Wedding Photography gear
or What is in my bag
Hi there! From the very beginning of this article, I want to tell that I honestly do not believe in the “perfect wedding photography gear kit” or anything like that. We are all different and what I may think is “great” or “beautiful” – you may have a very different opinion about and I totally respect that. However, there is wedding photography equipment that works best for me and this is what I would like to share with you about.
I have been a wedding photographer for more than 10 years for my life. Moreover, some people were saying that I am doing it pretty well 🙂 I must tell that photography gear is not the most important. It cannot make a good photographer out of you just by itself. I would not recommend to anybody to invest a lot of money (…sounds like a line from a poem 🙂 ) into any gear until you would understand what do you need it for and if you need it at all. I hope this article will help you to figure this out and to see what equipment do I use and what for.
Emotions, feelings… ideas behind the images – this is what make them great!
This is what your main focus should be. Then comes the gear that helps you to bring this ideas to life.
Here is an actual picture of my wedding photography kit that comes with me literally to every shoot. There are some other things and accessories that I take with me as well but I will talk about them a bit later on this page.
Lenses come first because I believe they are more important in image-making process than cameras.
What I currently own:
This combo works best for me and gives me exactly what I need. It may not fit everyone, so I’ve made one more list with other recommended wedding photography lenses down bellow.
I use “full-frame” lenses and cameras only. Just keep that in mind.
SAMYANG (Walimex Pro) 14 mm F2.8 IF ED UMC – this is a great ultra-wide angle lens with bright aperture that delivers sharp images. What makes it even more great is its’ price. At the time of writing this article, it costs 330 – 380 Euro! I use it mostly to show a big wide scenery around the photographed subject. It can be a beautiful landscape or “an architectural portrait”. From the other side this is a manual focus, manual aperture lens. You would need some time to get used to it if you never used manual focusing lenses before.
CANON EF 24-70 mm F2.8L USM – if you need (or can afford right now) only one lens – this is it. Classic ALL-IN-ONE “workhorse” with constant aperture F2.8 at the whole focal range. It is a perfect wedding photography lens, if you could say so. Works great for most of the situations and comes with me to every wedding and travel.
SIGMA 85 mm F1.4 ART DG HSM – I have been waiting for this lens for more than 2 years! I was at the Photokina 2014 and I thought Sigma would announce it there but it happened two years later when I visited Photokina 2016. 85mm is my favorite portrait focal length and this 1,1kg of glass is The 85 of them all. It has very fast and accurate focus (especially comparing to Canon EF 85mm F1.2L II) and wonderful Bokeh. I didn’t shoot very much with this lens yet, however my experience with it till now is great and considering the one I had with Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX I am sure this is going to be a happy partnership.
CANON EF 135 mm F2.0L USM – this portrait tele-photo lens with its’ 135mm focal length and F2.0 aperture can separate a photographed subject from the background like no other from my kit. It is great for those situations when you want (need) to keep some distance from the people you photograph, church ceremony or reception for example.
SIGMA USB Dock – if you have any of the Sigma’s “ART” series lenses – this is a must. This device helps you to update lens’ firmware (almost like at your cellphone 🙂 ), control its’ settings and calibrate the focusing system.
What I used before and could recommend:
This is a list of very good lenses that could fit your needs as wedding photographer.
CANON EF 16-35mm F2.8L II USM Lens – “is a high performance, water-resistant, ultra-wide angle L-series zoom lens. An f/2.8 maximum aperture is effective in low light situations and offers shallow depth of field focus control” (Official description). Very good wide-angle zoom. There is also a new improved and more expensive version of it Canon EF 16-35mm F2.8L III USM and another more affordable option Canon EF 16-35mm F4L IS USM which has an optical stabilization system.
CANON EF 24-105mm F4L IS II USM – the same as Canon 24-70mm F2.8 but with longer focal length up to 105mm, which makes it even more attractive as ALL-IN-ONE lens. However, it has max. aperture F4 and it might be a problem for low-light situations. The image stabilization system may compensate some of it. Perfect for travel photography.
CANON EF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM – probably the best macro lens you can get. Great for photographing small details and decoration at a wedding day.
CANON 6D – my “back-up” camera. It is too risky for me as a professional wedding photographer to have only one camera at a time. If you don’t have a second “body” with you I strongly recommend you to get one. 6D is a good option and I always use two cameras together with two different lenses. This way I don’t have to change lenses too often and can use my beloved “primes”.
