Start Up Wedding Photography, ESSENTIAL Equipment

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by sadie_jeffery, Nov 26, 2013.

  1. Hello guys and gals,
    Thank you for taking the time to read and possibly commenting on my question/post.
    So, I am an aspiring Wedding photographer. I currently have 6 weddings under my belt, numerous family, maternity and portrait shoots and am currently being mentored by a lovely professional and successful wedding photographer, whom I will be second shooting for throughout the next 12 months (he is currently unavailable, hence I am asking you guys)
    So, my circumstances are such that I am going to have to start this business formally in the next 3 months, and while I am taking a small number of bookings on a monthly basis I am really going to have to step up my game, so...
    My question is.
    If you had a very limited budget (very) what pieces of equipment would you buy to get you off the ground until you could afford to invest in more serious equipment?
    There is a long list of things people tell me to get, but I am too embarrassed to tell them I cant afford the good stuff!
    I am currently struggling along with a Canon 1100d, and the kit lens which is an 18-55mm. Well I say struggling, I'm actually very proud of what I can get out of it, and have even had images I shot on it published in a Wedding magazine and on the front cover!
    So please please, any constructive advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated!
    Here are some examples of my work.
    Many thanks, Claire
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  2. Whatever your budget is, divide it in half (or, multiply it by two, depending on how you want to look at it). Because your most important piece of equipment is the second piece of equipment you have at hand as a backup. Second camera, second lens(es), second flash. You can't be the prime (or only) shooter and not have triple redundancy on things like batteries, storage, flash triggers - everything than can go wrong or be lost or dropped will be. It's your solemn responsibility to have backup and to be able to seamlessly cut over to that backup equipment no matter what happens along the way.

    Backup gear doesn't have to be identical (though that can sure help with the workflow in a pinch), and it's reasonable to retire older gear to backup status as long as it is reliably functional. But keep the need for a reliable backup rig front and center in your thinking as you process the suggestions you'll get about on what you should spend your money.
     
  3. What Matt said, but to add more detail, choose a camera family and stick with it. The money you spend on 'good' lenses will last you over many bodies.
    So if you like Canon, then you should look to relegate your current camera to the backup and get a second body and I would suggest a fast prime lens. If you need to find out what lens then look at the data from the photos you typically take and see the focal length you se the lens too. I would favour getting a 50mm in 35mm camera size which with a Canon sensor is going to roughly 70-80mm.

    If you can borrow before you buy then all the better. Try to avoid buying one of the all purpose 17-200mm lenses, they are OK but just not 'professional' enough IMHO.
    Jim
     
  4. Absolute bare essentials would be to have two cameras, two lenses, two flash units and spare batteries for flash and cameras and spare memory cards. Preferably the same type of cameras so lenses etc are interchangeable.
    If you drop one camera both the lens, the camera and the flash might break if you're unlucky. In that case you just need to pick up your backup and continue as nothing happened. So your backup gear need to be able to fulfill the same duty as you main gear. That's why having an 18-55 lens as your main lens and a 50mm prime as backup wouldn't work.
    I suggest picking up some used gear. A used 1100D shouldn't be that expensive and you'll likely get another kit lens with it as well. I have no love for the 18-55 type lenses but it's a lot better than nothing at all.
     
  5. Whatever your budget is, divide it in half (or, multiply it by two, depending on how you want to look at it). Because your most important piece of equipment is the second piece of equipment you have at hand as a backup​
    This.
    It doesn't matter in the slightest what you use, just make sure it's reliable, and you have great backup solutions.
     
  6. I agree that you need two (or better yet three) of everything, especially your camera itself.

    As for lenses, my two money lenses are a 24-70 2.8 and a 70-200 2.8. These are the two pieces of glass that shoot 90 percent of my photos, not just at weddings but corporate events, conferences, news conferences, etc. If the 18-55 is all you have now, I would start with the 70-200, then get the 24-70 later, and keep the 18-55 as a backup. Canon glass is preferable, but if you don't have the funds, consider a Sigma, Tokina or Tamron. All are very good but much more affordable. Used Canon is also an option. IMHO, fast primes are icing on the cake after you've got the two money lenses (and also after a 12-24 for shooting large groups in close quarters).
     
