Equipment for Wedding Photographers

Intro/Renting/Backup/Insurance
Bodies
Lenses
Alternative Systems
Flashes/Bags/Accessories
Conclusion/Resources

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.


© Michael Sulka

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.


© Christy Rosado

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.

Camera Body

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


© Dmytro Sobokar

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_eos_1d_x
  • Canon full frame body: canon_5d-markiii-body
  • Canon small sensor body (high-end): canon_eos7dmarkii
  • Canon small sensor body: canon_EOS-70d
  • Nikon full frame body (high-end): nikon_D4s
  • Nikon full frame body: nikon_D810
  • Nikon small sensor body (high-end): nikon_d7200
  • Nikon small sensor body: nikon_D5500

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

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.


© Massimiliano Uccelletti

Wide-Angle Zooms

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_16-35
  • Canon small sensor body: canon_canon-ef11-24-f4
  • Nikon full frame body: nikon_17-35
  • Nikon small sensor body: nikon_14-24

Wide-to-Telephoto Zooms

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_24-70/2.8II
  • Canon small sensor body: canon_17-55
  • Nikon full frame body: nikon_24-70
  • Nikon small sensor body: nikon_17-55

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_70-200/2.8Lis_II

    or canon_70-200/4L

  • Canon small sensor body: same as above
  • Nikon full frame body: nikon_70-200_II or nikon_70-200-f4g
  • Nikon small sensor body: same as above


© Brian Lim

Prime Lenses

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

  • 28mm: canon_28/1.8

    or nikon_28mm-f/1.8-af-s

  • 50mm: canon_50/1.8 or nikon_50/1.8G
  • 85mm: canon_85/1.8 or nikon_85mm-f1.8-af-s


© La Candella Weddings

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

Alternative Systems



© 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.


© Jennifer Catron

Mirrorless Systems

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.

Image Quality

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.

Handling

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.


© Frederick Dunn

System Size

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.

Flashes

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

  • canon_600EX-RT-Speedlite
  • nikon_SB-910

Light Stands

  • cowboystudio_lightstand

Umbrellas/Softboxes

  • neewer_portrait-soft-box


© Marius Kaitulis

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.

  • sekonic_L308s
  • sekonic_L-478DR


© Sara Atteby

Camera Bags

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.

Backpacks

  • lowepro_prorunner-450AW
  • ape case_apecase-rollingbag

Shoulder Bags

  • tenba_mini-messenger
  • domke_-J1

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.

  • ephoto_sandbagset


© Melissa Papaj

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.

Gaffers Tape

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.

  • adorama_gaffers-tape

Conclusion

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.

Further Resources

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.

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    • I would note that there are good cameras that don't come from Canon and Nikon! My suggestions for a Pentax system for wedding photographers would be as follows. 1. First camera body, a Pentax K10D. Advantages include in-body shake reduction, a very solidly constructed weather-sealed body, very useful TAv mode (like manual mode, but with auto-adjusting ISO), support for the new DA* SDM lenses, and terrific ergonomics. 2. Second camera body, ideally another K10D, or the new K100D Super. The controls on the K100D Super don't work quite like those on the K10D, and it's annoying to have to adjust as you switch cameras, so paying that little bit more for a second K10D is worth it. 3. Two Pentax AF 540 FGZ flash units. These provide P-TTL compatibility. The 540 is a little more powerful than its little brother, the 360, and the 540 can swivel as well as tilt -- very useful for bouncing. Don't bother with the cables for off-camera use; Pentax wireless mode works very reliably. But get two units, as flash units are a bit more delicate than your camera -- and a second flash can be very useful for the formals, if you don't have more elaborate lighting equipment handy. 4. Normal zoom lens: I have settled on the Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 and it seems quite good. The new Pentax DA* 16-50 f/2.8 is no doubt also very good, but it is a LOT more expensive. The older Pentax 16-45 f/4 is a fine lens, too, but that one-stop difference between f/2.8 and f/4 is a problem, as it might spell the difference between shooting at ISO 1600 and ISO 1100 or 800. Budget alternative: the Sigma 28-70 f/2.8 or the (more highly regarded) Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 offer good compromise between price, range and quality. 5. Tele zoom: the new Pentax DA* 50-135 f/2.8 ED (IF) SDM. 6. Other lenses to consider: The Pentax auto-focus 50mm f/1.4 is a lifesaver in low-light, providing a two-stop advantage over the f/2.8 lenses. And in my own opinion, the Sigma 10-20 is a more useful ultra-wide than the Pentax fish-eye, as the Sigma is not a fish-eye and thus is less of a special-effects lens. Remember also that the Pentax dslr's are compatible with just about every K-mount lens made since 1974, and some of the older primes, while manual focus, are very high-quality glass indeed and can produce outstanding results. 7. Accessories: Be sure to get the excellent grip for the K10D and a battery pack for the 540 flash units.
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    • Great that the learn section is continued - That was the reason I started with pnet in 2001. I was on a beginners level at that time. Nowadays I would also like pnet to enhance and to give also help for advanced. Advanced? Knowing all that stuff as DOF, composition of lines, light etc - it would be great still to stay here on pnet and continue the race. After knowing the rules & hardware (Canon Nikon Leica etc pp), the advanced needs some support in PhotoPhilosophy, a non technical related discussion. Some are out there, and can be found (just name Daniel Bayer) which are on that train - but how to organize the different levels? It's hard to find the pointers to the correct discussions - and pnet should think about that. I don't want pnet to become flicker. Regards Axel
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    • Great list Josh! Well thought out, and complete enough to get a person started. Of course the main things a photographer needs to bring to a wedding are education and experience, but as far as equipment goes I think this is a good list for someone to start with. I would add more stress to having backups though. A wedding photographer needs two of everything that is critical to getting the shot. So two bodies for sure, two fast normal range zoom lenses, or a zoom and a couple primes, and at least two flash units. Also, multiple spares for batteries and and memory cards. You never know when this stuff will crash on it's own or get destroyed in an accident, so bring extras of everything critical. And then there are things like safety pins, invisible tape, needle & thread, etc., but that's another list entirely, and has been discussed in Photo.net forums in the past. Also there are two schools of thought on camera variety. Should you bring two nearly identical bodies so that everything works the same with them, or should you buy a crop frame and full frame of the same brand? Mixing sensor frame sizes gives the advantage of using one lens to fulfill different uses with different cameras, but it takes more thought to determine the best backup solutions for both sizes. I suppose if done right a mix of camera bodies might actually save a person money. Anyway, this is a great list, and should prove useful to many.
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    • The bit about backup should be in bold! Can't be emphasised enough. I also want to bravo the paragraph on gaffers tape. Those who haven't shot weddings before will question why gaffers tape has a paragraph as big as that discussing cameras. Those who do shoot weddings will know why!
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    • More than once I've taken a mediocre shot that was "saved" by the high resolution in the Canon 1Ds-mark II. It is indeed a big, heavy mofo of a camera, but 16.7 megapixels means that occasionally you can crop a not-quite-long-enough-lens image into something stunning, at suitable resolutions for a wedding album.

      I recommend that your backup body have the same sensor size as the primary -- it's too easy to get tripped up by moving between different pieces of equipment. This is a risk you don't have to take.

