A Comprehensive Wedding Photographer’s Gear Guide

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Are you an established or aspiring Wedding Photographer? I’ve been shooting weddings for over 10 years now and the gear in my bag has changed through the years. However there are a few staple items that I recommend everyone have in their bag. Oh and speaking of bags, that’s important too! I have several bags that I use for my photography, but whenever I pack to shoot a wedding I like to use a rolling case that can hold everything I need for the day. Here are a few that I like:
Tenba Roadie
Lowepro Pro Roller
Nanuk Rolling Hard Case

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Things to look for in a bag:

  • They need to be able to carry all of my gear
  • they need to be rugged
  • they need to be transportable by plane if I end up going out of town. The bags I’ve linked to do all of that, plus have extra options and benefits, so you cannot go wrong.

What goes in your bag?

Every Pro Wedding photographer that I know travels with:

  • 2X DSLR bodies
  • (at min) 2X portable on-Camera flash units
  • an assortment of lenses.

Now if you’re just starting out, you can have one DSLR, but you should always make sure that you have a backup camera on hand. I would recommend that you rent an additional body for the day so if your camera has a catastrophic failure, you can easily switch your gear out on the fly.

If you’re shooting PJ (photojournalistic) style, you may even want to have two cameras slung around your neck most of the day. Here’s why: when you’re shooting a ceremony, things happen very quickly. You might want to be able to go from a long shot to a wide shot quickly and quietly. So you outfit one camera with a long lens and keep it on one side, and make sure the other camera is ready to go with a wide lens. I usually work with zoom lenses.

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Some Staple Lenses in my Bag Include:

  • Super wide zoom 16-35 , 17-35  with or without VR, most are with, these days.
  • Wide-Tele Zoom  24-70, 24-105
  • Super Tele  70-200  VR is very helpful here.
  • 35mm Prime
  • 50mm Prime
  • 85mm Prime
  • Macro lens-50mm or 100-105mm range (for closeup and still life shots, rings, cakes, flowers, etc. )

I usually use Super wide zooms, to get some special effect overview shots of the entire wedding.

When I’m shooting Bride and Groom Portraits, I generally rely on my Primes, 50mm and 85mm, I personally use a 50mm 1.4, and an 85mm 1.8. Generally I find that I take advantage of my lenses fast aperture, by shooting wide open or close to it, for getting that beautiful out of focus background.

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85mm 1.4

I’m not going to side with one brand here. There are fine cameras by, Nikon  Canon  Sony  etc. and lenses are totally subjective. All of those brands make excellent optics as well. There are also many brands that make extraordinary optics for those cameras, like Zeiss  Sigma  Tamron and Tokina  Not sure what you want? rent it for a weekend, try it out. Shoot with it and see what you like and don’t like. Make it your friend.

All Eyes on the Bride

The bridal portraits are the most important shots of the wedding day, so take the time to do them correctly. Make sure to take an extra 30 seconds, and do a custom white balance. This will save you many hours of corrections in Post.

I recommend the Color Checker Passport by X-Rite – I’m specifically calling this product out here because of it’s portability. I put it in my back pocket and use it every time I see the lighting change. When you’re inside the Church or Reception hall, put this on a chair and take a photo of it using ambient light or mixed with flash, so that you can easily set all of the W.B. settings in post.

Getting back to the Bridal Portraits, you may need to light these shots, not everywhere you travel will you have available light (ambient), so.you may have to create it yourself. Portable flashes are one way to go. I usually have at least 2X with me, and some good light modifiers and battery packs.

Here’s just a few of the essentials:

  • Speed-lights (Canon, Nikon,  Godox, Voeloon, Metz.)
  • Battery Packs  (GodoxQuantum, Canon, Nikon )
  • Light Modifiers (Illumi, ExpodiscLastolite )
  • Reflectors/Diffusers  (IllumiLastolite)
  • Pro Strobes- (ElinchromProfoto )
  • Stands  (Mantis, KupoManfrotto)

This shot was done with a Profoto 600B, and 24X32 small softbox.

This shot was done with a Profoto 600B, and 24X32 small softbox.

There’s still a lot more in my gear bag to cover so we’re not done yet. My style is PJ, so I like to have at least 2X cameras slung around my neck during the ceremony and reception.

Straps & Carriers

For straps, I like the Black Rapid camera strap. They have a great double harness system, allowing me to quickly switch between my 2 camera bodies. I also find this next piece of gear essential and often find that I will have this around my belt loop, the Lowepro S&F 75 AW Lens Pouch. This allows me to keep one extra lens with me and quickly change one of the lenses on my camera in minimal time. You will often find my rolling bag parked to the side, during the ceremony and reception, and I’m outfitted as described above.

Memory Cards

We’re also going to need lots of good quality memory cards, (AcumemSandisk) make sure you have enough to cover your full day of shooting, and some backups just in case. You don’t want to have to borrow memory cards from “Uncle Bob”.

Tripods

I couldn’t make it through group photos without a top-notch tripod with a ball head. I’ll set up my shot and run over to the group to help pose them. When I get back my camera is set up just where I left it and I’m ready to take the shot. I think lighter is better at this point, and that is why I opt for Carbon Fiber. after all if you don’t have an assistant you will be carrying this around with you most of the day. Checkout the great tripods from; Benro,InduroManfrotto. I’ll tell you when I’m in the shooting the ceremony, I will often drop my camera with 70-200 onto a monopod, with a ball head, for extra stability, and ease the stress on my neck and shoulders. All of the mentioned tripod brands have monopods as well. Make sure to choose one that is appropriate for your height.

I know this seems like a lot, but if you want to shoot weddings like a pro, this is essential gear.

A few more tips:

Keep a small LED flashlight. It’s good for finding stuff in the dark. Also, make sure to keep tons of of extra batteries for your cameras, and flash’s.

Other things to consider: a bottle of water, a towel, a candy bar, or granola bar (I’ve often given these to brides, when they’re hungry and about to faint). Summer weddings get hot, and a towel is good for getting rid of sweat, whether it be on the bride, groom or yourself. It is also good if you need to kneel on the grass, and don’t want to get grass stains. I also carry an extra change of clothes with me, because as you might imagine – this can be a messy job.

What tips can you share about your experiences with wedding photography? What other info are you dying to hear? Let us know!

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Vistek Pro Photography Product Manager