Equipment for Wedding Photographers
Author’s note: This article was updated in 2015 to reflect new equipment on the market. I also added sections on backup equipment, third party lenses, Pentax/Sony gear, and mirrorless camera systems. Be advised that older photo.net user comments below may not accurately reflect the current article. — Josh
Should you try to make quality wedding images as a paid professional with just a Canon Rebel and the kit lens? The answer is no, you really shouldn’t. However, any digital SLR body combined with a decent lens (see below) is a good start. This article will explain the equipment that a typical wedding photographer uses and some of the reasoning behind those choices.
An Important Note on Renting vs. Owning
When you are responsible for documenting something as important as a wedding day, there is no excuse for not having the right tool. This is doubly true if you are presenting yourself as a working professional. So how do you get your hands on a $1600 Canon 16-35 lens when you only have $100 in your wallet? Rent it! Most professional photography stores have a rental department. Prices for a digital body range from $100-200 per day and most lenses range from $24-100 per day. Many rental operations offer a discount for multi-day or weekend rental as well. This is good because you get the chance to become familiar with a particular piece of equipment before you have to use it on the job.
No photography rental businesses near you? There are a number of companies who operate rental services over the Internet and via Fedex/UPS. LensProToGo.com (a photo.net partner—you’ll get a discount code for $25 off your first rental with a photo.net subscription), BorrowLenses.com, LensRentals.com, and ATSRentals.com all have solid reputations. We at photo.net HQ use LensProToGo.com because they are a local company that we have had great experiences with. While they are local to us, anyone in the US can work with them as the bulk of their rentals are handled via UPS.
An Even More Important Note about Backup Equipment
Being a wedding photographer is a fairly high stress occupation as far as photography goes. So many variables that could mess up your photos are out of your control and it’s a show that only happens once, so you have to get it right. One thing you can control, however, is what happens when your camera gear breaks down. When, and I do mean when, this frustrating event occurs, a well prepared professional will simply reach into their bag, pull out their backup, and keep on shooting. Does this mean that you have to have an exact duplicate of every piece of equipment you own? Of course not, though if you could afford it, that would be a wonderful thing! You just need to have enough backup equipment to get the job done if any one piece of gear breaks. For example, if your standard gear is a full frame body and three zoom lenses, you might want to have a crop sensor body and a few prime lenses as a backup. Or you could change out the prime lenses for a single wide-to-mid telephoto. There are a number of different directions you could go. The idea is just that you have the gear you need to photograph the wedding even if your primary gear goes down. Backup equipment is crucial and not something that anyone who is working as a professional photographer can afford to skimp on. Without it, you are risking your reputation and your paycheck.
Insurance—Perhaps the Most Important Note of All
Speaking plainly, working as a professional wedding photographer without liability and equipment insurance is a terrible idea. Life is chaotic, and life at a wedding is even more so. The opportunities for disaster are everywhere, both for you and for your equipment. What would happen to your business if you lost some or all of your equipment? Watch this poor wedding photographer fall into a fountain with thousands of dollars worth of bodies and lenses. Or how about this fellow who had his gear straight-up stolen in the middle of the wedding (you can see the thief on the video).
Don’t stop at just insuring your equipment. Lawsuits are everywhere these days and professional liability insurance is crucial. Coming up with $10,000 to replace a bag full of equipment could be peanuts compared to a civil court case. Could you get sued for setting up a formal portrait where everyone fell into a lake? What about this guy who flew a drone into the bride and groom while filming? Your elbow bumping a cake, a grandmother knocked down while rushing to get a shot, or worst of all, something that causes you to lose a couple’s photos are all potential accidents waiting to happen. Sure, some people will be understanding about accidents, but others will absolutely not. Just to drive home the point, here’s a situation where a photographer had both her equipment stolen AND lost the wedding images because of it.