  7. Claire, you haven't said what your budget is, so my suggestions are based on guesswork. If you want to stick with Canon DSLRs then I would suggest getting a used 5DMkII or even a 7D (EF-S lenses won't mount on a full frame body, so bear that in mind when making your choices). Lenses are quite personal but you would cover yourself well with a wide to tele zoom and a longer tele zoom. Fast lenses are favoured for weddings, due to low light possibilities. Look at the Tamron f2.8 zooms for Canon, they are very good. You could also pick up a Canon 50 f1.8, these are cheap (there is also the excellent and affordable 85 f1.8). You don't need expensive Canon flashguns, there are some very good third-party options which still offer TTL (look at Yongnuo or Metz etc).
    If you're going to be taking money for weddings then it is your responsibility to be appropriately equipped. You don't need top-of-the-line equipment, but it does need to be suitable for the job in hand.
    I'm sure you've considered this, but (paid or not) you will need public liability and indemnity insurance.
     
  8. Do you guys know your awesome? Well you are! These responses are GREAT! I really appreciate it!!
     
  9. If I had a student that approached my interesting in 2nd shooting and wanted to know what gear they needed, I would ask them what gear they thought they needed. The tools are simply a means to an end. If I hire a plumber, I assume they know what tools they need otherwise I am not so sure they should call themselves a plumber. To continue, I would say that the trifecta of lenses on a full frame camera would be the 17-35mm f/2.8; the 24-20 f/2.8; & the 70-200 f/2.8. With the 24-70 being the workhorse lens (the one to get first). On a cropped sensor body, this would be the 17-50 f/2.8 lens (17-50 being the rough equivalent of the 24-70). None of these lenses are cheap, although you can save a bit buying third party lenses from Sigma, Tamron, or Tokina. You have to have faster glass (f/2.8 or wider apertures) in order to shoot weddings in low light where flash isn't allowed. It's a simply as that. The other advantage to better glass is better, faster, more accurate auto-focus. So the 17-50 f/2.8 is the first lens to get regardless of how much money you have to spend on gear. Plumbers need wrenches. If they can't afford wrenches, well then they can't do their job. The next lens in the line up gets a bit trickier. The 70-200 f/2.8 is a great lens. But you can save some money and pick up something like an 85mm f/1.8 prime. This gets you a reasonably long focal length (136mm on a cropped sensor Canon) and a fast aperture.
    In terms of lighting, for my 2nd shooters, my first advice is to learn lighting. For portriature, you don't need anything fancy like small AA powered TTL flashes. For weddings, it can be difficult to not need small, AA powered, TTL flashes. Not that it can't be done, but a manual flash for a wedding is a far more disciplined approach that discipline isn't something most new shooters are interested in. The drawback to shoe mount flashes, even at weddings is simply their lack of power and their expense (compared to manual strobes). In the end though, light is light. It's how you use it that matters. The bare minimum for a Canon shooter would be the 430ex. Personally, I wouldn't let someone be a primary with that flash as there is no way to connect external power. And without external power, you can be in trouble with large wedding parties during key moments such as the processional. For non-TTL strobes, the Cheetah Stand lights look particularly interesting right now, although I haven't shot with them.


    And of course as it's been mentioned, you will need back ups of everything. I would accept the 18-55 kit lens as a back up, on the condition that sooner rather than later, I would expect a 2nd shooter to have a fast prime something along the 30-50mm mark. This would make a better addition to the camera bag and serve as a better back up if needed.
     
  10. Thanks for your reply, but I think the comparison between a plumber and a photographer is completely wrong, photography is creative, and I am getting better results out of my entry level and below equipment than a lot of professionals I know.
    I have often heard a story of how John Lennon once said "I'm an artist, give me a tuba and I'll create something worth listening"
    I agree, if I'm offering a professional service, I should have professional equipment, but not every one has the luxury of being able to afford a university education and top of the line pro kit.
    Perhaps you might want to teach your students to be creative's and artists rather than machine operators??
     
