Whether you are just getting started in wedding photography or have been doing it for a while now, one thing you need is the gear to get the job done. The wedding photography industry is constantly evolving and so is the technology and gear available to us as photographers. It is really important to keep up to date on what the offerings are because many of them can make your job and your life much easier. Getting to know your wedding photography gear and how you can best use it to tell the love story of a couples wedding day can also help you stand out in a saturated wedding photography market. Trust us, we are San Diego wedding photographers where it seems every third person you meet is competing for the same clients as you. (don’t get us wrong community over competition always, there is enough for all of us to put food on the tables for our families we need to lift each other up not tear each other down. Okay rant OVER).
That said we also want to mention that if you are new to wedding photography do not feel like you need to go out there and buy any of the photography equipment we mention in this blog. This isn’t necessarily wedding photography equipment for beginners, this is EVERYTHING we have in our wedding photography kit. All of our Nikon wedding photography gear has been accumulated over a number of years so this isn’t the minimalist wedding photography gear we began with years ago. We think one of the best things you can do is trying to really get to know your gear inside and out. If you only have one lens, that’s okay get to know that lens. Learn its strengths learn its limitations.
Cameras and lenses are kind of a funny thing, some wedding photographers will love a certain camera body, while others just loathe it. One photographer will sing the praises of a specific lens and the next one that tries it will say it’s junk. It all really depends on you and your photography style. Don’t worry if you are still new and feel like you haven’t developed your photographic “style” yet, it’s something that will develop and the lenses you love to use have a huge part in developing that style. We are still constantly evolving our wedding photography style because here’s the fun part, you learn something new each and every time you go out and shoot.
The best analogy I can give is to that of a musician. Some musicians just know their instrument so well and are able to create with that instrument in a way another cannot, they learn its quirks and create music from it that the next joe schmoe couldn’t. Likewise, you could give that same musician another guitar and what they create just isn’t the same. Some of us can create music with a certain combination of camera equipment but the second we are given a different combo we fall flat and are out of key. The gear you love will create frames that speak to you in a way another camera gear combination cannot.
Renting lenses, camera bodies and lights from a place like George’s camera is always a good way to try new gear before fully investing in any photography equipment that doesn’t work out. Below we will outline what’s in our wedding photography kit, why we love it, and when and how we decide to use it. We would love to hear what you’re loving because we are self-admitted gear junkies and have shiny new object syndrome (like moth’s to the flame, haha).
The bag fits 3 bodies and 8 Lenses, laptop sleeve, accessory pouches. Look at this as the mother-ship of the wedding day holding the base essentials. It is also convenient having it be a roller bag, looks and feels just like a roll-a-board travel suitcase, and it is the proper dimensions if ever needing to bring it on a plane as a carry-on bag for all of you destination wedding photographers.
This shoulder bag has been beat to hell by us but its still just as good as the day we bought it. It’s weather proof, water resistant and its surface is super easy to wipe clean. This bag maximizes every inch of space there is an internal shelf for two shorter lenses and one long lens. There is a zip pocket along the bottom of the bag meant for cords and triggers but we actually keep our 24-70mm in there too so altogether we are able to fit our 70-200mm, 24-70mm, a short lens like the 24mm or 35mm and a portrait lens usually our 85mm. The triple back pocket allows you to store your flash or batteries.
The thing we love most about this bag though is the lens swapper. Which allows us to securely swap out our lens with its open flap cradle like design. No more setting down lenses and caps on the ground when you don’t have enough hands. The entire bag is constructed with padded walls for extra protection of your gear.
We prefer Nikon because it is what Ryan was raised on, he started shooting with his dad’s old Nikon film camera 25 years ago. And since Ryan was the one who first put a camera in my hand Nikon is what I have learned on and love as well. The dynamic range on our D850’s is amazing. One thing to note is that in our own experience Nikon can bring images out of the shadows much better than recovering highlights. So as a rule of thumb with Nikon it is better to underexpose a tad bit than over expose (again just our experience). We really love our Nikon camera bodies and we believe Nikon is the best camera for wedding photography, the low light performance comes in handy on a wedding day when light is variable throughout the day.
Why we love Nikon
It is what we know and feel comfortable with. Ryan has had the opportunity to shoot with Canon, Fuji, Sony, and just found the menus and setup to be a good fit for him and his shooting style. Also, of utmost importance is the lenses available with Nikon we are huge lovers of Nikkor glass.