You need insurance. There is no way around it. As a professional, you can’t go the amateur route and tack a rider onto your homeowner’s or renter’s policy. Most of those riders have specific exclusions for equipment used professionally (and have no liability insurance). You need an insurance policy that is specifically designed for professional photograhers. Photo.net partners with Brown & Brown insurance to offer discounted professional photographer insurance/liability packages for our members. With up to $2,000,000 of no deductible liability coverage, the option to cover home/office locations, and equipment coverage as low as $1 per year per $1000 of value, this insurance package should be an option for any photographer looking to protect their equipment and business. Click here for more information on this insurance through photo.net’s partner Brown & Brown. Additionally, call a good local insurance agent and they should be able to point you in the right direction. But beware anyone who doesn’t seem to understand that you are a working professional. You can also look into insurance offered through photographers associations like APA or WPPI.
Most professional wedding photographers would agree that the essential tool for wedding photography is one of the current full frame Canon or Nikon DSLRs. As of early 2015, the top of the line DSLR bodies would likely be the Nikon D4s or Canon 1D X. However, for wedding photographers, Canon’s 5D Mark III and Nikon’s D810 offer a significantly higher price to value ratio. In general, all of these bodies offer the best wide-angle capabilities with current lenses and the best image quality in low light. Does this mean that weddings cannot be photographed with a less expensive camera? Absolutely not. There are many excellent wedding photographers who use small sensor cameras such as the Nikon D750 and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. These cameras have excellent imaging and AF systems and provide a welcome boost in magnification for telephoto work. Their main drawback is the lack of f/2.8 or faster wide-angle lenses designed for the APS-C sensor.
What about the entry-level DSLR bodies? Could you photograph a wedding with a Canon Rebel or Nikon D3300? In theory, yes. The imaging systems in these cameras are very good and skilled photographers have no problem creating excellent images with them. However, these cameras did not make our list of recommended primary equipment when this article was originally written for several reasons:
- slower handling due to increased use of buttons/menus, rather than dials
- reduced AF speed
- inferior low light/high ISO performance
Despite those limitations, these cameras were suggested as excellent and economical backup bodies. Now, in 2015, does the same still hold true? In many ways, yes. While the image quality of the entry-level cameras has trickled down from the higher-end cameras with every generation, simple economics will dictate that the less expensive cameras will never have the same features and quality of the higher-end cameras. Perhaps more importantly, entry-level DSLRs are at least as (and perhaps more) reliant on buttons and menus than they were when this article was first written. One cannot place enough emphasis on the importance of handling speed in a fast paced environment like a wedding.
- Canon full frame body (high-end):
- Canon full frame body:
- Canon small sensor body (high-end):
- Canon small sensor body:
- Nikon full frame body (high-end):
- Nikon full frame body:
- Nikon small sensor body (high-end):
- Nikon small sensor body:
Finally, please let me emphasize once again, only a fool would try to photograph an event as important as a wedding with only one camera body—bring a backup body. If you do not own a backup body, or only have an entry-level DSLR, look into renting.
Lenses with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or larger are extremely valuable for weddings. The option to use available light, even in dark churches or dimly lit reception halls, is a strong tool for the wedding photographer. Even more important is having the option not to use a flash, as few people would describe the light cast by an on-camera flash as romantic. Furthermore, some locations have restrictions on flash photography during the ceremony itself, or a bride might specifically request that a flash not be used. The extra two stops of shutter speed (or lower ISO) between an f/2.8 lens and a cheaper f/4-5.6 kit lens can make the difference in getting the desired photograph. Of course, to be fair, the extra two stops between an f/2.8 zoom and an f/1.8 prime can be a miracle.
There are photographers who make wonderful images with three to four fast primes and photographers who have every focal length covered with multiple lenses from 15-300mm. Most professional wedding photographers, however, use a set of three zoom lenses: (1) a wide-angle zoom, (2) a wide-to-tele zoom (possibly stabilized), and (3) an image stabilized telephoto zoom. Don’t forget about backups—a few prime lenses or a backup zoom should be more than an afterthought.