GOPRO Hero 4 Silver – you are probably surprised to see an action camera in a “wedding photography equipment” article. Actually it has a great use for me – I do my “behind the scenes” videos with it, plus sometimes I can also make some really cool bridal-party selfies. Latest Hero5 Black would be a good option as well.
I must say that I am not totally happy with Canon latest cameras. They work great just as they did for decades, however they lack some cool features I’d love to have: sensor stabilization, electronic viewfinder, “Zebras”, adjustable top screen, eye detection focus, modern OS and third-party apps. This is feature and I hope they will adjust to it soon.
Basically photography is all about light. It is important to learn how to use it, whether it is natural ambient sources or some flashlights (like strobes, speedlites and so on).
if you are a long time in the business you’ve probably owned a couple of these. There is no limit to uses of this device. You can make very unique images simply having one or two of them. Most of the times I use them remotely from my camera controlled with TTL flash triggers. There is a newer flagship model Canon 600EX II EX-RT and also a budget option as Canon 430EX III-RT.
Good Chinese version of the expensive Canon Speedlite. It has almost all the features of Canon 580EX II such as High-Speed-Sync, TTL, can be remotely controlled via TTL flash trigger. In addition, since I use it not on top of my camera directly I don’t really care if it might be “not-as-magical” as the original Canon flash. It works great and costs 5(!) times cheaper. There is a new model Yongnuo YN685 that has a built-in receiver and can be controlled directly via Yongnuo YN-622C-TX flash controller.
A remote flash controller that allows you to work with any TTL compatible flashes (Canon, Yongnuo,..), divide them in 3 groups and control separately from your camera. This is so good! You don’t have to come to your flashes any more, just change any setting from this device remotely. It also supports high-speed sync up to 1/8000s, which is great for outdoors. To get all this goodness you need to use it with YN-622C transceivers.
Wireless TTL flash trigger transceivers. You put a compatible flash on it and can remotely control it and use as it was placed on your camera’s hot-shoe. Works very stable and probably 9,5 times from 10. I’ve tried many different triggers from different brands as Pocket Wizard, Pixel, Phottix and others and I think Yongnuo triggers have the best quality for their affordable price.
Softboxes are meant to make the light that comes from a flash, softer. This one in particular has an octagon form that gives a more-circular reflection in eyes of photographed subjects. In addition, it collapses like a regular rain umbrella, which makes it very easy to set up. I use in combination with Phottix Multi Arm. It allows me to use two of my TTL flashes together and double my power.
Stands & brackets
To “stay still” your light modifiers need some help.
My superhero boom stand: huge, robust, very high and can do any heavy lifting I need. An empty sandbag comes along as a nice bonus. You might think on getting some assistance if you are planing to use it the whole day.
CASES & BAGS
Where I keep all the precious gear.
If you have a lot of expensive wedding photography gear and you want it to be really protected – this is the way to go. It is a very strong watertight, crush-proof, and dust-proof case. It has a maximum airline carry on size and automatic pressure equalization valve. It is almost perfect, what I don’t like about it is its’ weight (6,5kg – empty) and a loudness of the wheels (I’ve changed them to some softer ones).
Crumpler was the first photo-bags-brand that I really loved. Their backpacks did not look like all the other bulky boring black “I-am-a-photo-bag” backpacks, if you know what I mean. They look cool! This one in particular my all-time travel photo backpack. It is big enough, there is place for 15″ laptop, it is comfortable and does not look obviously, like I have photo equipment in it. Unfortunately there are not that many options available in Europe anymore. The only hope for me is the Compagnon.
This is one of these bags you need for a small shooting when you don’t need much gear. Simple design, robust material and customizable inner space. Does what it’s meant for. If you are looking for something really cool-looking-leather-stylish I would recommend you again to have a look at Compagnon.
You simply need a bag for all your stands, umbrellas, brackets and things like that. This one is quite simple and cheap. There are two more good options to consider: Manfrotto – especially if you use their stands, and a heavy-duty trolley case, for those of you who need to transport lots of lighting gear.
I use this thing very often. I put on my Spider Camera Holster belt (description down below) and can easily carry any of my lenses and change them fast if I need to. Very useful for wedding ceremonies, for example, when you don’t have time to get the lens out of your bag.
Another cool little bag that I place on my Spider Holster belt. Great thing for my cellphone, memory and business cards. All in one place, no need to put things all over my pockets.
