A $7000 USD budget for Wedding Photog Entry gear?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by ed_h.|1, Feb 28, 2012.

  1. Hi, thanks for reading, my question is as below. I included a brief description of my situation as well, just so people can get an idea of what I'm facing and trying to accomplish.
    Me:
    I'm not new to photography but of course not anywhere near a veteran. I perform journalistic photography for my wife who is a hostess and a wedding planner. I've taken part in 6 wedding cases so I know enough of what I lack as least - both in skill and gear. I'm looking to start honing my skills for wedding photography instead (typical yeah).
    Here's my planned budget and the breakdown(all USD):
    1. Nikon D700 Body = $2300
    2. Speedlight SB-900 x 3 = approx $1390
    3. Stands, Booms, Light Shapers Estimate = $800
    4. Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO FX = $870
    5. AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor ED 70-200mm f/2.8G IF *used FIRST version* = $1500
    This is around a 7k budget not including things like SC cords and Pocket Wizards. What I'm greatly doubting is my foregoing of the 28-70mm range. I notice I rarely dwell in the region when working. But I fear of making a great mistake, but budget is the issue and I really think the 70-200mm would help me more than an expensive 28-70mm lens, since I'm doing weddings and studios (only).
    I need a valid compromise, and I really couldn't think of a better place to bounce my ideas around than here (thanks again). Even went for Tokina instead of all Nikon - taking the suggestion of "the best lens is the one you have."
    I've read enough about photography to understand what people can throw at me, what I lack is real experience, I'm as green as you can call a photog, but a nerd at least in most of its principles. Again, I'm aiming to have an entry level gear just so I can at least practice what I've learned, build a portfolio then enter the market, a 1 year plan at least, after which I would probably need other gears as well.
    Question than is: is my selection a valid one or do I need to get a new list...?
     
  2. [[Again, I'm aiming to have an entry level gear just so I can at least practice what I've learned, build a portfolio then enter the market, a 1 year plan at least, after which I would probably need other gears as wel]]


    So, you're looking to be shooting weddings as a second photographer for a year?
     
  3. You need SOMETHING in the normal range of lens. At least a nifty 50 1.8, or a 1.4.
     
  4. Reconsider your setup, you need a backup (camera) and a lens in the "normal" range, 24-70 or similar.
     
  5. @Jos
    Yep. That would be in my "Other" list once I'm actually charging for anything. I'll most likely rent it each time as a starter. But not until I'm in the market. PERFECT point though thanks!
    @Vail
    OMG your'e right (really deserve a slap on my forehead), no one said anything about it HAVING to be a 24-70mm (for me, at the moment that is). Definitely checking out my options there. THX!
    @Rob
    Hmm must be my poor typing, shoulda used a semi colon, I meant "practice what I've learned, build a portfolio" for 1 year at least then enter the market. Hope this clears up the confusion for everyone. Oh right, that would be a "no" just to clearly answer your question :)
     
  6. Skip the stands, booms, and 2 SB900 flashes. Get a midrange zoom or a 50mm f1.4. And get a second body. You'll look mighty foolish if the camera freezes and all you've got to fall back on is a light stand and some flashes!
     
  7. What are you shooting with now?
     
  8. @Dave
    Yep, I'll rent out that second due to cost issue, just not until I'm out in the field. Point highly taken though. The stands and booms are gonna have to live with me though too damn lazy to keep renting them all but the flashes I'm still indecisive, I keep thinking of renting them for practices and buy them later if I really can afford them without compromise.
    @John
    Please don't kill me. Story is: wife bought canon, wife want hulk to shoot, hulk shoot, hulk stupid, hulk study, hulk like nikon, hulk want practice, hulk save nikon money.
    And I'm shooting with a 24-70mm f2.8 (sigma), 50mm f1.8, 17-50mm kit, NO FLASH (like I said pls don't kill me). Yeah I know, a long way to go from a wedding photog it's why its my entry kit, more like my practice kit. Hulk like practice...
     