The wide-angle zoom lens is indispensable. This lens makes it possible to photograph in confined spaces, such as the bride’s dressing room or a packed dance floor. The wide-angle perspective can also create a sense of expansiveness and grandeur by showing the entire church or ceremony location. Finding fast wide-angle zoom lenses is still easier for full frame cameras than it is for small sensor cameras, but the gap has started closing and there are a number of f/2.8 options available today.
- Canon full frame body:
- Canon small sensor body:
- Nikon full frame body:
- Nikon small sensor body:
The wide-to-tele lens is the single most important lens for wedding photography. It is wide enough to take a group photograph, but still long enough to take a three-quarter length portrait of a couple without the unflattering effects of wide-angle perspective distortion. Given just this lens, most professional wedding photographers could cover an average wedding at least fairly close to their usual standards of quality. Both Canon and Nikon offer high quality f/2.8 wide-to-tele zooms designed for a small sensor body. These lenses are less expensive and physically smaller than their full frame counterparts.
- Canon full frame body:
- Canon small sensor body:
- Nikon full frame body:
- Nikon small sensor body:
Image Stabilized Telephoto Zooms
The 70-200mm focal length is an important range for ceremony images. Very few wedding parties want the photographer in the way during the ceremony. Often, you will be photographing down the aisle from the back of the church. This is where an image stabilized telephoto zoom shines. 200mm is long enough to be able to take three-quarter length images of the bride and groom without creeping too far forward down the aisle, and 70mm is wide enough to take in the bridesmaids or groomsmen as a group without switching lenses.
When using a small sensor camera as your primary or backup body, the bad news is that neither Nikon or Canon make an f/2.8 lens that gives you an effective 70-200mm focal length. You are going to have to pay the price and carry the weight of a lens designed for a full frame camera. The good news is that the small sensor camera’s 1.5x focal length multiplier can be a huge advantage. The 200mm f/2.8 long end of the standard zoom becomes effective 300mm f/2.8, a lens that can cost up to $6000 for a full frame camera and is large and heavy enough to come in its own suitcase. The effective 300mm length allows for more creative options than a shorter lens, such as tightly cropped images of the bride and groom’s hands while they put rings on each other’s fingers.
Whether you are using a full frame or a small sensor body, the f/2.8 maximum aperture of these lenses gives you the option of narrowing the depth of field, keeping the viewer’s attention on the in-focus subject while blurring the background. Canon’s Image Stabilization (IS) and Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) systems are indispensable in allowing you to hold these large and heavy, long lenses by hand, especially in low-light situations. No wedding photographer should be without IS/VR on their long lenses. Image stabilized telephoto zooms are expensive and this is another situation where rental may be a good way to go.
Both Canon and Nikon make f/4 versions of their telephoto zoom lenses, and optically, they are excellent lenses. They are also significantly cheaper and smaller than their f/2.8 counterparts. However, knowing just how precious that extra stop of light can be, recommending them comes with a significant caveat. The f/2.8 version should be your first choice if at all possible.
- Canon full frame body:
- Canon small sensor body: same as above
- Nikon full frame body:
- Nikon small sensor body: same as above
Many photographers keep their lens kit to the three zoom lenses discussed previously. Those lenses would probably cover 80-90% of the photos for any given wedding. However, it is worth including two to three fast prime lenses in your bag as well. These lenses are small, light, and fairly inexpensive. There are times at a wedding where, either for artistic or technical reasons, even an f/2.8 aperture is not enough to get the motion-stopping shutter speed or shallow depth of field desired. The faster prime lenses are ideal in these situations. An image that requires a 1/10th of a second shutter speed at f/2.8 will only require 1/30th of a second at f/1.8. That can be the difference between making a sharp image and a blurry one.
Additionally, for most professional wedding photographers, the best reason to include a few prime lenses in their wedding kit is that they provide an economical backup to their zoom lenses. Nothing is quite so terrifying as having equipment fail at a crucial moment. At one wedding in my career, the aperture blades of a Canon 28-70mm f/2.8 froze during the formal portraits. I remembered the 35mm f/2 and 85mm f/1.8 in my backup bag. After telling everyone to “take five” so I could run to the car, the backup lenses allowed me to finish the wedding without anyone noticing the failure.
