing this blog post if I didn’t think it was worth it! If photos are your number one priority and you don’t want a single thing missed, consider adding on a third shooter!

Laura Kate & Allister

Mikia & Wes

Brittany & Michael


I’m a Knoxville Wedding Photographer that loves to travel…I shoot anywhere! Click here to contact me with any questions you have about pricing or booking! If you liked what you saw above, go ahead and follow me on Facebook or Instagram to see my daily updates of the latest sessions!


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