  9. First in March Nikon is reported to be dropping the price to $2199 on the D700.
    Second, have a look at SB 800's for flash and maybe trim that to 1 and add a couple used Sigma 500 supers as the ones you use for off camera lights. These can be sold and replaced later as you save some money. They work fine and are fully iTTL. I wouldn't buy an SB900 due to it's often reported overheating issues. If you want the best, then get a new SB 910. But the SB 800 is excellent and a workhorse.
    3rd. Lenses. Get a Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Excellent lens at a reasonable cost. If you can find a Tamron 17-35mm f2.8-4 ultra wide, this is also an excellent lens. It's no longer made but commonly available on Ebay for $300 or less. Add a Sigma or Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 for a long lens. Then I'd go with the Nikon 50mm f1.8. Very good, fast focus and dirt cheap at around $100. Add a Nikon 85mm f1.8 for portrait shooting. This would give you a nice lens lineup that you can gradually upgrade as needed but all of these lenses are very good at reasonable costs.
    4th get a D300s as a backup camera. I'm not a fan of mixing APSc and full frame but there are some advantages like dual uses for the same lens. The D300s is a solid body and functions like the D700. This is your emergency camera as it doesn't perform as well as the D700 (noise etc) and again will be replaced as funds allow.
     
  10. @Peter
    This is why people come here. Extra thanks for your thorough suggestions, especially about the SB800, very practical, I'll check them all out Peter. Thanks a ton!
     
  11. I agree with Peter, except that I would listen to 'myself' re forgoing the mid range zoom. If you really, really, know you won't use that range, why even get a mid range zoom? A 50mm f1.8 should work fine.
    However, if you don't know your own mind, wait until you do.
    Re the flashes--I tend to agree that you should stick to 2 at the outset--the SB800 and Sigma is a great idea. Then add as you are well into shooting weddings. I've done it myself--corralled myself into gear only to find out that "no, I don't really want to do that".
    Re modifiers--one, cheap 40" or so umbrella should be fine to start with.
     
  12. My experience is that the mid-range zoom is a must. I too can recommend the Tamron 28-75/2.8 as a very good lens at a good price. I don't go to a wedding without it. The 16-28 won't get used much I suspect, an 80-200/2.8 is an excellent and less expensive alternative to the 70-200/2.8. Just my opinion here but I think all of the VR features are overrated in general and you did mention a budget. Two flashes is plenty, maybe the 900 and a smaller used 800 or 600, or the Sigma unit? You'll wish you hadn't bothered with all the light stands. You absolutely need two bodies. If you are going full frame, and why not, get a pair of D700's. What you don't spend on really high priced glass will cover the cost. An alternative could be a pair of D300's and replace the 28-70 with the superb Nikon 17-55/2.8 Don't forget plenty of memory, backup storage and software. Maybe an external battery for one or both flashes. I'm betting you can buy a good sized bag and fill it up for under $6k and have yourself a first rate rig for anything you choose to shoot.
    Rick H
     