My preferred three lens prime kit consists of a 28mm f/1.8, a 50mm f/1.8, and an 85mm f/1.8, all used on a full frame body. The 28mm takes in the full scope of most ceremony locations and also works in crowded spaces. The 50mm is good for small groups or a dancing couple. The 85mm is long enough for ceremony vow/rings/kiss images. Other options could include a 24mm and/or 35mm instead of the 28mm. You may have to hustle and use your “foot zoom” more than you would otherwise, but a wedding can be successfully photographed with just these three lenses. What is better, telling a bride that you missed the kiss because your one long zoom lens malfunctioned, or providing her with an image, even if it isn’t the absolute best photo you could have possibly taken?
Three Lens Prime Kit
Third Party Lenses
Canon and Nikon aren’t the only ones making lenses for Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Commonly called third party lenses, these are made by companies such as Tamron, Tokina, and Sigma. Typically these lenses can be significantly less expensive than their counterparts from Canon or Nikon. While a 24-70mm f/2.8 from Canon or Nikon can cost $1600, one from a third party manufacturer might be half that price. So what is the risk? Well, like everything in life, you don’t get something for nothing. Third-party lenses long had a reputation for sub-par build and image quality. In addition, and relevant to the fast evolving digital world, with third party lenses you are relying on the manufacturer to perfectly reverse engineer Canon or Nikon’s technologies. If they do not, AF, exposure, and other camera systems may not work as well they are supposed to. If Canon or Nikon changes their lens technology, you also risk having a lens that will not work with a current body. That having been said, there is no denying that third party companies are putting out some high-quality and unique lenses these days. Nobody makes a wide-angle zoom as fast as Sigma’s 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM. Tamron’s SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD is the only optically stabilized 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on the market. Tokina’s AT-X Pro 11-16mm f/2.8 DX II is the fastest wide-angle zoom for APS-C cameras.
Okay, but what about using these lenses for professional wedding photography? In a best case scenario you wouldn’t choose a third party lens as a wedding photographer. Weddings are an “it only happens once” moment. You would pick the lens that gave you the absolute highest probability of 100% body/lens operation, and that would be a lens from the same company as your camera. The real world is rarely the ideal scenario, though, and there are many amazing images being made with third party lenses every day. Would I choose to own a high-end third party lens and a suitable backup lens over a single Canon/Nikon lens as a professional wedding photographer? Absolutely, I would.
tokina_tokina-11-16-f2.8-II tamron_24-70/2.8vc sigma_18-35-1.8
© Albert de Weerd
Sony and Pentax
It’s a fact of the DSLR world, Sony and Pentax are often overshadowed by Canon and Nikon. Does this mean that there is something wrong with the Pentax or Sony camera systems? More importantly for the purposes of this article, does this mean that Pentax or Sony DSLRs shouldn’t be used by professional wedding photographers?
First off, let me be very clear, Pentax and Sony make great DSLRs. Their image quality, handling, and feature set are right up there with (and sometimes above) anything from Canon or Nikon. The Pentax K-3 and K-3 II are highly regarded for both build and image quality. The Sony A77 II offers their Translucent Mirror Technology and 12 fps shooting. In terms of lenses, the Pentax Limited lenses set the standard for high quality construction/performance in DSLR primes and Sony’s Carl Zeiss zoom lenses are optically outstanding. There is absolutely no reason that a photographer cannot create amazing images with Pentax or Sony gear. The output will only be limited by the photographer’s skillset.
So, why does this article lean so heavily on the idea of using Canon or Nikon DSLR gear for professional wedding work? There are two reasons. The first of which is simply that, while the Pentax and Sony systems are growing (particularly Sony’s), Canon and Nikon still have significantly larger systems overall. The number of lenses, bodies, flashes, and accessories is far above what is offered by Pentax or Sony. Need a soft focus lens? Need a 400mm f/2.8 lens? Need a macro lens longer than 100mm? Pentax and Sony can’t help you with any of those, but Canon and Nikon can. Now, are those types of lenses something that you would need for wedding work? Probably not. After all, you’ll notice that none of them are listed in this article.