      No one mentioned "photobanks" or portable hard drives for offloading shots and re-using cards. Does anyone have general guidelines for how many shots you wind up taking at a wedding? Shot rate will vary, I'm sure, but I imagine you'll have a fairly predictable number of posed shots (varying by the size of the guest list and wedding party) plus a shot per hour rate for the remaining ones.

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    • Many feel that a rotatable flash bracket and also light modifiers for the flash such as Gary Fong's LightSphere is a must have. Often used in combination with high voltage battery packs like Quantums. One of the most important aspects in a wedding photographers kit that I missed from the article is a decent computer with a calibrated display and software suitable to process large amounts of shots, for instance Lightroom.
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    • How difficult is it to synthesise what most of us do; and with what gear; into a brief few paragraphs and label it: a beginning point? Certainly, there will be nuances and differences, but this is a good, tight, piece, that gives a foundation, as well as stimulate questions, for those who really are interested in learning, from those who do. In the next incarnation I, too, encourage more stress on the need for redundancy. Redundancy is underscored apropos lenses; by comparison, it is somewhat glossed over in regard to bodies and lighting. Specifically bodies: one might argue that `most` experienced professionals shoot with two and have a third as `back up`. A really good piece and an easy and logical read. WW
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    • What an excellent article. I too enjoy the instructional tutorials on this site. For many, especially those interested in starting out a more serious approach to photography, this article will serve as an effective introduction. I would like to point out however that there are other manufacturers apart from canon and nikon that make lenses that the article claims do not exist. There are plenty of m42, minolta/sony, olympus and pentax lenses that will satisfy the criterias listed above, for small sensor cameras as well as full-frame. There are also a number of digital range finders now on the market that have low-focal length, large aperture lenses available. All in all, a great article, with useful parameters. Cheers, -Josh-
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    • Just wanted to say nicely done, Josh!
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    • Great article Josh,I agree with you if you can afford all those equipement but I think its not necessary to have a D3 or Mark 3 to do a wedding.I use Pentax K10d,Pentax 16-50 2.8,50mm 1.4,55-200,540FGZ,gary fong light sphere,that's it and I do a great job to.
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    • Very good article, but for my wedding shoots I use Nikon film gear. I have had some very positive comments when I supply the couple with the end photos in the album. My current 'wedding shoot' equipment list is: Nikon F6, 24-85mm f2.8-4 zoom, 50mm f1.8 for interiors, SB-800 with diffuser (superb soft light output with this flashgun). F80 is my back-up camera. I speak with the bride and groom a few days beforehand and they often want a certain photo that I may not think of doing - and I may modify my gear on the day to suit. The 24-85mm zoom (hood essential) does 98% of the day's shooting, and I supply the couple with a photo-CD of all the images taken for them to e-mail to relatives.
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    • "Can you take professional quality wedding images with a Canon Rebel XTi and the kit lens? The answer is no." There's a huge movement of us on flickr and even a site specifically for us kit lens users.

      Do I plan to stick with the XTI?

      As a back up to the 5d on it's way, sure.

      But remember a TON of pro folks still use the 20d.

      and the 20d is how old?

      and is and was still considered a prosumer camera?

      So's the XTI. It'll become the 20d of tomorrow, maybe. Maybe not.

      But as I have defended before, it is a GREAT camera.

      The kit lens is fine until you can get something sleeker and yes, better.

      Don't get talked up into owing more than you can afford.

      That's the sort of advice in articles about wedding equipment I read more from people that charge steep and love the work steeper.





      I usually don't get into pissing contests with other wedding photographers because many can easily swing the bat of time and experience over mine. But, look, I made my first magazine photo job from a little fuji 5.1 mp. I jumped into my first wedding alone with one body and three lenses and a pack of 283's bounced into an umbrella. I've been paid ever since for my digital work. And it's good work.



      It's about the person behind the lens. And my XTI CAN take professional wedding photos because of it.

      Christina

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    • Josh, this is a great article! Well thought out and well laid out. I DO agree with Christina about choice of body, though. And not just because I use a 400D (XTi) myself :) In fact, I've only done about 5 weddings with it because I got it earlier this year. Before that? A Rebel G and 28-105 USM. Yup, that's it. Majority of my wedding photography has been done using a film SLR with one lens, no back-ups.

      It really is the user, not so much the tool :) I'm all for having back-up and plenty of it! But if you can't afford it (or couldn't, like me ;)) do you turn down a job that you KNOW you can deliver on? (By the way, I don't have the option of renting here in Kenya)

      I'd add that a light modifier is a very useful (and inexpensive) tool. I find the DFD Pro from Joe Demb invaluable and made sure I have one set for each of my 2 flashes.

      Other odds and ends in my bag that ALWAYS come in handy and cost next to nothing are: hair clips, hair brush, small mirror :)

      Best regards from Kenya,
      Mark

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    • Preface: I haven't exhaustively read the article. There is a lot of interest in this work, so I think it is great that you are writing an article. Perhaps there should be a partner article on the ethics and expectations of wedding photography. A couple of notes on changes: The first line regarding the XTi and kits lens - Rather than "Can you" - perhaps it should be "Should you". It is inadvisable to shoot with only the XTi and Kit; but at the end of the day it is about the photographer and redundancy. If the XTi and Kit lens are the extent of the experience of the photographer (and the only equipment they have) then it is no doubt a bad idea. But, it is more about redundancy and location. Indoor wedding? Kit would be troublesome. Outdoor wedding? It would probably be alright. Second note: The list of camera bodies drops the Fuji S5 Pro - a camera that seems to lend itself to shooting high contrast scenes such as weddings.
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    • "The first line regarding the XTi and kits lens - Rather than "Can you" - perhaps it should be "Should you"."

      An excellent edit that more accurately expresses the concept that I was trying to put forward, that professional photographers use professional equipment.

      Exceptional photographers can shoot with anything. However, this article is not meant for the exceptional photographer, but rather the beginner.

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    • I did a wedding for friends this summer and it turned out ok. Better equipment would have helped some, but I feel knowledge, skill, and experience are the real enabler of good shots. The faster lenses are great for low light, but I wonder if this is a bit of a hold-over from film where you couldn't change the ISO on the fly like with digital, especially shooting in NEF (RAW) where I can do wonders with almost any exposure in Capture NX ? Well, there is that depth of field thing! Yes, an f/2.8 can make a huge difference in isolating the subject from the background, just have to get the right things in that shallow depth of field. Nice to have it all thru the focal range. I just can't afford that effect yet... I wish I had the $4,700+ for the 3 recommended f/2.8 zooms. If you're going for speed and pricey lenses why not the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D ? I have that one! But some of my best looking pics were with the old but very nice Micro Nikkor 60 mm f/2.8D on my 2nd D80 (a.k.a. D200 Lite). All zooms have distortion, and I got away with using my Nikkor 18-200VR for much of it. Even it produced some nice shots and had a great range for a wide variety of shots without having to stop and swap lenses in a very dynamic setting. Anyways, it was a 2nd marriage for both and they're great ballroom dancers - so were most of the guests. So the dancing was the main point of the shoot, go figure. We did some formals but with temps around 95 degrees we finished in under 15 minutes! They were very happy and paid only a very small amount for the shoot, and I got a great experience, learned a lot doing it and in post-processing. And they loved the DVD slideshow set to the music CD they put together, that's a strong point for me it seems. Total = 1480 shots, 709 decent or better, 511 on the 34 minute DVD slideshow. Yikes ! I might be starting this a lot later than most at 48 and with less equipment, but you've got to take a few steps to see where you stand, and where you're going. I may never make a living at it, but if I make a little money to pay for some of my equipment and make people happy enhancing their memories, then I did an okay job I guess. Thanks for all the info. For me, the joy is in the photo, not the equipment...
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    • Here's an article on equipment from a successful and experienced wedding photographer.