  13. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I'm greatly doubting is my foregoing of the 28-70mm range. I notice I rarely dwell in the region when working. But I fear of making a great mistake, but budget is the issue and I really think the 70-200mm would help me more than an expensive 28-70mm lens, since I'm doing weddings and studios (only) . . .
    Question [then] is: is my selection a valid one or do I need to get a new list...?​
    I do not believe the list has great validity given what appears to be the main criterion – “budget is the issue”.
    I am not intimately au fait with Nikon Gear, but it seems that the first choice (a D700) lacks a suitable objective response to the criterion of: “budget”.
    Keeping to the DX Format a pair of D7000 bodies could be had for about the same price?
    Light modifiers on a tight budget becomes: “DYI” - apart from one brolly and an off camera cord.
    I’d like you to have three flash units – but, on a tight budget, they don’t all need to be Nikon.
    On the 24 ~ 70 question – you mentioned you’ve data showing you don’t shoot much in that range – but the question is not about the data, but what it was you were shooting, as it is unclear what “I've taken part in 6 wedding cases” means. –
    If that phrase means – "I was second shooter and the Lead gave me, or implied to me, or I thought it was a good idea that my general brief was to remain a little aloof (distance) and be cover as an ADDITIONAL to the Lead",
    then your data is flawed both in respect of, that is not the job you now will be doing and also in respect of addressing: “to start honing my skills for wedding photography
    ***
    In this regard also, I think you seriously need to look at what FL you have used and might use in the 16 to 24 range.
    $870 is a big part of $7000, and perhaps it is not a smart (first) business decision.
    Having a zoom which extends to 24 (or 28), very likely will be sufficient in the first inst, and this will allow a period of time to explore and “to start honing my skills for wedding photography”.
    ***
    Bottom line – I suggest (in concert with how you expect to use the gear) give serious consideration to
    • TWO less expensive camera bodies;
    • TWO fast zooms, which will hold resale value (24 to 70 and 70 to 200);
    • ONE (cheap) fast, NORMAL PRIME
    • THREE Flash Units – One “very good” one
    • A minimum of other gear.
    The strategy is then to use what you have bought to better define what you need: and in the short term sell (if necessary) either of the TWO zooms, if either is superfluous to your needs.
    The Camera bodies will be, by far, the elements of the kit which will depreciate the most quickly, so it is strategically better to buy the least expensive Cameras whist still attaining adequate quality: frankly these two criteria could be satisfied with the purchase of two Nikon Bodies even WAY less expensive than the D7100.
    WW
     
  14. Please don't kill me. Story is: wife bought canon, wife want hulk to shoot, hulk shoot, hulk stupid, hulk study, hulk like nikon, hulk want practice, hulk save nikon money.​
    I won't kill you, but I am just curious, you seem to have a very capable Canon setup that you have been using. Is your stated preference for Nikon solely based on what you've read, or have you actually handled the Nikons in real-world shooting situations? I would start there.
    You have already received sage advice. 7k, while not a huge amount, is by no means a paltry sum, and your current proposed kit is certainly not how I would spend my cash. As usual, WW puts it very well.
    You also have not clarified what you meant by "wedding cases." Please do so.
    Finally, as a general point, weddings involve far more than just the gear. You must learn to deal with people, interact with them and be flexible.
     
  15. I would go with the 24-70 2.8 Sigma and the Sigmna or Tokina 70-200 2.8. Not as good as Nikon but much less expensive, perfectly fine for weddings (as opposed to something like sports where you need ultrafast AF or will be out in nasty weather more often) and have good resale value if you move to Nikon later. On flash units, the SB-900 is good but you could use a couple of Vivitar 285HV units for your backups. And once you're doing a multi-light setup, you will most likely have the flashes on manual anyhow, turning the $500 Nikon into a $100 unit that you paid too much for. :) Use the savings from all of this to get a second body, which is essential.
     
  16. Maybe I am missing something, but Hulk already shoot Canon. If nothing else, Hulk use Canon as for backup? If that's the case, then I would undoubtably opt for the Nikon D800. First, it's so new it isn't even shipping yet. Which means this might be the camera you have until the shutter fails, literally. Next, the D800 is two cameras in one: a 36MP beast of a FX camera and a 15MP DX format camera. Now that's a camera to start with. Not to mention dual card slots and all the other "niceties" of the most modern DSLR's. Slap a relatively inexpensive 24-120 f/4 VR on there and you have 24-120mm in FX and 36-180mm in DX. For a prime, there is the new 85mm f/1.8, again, tough lens to beat and relatively inexpensive. 85mm FX, 130mm DX! At f/1.8!! Flashes are tough because you need at least two. Probably three. You will need something of a flash if you intend to use the Canon as the back up. And then of course the flash for the D800 and possibly a back up to that. I personally much prefer the flash coverage from a SB900 over an SB800 (when used on camera anyway). Overheating issues are a bit of a red herring (and they only thing the SB910 does is give you a more lenient cut off, the physics don't change). So maybe a SB900/910 and a SB800 off-camera, back up. Off camera flash must have a Cheetah stand! Best fast stand around. And ankle weights make great fast sandbags!
    In any case, if you can use the Canon as back up, then I would get a D800. And that decision effects the rest of the decision tree. Imagine shooting in tight space where something like the Nikon 17-35 would be a dream. But if you need too, switch to DX and you get 25-52mm or so! Hard to beat for photojournalism.
     
