Second Shooters: Are they worth the investment?

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

Aren't weddings just the best? You get to spend a day with all your favourite people under one roof - three hoorays! It's a day filled with many emotions and fleeting moments and having photographs of all the love and celebration is a priceless family heirloom. The question I receive most frequently is; 'Is it worth the investment to book a second shooter for my wedding?' and I would love to give you some insight on this topic.


Let’s be real for a moment, most of us have terrible memory and we snap away on our phones when the moment presents itself, just to freeze something special, a moment in time where life was sweet. For comparisons sake, let us multiply one person's phone snapshots of a special event by the amount of guests you are inviting to your wedding. A rather large amount right? Well, this is the minuscule number of possible beautiful moments that could happen between you and every guest attending your celebration. For the untrained eye this may seem ordinary, but if these moments are documented by a professional, they can carry a lot of weight and add meaning to the start to your next chapter.

As difficult as it is for you to capture moments to remember a feeling / what someone looked like / how the sun fell on a special day / your grandmother laughed; it's just as hard for only one photographer to capture ALL the interactions. Having a second pair of trained eyes, will ensure that more of the precious moments are documented for you to look back on for years to come. 


This is a great question and one which I think should deb discussed more within our community as well with our clients. Marli Koen Photography hires the second shooter (and her gear) for same hourly coverage as stipulated in the package you chose for your wedding. All images become the property of Marli Koen Photography and will be edited in our signature style. If my second photographer wishes to use some of the images of your day in their portfolio, they have permission from MKP to do so, but it’s on condition that they only do this after I have blogged and delivered your full wedding photo collection to you.

When you start sourcing quotes for your wedding, photographers don’t all offer the same services. It can get super confusing when you compared quotes if you’ll receive the same inclusions vs another’s offerings. The biggest mistake couple make is to assume that a photographic assistant and a second shooter is the same thing. Unfortunately in Marli Koen Photography's case, it is not.  


Not all photographers offer a second shooter as an inclusion to their packages, but most do have an assistant with them on the day. It’s very important to know the difference between the two ‘job titles’ as this will avoid confusion when deciding on a specific photographic coverage for your wedding day.  

An assistant is someone in training. It’s that simple! They are starting with their wedding photography journey and for a lack of a better term, are job shadowing and learning how to to things by observing. They are appointed to be an extra set of hands on the day to help with tasks to alleviate the photographer’s duties - straightening dresses, collecting details to be photographed, clearing a space of unnecessary clutter, ensuring the photographer is hydrated and fed etc (Yup, scenes of Marissa Gold in The Good Fight spring to mind).

Assistants are not at the level required to be a second shooter yet. Why you might ask? Well, being a second shooter you should have enough experience in a worst case scenario be capable to take over from the main photographer and run the wedding like it’s your own. Don’t assume that during an on-the-day emergency, if you didn’t secure a second shooter, that the assistant would be able to fill in as a photographer. Chances are she / he will not be equipped to step in.

A second shooter is an additional ‘Marli’, but she is a creative in her own right. My seconds have an immense amount of experience (at least 50+ weddings as the main photographer), a keen eye for detail and they fit in with my team extremely well, to create a seamless experience.

I have a handful of second shooters I alternate between. Each one of them is a full time photographer and also shoot their own celebrations over weekends. Securing a second photographer entails that I book someone on your behalf who shares the same approach to documenting weddings as myself. We will work alongside each other on your day, to capture your story in a unique and heartfelt method. We will be like a 2-person football team, scoring goals all day ;)


To receive the best result from having a second shooter, would be to allow us to work alongside each other on a wedding day. The reason for this approach is to ensure that the second can fill in moments that I, the lead, might miss. This will translate in your final photographs by telling a more detailed, layered, colourful story; it’s like watching a black and white feature film in colour for the first time ;) 

An added bonus of securing a second professional is, if logistically things go a bit pear shaped; the timeline is running late / the prep spaces are too far apart / a short canapé hour, they can step in and alleviate some of the pressure and expectations placed on a single photographer.

After a few seasons of working as a team, it has also been possible to provide my couples with different angles of important moments, and they have been excited to receive these additional moments of the following aspects of their special day; 

  • During prep, it ensured a second pair of eyes to observe and capture the candid moments, while the other documented details (suit / dress / accessories etc)

  • The magic of receiving two angles of you walking down the aisle,

  • Sometimes the minster forgets to step away or a video camera is in the background view. Two photographer's ensure that you'll receive the perfect shot of a once in a lifetime moment (the first kiss ;),

  • Whilst I will document and focus on the couple during the ceremony, the second will focus on details and guest reactions,

  • Having two photographers minimise movement by your photographer during the ceremony, as we don’t have to change positions for formalities. The elimination of distractions during your vows, is something your guests and the minister will greatly appreciate,

  • The second photographer will document canapé hour while I photograph the formal family photos,You'll receive a larger variety of frames - i.e wide + closer crops + details especially during golden hour

Having a peer to bounce ideas off of and to keep each other motivated throughout the day is definitely a great benefit. We really fuel each other's creativity and challenge each other to improve with each wedding celebration we document together. Another element that most people forget, is that we usually drive home after a wedding day and having company with you in the car on dark, dirt roads and in charge of the road-trip playlist, contributes to this being the greatest job in the world.


Let's debunk the belief that wedding photos should be stiff, posed, highly curated frames. I'm extremely camera shy, so when a second photographer joins me on a wedding day, there are moments where I am busy with my tasks which they also photograph. Similar to myself documenting your service providers doing their jobs with set-up, make-up and hair, the kitchen preparing your reception feasts, we also want to provide you with little glimpses of us doing our jobs. Pretty cool right?


A team of two is a modern approach to photographing a wedding; two pairs of eyes, twice the amount of fun ;) Back in the day, our parents entrusted their day to one person with a film camera and a few rolls of film. In modern times, with DSLRs and super talented individuals, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of receiving more from photographic experience? 

Each couple's budget for their special day is different and once you start calculating all the possible (optional) extras, you’re going to ask the question if something is really necessary. I am not saying you won’t receive beautiful wedding photographs if you choose to only book one photographer. Not at all! You’ll still receive all the must have moments to remember your day by. Having a second person on board is like a safety net. It’s making doubly sure that everything you have planned for, every detail and little moment, will be documented.


Whatever you decide on for your wedding celebration, know that you are in a pair of capable creative hands and we don’t take our responsibility lightly. As photographers this is the hardest, but most rewarding job and we can not wait to create extraordinary, heartfelt, spectacular, emotive family heirlooms for you. Let’s adventure together and make some epic memories. 


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Cape Town, South Africa  |  |  @marlikoenphoto

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