      Jeff Ascough's take on equipment for wedding photography.

      See the entry entitled "Cameras and the desire to upgrade". There's also an entry entitled "Bags and Stuff" showing what he has in his bags.

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    • I usually don't get into pissing contests with other wedding photographers (. . .) It's about the person behind the lens. And my XTI CAN take professional wedding photos because of it. (CN) It ain`t about a pissing competition. Putting aside the body for one moment, it is about a kit lens (comes to mind 17 to 55 F3.5 to F5.6) and whilst a Wedding CAN be done with this lens, (and my posts constantly defend this lens as `good` if the photographer knows its limitations). Weddings (plural and: singular meaning `in toto`) CANNOT be done with ONLY this lens and (one) XTi. That is a very important message to send out to anyone attempting this service and charging a fee for it. The reasons are: 1. Equipment redundancy. 2. (lack of) Lens speed. These two points cannot be underscored enough: when shooting an event such as a Wedding, the `Deer Hunter`s` ONE SHOT rule applies. That is how I read the original message, and that is how I believe the message was meant, not as a slight against those who use a kit lens etc: personally I was not offended and I will continue to sell images created with my kit lens. WW
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    • I'd like to thank Christia for her comments on her low-buck equipment. The guys that scoff if you don't have the latest and greatest Nikanons really irritate me. I'm glad it's not just Pentax, Olympus, etc. users that they thumb their noses at. Personally, I'd rather use something low end and familiar to me than rent something high end that I have to figure out as I go. Some people act like you have to have a Mark III to make money, but here's my secret: Take good pictures. We were doing that long before the DSLR came along. I would have found this article more interesting if it covered how to shoot a wedding with a Rebel XTi...
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    • I am so glad that this thread was created! I am starting out and always look for suggestions from seasoned photographer. It is so helpful to learn from others that way I don't have to recreate the wheel.
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    • This is a great overview of the required equipment recommended for professional wedding photographers. The image examples are convincing as well, demonstrating that there is a great photographer behind the lenses :) I miss here only the description of the used equipment in the "Detail" section below the images. Additionally, some tips for those who are looking for lenses with excellent image quality, light weight (!) and lower price tag... Canon 3.5-4.5 / 20-35 mm; Tamron 2.8 / 28-70 mm SP; Tamron 2.8 / 90 mm macro SP DI; and well Canon 1.8/50 mm Best Wishes: Gergely
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    • A very well written article about wedding photography. It is essential to have backup gear and to know how to use it, especially flash. Fill flash takes some extensive "camera work" to understand and to use on a consistent basis. Some off camera flash can really look great at a wedding. When I started wedding photography in the 60's it was a two or three lens kit; 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. My, how things change and I still find these three primes in my current Nikon AF kit along with a 20mm and my Nikon F6.

      Update: April 26, 2010

      As I am writing this, I have gone totally Nikon digital for the weddings with a pair of D300 bodies. The instant preview screen is so handy and the guesswork/anxiety is all gone. The auto-focus is great with these cameras but the flash is much harder to balance than with film. I am using three SB-800 units because; I like fill flash, I like off camera lighting at the reception, I keep a backup flash.

      My lens kit has changed because the D300 is a crop body (1.5X factor). I traded my Nikon 20mm F2.8 for a Nikon 12-24 mm F4. I gave up compactness and speed for more wide. Wide can be very creative at a wedding but you have to be ready to shoot wide. With many years of experience, I was finally ready to go real wide. You can easily get too much distortion going wide and, for people photography, look out if you do. The Nikon 35 mm F2, a great lens, is still in the kit. I tried the new 1.8 version and I did not like it. The 85 mm F1.8 has been replaced by the 105 mm F2 DC lens. That is my second try at the 105 mm F2 DC. This time, I finally figured it out. The 105 mm F2 DC does not totally wipe the backgrounds. It simply creates a very pleasing bokeh. It is faster than a zoom and more compact than a zoom. I can still use it in the house and I don't need anything longer at a wedding than 105mm (150 with the crop factor).

      I have to mention that I always bring a tripod to the wedding ceremony. For the bride and groom kneeling at the alter, my pics are carefully composed and I have the depth of field I need to include the reverend without camera shake.

      I recommend that you bring what you use everyday but bring backups too. If you have the lenses at the wedding that you have in your usual kit, you will be more comfortable. Only you know your own style. Live it and refine it as you go.

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    • Another vote for backups. I'll go further; have backups to the backups. I still love my Metz hammerheads, and I don't dare go to a wedding without four of them, several sca modules, and a boot full of any old body to get me out of a jam, even as far as a T90 tank. Also, hope that the car-park isn't too far away; and would someone please devise some sort of trolley affair that doesn't make me look like I'm headed for the airport ? Having three loaded cameras swinging round your neck isn't very efficient, and makes you look like an idiot. Two bags ?? You'd be lucky. Regards, Tim.
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    • I like to think about my equipment as an artist does his brushes. It is possible that in the hands of a artist even the simplest tools can create masterpieces. And the opposite is also true, that in the hands of anyone without any talent or eye, the $100 brush won't create the work for you. Equipment such as camera bodies, lenses and software can help you get where you are going, but you need to know WHERE you are going and HOW to use the tools to get you there. If you have the tools and know how to use them, great. If you don't, and still are able to get the results you want, even better. I just feel sometimes we rely too much on the technology and not enough on our own God given gifts. _______________________________________________________________ Here's my Essential Equipment List: 2 eyes (my personal eyes, not someone else's) 1 brain (note: I tend to try to use both the right and left sides) 1 camera (any camera will do, even an instant one) This is all I need to be a whatever it is people like to label as "photographer". __________________________________________________________________ And as side note; my business cards do not list me as a photographer. I am listed as a photojournalist on one and an artist on another. Because the work I do either tells a specific story or else it fits the definition of art (Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature.). What is it that a so-called "Photographer" does anyway? Some of the one's I know personally have lost sight of WHY we do this and have become obsessed with HOW we do this. If you are reading this as a photographer, my prayer is, that this does not describe you.
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    • Kudos to Dennis' comments about the tool bag God gave most of us. Although, this is an entirely different article his comments belong here to instruct "beginners" and remind the rest of us that the tools are only part of it. In addition, Josh's article is like one you would love to get in a beginning art class when you have no idea where to start with equipment, but lots of ideas what you want to create.
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    • Good effort, but I found this article a little one dimensional. The most disappointing thing about it is the strange assumption that all wedding photographers will (i) be DSLR users; (ii) have nothing other than Canon or Nikon in their bags; (iii) be unable to function if they don't have a bag full of speedlights. Crazy. The good wedding photographers I know routinely produce superlative work with whatever they have to hand, and are masters of shooting by available light. Amongst them are Holga, Leica and Horizon users - not a Canon in sight.