We have shot on many full frame Nikon bodies and the first time we shot on the D850 it was instant love. The colors are so true to eye, it has great performance in low light with very limited noise at extremely high ISO’s where most other cameras would struggle, and the focus system is fantastic even in those low light situations. Low light is a major consideration to make when you are shooting weddings. The dynamic range is incredible. Also, with a 45.7 MP you are now getting close to Medium format type opportunities when it comes to making large prints/wall art and maintaining stunning sharpness which are all important considerations. Wall art and prints are huge opportunities for you as a wedding photographer to preserve your couples memories and increase your sales.
We look at the D750 as the D850’s younger sibling. It has many of the qualities of the D850 (i.e. low light performance and good autofocus). Many will argue it is the best wedding camera for the money on the market, and if you are looking for a superb performing camera and don’t have the budget for a D850, this would be an amazing option and without a doubt our pick for best budget wedding camera body
Why it is important to have two camera bodies- on a wedding day you just never know what may happen and you can have a camera body malfunction or flat out break on you. Having a back-up camera body is essential when you’re photographing an event like a wedding where you get one shot at it, there are no do-over’s and this is a very important day in a person’s life we need to make sure we are always prepared in any circumstance to get the job done for our couples, they’re depending on us. We actually bring 4 camera bodies with us to every wedding just in case. The other reason we have four camera bodies is so that we can have one camera on each hip utilizing a different lens throughout the day. Having two cameras one with a prime to get those low apertures in low light and a zoom or a wide lens and a zoom lens is a great way to get a lot of variety in your gallery throughout the day from the same moments.
Having a camera or two hanging around your neck for 8-10 hours a day you need to make sure you find the perfect strap for you or your back and neck will hate you. The first thing to consider is whether you will be shooting with one camera or two. If you are going to shoot with two, we absolutely LOVE our Holdfast gear double camera straps called the Money Maker. These straps really take the load off your back, provide a very secure and safe connection with your cameras that keeps them right on your hip and not swinging around. Also, they look pretty cool, we get many compliments on them all the time. If you are shooting a single camera we are big fans of the Peak Design straps, they adjust in length very easily, have several color and width options and we love the quick connect/disconnect tabs they incorporate for putting your camera on the strap quickly as well as removing ti quickly If needed.
Best for when you have to capture a big reception area in all its glory. Many wedding reception spaces will have limited area for you to move around in, with all the tables and décor it can get a little cramped. Having that wide-angle lens allows you to capture the space in its entirety without having to get way back. Also, we have couples occasionally requests a group shot of all 150+ guests at their wedding we stand up on a chair or ladder or in some cases if the wedding reception has a balcony and pull out the wide angle allowing us to capture every guest in attendance. This is probably our least used lens, but a must have for those unique situations.
We are actually in the market for a new macro lens and this little baby only gets pulled out of the bag for the ring shots on the wedding day and occasionally some close up shots of jewelry. We love to get a close up for our couples of their rings on the wedding day, especially if there is engraving on the inside of their bands we want to get up close and show all of the detail that went into their choice of engagement ring and wedding bands.
When we want to get something that feels really energetic we will get up close and personal with this lens. This is a great lens when you are in tight quarters (i.e. bridal/groom suits) and need to be able to drop to those lower apertures. This is also Ryan’s favorite lens for dancing during the reception, being taller he can hold the camera up high and shoot down into a group of people dancing all the way open at 1.4 and get some awesome shots. We love using this lens on engagement sessions if we have some sort of movement going on as it can really add to the energy of the shot. For example, tell your couple you are going to have them act out an airport scene from a romantic comedy where they haven’t seen each other in months and they are going to run to one another and have one pick up the other and spin them around. Also great for group shots on the wedding day when you need to get wide.
The 35mm is a MUST HAVE in every photographer’s kit. This focal length is the closest to what the human eye sees, so as a “documentary style” wedding photographer this is a perfect fit. We often say the best zoom is your legs, and if we had to choose one lens to shoot an entire wedding with, this would be it. Emily shoots this lens for dance, getting ready, and bridal portraits that she wants to include a sense of location in. The whole thing behind lens choice is really thinking about what story you are trying to tell, can you include something in the frame by going wider that helps support the story you are trying to tell? Or do you need to get in tight to exclude things in the frame that are distracting from the story you want the viewer to unravel. Emily loves the 35mm when she wants to include more elements in the frame to illustrate more of a story. Be careful getting too close with this lens as it can distort your subject.
The 50mm is a great portrait lens that gives you a beautiful bokeh effect. It is also typically smaller and lighter in weight which is great for in hand camera time. We often use this for portraits, first dance, and getting ready portions of the day. Emily also loves this lens for her bridal boudoir sessions. But overall it is one of our least used lenses.