  11. Claire, there is no need to be defensive. I think John is just recommending you take a cautious approach. We get so many posts in this forum from either photographers or disgruntled wedding clients, complaining about all the things which went wrong, and how under-prepared the photographer was, both with respect to their skills and occasionally kit which is not suited to the job. John has given very good advice however, which I would agree with. It is very true that not many of us can afford top-of-the-line equipment when we're starting out, but it is also true that somebody preparing to launch a wedding photography business shouldn't necessarily have to ask what kit they need. I think this is partly where John was coming from, and he does have a point if you think about it. There is a section of the forum dedicated to wedding photography primers, which is packed full of useful information, well worth going through.
     
  12. A local shop keeper once parroted the story of a disaster wedding to me: A journeyman photographer (3 years training) took the job to shoot a friends wedding. - Her 35mm SLR failed, the regular backup digital P&S suffered from empty batteries and she took the pictures she owed the bride with 2 disposable cameras with built in flash.
    You seem to be getting one thing wrong Claire: professional equipment as discussed here is not the narrow meaning of the term: "Awesome gear with ugly price tags" but "something to enable you to shoot on" since "being professional means getting the job done". Get another kit lens and maybe a secondhand EOS 300 or 450D or borrow somebody's EOS 50(0) film beater with a zoom and half a dozen rolls of not yet expired film and you are on the safe end since you'll be backed up.
     
  13. If Claire finds herself shooting a wedding in low light, where flash is not allowed, a 300 or 450D and kit lens isn't going to cut it. With all the will and training in the world, you are going to need fast class and bodies competent at higher sensitivities. Suggesting anything will do as a backup is folly - and an open invitation to a particular breed of client, who will find any reason to demand a refund should they set their mind to it.
    It's surprising how often you need to resort to backups - in my view your backup equipment should be suitable for the entire job, not just damage limitation in an emergency. And as your business grows, one level of backup is insufficient, because if one item goes down you are still left with just one operational piece whilst you're waiting for the failed item to be repaired or replaced.
     
  14. Claire – I would second the advice of Both Lindsay and John D.
    I have a Canon 5DMkII (Full-Frame Sensor) and a 7D (APS-C Sensor). I have 3 dedicated (to the 7D) EF-S lenses, but since they won't mount on the full frame body, they make a nice “Quick grab and go Backup shooting system. I am NOT a professional – But I have successfully (according to my friends) done 4 weddings for personal and work-related friends.
    I also agree that lenses are quite a personal choice (I mostly shoot Macro so I rely on my EF-S 60mm (7D) and Tamron 90mm and 180mm Macro lenses, Extension tubes, et al (these work on ALL Bodies BTW). Fast lenses are favored for weddings, due to low light limitations. If you're going to be taking money for weddings then it is your responsibility to be appropriately equipped.
    You definitively will need public liability and indemnity insurance.
    My personal trifecta of lenses on a full frame camera would be the 20-35mm ; the 28-135; & then my Soft-focus 135mm. The 28-135(IS) is usually my workhorse lens (the one I pull-out first). On my cropped sensor body, I have a 17-85 lens (17-85 being the rough equivalent of the 28-135).
    I agree that John is recommending you to take a more cautious approach. John has provided (IMHO) very good advice which I also agree with. Although not many of us can afford top-of-the-line equipment when we're starting out, but you CAN do everything in your power (and budget) to be prepared for almost anything you might encounter in regards to doing wedding photography.
     
  15. I wasn't offering a critique of your photography, your intentions, your business plan or anything else for that matter. I was merely trying to put you on the right path. Your current line of thinking, statistically speaking, isn't going to deliver the outcome you desire.
    Thanks for your reply, but I think the comparison between a plumber and a photographer is completely wrong, photography is creative, and I am getting better results out of my entry level and below equipment than a lot of professionals I know.​
    Of course you do. How about I use a painter? They choose their canvas, their paint, their brushes based on the result they want. Implying that they first know the result they want and subsequently the tools to get them there.