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    • I agree with the notion that you should be responsible for what you do and get the best equipment that you can depend on to get you the shots you are after. However, I think rejecting gears outright is a bit extreme. I mean, if Joe Buissink wants to shoot a wedding with the XTi, who's gonna say no? A friend, actually husband and wife team that I know shoots with the 5D + XTi and they get awesome shots. You can hardly tell the differences. Oh yeah, and the Nikon 14-24mm 2.8 zoom is for 35mm full frame, not just DX bodies.
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    • Those of you using kit lenses for weddings should be ashamed of yourselves. You're just being greedy and you know it. people spend a lot of money on weddings and usually thousands for a photographer. Unless you're charging under $800 they deserve better. Nothing is more important in the image chain than the lens. Those talking about portable drives, I have been using a PD70X for about a year and a half and love it. It's a no frils workhorse that has consistentally lasted all day on 4 AA batteries. I can usually get 10-14GB in the drive without even thinking about a battery change. I have also dropped it onto a tile floor while full of data from about 4 feet. My heart stopped but the drive didn't even blink, but it does smile at you (really). it also has a sad face if something is wrong. You can also swap common laptop drives in it for for storage.
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    • You forgot to talk about a laptop. Although I have never shot a wedding, i know that it would be a good idea to bring a laptop and a card reader. If you lose a card, or get dirt in one, whatever, even if you have three, four or five, 4GB cards, sometimes you will just want more space than you plan before hand, and rather than keeping a bunch of extra cards, keep you laptop charged. Chances are that you can download all of your photos in the time it takes to shoot another card load, and you can therefore go on forever with two cards, swaping them around. Also, regarding cards, make sure that you have deleted all the photos from them prior to the wedding (other event etc.) Nothing is more annoying to find out that one of your cards is full to the brim with valuable photos that you would not be willing to delete. Make sure they are formated too. This will minimize the chance of an error, and hopefully keep the write speed a bit higher.
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    • It is said that wherever you have three photographers gathered together, you'll have four opinions, no matter the topic. How true. Just to calm it down a little; Yes, of course you can get spectacular results using your old Kodak Instamatic. But without wishing to start a fight, might I suggest that you keep a second Instamatic in a pocket somewhere, in case the first one stops working ? And you can light it with a torch for all I care, just take some extra batteries. Tim.
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    • I'm a professional wedding photographer as well and I couldn't agree more than Christina Nation's comments. Right on girl! Honestly, to add to that - weddings & especially receptions, are just too rough. You're dealing with dancing, crowds, drinks, fast movement and many other things. Wedding photography is different than studio so the equipment has to be right for each individual situation. I was saving for a Cannon 5D and then reality hit and I slipped from a bubble MACHINE leaking fluid on the dance floor (which the band didn't have approval for) and down went my Rebel XTi & it flew across the dance floor. While my second camera, an older Rebel with a telephoto lense, just made it through. Although I have insurance on the one that broke, I'm still sending it for repairs 4 months later. So why buy extra expensive things that I will just get the same or just as well results from. If you are worried about quality, shoot in RAW. If you are worried about creativity and if they come out good- it's all about the photographer skills not necessarily the camera. Also, I recommend buying numerous smaller size flash cards, because if one large flash card corupts or goes bad for whatever reason, you've lost the whole wedding. It's better to have a rotation system. I bought a waitress tie-around for my waist with three pockets: One for batteries, one for flash cards and one for biz cards etc. It's great and less to have around when your on the move. Always, always have a back up camera. Lastly, when buying a wedding camera, be aware of the weight of the camera. You will have at least one strapped around your neck for 8 or more hours! Holly
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    • Thank you Josh for taking the time to write this article. I have decided that the degree to which I am willing to invest in something will bear like results. Tools are an investment in whatever project they are designed to help build. Certainly a photographer's talent is required, and the time, experience, and _cost_ are needed to refine that talent.

      Speaking of the person behind the lens, attitude can be more valuable than tools and talent because it influences how we use our tools and talents - and how we treat others.

      No need for "p-ing" contests here at p-net outside of the literal fare. If you wish to state the benefit of kits for weddings, than perhaps you can take the time to write a _helpful_ article in the positive rather than criticizing another pro's work. See my post on Philosophy in Relating to Professional Peers.

      I appreciate folks here such as Josh who take the time to share their expertise in a field that is so competitive and potentially artsy-fartsy and filled with brand groupies it can be downright snobby. Still I have yet to meet a pro -- a photographer with a business license on the wall, who pays taxes, who earns a wage by their work, who advertises, who invests in pricey tools to do the best job possible, who builds a cadre of colleagues -- wax cameras because they are trying to dominate someone else. Photographers like their craft, so they're going to talk about whatever contributes to it. I don't see any elitism here, and I thank you Josh for your article. As a writer I also know you can't fit everything into one piece. As an editorial, event, and wedding photographer, here's what is in my bag:

      • 18mm-200mm Nikon
      • 50mm/1.8f Nikon
      • SB800 speedlight
      • 3 batteries
      • lens cloth
      • 3 2GB Sandish cards (only filled 2 of 3 thus far; easy to buy more)
      • a bag full of AA batteries
      • Nikon 50D
      • first aid kit
      • lipgloss :)

      I have a tamarac backpack I really like (can hold water bottles for a thirsty shutterbug and has a compartment topside for extra stuff). I have a velbon tripod I like, too. Note: not bragging about the gear; sharing the stuff I like perhaps it'll help someone, such as my friend who emailed me last night asking for camera gear advice.

      I'd like to add the gaffer's tape in black and white, and the 28mm Nikon mentioned in this article -- love my 50 and they'll be friends! Speaking of which, a little kindness, a bit of common sense, a lot of hard work, and a God-given talent bordering on obsessive... that's a good pack, too.

      Thanks Josh!