  17. A second body doesn't have to be another D700. It could be a D5100, D90 or D300s. However I would recommend you get one.
    Also consider NOT spending all of your money in one go. See if you can even budget down the $7000 (to $4000-$5000 for example) and hold onto that extra cash in the event something new comes out, or you see something you hadn't seen before that might be useful, or even hold a grand as backup in the event something happens to a lens or body.
    I say that (hold onto a couple grand) like it's easy...lol...right...but just consider it (savings/separate account) as a backup. Especially if you're not planning on a backup body.
     
  18. I really want to express my gratitude to you all. But I don't want to write an essay so after I did some thinking, I'll summarize the ideas and try my best to mention who's point lead to which decision - not in an orderly fashion though (pretty much like my life)
    Clarifications:
    By wedding cases I refer to work that I do. I don't charge, I was the Hulk of my wife - the green man with a chunky camera told to shoot her interactions with her clients (B&G) as the wedding planner and her performance on stage as hostess. Green as in initially having no idea how to turn a DSLR on. That was 6 cases ago.
    Read this part if you really want to:
    To clarify even more, I was stationed in Taiwan, and weddings there are (still is) a bit...different, than what most of you all have in mind, and if I show you what wedding photographers do there, most of you will probably have nightmares. Of course I'm sure there are those who are good, most just aren't but they charge cheap. So who am I to say right from wrong? I just think cheap doesn't have to mean you can shoot like you-know-what because your clients don't have the eye to tell or care. You get paid after all.
    Current status:
    Software Engineer. It ticks me to tell my wife I've seen far better pictures taken and that it doesn't take a $1000/hour wedding photographer or Joe McNally himself here to do it and then get replied "Who cares? They charge cheap. It's the style here, clients have no idea what is a good picture."
    It's been more than a year since I first touched my 550d, wasn't even my choice, just following orders here. After a year of shooting with Canon (all ambient no flash) and later on 6 months of studying photography (all read no touch very unfortunately), I decided to go for Nikon instead. Hence my current updated budget:
    Flash: SB900, SB800
    ref:WW,Rick,John,Nadine
    Modifiers: Softbox, C Stand Complete, Umbrella, Discs, Gels
    ref: discussed later
    Body: D300s (No Back up? Discussed later.)
    ref: WW,Rick,Mark
    Lenses: Tokina 11-16mm f2.8, 17-55mm DX f2.8, 80-200mm F2.8
    ref:WW,Rick,
    Comes down to roughly: $5800 USD


    What do I want?
    To use this gear for practicing and learning, for an undetermined amount of time (I do have a job after all), if it survives till the day I'm qualified for charging people, update it when deemed stupid not to.
    You need a C-Stand to practice!?
    It's durable, it's part of what I want to learn to use properly, and it lasts, not too expensive either (depends on your market of course). I can use it on field when needed later on, might as well have one now. I'm very into learning how to use light modifiers properly, I believe my market will like its effect (yes, never seen one used, most I've seen used is an Umbrella and Sto-Fen, period), hence I had to include reflector and softbox.
    @Mark
    Yes I totally agree to your last sentence (and the ones before too). It's what I'll work on as well.
    Decision?
    This is the part where you will all try to give me a slow death:
    • Flash: 580 + SC cord
    • Body: CANON 550d (current)
    • Lenses: Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 (current), Tokina 11-16mm F2.8
    • Modifiers: Softbox, C Stand Complete, Umbrella, Discs, Gels
    Those that I do not own adds up to: $1500 with another 1k for Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 in the future.
    WTH?
    After a discussion with family, this was a comment I got, "Photography is not a profession, its a rich hobby, and you're not Bill Gates." Shall I be enraged or discouraged? You decide. As for me I decided to prove them wrong, through practice then through my clients. As you all know, it's a long battle - for me at least. And plus I don't need 7k of gear to prove photography is a profession. Yes, this does mean I'm stuck with Canon until...forever?
    ref: ALL + John
    For the record, I earned every penny of that 7k alone :)
    Love you all!
     
