Wedding Photography Equipment Tips

A camera, lens, and flash are the basic tools of the trade for a photographer. Just like a painter has a set of brushes and sculptor a set of chisels, a photographer needs to have the basic equipment to capture the scene. When we think of history’s great artists, the one thing they all had in common was they knew how to use the tools of their trade.

There are types of photography where using the best gear is not necessary; wedding photography is not one of them. Use the top-of-the-line Canon cameras, lenses and flashes. Many professional photographers use comparable equipment from Nikon. Regardless of the manufacturer you prefer, invest in the best camera body and lenses you can afford—ideally, the top-of-the-line. 

It is important to use the best camera body and the best lenses available for a variety of reasons. Let’s start with the least obvious. When you pick up a great top-of-the-line professional camera and lens, you just feel better about everything. It’s like when you put on a great suit or great pair of shoes. It gives you a feeling of confidence, makes you look more professional and gives you more credibility.

Using the best also means your gear is built to withstand heavy use and, at times, abuse. Weddings can be fast-paced, requiring you to quickly change locations and move gear. Often, there are large numbers of guests to work around and equipment can easily get bumped. Since high-end camera gear is designed for professionals, the manufacturers strive to produce durable tools that can withstand the rigors of the job.

Top-of-the-line equipment will also result in higher quality images. Camera manufacturers know their best advertising comes from people seeing what images the professionals produce using their equipment. The newest top-of-the-line cameras usually have more features, better controls and improved image processing. For example, the new direction is for camera manufacturers to increase the ability to shoot great photos in low light, which really helps wedding photographers who regularly deal with low light situations. In essence, there is also a lot of truth to the saying “you get what you pay for.” This certainly holds true when it comes to camera equipment.

One of the main features to look for when selecting a camera is reliability. At weddings, there are no second chances, so it is important to make sure you have good working gear. The bride and groom will not be very happy if you asked them to stop and “re-do” their first kiss as husband and wife because your equipment malfunctioned and you missed the moment. Having good working gear is a must. Keep a second camera body in your camera bag and a backup third camera body in your car or somewhere close. That way you are covered if something goes wrong, twice over.

Camera Feature Checklist:

  • Rugged construction
  • High ISO quality
  • High resolution
  • Strong image quality
  • AutoFocus capability
  • Frames per seconds
  • Vertical grip
  • Extra battery pack
  • Full frame vs. Cropped Sensor

A good lens will last a lifetime, and it really pays to get the best “glass” possible. You may use the L series lenses from Canon. The L stands for luxury, and these lenses are truly built with the professional in mind. Even though they cost more than other lenses, they’ll let you create the best images possible. Nikon has the same lenses, but they do not have an easy way of identifying them. When it comes to Nikon, look for the following:

  • AF-S means the lens has a silent wave autofocus motor built-in
  • DX means the lens is designed for a cropped sensor only
  • IF means the lens has internal focusing and doesn’t change size
  • ED is the good glass
  • VR is vibration reduction technology

With Nikon lenses, the best bet is to look for lenses that fit your focal length needs and have the widest aperture possible. The easiest way to find these is by price, they are much more expensive than the other lenses. Again, whether you choose Canon, Nikon or another manufacturer, when it comes to SLR cameras, having the best lens is the best investment you can make.

Lens Checklist:

  • Maximum aperture for use in low light
  • Constant aperture lenses are useful when the maximum aperture doesn’t change and the focal length does because you don’t have to worry about changing the settings when zooming in or out.
  • Variable aperture lenses, for use when the maximum aperture changes when the focal length is changed, are usually less expensive than constant aperture lenses. However, they are not as useful, especially in low light.
  • Protective filter for the front element of your lens
  • Focusing speed for capturing important moments. Lenses with large maximum apertures actually let the camera focus fast as they let in more light.
  • Overall quality because the better quality of the lens will mean better image quality
  • Rugged construction to withstand the rigors of any location

Light is the most important part of photography, there are times when you need to add a little to the scene. That’s when the Canon 580EX Speedlites come into play. Carry three of the Canon Speedlites with you, along with the Canon CP-E3 battery packs. The extra power from these battery packs improves the recycle times and increases the number of images you can take before the batteries need to be replaced. The 580EX Speedlites can be used on the camera or they can be used as slave lights on their own light stands and triggered by a master flash located on the camera. This allows you to add the light where it is needed and control how much light is added to the scene. 

Use three Speedlites, two for extra fill and one on the camera for a little extra light. The flash on the camera also triggers the two external lights. The problem with Speedlites is what makes them so great for wedding work is also their biggest drawback. Because they are small and portable, they can be moved and used just about anywhere, but this also means they put up a very small hard light. There are a ton of extras that can be used to help turn the hard light from a small flash into a bigger, softer, more pleasing light. 

Also use light modifiers to create a more pleasing light without adding much size or weight to the flash. The light modifiers can be used on the two supplementary fl ashes and on the main flash. Since all the flashes are the same, it is easy to switch the modifiers between the fl ashes as needed. To go one step further, put on radio signal transmitting remote triggers on your flashes so they can be controlled wirelessly from your main camera.

The most important thing about memory cards is to make sure you have enough of them to cover the whole wedding. You’ll never want to take the time during the wedding to do any editing to make space on a memory card. With memory card capacities available from 4GB to 8GB to 16GB and now even 32GB, there is no reason not to have enough cards for every situation. Make sure all of them have been properly formatted and double, triple check that you have downloaded the images from your previous shoots before going to your next job. 

A good camera bag lets you keep all your gear close and accessible so you are not searching through the bag at the last minute when you need something important.

Pre -Wedding gear checklist:

  • Clean main camera body
  • At least one back-up camera body
  • Reset all cameras to initial settings
  • Check and charge batteries
  • Extra batteries
  • Clean lenses
  • 24-70mm f/2.8
  • 70-200mm IS f/2.8
  • 16-35mm f/2.8
  • 35mm f/1.4
  • 50mm f/1.2
  • 85mm f/1.2
  • 135mm f/2
  • 300mm f/2.8
  • 15mm fisheye f/2.8
  • Macro 50mm f/2.8
  • Lens cleaning cloths
  • Lens list
  • Formatted memory cards (always bring extras)
  • Check flash units
  • Reset flash units to initial settings
  • Check and charge flash batteries
  • Light stands
  • Light modifiers
  • Business cards
  • Water bottle and snack bar for extra energy on long days 
  • One extra dress shirt, in case of stains

Investing in high quality equipment will give you the reliable tools you need to make great pictures. With a variety of camera bodies, lenses and fl ashes you will be prepared to shoot in any location and can be as creative as you and your clients want. Remember to check and clean equipment before each shoot, and be sure to carry back-ups in case you need them.

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