    I have often heard a story of how John Lennon once said "I'm an artist, give me a tuba and I'll create something worth listening"​
    OK. Did the story also go on to say how John was wondering what Tuba would deliver what result?

    I agree, if I'm offering a professional service, I should have professional equipment, but not every one has the luxury of being able to afford a university education and top of the line pro kit.​
    Professional means just that: professional. There aren't any shortcuts. Think of any other profession where it would be acceptable to use inferior tools for the job. Or, to not know what tools are even needed? Just one. I am not going to hire a mechanic, a contractor, a doctor, a lawyer, or any professional that doesn't have the skill and/or tools to complete the job. Especially if the reason for not having the skills or the tools is that they can't afford them.

    Perhaps you might want to teach your students to be creative's and artists rather than machine operators??​
    Thanks for the advice. I do teach a class on composition. And part of composition is knowing how you want the shot to look along with the skill and equipment needed. If you want a razor thin depth of field you need the knowledge of how to do it, along with gear that can pull it off. Simply wanting a razor thin DoF isn't going to get the job done.
     
  16. I take the point about low light no flash weddings but suppose those are something one can avoid via contract. - Claire's example shots look all taken in more or less broad daylight to me and her replies sounded as if she doesn't have the $340 for a refurbished 2nd 1100D kit, so what to tell her? - The suggestion to get 2 layers of decent gear came across in this thread.
     
  17. You can get a 135 f2 for around $900. You need a telephoto anyways. I don't know your style or preference so I can not tell you what you need. I can say you need a range of lenses from wide to telephoto. You may choose to use zooms or go with primes. You can only get what you can afford. You sample pictures look very nice so you have an eye which is more than some professionals have. I can make amazing images with all kit lenses and cheaper so don't get discouraged over price. Right now get what you need at the price you can afford. When you start making more money you can get better lenses.
     
  18. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    “[I have] a Canon 1100d and the kit lens which is an 18-55mm. . . If you had a very limited budget (very) what pieces of equipment would you buy to get you off the ground until you could afford to invest in more serious equipment?”​
    Specifically in Canon, as a minimum and assuming keeping the 1100D and kit lens in the Wedding Kit, I would look at adding:
    CAMERA:
    > Another APS-C Body with better High ISO capacity. buying new a 600D. Note this will be a similar layout to your 1100D (and also note also the EOS xxD Series and xD Series will both be a different layout to your 1100D)
    LENSES:
    I would source second hand from a reputable dealer:
    > A Fast Prime Lens that is preferably is slightly wide – like the EF35/2 or the EF28/1.8.
    > A faster standard zoom lens - ideally the EF-S 17 to 55 F/2.8 IS: but on a very tight budget I would opt for the Tamron NON VR equivalent.
    > A fast telephoto lens – the EF 85/1.8
    FLASH:
    > TWO dedicated ETTL Tilt and Swivel flash units – such as Canon 430 EX MkII (I would prefer to buy the Flash Units new)
    > Flash Modifier – BOUNCE Card (DYI) and also a Diffuser (can also be DYI)
    > Consideration of an OFF CAMERA CORD
    OTHER STUFF:
    > Extra batteries for BOTH cameras
    > Extra Memory Cards
    > FOUR sets of high quality rechargeable AA batteries
    > Consideration of a BATTERY GRIP for the 600D
    Those two Cameras; Two Flashes and 4 lenses (including the kit lens); and the additional items, provide:
    > a good multilayered System Redundancy Kit;
    > good FL range
    > very good ISO capacity
    > good Aperture Speed
    > good to very good IQ
    and the sample would be a kit able to cover many Weddings within a modest capital outlay: provided that there are the adequate skills, to use the gear and also to leverage it. On this latter point, I would use two working cameras and not have one camera merely as a "back -up".
    WW
     