  19. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    loved watching your software engineering brain at work . . .
     
  20. @WW
    Yea jus wouldn't be fair if you wrote a chunk then I squirt out a short thanks. Bugs me. Thx again.
     
  21. "3. Stands, Booms, Light Shapers Estimate = $800"
    You do have a plan for when the little children decide to play Tag-You're-It around and around your light stands, right? As noted above, a second camera body -- along with a flash bracket and speedlight-to-camera cord (a pair of cords would be ideal....) -- might do you more justice than setting up stands, booms, and light shapers. Time is not always in your favor when managing too much equipment.
     
  22. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    @ Ed H . . . Yea I was right on to that point, also - thank YOU.
    Good luck -
    Canon is not THAT bad . . . it's just a matter of where you put you brain . . . a race horse doesn't know what colours the Jockey is wearing.
    WW
     
  23. @WW
    errr ok...you win Mr. Frequent poster...except using sayings don't cover your poor typing...or is it your English lol~
     
  24. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Haha!
    I’ve been called a lot of things but not “Mr Frequent Poster” in fact I’ve been a way for a few months.
    I guess the “English” is referring to “colour” – which is Aussie and not Pommy.
     
  25. It doesn't make any sense to spend $7000 at once if you're trying to learn.
    I do understand that you want to upgrade the camera body. The lower models don't have all the dedicated controls I need. Looking at current models that would be Canon 60D or above and Nikon D7000 or above. But older models in the same category would be a fine choice as well.
    Since you say you have a 550D I'm guessing you have the kit zoom? Why not start by getting a f/2.8 zoom in the 17-55 range? And one decent flash. You need to start by learning to bounce flash before you expand into off camera flash and multiple speedlights. Also you need to learn how to shoot in the midrange, medium wide to medium tele range, before starting to use wider or longer lenses.
    Build your gear as you learn and as you identify what you like and what you don't like. Two equally capable photographers may carry very different gear depending on what they like to use, how they shoot and what kind of images they want and have to provide for their clients.
    Good luck!
     
  26. I agree with Pete. I'd recommend building your gear as you go and realize you need it especially if you're learning.
    Maybe these comments are simply all of us wishing we had $7000 for A LOT of things beyond photography. So it's hard for me to imagine spending that all at once on photography.
     
  27. Yes, Add me to Pete's advice after your recent update. If you want to continue with Nikon, then get a less expensive camera like a D7000 as your primary. Then maybe get a lightly used D90 as a backup. Together they are less than a D700. Add a few lenses and flashes as discussed above and get some jobs as a second shooter to gain more experience.
    As your business grows, then start upgrading gear. Spending the $7000 all one the gear I and others listed earlier is putting the cart before the horse.
     
  28. Also add me to Pete S.'s, Christopher's and Peter Z.'s advice.
     
  29. Ed, as a wedding photographer, you will be shooting in low light conditions. My suggestion is that you avoid zoom lenses - they are at best only medium speed. Yes I know we have high ISO's, but high ISO compromises on dynamic range. Dynamic range is the one thing you don't want to compromise on with weddings, and DR is not a strong point of digicams to begin with. Good primes are, at worst, four times faster than zooms, plus they're a lot lighter and more discreet.
    You will also need two cameras. Now that you have two cameras, it makes using primes easy. One 1.4/85mm and one 1.4/35mm on each camera. You might also consider a longer lens and a wider lens, although I never use anything but the above two focal lengths. Forget about light shapers, you just need a couple of umbrellas, a foot stool, a tripod, and a couple of spare batteries. A flash is a must, but use sparingly - look for good light.
     