This is probably our favorite lens for portraits and shooting details throughout the day. Even wide open at 1.4 it is unbelievably sharp. You will have excellent depth of field and a dreamy bokeh effect when hitting those lower apertures. Not a necessity lens, but definitely one to consider for taking things to the next level artistically. We use this most during the wedding portraits with our couple. Emily loves using this in getting ready to hide a lot of the clutter happening in the room and focus in on the story she is trying to tell. It’s a lens that allows us to lie a little if you will, showing the parts of the scene we want to be a part of the story and hiding those we don’t. If the timeline allows we will also pull out the 85mm during the reception detail shots to focus in on the table décor and place settings which results in stunning detail shots that will be sure to have the planner, florist and couple stoked.
Some will say this is the essential best overall “kit” lens to have as a professional, and that is a very valid point. The focal length is really all in that sweet spot needed for covering a wedding day. The only downside is that 2.8 is the lowest aperture and in very low light situations may not be enough. We use this lens during ceremony and family formals. Emily is on this lens during getting ready, its perfect for bridal details, bridal party robe shots and the bride getting the dress on.
70-200mm-2.8 (x2)-Our Main Ceremony Lens & a Beautiful Portrait Lens.
This is one of Ryan’s favorite lenses. It is his workhorse during the ceremony when you want to really be more of a fly on the wall and stay to the outskirts of the wedding ceremony as to not disturb the moment or effect the guests experience of the ceremony. It allows us to get in close for the rings being put on and can capture those beautiful tears rolling down a cheek all without putting your backside in guests faces obstructing their view. It is incredibly sharp, but warning….it is big and heavy so break out the muscle milk and get your curls in. This is almost exclusively used during ceremony and portrait session. The images you get from this baby are so tack sharp it becomes addicting to pull this lens out whenever possible.
Flash + Strobes, Our Wedding Photography Lighting Kit
Profoto A1 (x2)
The BEST on camera flash money can buy in our opinion. This is the best flash for wedding photography hands down! On a wedding day you never want to miss a moment, there are no do-overs and the recycle time on this baby is insane. As Nikon wedding photographers we have to say this is the best flash for Nikon camera bodies. The power these things put out is like having 2 or 3 speed lights. The menu system is super easy to navigate, the modifiers make shaping light easy with their magnetic attachment, The head is rounded for great light direction and they swivel in any direction. The recycle time on the Profoto A1 is 10x faster than a speed light so never miss an epic dance shot again. The lithium ion battery makes life easy, “yes!” to no longer dealing with AA’s and you get a ton of pops out of the charge. Lastly, it is now your built-in trigger for your other Profoto lights, genius.
Profoto B10 (x2)
Want the power of a big studio strobe without the weight or size? The B10 is heaven for weddings. We love to pair this with a 24” or 48” octabox. We also love this on an extendable pole for our engagement sessions or weddings when we are going off the beaten path. Expose for ambient so you can capture those beautiful skies then Emily or an assistant holds the light up on the pole to add that pop to the couple and voila.
Profoto B1 (x2)
These are the mac-daddy of strobes for when you really need to put some light out on your subject. We will bust these out when we are having to really over-power the sun. For example, a really back lit ceremony or if there is no shade available during family formals these can be a life saver.
We love this handy little extendable pole, especially with the Profoto B10 on the end of it. This allows us to put that light up to 6 ft in the air and get our desired light direction to perfectly light our subjects.
We are true fans of the Profoto OCF (off camera flash for you new-bees) octaboxes, we often will use the 24” due to its versatility and size. These give us that extra soft diffused look on our subjects.
Artificial lighting is a powerful tool in a wedding photographers kit. Having the ability to create light allows you to correct for situations when the natural light isn’t ideal as well as shape light for the story you’re trying to tell. We really hope this little run through helped you out or made you think. So we challenge you before your next gear purchase to think of your gear in the terms of story and what story it is you are trying to tell and what gear will help facilitate that story.
We love pulling out the drone to get those environmental establishing shots. Although this year we have bigger plans to incorporate this baby into our portrait sessions.
If you have any other questions drop us a line on Instagram we are always happy to chat with anyone whether in the industry for forever or just getting started. You can also contact us about our mentor sessions where we can help you with any aspect of your business. We have learned a lot by trial and error over the past four years and have consistently brought in six figures just two years into our business, let us save you from making the mistakes we did so you can skip the un-fun stuff and start making your love for wedding photography a viable business.