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    • Good article Josh. For me the right gear for a wedding is the gear that you find easy to use and that gets the result you like. Unless you shoot just formal shots, as weddings move fast and there are no reshoots the camera needs to be an extension of your eye. You use it instinctively. You must be comfortable and quick with your gear. It may be that your choices look odd to others - so be it. I guy I know, Stephen Swain (for me one of the best there is - www.stephenswain.com) shoots film, likes Fuji Superia for his colour work and uses an 85 f1.4 as a standard lens. He likes the warmth of that film and is not bothered that the package does not have the word "Professional" all over it. As regards the lens, he told me "it looks about right"! For me there is much merit in the argument that the viewer of a photograph should be drawn into the image and not be aware of camera or technique (taking or printing). The photographer and the printer's job is to become "invisible" if you like. Many of the great, iconic photos have this quality. If camera and/or technique are visible, a barrier has been placed between the viewer and the subject the photographer is trying to depict. For what it's worth, I like the 50mm lens on 35mm film. It shows things as they are, undistorted. Oddly, depending on how you use it it can look at bit tight or a bit wide. Great! OM4Ti bodies (hate autofocus!) 50mm f2 Zuiko Macro lenses (they give an amazing 3D look) 40mm f2 Zuiko if I need a bit of width - (wide but does not have that distorted "wide" look of most SLR wides. RF wides are much, much better in this regard. I hate that sort of "bowed" look of SLR wides esp zooms - just because it is everywhere does not mean it is good! Leica and Zeiss 28mm or 35mm RF lenses have so little distortion and draw the image so naturally once you have tried one, well you may never go back.) 85mm f2 Zuiko 100mm f2.8 Zuiko Leica M7 body Ziess Ikon body 35mm f2 Biogon 50mm f2 Planar 50mm f1.5 Sonnar Rollei 6008i and 2.8 Planar for Gps Old Sunpak and Vivitar flash guns (TTL? TTWhat? - they work) Lumedynes in case I need to do gps indoors. Plenty of spares are a good thing! All on film, digital just looks so "wrong" to my Luddite eyes and too often the digital work I see has that "had printed by Ray Charles" look about it! Whatever you use - be the master of it.
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    • This is a good list for a photographer who has been doing weddings for some time. I do not see this as a list for someone starting out. The trouble with most starting out is they "think" they need the biggest and baddest camera out there. I shoot with 2 Nikon D70s and one 18-70 kit lens, one SB-600 flash. I have also done weddings with just the on camera flash. A little bit of computer work is all they needed. I am looking to get a 18-200 VR lens. I have been shooting weddings for 25 years. I find if you work hard at getting people to like you and make your photos stand out, a point and shoot would work well. Thank you, Randy
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    • When you get right down to it, I think a pro camera body's main feature should be to allow the photographer to access the menu swiftly and directly. I really think all else is of less importance. Many camera out there, including non-DSLRs, can actually do a good job in wedding situations (it's especially nice having the "live-view" capability of those digicams). The drawback of less expensive cameras is the inability to swiftly access special operating modes and conditions, slowness, and noise. If the wedding pro can work around those,I say go for the less expensive camera.
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    • Excellent roundup. Whiteout What about practical thoughts on how to prevent digital Whiteout of that white wedding dress next the groom's black tuxedo(even grey one with top hat)? I struggle constantly to get the fine lace or the satin finish showing and even RAW is not always a solution if the white balance stubbornly remains out of kilter. Backup Laptop is best way to back up those cards from your empty and used pockets (of kitchen apron (v. good) or builder's belt) to save between courses to internal drive and an external Lacie or Iomega 100MB mobile drive powered by the laptop USB. I had terribe experiences with two portabke Jobos - at least they gave me my money back but not my confidence. I prefer to change 512MB or 1GB cards regularly rather then risk a 2-4MB card crashing. Paranoia. Bits Take a long electric extension cable with multisockets for laptop, for battery re-charger and a locking cable to chain laptop under and to the Church pew or statue /reception buffet table legs or by disco sound system where you can also work behind or under the table in darkness on the waiter's/soundman's side to check your results. I always case the joint first for such a position and for wall or floor plugs in the best position to set up a little work area and if no table a couple of chairs duct-taped or gaffertaped, together with my ever-handy RESERVED cardboard sign on, work fine. A cycle cape or poncho thrown over the trolley keeps off rain outside as well as any devil's hands inside. Don't forget cloth lens and rubber stick sensor cleaners, rubber rocket blower/brush for lens and camera sensors Baggage I have used an old person's shopping trolley for 30 years at exhibitions/ conferences etc to cart emergency spares in the bottom and a separate camera bag sitting on top for fast access. I fix around the shopping trolley handle,(so it does not drop off) the strap of my valuables' shoulder bag. Trolley also takes monopod and tripod (and rain umbrella in back pocket where I store flash and Sony MS515 voice recorder batteries). Trolleys cost around 7-10 pounds (14-20 dollars). Make sure trolley stands up on its own and has large wheels at outside of frame (like a racing car) to go over church gravel paths or cobblestones and pavement to read drops and church steps. I have a quick release bike lock (key around my neck on my voice recorder nylon lanyard) which is use to attach trolley handle to outside railings/ indoor sound stand / chair back, so it can't be nicked, when my back is turned, by temporary catering staff brought in from Outer Galactica for the half day -- never assume such get togethers have no thieves. Film I often wonder whether I should also set up on a spare tripod (I carry two in case I lose camera mounting) my old 35mm film EOS Canon with good quality roll of film, for the posed family and portrait shots. They've been waiting a lifetime and have a lifetime ahead before the divorce so they will not object to several repeat shots from two or event three cameras (a G9 with a wide angle lens which can hang around your neck while you flash your big machine) different cameras - then the film would not only be a backup but maybe even hold the best quality finish of the most important shots and those white dresses and veils. Any views if this film backup is pointless for those of us without $4000 dollar bodies? I also have a car cigar lighter camera battery charger...plug in while driving between event and reception..that extra boost may save your life. There must be more but my brain cannot recall -- oh yes, a pencil with a 10 pence ring notebook to list what I have to remember to do including sneaky shots of the best man secretly attaching tin cans to the departing car.
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    • After my last post I somehow convinced myself to afford some lenses that give me much better low light and depth of field - Nikkors all, 12-24 f/4, 17-55 f/2.8, and the 70-200 VR f/2.8 - and another SB-600. Like any business investment, it can be a risk. I want to take the best possible photos I can, and I do feel I owe it to the people I'm photographing. Better equipment extends my reach and depth to a point. As David Ziser puts it, the differences set you apart much more than the samenesses. One other small detail - before any shoot with more than one camera be sure to set the clocks to exactly the same time, so that later on you can sort the photos by time, rather than file name. This will let you have a perfect chronological series of shots, that you can then use as you see fit.
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    • Back to the issue of the XTi and the kits lens combo: It is possible to do professional work with such an outfit, but a lot of shots are either going to be missed or are simply going to be out of the question--no matter how good one is. The simple fact is that one often cannot get enough light with the kit lens, even with the ISO turned up, and it is typically worth the money to spring for at least one fast lens that can save the day and deliver the critical shot without having to resort to a flash. If I had to sacrifice my 5D or my fast lenses, I would sacrifice the 5D--in a heartbeat. --Lannie
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    • Response to Dominic: Yeah, I use my kit lens to shoot weddings, because my Pentax kit lens doesn't SUCK like Nikanons do! And I have a bag full of fast primes. Image stabilized, fast primes. One bag that is nothing but primes.
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    • after all those arguments and contradictions, as a novice, i am more confused about the "machines" and more knowledge about what i most focus on. in the end, all that matters are two things: a) a happy couple with what i present them with; and b) a check in my pocket when i leave. how did i do it and with what? i don`t think they will care and probable... neither do i!!! ...but i used duck tape(joking). it is not important what i have in my hands. what is important, is what it is in front of what i have in those hands.rc.
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    • Very good article. I shoot product photography in studios and some corporate work, and a few weddings as gift for family and friends. Having a consumer camera and kit lens should not hold one back. If your good and well versed, you'll get shots that will please. You see, how can one judge what was never there or happened? I remember many a good shoots with a canon T50 in program. Framing and composition will yield much. Today I shoot with an EOS 1Ds, and a 40D. Both cameras raise some eyebrows, stir attention from the security guards for a press pass, and command more attention -they say "professional". But you can take just as aweful pictures with those as with a basic kit, only in higher resolution of course :) Don't let a basic kit get in the way. Learn to be good at it. Only then can you evaluate any need for an upgrade. Gotta start somewhere. Very nice article, and even more informative thread.