  19. Claire this answer will call for a brand change but I've been shooting weddings on a pair of D200 bodies since about 2007. I keep a D1-X or D100 in the bag as a backup. I use one AF lens, a Tamron 28-75/2.8 which works well on the DX format. I'm not a big fan of AF so everything else is manual focus which saves a TON of money. A very clean 80-200/4 Nikkor for under $100, an 85/2 Nikkor for about $60, a 28/2.8 for about $75. They are razor sharp and I've seen no need to replace them. I understand the need for cost control and honestly don't see the need to upgrade having planned to skip the D300 generation but at this point will probably buy one in a few weeks. A lot of people here will disagree but unless your lighting situations are extreme or you need huge print sizes you won't need more than a 10-12 mp body. If I had to buy everything in my bag right now I could do it for less than $1500 and that includes 2 bodies, glass, batteries, memory cards, flashes, everything I need to cover weddings, murders, football and whatever else comes along. You can upgrade as time passes and money comes in. BTW I like the photos you posted at the top very much. You're well on the way.
    Rick H.
     
  20. I stated what I think is essential in a post above so I wont repeat that.
    I think however that with skill you can compensate inferior gear. The purpose of equipment is to solve problems. As long as you have a solution for a problem and you can execute it, you're all set. If there is something you can't do and you are aware of it, it's not a problem. You just to need to avoid that situation for instance by not taking the job or rent equipment for that particular assignment or shoot it in another way.
    So you don't need super high iso capability because obviously weddings were shot with less capable gear in the past. You don't need zooms because obviously wedding were shot with primes in the past. You don't need autofocus because obviously a gazzilion wedding have been shot with manual focus in the past. Not having these things means that you just have to be more skilled instead and you might have to accept lower image quality at times.
    The only thing you absolutely need is redundant gear so if something stops working you can still cover the wedding.
     
  21. Claire said:
    If you had a very limited budget (very) what pieces of equipment would you buy to get you off the ground until you could afford to invest in more serious equipment? . . . I am currently struggling along with a Canon 1100d, and the kit lens which is an 18-55mm.
    I think the new Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 was made for crop-frame event photography. A bit pricey at $799, but it's literally the fastest zoom on the planet, and will enable you to shoot available-light under low-light conditions. Here's the three pieces of gear which would be at the top of my shopping list if I were in your situation:

    1. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 ($799).
    2. Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 ($450-$650, used), or you can try to find a Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 for a bit less ($400-$550, used).
    3. Canon 600EX-RT ($499), or Canon 430 EXII ($259) if that's too steep.

    For back-up, you can use your existing body, and rent a second (better) crop-frame body as your primary (assuming you plan for enough time to completely familiarize yourself with the new body). I know you said that you have a very limited budget, but the lenses above give you a lot of range, and are both very fast, allowing you to shoot under less than optimal lighting conditions. For a really slick crop-frame kit, you could opt for the more expensive Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 OS (optically stabilized) version for $949.
     
  22. Once again, many thanks for all your great responses! Its a real help and I am so glad there are so many of you passionate enough about this industry to help and advise a relative novice.
    I have discovered a local Lens and equipment hire firm, literally two streets away from me, and I am going to hire all the things I need AND backups for each shoot until I can afford to invest in my own equipment. I think this will be beneficial as I can sort of try before I buy?! Also because they are so close I can collect so no expensive delivery costs!
    Its going to take a huge chunk out of my fee, but I think it will be the most effective and professional way to do things. I would rather make no money but offer a professional service for the time being and hopefully build a good reputation. And just take baby steps and save like mad for my own arsenal of gear!
    Thanks again for your passion and enthusiasm people, sorry if I got a bit defensive, it does seem sometimes that there is a lot of discouragement from many in the industry but I know it is just a way of protecting the industry from people trying to make a quick buck.
    Big love! Claire x
     
  23. My answer is...Any system with competent enough AF so you can nail the shots you want, and with good enough noise control that allows you to get the shots you want in as many situations as reasonably possible.
    You really need to try to translate your portrait and as-seen style/ideas for weddings. This is not the first time I've seen someone do portraits better than I do and weddings worse than I do.
     
  24. Claire, this might help you. It's an interview with Zack Arias on what he would do if he were starting a business today. Very good stuff about expenses.
    http://blog.photoshelter.com/2013/02/video-interview-with-zack-arias-if-i-had-to-start-my-photo-business-today/
     

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