So, why does system size matter? Do more professionals use Canon and Nikon because their systems are bigger? Or did the systems expand due to the fact that professionals using Nikon and Canon demanded greater choices in bodies, lenses, flashes, and accessories? I have no idea, but no matter the cause, the fact remains true. Which brings us to reason number two. Photographic rental houses rarely have extensive Sony and Pentax options, if they carry them at all, and are almost completely dominated by Canon and Nikon. As I mention in the rental section earlier in the article, availability of rental gear can be crucial for the professional wedding photographer for backup, access to specialized gear that you do not own, and emergency replacement of gear that has been broken or damaged.
That having been said, Sony and Pentax do make excellent photographic equipment and no photographer owning cameras from those companies should feel like they are somehow behind or beneath a photographer holding a Canon or Nikon camera. You can absolutely create a great wedding kit using Sony or Pentax gear.
Mirrorless system cameras, sometimes known as MILCs, CSCs, or EVILs, have been one of the fastest growing camera segments. Systems such as the Sony NEX, Olympus/Panasonic Micro four-thirds, Fujifilm X Series, Samsung NX, and Nikon 1 have become very popular with all sorts of photographers. Many of us are ditching our big DSLR kits for the lighter and smaller package that the mirrorless systems offer. Image quality from these systems can be amazing. With all honesty, I can say that I have used my mirrorless system camera (Olympus EM-1) more in the past year for my personal photography than I have my DSLRs.
So should you use one of these systems as a professional wedding photographer? The answer is “probably not…but maybe.” There are three main issues with mirrorless system cameras that the professional photographer would need to consider: image quality, handling, and system size.
Some of these cameras can make outstanding professional quality images, and some cannot. While there are exceptions, image quality is often closely tied to sensor size. As a general rule, the larger the sensor, the higher the image quality. While DSLRs mostly have one of two sensor sizes (APS-C or full frame), mirrorless systems have a much larger variety. Cameras like the Pentax Q and the Nikon 1 are small and portable, but their sensors are truly tiny and their image quality suffers because of it. Now, cameras like the Sony NEX and Fujifilm X-T1 have APS-C sized sensors and image quality that rivals any APS-C DSLR. Others like the micro four-thirds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic have sensors that are somewhere in between. Their image quality is excellent, but a fairly heated argument rages across the Internet over how they stack up to full frame and APS-C sensors. Good (and terrible) points are made on both sides.
The biggest reason that many professional photographers are not interested in mirrorless system cameras is that so many of them rely heavily on button presses and menu scrolling to change settings on the camera. Most pros, particularly in a fast-paced environment like a wedding, want to spend as little time and attention as possible changing WB, ISO, bracketing amount, over/under exposure, etc. Dials, control wheels, and dedicated buttons will beat scrolling through menus every time. A number of the more recent higher-end mirrorless bodies have tried to address this issue. Some with clever control ideas (rings, touchscreens, etc.) and some by designing a body that mimics a DSLR (the Olympus EM-1 and Fujifilm X-T1 are popular examples). These bodies are a great improvement, but for the most part they are still not in the same league as a pro-class DSLR in terms of handling. Although, it must be said that there are those who would strongly argue that fact, particularly fans of the aforementioned OM-D and X-T1. At the end of the day, though, quick handling is a problem for many of the mirrorless bodies, and that isn’t something to be taken lightly.