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    • Thank you for a great article. I have had the experience of being brand new in photography, and purchased a canon rebel XT, the kit lens, and some 300 and 500mm lenses off of ebay. I then shot some pictures of a relatives wedding because they could not afford a photographer. I had the nightmare of being in the back of the church with a 300mm F6 lens with large windows behind the bride and groom in a dimly lit church with only on camera flash. The pictures were useable, but only after lots of photoshop work. I graduated to a Nikon D70 (better, but not the best) and some quality lenses (not VR yet). I had sold the canon and the crap lenses and exchanged it for a Nikon SB-800 flash (hard to swallow the price, but wayyyy worth it). I've already taken many more pictures in similar lighting and things turned out better. To other peoples' points about you being able to get good pictures with any equipment; absolutely. Tiger woods will still beat you with wal-mart golf clubs, but he's tiger woods. I think it's the same with camera stuff. A great photographer can take great pictures with a pin hole camera, but would prefer the rig described for sure. It's an eye opener to me about what I may need to be "comfortable" with my equipment so that I can concentrate on taking pictures, not as much about the shortcomings of my equipment. I'll rent what I can't afford right now. Kudos. Andy
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    • Well thought out and well written Josh. I myself (a Nikon girl) know it is alot about the person behind the camera as well as what you have in your hands. You made lots of good points that I have now "bookmarked" this and will be back over and over to read it and study some of these things for the next couple of weeks (till my first wedding ~ eeek). And it is on the BEACH (go figure). Thanks so much for all your support (as always). ~ micki
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    • In general I agree with most of this article, but I think there is far too much emphasis on equipment these days. I used to shoot with Hasselblads back in the film days, but for weddings, I found that my Nikon did just as well. The key to wedding photography is creating images with Impact. Photos that evoke emotion and tell a story. This can be done with most of the mid level cameras on the market today. I have a section on my webpage that talks about this. Its called: "Its the final result that matters."
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    • Who holds the camera is important. But the performance of the camera body itself is certainly not negligible. I started out with manual focus, shooting both small and medium format then went through the AF revolution and am now in the digital realm. When I moved from film bodies (EOS 1's and 3's) to 10Ds and 20Ds I lamented the slow AF and needed to revert to manual focus again (without the benfit of split screens on my OMs an A1s) If you have ever missed a shot due to your 20D/5D/D70/S2 whatever...cameras I have owned and used, you will quickly appreciated the superiority of the AF in the top of the line bodies. If you ever have your mirror fall out during a shoot (5D!) you will appreciate the better build quality of a pro DSLR. If you ever need repair, pro bodies get very quick turn around compared to consumer bodies. In my neck of the woods both Nikon and Canon really treat their pro body users great. If you want high ISOs for available light, the pro bodies again trump the consumer ones. I do a lot of weddings at resorts, where superior sealing from salt and sand are nice to have. So, can you shoot weddings successfully with entry level cameras? Yes. But if you had the choice between using a D3 or 1D mk3 or one of their lesser siblings would you choose the lower spec camera? Honestly 5% of the time I actually would but only if I wanted to be discrete. But the other 95% of the time...are you crazy? Lastly, if you are shooting professionally you sometimes need to look the part. It doesn't make the photos any better but it gives you respect. I shoot a lot of people with rich friends. If I show up with a rebel and kit lens, and they have relatives with big bags of L glass and the latest D3/1D, they will get in my way during the shoot as they will not take me seriously. Your mileage may vary, but I am speaking from the experience of shooting not just 4 or 5 weddings....I do 40-50 weddings per year. Over the years that amounts to 100s of weddings, and travelling worldwide doing it. My couples expect to see well over 1000 images from the day for their selection. (Before I am taken to task as to why so many shots please remember peoples facial expressions have many nuances). That amounts to close to 50,000 exposures per year, perhaps another reason to reconsider not relying on a consumer DSLRs?
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    • Hi I'm not an expert but if you read www.dpreview.com they Highly recommend the Nikon 70-200f.2 vr lens for use with DX format and only recommend with FX format..thought id let you know
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    • Page offers good information and does recommend the best equipment for the job. But of course everyone would like to to be shooting with Canon's or Nikon's flagship everything. It would be nice if this article referenced some of the best price/quality compromises for weddings for those of us who can't afford to take out a loan for photography equipment.
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    • One of the most important, interesting, and helpful articles I have ever read, by far, on this forum! Thank you very much Josh Root!
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    • I agree with the last poster, great article. As a wedding photographer myself, it's important to be prepared. I highly recommend doing a walk through on any location prior to the day of shooting. Even if you find you are short on the correct equiptment, you can often rent the necessary equiptment from a local retailer. That way you don't perform at anything less then your best! Angela
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    • I appreciate that a wedding could be shot with one entry-level DSLR and the kit lens. But. As someone on the other side of the camera recently - if, after I've organised two sets of families and friends to come travel to a wedding from all over the world, the photographer finds that the shutter is jammed or the a memory card slot pin is bent or other somesuch and they don't have any backup.... there could be violence. I would be just as 'joyed' if the camera broke and the photographer then pulled out an disposable camera and told me he only needed two eyes and a brain :)
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    • Overall I'd say this is a good startng point advisory. A few responses to those previously commenting: Yes, of course you CAN shot a wedding with inexpensive equipment and no backups - but it is both shortchanging yourself and your client, not to mention dangerous in terms of backup gear. In the days when I had less expensive equipment I naturally shot the best I could with what I had. Of course, that sometimes didn't work out as well as I'd like; get stuck shooting from a balcony with no flash or tripod allowed (the only way and place the church would allow me to shoot from) with a slow lens and a maximum ISO of 800 and see if equipment doesn't matter; even steadying myself on the balcony rail I got very few usable shots - and did I mention we only had 35 minutes to do all the returns? The 70-200 f2.8 L is worth its weight in gold - just yesterday I had a similar restriction (back pew only, no tripod, no flash) and at ISO 1250 with IS my 5D performed admirably. Having printed them before for comparison I know shots taken at 1250 with my 5D look less noisy than shots with my Nikon D80 did at 800, and the IS will give me far sharper shots. As for brands, well, there's a reason Nikon and Canon are battling for supremacy and those other brands are far behind, and it's not just marketing. On a consumer level they might be fine, but a full-frame DSLR blown up to 16x20 or larger has far less noise than a DX size. Read reviews that do actual tests, not just rewording marketing hype. As I have designed albums using shots from modern Pentax, Olympus, and Sony Alpha cameras, I've had the chance to see and work with digital files from them, and while not terrible they are not up to the "Nikanon" standards for full-frame sensors. Also, if you do need modern accessories with full function, there is a comparative dearth of choices - even aftermarket lens companies often don't make mounts that fit them. As for backups, I really, really wouldn't want to have to tell a bride "Sorry, I have no photos, my camera died." I always carry two 5D bodies with two batteries in each grip plus two spare batteries. One body has the 24-105 f4.0 IS L, the near-perfect all-around lens, ready to capture any surprises. The other rotates lenses between the 70-200 f2.8 IS L, a 16-35 f2.8 L, a Lensbaby 3G, a 50 f1.8 (cheap but sharp & fast, I tried the f1.2 but couldn't justify the $1300 difference), and a Tamron 28-75 f2.8. I never, ever, erase anything from a card until I've backed it up - using BackUp&BurnPro - to three hard drives (all external) plus DVDs. I shoot RAW on 4GB cards, using three to five for a wedding - and alternating cameras, so if a card fails there will be small gaps, not big gaps. I also cannot imagine taking the risk of setting up a laptop and downloading at a wedding and erasing cards onsite - ever hear of a hard drive failure? I have studio lights and Microsync transmitters and I generally leave them behind - in 95% of situations Gary Fong's Lightsphere II system, with assorted domes, covers everything I need with a single flash. On rare occasions I'll use the Microsync to get the flash off the camera for a special effect I can't get by bouncing or reflecting, but mostly I'm more about posing and angles than lighting effects, and my flash is more often fill than the primary source...even using the domes I dial it down 1-1/3 to 2 stops and just kiss away the shadows - I almost always shoot manual. Anyway, I think this article overall is pretty good advice for the beginner shooting for the higher end. Sure, if you're happy shooting for those $600 wedding clientele, then by all means don't spend any more than you have to, but if you hope to make weddings more than a hobby, start here!
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    • Thank you for a very useful article. I would simply like to point out that there is a f2.8 ultra-wide lens for cameras with a crop factor: the Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX 11-16mm F2.8. I just ordered it for my Canon 40D and I'm looking forward to putting it to the test. Dan
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    • To all those who discussed the use of cheaper equipment, I must comment that the reason I got into wedding photography was primarily because of the bad experience I had with my own photographer bringing an XTi with the 18-55 kit lens (not the 18-55 Mark II either). The images were all soft and grainy. Disgustingly poor images to both my wife and I. My best man owns the 5D plus L lenses and he took photos after our formal pictures as well. When you thumb through our album you can immediately tell which photos he took and which were taken by the "pro." We hired another photographer after our wedding to redo all of our bridal portaits and "together shots."