  30. Ed, thanks for the update.
     
  31. Ed:
    After a discussion with family, this was a comment I got, "Photography is not a profession, its a rich hobby, and you're not Bill Gates."​
    I congratulate your defiance! Damn the torpedos--full speed ahead, I say. I tell my GF I want to be a photographer. I tell her I "need" a $5,000 pro body. I "need" a $2,000 lens. I "need" . . . Truth be told, I don't "need' any of it. But an FX body does make me a bit more competitive. And, it's my money. I'm going to buy whatever the hell I want with it. Yes, right now, it's a rich man's (now, poor man's) hobby. But, I'm starting to get paying gigs. I'm starting to fill my portfolio with clients people have heard of. Eventually, I'll get there. I think you will, too.
     
  32. So, here's what I did. I figured out what the best tools were for my artistic goals. I bought all that stuff. Then, I started getting some gigs. I realized, that required different gear. So, I got that, too. I researched and found the best tools for the types of jobs I'm seeking. The competition is experienced, skilled, and talented. I need to be as good or better. So, after I bought my "art" tools, I started concentrating on what I needed to better cover events. The standard de rigueur is:
    1. Nikon D3s bodies x2 $5,200 each; $10,400 total.
    2. AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G $1,887
    3. AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II $2,397
    4. Nikon SB-900 $469
    5. Quantum Turbo 3 $624
    That totals to $15,777 before tax and accessories. Although I already own some of this stuff, I couldn't justify buying two, $5,200 bodies right off the bat. So, I'm going with one FX body for now. Here's my new event rig:
    1. Nikon D3s (refurbished) $4,250
    2. AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VR (refurbished) $999.
    3. Nikon SB-800 + Quantum Turbo + SC-17 (already owned this stuff) about $750.
    4. Newton FR2 + 2-10102 rotating flash bracket $208.
    5. ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBender Speedlight bounce modifier $100.
    This totals $6,308 (including the stuff I already owned for years). With this alone, I can cover 95% of the types of events I'm seeking (red carpet arrivals). I never bought the otherwise excellent Nikkor 24-70mm (I do own the 70-200mm VR I), mainly because I just think it's too short, even though most pros live and die by that lens. However, I am seeing more and more pros shooting with this exact same set-up above (with the 24-120mm), using only a single body (yes, I know you should have a back-up--I'll use my D7000 + AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 if the D3s breaks suddenly).
     
  33. Yeah a backup doesn't have to mean two bulky D3s, so a smaller body (like your D7000) may be just fine, especially with the 17-55 2.8.
    I know a lot of us would be THRILLED to have a $7000 budget to purchase camera gear. So I pray you got what you needed.
    Curious to know what kind of life does the refurbished D3s have on it? Do you know it's use and/or actuations?
     
  34. Christopher said:
    Yeah a backup doesn't have to mean two bulky D3s, so a smaller body (like your D7000) may be just fine, especially with the 17-55 2.8.​
    Yeah, I hope that works. I was loathe to buy another $5,200 body just for the convenience of two-body event coverage. I also don't like mixing FX and DX--the noise difference is too apparent when shooting available light.
    Curious to know what kind of life does the refurbished D3s have on it? Do you know it's use and/or actuations?​
    I checked when I bought it, but have since forgotten. It was very low (<5,000). It appeared to be an NPS on-loan body, or Nikon demo body, loaned to a photographer for a few weeks. Cosmetically, it was immaculate. I buy refurbished bodies and lenses whenever possible. I was thrilled to get a nearly new D3s body for almost $1,000 off. I bought it one month after the earthquake, and felt lucky to find one at that time.
     
  35. Christopher said:
    I know a lot of us would be THRILLED to have a $7000 budget to purchase camera gear.​
    Isn't that what tax refunds are for? Buying new camera gear?
     
  36. I guess the “English” is referring to “colour” – which is Aussie and not Pommy.​
    ?
     
  37. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    ^
    Hi Steve,
    I thought that Ed was being humorous, making a pun - referring to my "poor typing" - implying the Mis-spelling of "colour" - and making a pun by alluding to the fact that I was "English".
    But I am not "English" (British): I am Australian.
    WW
     

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