Everything I said above about the size of the Sony and Pentax systems goes double (or triple) for mirrorless cameras. Some of these “systems” consist of a body or two and a handful of slow zoom lenses. One of the most popular of the mirrorless systems, the Sony NEX, has 17 lenses, yet none are constant f/2.8 zooms. With 46 lenses, the micro four-thirds system is close to the critical mass that professionals would require. The 17 prime lenses are especially attractive and the recent addition of multiple constant f/2.8 lenses were welcomed by professionals. However, it should be noted that there is still no f/2.8 wide-angle zoom (and few wide-angle zoom choices overall) available, there isn’t a prime lens beyond 75mm (150mm effective), there are no tilt-shift lenses, no teleconverters, and only limited macro options. And that doesn’t even address flash systems, remotes, grips, and so on. I would encourage anyone looking to use a mirrorless system for wedding work to make sure that you are not cutting corners on what you need to get the job done just to be able to use a mirrorless camera.
Mirrorless Camera Systems as Backup
Given the compact nature of the mirrorless systems and the fact that so many photographers have them, on the surface the answer would seem to be yes. I would offer a few caveats as well, though. The first being that the camera you are using had better be able to create images that are up to the quality that your clients expect. “But I had to use my backup camera!” is not an excuse that most brides are going to find acceptable. To that end, I would stay away from the systems that have smaller sensors like the Pentax Q and the Nikon 1. Anything with a micro four-thirds or larger sensor should be able to provide the quality you are looking for. Secondly, I strongly encourage people to use a backup that is from the same system as their primary gear. In the middle of a wedding, with the stress of a broken piece of gear already on your mind, is no time to be trying to figure out how to change camera settings that are significantly different from your primary equipment.
Now, that having been said, one of the coolest uses for mirrorless system cameras in wedding work is to fill the slot that used to be filled by Leica rangefinder cameras. In years past, many a wedding photographer added something like a Leica M6 and a 35mm f/1.4 lens into their SLR plus big zoom wedding bag. The simplicity of a single focal length combined with quiet operation, compact size, and non-threatening nature (ever been on the business end of a big zoom lens and a pro DSLR body shooting at 7 fps?) allowed these cameras to capture some truly special moments. A mirrorless system camera can do the exact same today if a wedding photographer wanted to recapture some of what made rangefinders so special.
There are two schools of thought regarding electronic flashes for wedding work. Photographers with a lot of studio experience usually feel most comfortable with the flexibility and power that a set of studio monolights provide. Photographers with more editorial experience often feel more comfortable with “speedlight” TTL flashes due to their light weight and speed of setup/takedown. Studio flashes have the advantage of significantly more lighting power and many options for light modification, such as softboxes, snoots, and barn doors. This can be an advantage when you have a large wedding group to photograph, or when the location calls for some creative lighting to achieve the proper romantic feel. In my experience, time is the scarcest resource at a wedding. The faster you can set up and tear down, the happier you and your clients will be. For my personal wedding photography, TTL flashes’ quick setup and lack of need for extension cords or electrical outlets have proven to be advantageous.
With either studio strobes or speedlights, you will need light stands and light modifying devices for each flash. Umbrellas are very popular due to their low cost, light weight, and easy setup, but softboxes offer better light softening and directional abilities. The real world answer is that you should use whatever you can afford and are comfortable with. Monolights require fairly sturdy dedicated light stands. Even the small ones are somewhat heavy and require a lot of support. Small TTL speedlight flashes can be mounted on just about anything, but most photographers find that investing in a set of sturdy light stands is a worthwhile investment. For those new to working with external flash, the photo.net Studio Photography Primer and Lighting Equipment and Techniques Forum will be useful resources.
On-Camera TTL Flashes
Remote Flash Triggering
When setting up remote flashes for formal portraits, radio slaves are very handy. They allow you to eliminate long cords that wedding guests may trip over and place flashes in locations where a cord would never reach. However, they are not necessary and many photographers successfully rely on optical flash triggers or infrared devices that allow the duration of remote flashes to be controlled by the camera body’s through-the-lens flash metering system.
pocket-wizard_plus-iii phottix_phottix-odin phottix_phottix-odin-nikon
Hand-Held Flash Meter
With the instant preview available on digital cameras, it is easy to take a test photo, check the exposure on the rear LCD, and adjust flash exposure if needed. However, a hand-held flash meter can be valuable when setting up flashes for formal portraits. It is easy to stand in front of the flashes with a light meter in one hand and a radio slave trigger in the other. You quickly get an accurate idea of exposure and ratios among the different flashes you are using. Given how small and inexpensive a flash meter is, it is wise to make one a part of your wedding photography kit.