      With all my heart, as a client, husband, and photographer, I can't overstress the use of high quality lenses. It makes a huge impact on the quality of the client's experience.

      If you are using kit-lenses right now, don't assume you'll always have clients that are satisfied with the bare minimum in quality. Give them the best you can. It's not about pride as a photographer, it's about the clients.
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    • Here is what is in MY bag: Leica MP with 35mm/1.4 Summilux ASPH. Nikon F6 with 85mm/1.4, 50mm/1.4 Zeiss, 28mm/2.0 mf lenses. Nikon SB900 Flash units. (backup Leica, primes, flash units). Josh -- tks for the article. very informative.
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    • I don't see much conversation about the battery packs you're using for your flash... any specifics? I've used Quantum's AC and SC... are there better options out there? I've found the AC to be too bulky but the SC on/off switch can be very stubborn and still not recycle as quickly as I want. I'd love to have your input. As for the original article, great job!!!
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    • Between the choice of a studio monolight and a small flash like the SB800 or 580EX there is the medium power strobes by Quantum. The Quantum strobes support iTTL and eTTL so are fully compatible even when used as slaves for Canon or Nikon masters or the SU800 or Canon equivalent. A single Quantum light is more effective than two Nikon or two Canon strobes and much easier to manage. When shooting groups in full sun the Quantum puts out enough power for excellent fill lighting even with 30 people back lit by the sun. There are also excellent soft box options for the Quantum flash units, multiple power pack options, and the best RF control setup available. The Quantum FreeXwire flash triggering system provides full TTL flash at distance of up to 200 yards and does not need to be line of sight. The transmitter can even be used to autofocus and release the shutter on a remote camera and also fire a flash and all that is required is a single additional cable that connects into the Nikon's 10 pin port. In general a much more versatile system than Pocket Wizards provide. Quantum also provides hardware upgrades for its strobes at very reasonable prices so an old strobe can be brought up to the latest technology for 10% of what a new strobe would cost.
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    • Great insight and a very detailed list of equipment needed to professionally shoot weddings. For a professional photographer we can not afford second rate equipment. Nice article!
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    • I was just wondering how William Porter's (the first poster) Pentax equipment is holding up: my last Pentax today still rests under water at Walt Disney World since 2006. It was not a respectable burial at sea, mind you..... I won't buy any camera that doesn't end in its' name with the letter n unless the name begins with a letter L.
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    • Good point that good glass is key to good shots. I used a kit lens with my Canon 40D and wasn't really happy until i upgraded the glass. If you're using a lower line DSLR get the best glass you can afford. What most new photographers don't concentrate most on is good exposure with good lighting. Always bounce the flash off of walls and ceilings when possible to get a nice soft look. I play in a wedding band and a cool effect when shooting my band at weddings is to turn off the flash to capture the color of our stage lighting. We have different color washes from our lights on our band and when the photo captures the stage lights it really looks pro as opposed to just a white light on us from the flash. To see what this looks like without the flash visit our photo gallery on our web page here Houston wedding bands
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    • I have been using my 40d and 18-55mm lens with great success recently. I don't think that it is essential to buy a mega expensive camera unless you really are looking to impress the people you are shooting with the technical spec and price of your gear. Surely it comes down to composition and the couple personal preferences ?
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    • I have been using my 40d and 18-55mm lens with great success recently. I don't think that it is essential to buy a mega expensive camera unless you really are looking to impress the people you are shooting with the technical spec and price of your gear. Surely it comes down to composition and the couple personal preferences ? As a wedding photographer in Dundee I think that it is more about what the client expects from your photos rather than having the best gear on the day. My gear is 40d, 18-55mm lens, 17-85mm lens, 10-20mm lens for fun shots and 50mm prime. ikf i need any more then what is it ?
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    • Great list and great advice. Love the gaffer tape in there. :)

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    • Back in the day, the Sixties, as a local press photographer I shot a few weddings with a Pentax Spotmatic and SMC Takumar 50/1.4 plus a couple of flash units in my pockets  - I am still, today, in 2010 complimented by happy couples on those weddings!

      BTW you needed no batteries except a couple of AA's for the flashes in your pocket. I found it much easier to move around as I didn't have to think of changing lenses or anything like that. I had none to change!

      I only had to remember shutter speed 60th second for the flashes. I also employed Metz Mecablitz with power pack , also a similar old Braun, as time went on and I could afford them.

      Through the years I graduated to a Bronica SQA with a Mamiya 645 outfit ( two backs for each) , with various Nikon, Pentax and Canon  backup 35mm outfits and lenses from time to time .

      The medium format definitely gave much more ' punch' , more '3D' effect in the eventually thirty 10X8 shots selected for the album because of limited depth of field , more' bokeh' I suppose in times before that word was known. I am always glad I went to medium format , so are my thousands of customers through the years!

