June 15, 2023
I am VERY familiar with the gear that you need to execute the job well and get the images that you need to get on the wedding day… and you might be surprised to know it’s not all the things you think!
Gear is very personal, so I am sharing what works for me and focusing on the gear that will take you through the wedding and allow you to get a variety of images without feeling bogged down with a bunch of gear! Gear can be very expensive, so remember that you do not have to have it all to create beautiful imagery.
Camera choices will greatly vary in the photography industry. In my Wedding Photography Society group, I always find it interesting to interview other photographers because it is clear that everyone has their own preference. No matter what camera you choose, it must be:
📷 Dual slot camera.
A dual slot camera has two memory cards that write backups to one another. This means that there are two copies of every image on both cards. I have heard so many stories of photographers losing cards, having one get broken, or even having one that is corrupt. So, to cover your bases, have a dual slot camera and make sure that the slots are set to back each other up.
As a side note: I would recommend that you not delete your cards until you have them backed up to your cloud system AND your working hard drive. If you are interested in our back up process, I have a youtube video here: Photographers: How to Back Up Your Wedding Photos
📷 Full frame camera.
A full frame camera allows you to get as much information as possible in the images that you take.
Right now, I shoot with a Nikon Z6 II Mirrorless camera. Before using this camera, I was shooting with a Nikon D3S. I loved the Nikon D3S, but I needed more information in my images. Once you take an image, you can’t go back and redo it. So, I needed one that would give me more file space. The Nikon Z6 II provides this for me, and I really like the colors and the weight of them.
Whatever camera you choose, you will want it to be fast and handle low light situations well. You also want it to be lightweight. You are shooting for very long days. As someone with small hands, I need a body that does not put a lot of strain on my wrist and hands. Get a camera that will work well for you.
Lenses will be a highly debated topic. I use a combination of prime and zoom lenses. I don’t recommend using the kit lenses, because you will end up with an aperture of f/4 to f/5.6. It is not going to be a fixed aperture and it won’t allow you to work in low light like you need. The kit lenses will not give you that beautiful boca and the fall off that we see in those dreamy wedding photos. Here are the lenses that you must have:
📷 50 mm f/1.2 from the Nikkor mirrorless line is my FAVORITE. This is the one that is closest to the Zeiss 80 mm contax 645. This lens has a beautiful boca, is fast, and it focuses in low light. I would not say that this is the first lens that you need to have in your kit, but when you are able to, it is definitely one that you should get.
📷 Nikkor 24 – 70 mm f/2.8 is the NUMBER ONE lens that I feel you should have. If you are a Canon shooter, I would say the 28 – 70 mm or the 80 mm f/2 (it is the really big one on the Canon body).
You want something in this range that has the zoom fixed aperture rate at the lowest aperture that you can get in that line.
You also want something that will give you variety, because it is very difficult to switch lenses during a wedding. Rather than switching lenses, you would want to have two cameras with a prime on each and then you can switch cameras for the different focal lengths.
If you want to shoot with just one body, then a low aperture, fixed aperture zoom lens is the way to go.
📷 70-200mm is one that I really recommend in addition to the 50 mm because it will really come in handy when you are photographing a ceremony that you can’t get close in, like a church wedding. I use my Native 70-200 mm lense and put an adapter on it to be compatible with the mirrorless. You can shoot 90 – 95% of the wedding day with the fixed aperture zoom lenses, so definitely have one in your kit.
📷 Stay away from lenses that are trending, like the shift lens, the fish eye lens, the macro lens, etc. These will cost you several hundred dollars and will go out of style in a few years. I would literally only use the 60 mm Nikkor lens for the fine details, like the rings. I find, though, that with the 50mm f/1.2, I can just zoom in, bump my aperture up a little bit, and get those ring shots very well. My point is, you do not need to have trendy lenses to get the beautiful imagery you are trying to achieve.
📷 A speed light is the minimum lighting that you should have in your kit. This is the flash that goes into the hot shoe of your camera. We are using professional cameras, so you won’t see a pop up flash. You are going to be using your hot shoe or triggering the flash on a light stand off camera.
Be sure that you have one that maneuvers a variety of ways. It should rotate all the way around so that you can bounce light behind you. You also want it to flip up so that you can bounce the light up if needed.
📷 A light stand is something that you will need, especially if you don’t have an assistant or second shooter. I really like the Cheetah stands, because you can pick them up and set them down easily. The legs go in as you pick it up and back out when you set it down. This really helps you move it around the venue. When I shoot without an assistant, I put my speed light or my video light on the light stand.
📷 A video light is the last lighting essential for your bag. We aren’t always privileged enough to work with a videographer, so it is nice to have something with constant light. It really makes a nice addition for your bag.
I currently carry two video lights. The one that I use most often is the Profoto B10. It gives beautiful light and good color. I use it for a lot of things and it is definitely worth the investment. I will say, though, that as powerful as it is, it is really big and heavy. Also, the constant running light only lasts for about 15 – 20 minutes from full charge, so we use it very sparingly.
📷 Tripod – this is something that I don’t bring to every wedding, but it is nice to have on occasion. Sometimes, I set it up to record a toast if there is no videographer present. You definitely want a still camera for that. Also, for anything low light, a tripod set up is really handy.
📷 Batteries – Mirrorless cameras really go through a lot of batteries. I use 7 – 8 batteries per wedding. Be sure to pack ample chargers and rechargeable batteries (we use rechargeable AA eneloop batteries). It is nice to be able to recharge your gear and not have to constantly replace the batteries. It is better for the environment and easier on your pocketbook.
📷 Bags – I use the rolling Think Tank camera bag that is able to travel internationally in the cary on area of planes. I keep my back up camera (MUST have for the wedding day), lenses, and other gear that I will need for the wedding, but not at that exact moment.
There are two bags that I like to keep on me. One is the ONA Chelsea bag. It is a bigger bag and has 4 compartments. It really looks like a purse. I keep one or two lenses, water, etc. in this bag. The other is the Kindly Cali bag. It can hold a camera and a lens or a lens and a flash. It is small and I can keep it on me so that I am not always having to go back to my big bag. This is very helpful if I know that I am only going to need a few things on me when I am going to shoot (like at a reception).
📷 Straps – I sometimes use the Holdfast Moneymaker Strap with two cameras. I have also used the spider belt. I would really prefer to use just one camera on the Hello Linen strap, and put whatever I don’t need at the moment in either the Chelsea or Cali bag.
📷 Shoes – You definitely want to have your back up gear in your bag, but you are also going to want to pack a change of shoes. I wear Marc Fisher Booties for the first part of the day and through the formal dances, and then I change into the Cole Haan Grand Zero shoes that are still dressy but much more comfortable.
Gear is a whole thing of its own in wedding photography. It takes a lot of time to figure out what is going to work for you. The items that are referenced here are items that can be used for a variety of jobs that we are producing for our business. Definitely consider gear that is flexible and will meet your needs. I hope that this is a great starting point that will help you make some great decisions about what can be a great setup for you as you either enter into your wedding photography business or uplevel your current system.
If you are interested in learning how to price your base prices for photography, check out the Pricing Guide below. ⤵️