My recommendation is to split your wedding gear into two bags. One bag holds your main body, the most frequently used lenses, an on-camera flash, batteries, and the most important accessories. The second bag holds your backup body, specialty or backup lenses, extra flashes, battery chargers, and other accessories. With a backpack as your large bag, you will be able to carry all of day’s equipment without back or shoulder strain. Unlike larger hard sided gear cases, a backpack can easily be tucked away in your car’s trunk or under a reception table. This allows it to be easily accessible while still protecting your gear from any bumps and jostles. The shoulder bag gives you something smaller and easier to work out of moving around a lot, particularly in crowded spaces. Bridal dressing rooms, reception areas, dance floors, and limousines are a lot easier to navigate with a shoulder bag than a large backpack. Keep in mind that a single giant shoulder bag negates any mobility advantages and will give you a serious backache after a long day. For more advice on the overall topic of camera bags, visit the photo.net camera bag section.
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Light Stand Weight Bags
Even a gentle breeze can knock over a light stand with a flash and umbrella mounted. This is an easy way to break some expensive gear and will cause the whole portrait session to grind to a halt. The solution? Nylon or canvas bags filled with sand or water can be used to add weight to the bottom of the light stand. A strong gust can still knock them over because an umbrella makes a great sail, but lighter winds pose much less of a threat.
Tripods and Monopods
When in dim churches, your shutter speed may dip fairly low. Since few parts of a wedding ceremony involve fast subject movement, you can usually get away with it, especially if you are using a monopod. There is a limit to how low your shutter speed can go before camera shake ruins the image, however. A general guideline is a handheld image will be acceptably sharp if the shutter speed is faster than 1/focal length. For example, for a 50mm lens this means a shutter speed of 1/50th of a second or faster or for a 200mm lens, use 1/200th of a second or faster. IS/VR lenses will provide at least an extra two f-stops of practical stabilization, meaning that you can use 1/50th of a second on that 200mm lens, but there are situations where IS/VR is insufficient. A tripod provides the ultimate in stability and sharpness, but it isn’t as useful for weddings as for, say, landscape photography because people at a wedding move around a lot more than mountains. The tripod stabilizes the camera, not the subject. The tripod is most useful with long lenses (e.g., when photographing from a church’s choir loft). A monopod provides less stability, but is easier to move around.
See the photo.net tripod section for specific recommendations in this area.
While it may sound minor in comparison to big things like camera bodies and lenses, gaffers tape is surprisingly handy in almost any situation. You never know when you are going to need to tape down a veil, cover a power cord, or hold together a bowtie. It is the kind of thing that can save the day in hundreds of different ways. In the past year alone I have used gaffers tape to hold up a dress, keep a veil from blowing in the wind, tape down a power cord, hold a broken flash together, and make an emergency shoulder strap. One time I even used it to cover the soles of my shoes which were squeaking terribly on the marble floor of an orthodox church. Gaffers tape is more expensive than duct tape, but is also much easier to tear and leaves less glue behind. Throw a roll of it in your case, and you will probably forget it’s in there until the moment you need it most. Then it will be worth its weight in gold.
Most any high-quality DSLR can be an effective tool for wedding photography, if combined with a high-quality high-speed lens. For most photographers, three professional-quality zooms are the standard outfit. Bringing studio strobes or wireless speedlight flashes to a wedding is a big step up in complexity, but opens up a lot of creative possibilities. Remember to spend at least a few days working with bodies, lenses, and flashes before the wedding. A wedding should be the third or fourth project that you do with a new piece of gear, not the first! Finally, carry backup equipment. Always.
For further advice, please visit the photo.net Wedding Photography forum, where many experienced photographers will be happy to answer your questions. Photo.net also has many articles on wedding photography that contain a wealth of information from practical business tips to conceptual style and composition examples.