Shooting a wedding is a HUGE undertaking. With only once chance to get it right, you want to be certain that you have all the right gear. But figuring out what you need is pretty daunting.
Need is, of course, a subjective idea. But we’re going to share with you the gear we found essential to shooting weddings! In our time as wedding photographers we shot around 75 weddings—ranging from simple one day affairs, to week long extravaganzas in India. We experienced a wide variety of situations, and tried out a lot of different gear. While there’s no such thing as a perfect kit, we did manage to find what worked well for us! We hope it might help you.
P.S. Photography equipment can be rather pricey, so when possible we’ll show you some low cost alternatives!
P.P.S. We shoot Canon, so this is all in Canon-speak. No hard feelings Nikon friends. Nikon has pretty much all the same stuff, so the basic ideas will apply!
We started out with cropped sensor cameras (a Canon 10D and 20D) and noticed a significant improvement in image quality when we switched to full frame 5Ds. The experience of looking through the viewfinder was also a big improvement, as the viewing area is quite a bit larger.
We also saw better low light performance (great for dark receptions), and shallower depth of field (perfect for portraits).
The 5D Mark II is currently one of the most affordable full frame cameras (~$2500) but if you can’t swing the Mark II, see if you can find an original 5D used. You’ll still be blown away by the image quality.
These cameras don’t have the focusing systems of the more advanced 1-Series cameras, but for the level of action typical of weddings the 5Ds work out beautifully.
You also need a backup camera. No ifs, ands or buts. If you your main camera breaks in the middle of the day and you don’t have a backup camera you’ll be responsible for the loss of some pretty important memories.
The nice thing about backup cameras is that they don’t need to be the newest, most expensive model—they just need to be able to step in and do a good job on the off-chance your main camera breaks down. It should at least be an SLR that works with your lenses, but doesn’t necessarily need to be full frame.
35: This is the widest lens we had, and very very rarely felt we needed anything wider. We used to have a Canon 24 f/1.4, but once we got the 35 we never used it. The 35 is absolutely fantastic for photojournalistic shooting, and wide portraits. It has little distortion, so you can use it for photos of people without making their features go all weird, which happens with more wide angle lenses. This guy was on our cameras for most of getting ready, a few shots at the church, some portraits, and wide first dance shots, and a ton of close up dancing images (since it lets you get right in the action).
50: The 50 is a focal length that every photographer should own. The field of view it captures most closely approximates human vision (on a full frame camera). It works well for every part of the day. Detail shots, getting ready shots, mid-length ceremony shots, all sorts of portraits, and even speeches, first dance, and dancing shots. It is so versatile that it works in any situation! The 50 also comes in a few flavours—Canon has a 1.8 (~$100), a 1.4 (~$400), and a 1.2 (~$1,600). You can find one to fit your budget.
85: The 85 is a fantastic portrait lens. It’s super flattering, and does a great job at isolating your subject. It’s also perfect for those times when you need a bit more reach than a 50 (like during the ceremony or the speeches, or close ups during the first dance, etc.).
70-200: This lens is a staple of wedding photography, primarily for ceremony shots. You want to be discrete during the ceremony, but still be able to capture close-up images of the bride and groom. There’s so much emotion going on, it’s the perfect time to really focus on their faces. The long end of the 70-200 lets you do this, with enough flexibility from zooming that you can get the right framing even if you’re limited in where you can stand. We primarily just used this lens during the ceremony, and a bit during receptions, but it was still pretty critical.
We really liked shoot
ing with prime lenses for the speed and image quality. But if you’re into zooms, a 24-70mm zoom would be a great lens to use to cover a lot of the primes we use. Some photographers might also enjoy a wide angle zoom like the 17-40mm.
You might like to try a couple specialty lenses. A popular one for weddings is a macro lens for close up detail shots (like the rings!). The Canon 100 Macro f/2.8 is very popular, and we had it for a while. There’s also a newer, snazzier version as well.
For awesome reviews on lenses head to The-Digital-Picture.com.
Your camera and your lenses are the most important parts of your wedding day gear kit. But without the right accessories, you could find yourself in a tough spot! Here are the gizmos and gadgets we found useful.
A. Tripod: Useful for shots requiring slow shutter speeds. Detail shots in a dark reception hall, or photos of the venue at night.
B. Video Light: A video light is essentially a powerful flash light. Super useful for lighting ring shots and other reception details.
D. Flash Battery Pack: Use these and your flash will recycle much faster! Really useful for situations like first dances and speeches. Canon makes their own battery pack, but you can also find much cheaper generic brand battery packs
E. Flash Diffuser: For situations where you can’t bounce flash (like outside, or extremely tall ceilings) flash diffusers help soften up direct flash. Stofen, Flip-it, LightSphere, or even an index card and an elastic will do!
F. Memory Cards: Make sure you have enough memory cards to cover the whole day! Stick with a reputable brand name like SanDisk when dealing with something as critical as a wedding. We’ve used off-brand memory cards before and had difficulty downloading images a few times.
G. Camera Bags: You need to carry your gear around somehow! We’ve found the Lowepro Stealth Reporter D650 to be one of the best non-roller bags. It will carry 2 cameras, 3-4 lenses, flashes, and up to a 17inch laptop. While the bag is heavy when loaded up, it’s actually easier to travel with than most roller bags. You can fit more gear into the bag, and it can still slip under airplane seats. For smaller bags we also use the Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home which holds a ton of gear for it’s size. Cambags is the place to go for camera bag reviews.
H. Shootsac: The Shootsac bag is great to wear while shooting. It’s basically 6 large neoprene pockets sewn together. There’s plenty of room for a few lenses, memory cards, and spare batteries.
I. Memory Card Wallets: Have a memory card wallet that you can keep on you at all times. When you’ve filled up a card, flip it over when you put it back in the wallet so you know it’s used up.
J. Lens Pens: These little tools are life savers. Easily remove smudges and dust from your lenses.
K. Spare Batteries: Make sure you have spare batteries for your flash and camera. Use small stickers so that you can mark the date you bought the batteries, and cycle through them regularly.
L. Microfiber Towels: These are great for wiping down gear, especially if you’ve had to shoot in rainy or snowy conditions.
M. Rocket Blower: Use a rocket blower to blow dust off the sensor.
N. SensorKlear Pen: If you notice some difficult to remove dust on your sensor this sensor pen will help dislodge it.
Every photographer will have unique preferences for the equipment that they use. Do you have any essential pieces of equipment that you use for weddings? Share it in the comments!