ACCESSORIES & OTHER GOODIES
They make my life as a wedding photographer much easier.
In my opinion, the best existing camera holder system. Why? Because you don’t have to carry two heavy cameras with two heavy lenses on your shoulders all day long! This was a game-changer for me. I photograph weddings for more than 10 years already and I want to be able to do that for at least 10 years more (and keep by back healthy as well). It has high quality secure design and made from good materials.
The most comfortable hand strap I’ve ever tried. Keeps my hand in the best shooting position and the inside part (that touches my skin) made from really nice material. Try it, you will not want to give it back.
Nicely made copy of the original Canon BG-E11 Battery Grip for EOS 5D Mark III. Works great and helps me to take portraits easily with my huge Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART. I have one more for the Canon 6D, but i don’t use it much because I try to have as less weight as possible and don’t really need it with my Sigma 35mm.
I travel a lot and I need a compact but strong tripod. This one from Sirui fits me perfectly. Its’ collapsed height is 46 cm and its’ weight – 1.42 kg. Another cool feature is that you can “disassemble” one of its’ legs and make a monopod out of it. Really cool idea. If you have some extra cash, I would recommend having a look at carbon model of this tripod.
Great ball head for the tripod that I’ve just described. Weight 0.3 kg and its’ maximum load is 18 kg. Together with the tripod fits nicely in to a bag that comes with it.
Editing, Storage & More
With these devices I probably spend the most time as a photographer.
Probably just like you I spend a lot of time working in front of a computer. This one I use most of the time remotely as an on-location station or when I travel. It proved itself as a stable and reliable laptop with an amazing Retina display. I like Apple products; however, I don’t think that they are always the best options on the market. There is a new MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar, it is great piece of technology and design, I like it; but it is not a big upgrade talking about performance.
Graphics tablet is one of those things that I cannot work without anymore. Since it was hard at the beginning to get used to it, now it is my best friend in editing photographs. Gives you much more precise and controlled retouching process and speeds up everything about Photoshop and Lightroom. I even take it with me to weddings or other shootings when I need to edit something. Definitely give it a try.
Dell monitors were at my working tables for more than 9 years. I have two of them right now and this one in particular is a 27″ display with 4K resolution, based on IPS technology (the best for working with photos and color). It has HDMI and DisplayPorts so you can connect it to any computer; comes with great adjustable stand. I love it, nothing to add.
There is never too much of storage. Every wedding I shoot is from 20 to 60 Gb of RAW images. I don’t like to delete them after processing but also want to keep them safe. For this purpose comes this device – a NAS from Synology. You can put in it as big HHDs as you can find; create a RAID that will make sure that you don’t loose pictures even if HHD crashed; you can access the data from anywhere and set up an automatic backup. I do not own one yet, but it is on top of my shopping list.
Their quality and speed are really important. I know stories (thank God they never happened to me,..yet) when photographers lost wedding pictures without a chance to restore them…imagine! My advice is: do not buy very high-capacity cards as 128, 256 or 512 Gb – if it “breaks” you could loose everything instead of loosing just a part of the photographs. Another tip is to shoot on both cards on your camera at the same time to duplicate all of the images (works with Canon 5D mark III and IV). Also here is a great USB 3.0 CF & SD card reader that I use.
Good small printer that can be easily connected via WiFi and produce 10x15cm great quality prints. I have a bit older model and use it for my packaging and sometimes for printing photos for my clients at the wedding day. The only thing that I wish would be better is the printing speed: on practice it takes more than a minute to produce a single picture. For transportation, I use this bag.
My editing workstation PC
As I mentioned before I spend a lot of time in front of a computer and that I do not use my MacBook for home edits, so what do I use? For more than 10 last years I’ve put my “workstations” by myself. I am sure it is the best way to get the highest performance for the lowest costs. I love gear, this is probably my engineering degree takes over, however there are many other important things in my life worthy of investing money like my family and travel. I don’t think that I need all the “coolest” and freshest tech to be productive and successful.
So what do I have as a workstation. It is an Intel based overclocked Core i7 processor that currently works at 4400 MHz, 16 Gb RAMM, AMD Radeon R7 260X graphics card, lots of HDDs that work in a RAID 1 and also 2 SSDs – one as a System partition for OS and all the software and the second – as a storage for my current photo projects.
Thank you for reading this all. I hope it was helpful and you could get some ideas what you might need as a wedding photographer.