Here’s our complete guide and camera recommendations, based on what we (and other pro photographers we know) are using for weddings, portraits and family sessions.
Before we dive into the guide, check out the quick table below, summarizing our most recommended camera models.
For recommended lenses you have a dedicated guide here.
Most Recommended Cameras For Professional Wedding Photography and Portraits
|Full Frame DSLR -Top pro camera for weddings and portraits||Canon 5D mark IV||Check Prices|
|Full Frame DSLR -Pro camera (our runner up)||Nikon D850||Check Prices|
|Budget DSLR camera||Canon EOS Rebel T6||Check Prices|
|Pro budget DSLR camera||Canon 80D||Check Prices|
|Pro budget DSLR camera||Nikon D7200||Check Prices|
The first thing that I want to mention is that if you currently own an SLR camera DO NOT immediately go and sell your camera in order to purchase one of the cameras here. Just because I perhaps don’t mention your camera in this article doesn’t mean it isn’t suitable for portrait or wedding photography. You may just want to keep this article in mind for future purchase, or upgrades.
Second I’m going to try to make this article as future-proof as possible, a difficult task considering the constantly changing camera market, but hopefully you’ll get a better idea of what to look for as cameras change.
Canon vs. Nikon
Let’s just open up that can of worms right away.
I think the more realistic battle would be Canon & Nikon vs. Everyone Else.
It so happens that all of our small team here at Photography Concentrate are shooting Canon, but I honestly don’t have that strong a preference for one or the other.
But really, both make great cameras. Some years one manufacturer is on top in terms of features, and the next year things change. Prices are generally close. It’s not a big deal.
So, if you’re looking for a DSLR you’ll likely end up going with either Canon or Nikon.
Of course other manufacturers exist (Sony, Pentax, Olympus) but they currently occupy such a small market share comparatively that if you’re looking to make long term investments (like lenses) then the wisest decision is going with a manufacturer who dominates the market (at least in my opinion).
The camera bodies you choose will be outdated within a few years, but the lenses you choose will last a lot longer.
Consider them investments, and pick a company that is stable, and will still support those lenses in a decade.
What and Why?
For wedding and portrait photography a camera that works beautifully is the Canon 5D mk IV.
I would say that right now it’s sitting on top of the market for wedding and portrait photography mainly for it’s resolution (30mp) as well as it’s ability to capture 4K video.
Awesome Things About This Camera:
- Hi-res files – There is plenty of room to crop images as you please!
- High ISO – High ISO files look amazing (especially when shot in RAW and processed using Lightroom 6). This really expands low light shooting possibilities.
- Full Frame sensor – When we started shooting full frame with the original 5D we saw a huge leap in the quality of our photography. Images just looked crisper, the depth of field was shallower, and the shooting experience (looking through the larger viewfinder) was much better. Check out this article for a look at different sensor sizes and how it affects the image
- Video – Dual Pixel AF make autofocus while shooting video incredible smooth, fast, and accurate
- Photo Autofocus is fast!
- Size – Lauren loves using a camera without an attached battery grip. It makes the camera lighter, less imposing, and less noticeable.
- Build Quality – A super durable, reliable camera.
Not-So Awesome Things About This Camera:
- Price: This camera is a bit expensive for the feature set it offers.
If you’re looking for a relatively equivalent Nikon camera then you would be looking at the Nikon D750.
How low can you go?
You don’t need a Canon 5D mk IV to start making great photos! While I think it’s the best option for professional wedding and portrait photographers, if you’re just starting out you’ll probably want to ease into it. Gear is expensive!
Not to worry, there are a couple options to get you going:
Canon: Canon’s Rebel series are their entry level dSLRs. I’ll let you just follow that link, but rest assured that this is an insanely feature full camera for it’s price point.
If you’re looking for the next step up I would suggest the Canon 80D.
These cameras have similar features. I would say the biggest difference is the actual size of the camera. The 70D is a larger, more pro feeling camera. The 70D also features two dedicated adjustment wheels which makes it easier to control both aperture and shutter speed when shooting in manual.
Nikon: For Nikon the equivalent cameras would be the D5300 for an entry level and the D7100 for the more pro entry level.
How pro can you go?
When it comes to wedding and portrait photography you can go big. Really big.
However, it really isn’t necessary. Cameras like the 5DMKIV can handle all the challenges of a wedding and then some. You will definitely be reaching deep into your pockets to produce the money necessary for these work horse cameras.
There are, of course, advantages to the more expensive cameras.
What you’ll end up with is better build quality, faster frames per second, better autofocus, and a larger camera.
Those are all great things, but can be overkill for portraits and weddings. These cameras are more suited to landscape, sports, commercial and fashion photography.
Canon: The 1D X Mark II is Canon’s pro sports shooter solution (14 fps!).
Nikon: The D5 is Nikon’s pro sports camera, and the D810 is their flagship camera.
The four above cameras are in the $3000-$7500 range. Yikes! That’s a hefty price-tag, but if you can afford, by all means. You’ll enjoy it :)
Can Film cameras be used for wedding and portrait photography?
This post was limited to digital SLRs because I think they work out the best for weddings and portraits.
Digital provides a versatility that is advantageous for professional people photography.
But that doesn’t mean that your options are limited to just digital SLRs.
Now more than ever is the perfect time to experiment with film (35mm, medium format, and large format), micro 4/3s, camera phones, anything that can take a photo!
While digital will always be necessary, finding a mixture will help you stay creative and have fun!
Important Tip #1: Rent Before You Buy
It’s a great idea to test out new lenses and cameras before you buy them:
- Borrowlenses.com – Rent lenses in the States
- Cameralensrentals.com – Rent lenses in the States
- Lensrentals.com – Rent Lenses in the States
If you’re looking to purchase a lens or camera new check out B&H for the lowest price around! Amazon is also an excellent place to purchase camera gear from.
Important Tip #2: Find Lightly Used Second Hand Gear
Buying a heavily used pro gear isn’t that great idea, but if you manage to find lightly used or refurbished cameras, in a reputable online store such as B&H, it’s the best value in our opinion.
Along with a warranty, return policy and the convenience of ordering online, there’s no reason to risk buying from classifieds or less solid sources, especially with the price tags that go with pro equipment!
Here’s a screenshot of the rating system used by B&H to determine the apparent condition of the item:
If you missed the first post in this series you can find it here: The Portrait and Wedding Photographers Tool Kit // Part 1 : Lens Selection