      The 16X20 for the wall of the couple's new home was a cinch :-)

      Today I believe that you can't photograph a wedding , at least the traditional posed shots, without using film medium format. So I still use the Bronica 6X6  and Mamiya 645. Yes it's done, all digital, to my mind no way as good, as professional, thus you get tons of amateurs today covering weddings.

      But I admit that I DO like a few shots from my 'old' Fuji S2 Pro, I employ Sony Alpha plus Panasonic Lumix Leica 12X as well for candids.

      I only ever found myself, through 44 years of wedding, using a wide angle for The Big Group.  Possibly a wide angle on the Bronica for a shot of the entire church of the Bride & Groom on the altar from the organ loft , always hand-held - I could handhold the Bronica on 1/15th second on 100 ASA . Despite being 63 now I can still do that. ( depending on what they're paying!)

      But no matter what the DSLR , I still see digital wedding prints as flimsy , not 'solid' as in film , but the almost ephemeral immaterial quality of digital prints does suit some portraits of the Bride, and Bride & Groom, the romantic moments together.  

      And I have always seen a massive problem for a photographer at weddings if a rich guest has the same main shooting camera ( or better!)  as the professional photographer , as cited in an above entry.

      My big tank of a Bronica SQA with bellows lens shade on tracks and Metz Mecabitz 45CL has seen that this never happened to me!

      Semi-retired today, the sight of me laden down with two medium formats, four film SLR's , three digital cameras, and several lenses plus flash units , like a heavy infantryman in a war zone, makes certain that it doesn't!

      I need no bag, I have big bulging pockets!

      In my day the Happy Couple got about 60 or 70 postcards to view, 30 were selected for the album, one to 16X20 for the wall. ( Bigger if they wished , off the Bronica) .

      And as I work in Ireland, mainly therefore in Catholic churches, flash in churches was, and is, no problem, ever. In fact I always 'stalked' around the altar, and took the Placing of Rings usually standing beside the priest!  No problem whatsoever - whatever one may thing about the Catholic Church, it is always very broadminded and liberal and accommodating here in Ireland in such matters. Most Protestant ministers, therefore, are as well.  

      Photographing Confirmation ceremonies with the Bishop, I actually place my lights on the altar, he sits in front of it, and I shoot every kid being confirmed as he gives them the slap in the face, confirming them  as the ceremony takes progresses. ( Video men, hired by the Parish Priest,  actually take over the pulpit!) .

      I have made a lot of money from Confirmations over the years, I still do, I don't think it's as big an event outside of Ireland in the UK or USA. I enjoy it more than w wedding as a community day of celebration where as many as 400 families are involved.

      In the huge dioceses of the USA in particular, you could be working and earning nicely almost every day of the year on Confirmations rather than jostling for a wedding business that is disappearing fast , thanks to Digital, thanks to a relation or guest having a Nikon D3, or more likely a Nikon D90 or a Canon 7D ( fab camera for a Digital, ergonomically perfect !) .

      It could only happen in Ireland:-)

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    • Here in Kilkenny, Ireland, I fell in with the local Bishop over 30 years ago ( though I'm not a practicing Catholic) and I have never looked back through three bishops since.  

      Basically all you have to do is email your local Bishop for the Diocesan Confirmations List around now each year.

      Better to hop around and see him , get to know him ( they can be lonely and love to see you!)  - that way I have Bishops posing with each family involved in the Confirmation for an hour after the ceremony is over- with an Assistant to the side , taking payment for each order in advance , issuing receipts.

      You need an Assistant who can come to the fore as a sales person too directing families into you ( and the Bishop) when your Assistant is not busy taking money.  She acts like an attacking back in soccer!

      Your Assistant should also be a good driver as you organise yourself in the car on the way to the church for the ' Confo' , and as you drive back home or to the Studio laden with money , remembering and checking orders immediately afterwards.

      Yes , it's sweat - you're fit to collapse after an hour of it , as families tend to rush you and the Bishop altogether. I try to use medium format all the way through with a stack of loaded backs ready , today I tend to' machine-gun' a medium format, but it's worth it if you can sell 16x20's afterwards.

      Otherwise 35mm  for 10X8's , do not do any other sizes or your Order Book will get confused, a Digital is no help  especially as you do not get a second to look at the screen!

      Your Assistant has to get down all names, addresses and amounts paid, as you won't always get the full sum , but deposits.

      Show up at the church an hour before to canvass all the families going in. With samples. Work every day as you wait for the weddings to come in , they probably won't now that everybody has a good digital.

      ( Do the same for First Holy Communions! ) .

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    • I do not think Josh's intention was to disregard the people shooting kit lenses and XTIs. Matter of fact all of you XTI owners that were offended at this notion took it horribly wrong, you've done great with your XTI and kit lens, so he's trying to show the next step. Obviously he isn't preaching to the people who own 2.8 zooms and\or 1.8 or 1.4 prime lens trios, he's talking to you XTI + kit owners who have already done well with what you have. Is that because your kit lens and XTI is of poor quality? Heavens no, haven't you already proved what that you can take good pictures with it? But now as you grow as a photographer, you will be limited by what your XTI and kit lens can give you, so Josh is trying to help you see where to go next. Its very, very true that an XTI can take excellent images, as can the kit lens. There limitations are documented fact though, that doesn't mean you can't find a creative solution, it means your options are limited. As two old phrases go, there is more than one way to skin a cat, and never ever give up, so anyone with a XTI and a kit lens can certainly take great photographs, even in challenging situations, which may involve something crazy like pulling a roll of paper towels out and lighting it on fire to get a shot (based on a true story). Even if you are very creative as the past example to burn a roll of paper towels to light a scene, it doesn't mean you don't need better gear. You still need the creativity, but faster glass or better bodies will give you more options with your burning paper towels than just an XTI and kit lens. Does it mean now you are a better photographer? No. Does it mean you can turn your brain off and the camera will shoot itself just because you bought a D3s\1DmkIV? No. It means when your brain comes up with that wonderful creative idea to capture a couple's union, in that creative moment you will have more ways of shooting than you did previously, especially in difficult situations in which certain gear may provide your only reasonable option in a pinch (notice I said certain, not expensive, it might be the 50 F/1.8 that costs less than your kit lens that gets you out of a pinch even fancy 2.8 lenses couldn't provide options for)

      Its food for thought.

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    • Pentax Equipment:

      Firstly good article Josh. There should be no offence by readers for Josh to only recommending 'Canikon' brand gear, as the majority of photographers use those brands and for the purposes of the article it would get cumbersome listing every brand.

      Secondly I would like to add to William Porter’s view (first post) on Pentax equipment now that we are 4 years and 3 camera bodies in technological terms removed from his well written response.

      I also use Pentax gear and they make some great equipment as an alternative to Canikon brands. For those that are interested, here is a list of what gear I use and carry to shoot a Wedding and why. I with natural light and don’t use flash.

      Bodies:

      2 x Pentax K-5’s

      2 Bodies like others have mentioned are necessary. I can have two different lenses on the go at any time without the need to change lenses too often. The K-5 is 16 megapixel (plenty) with shake reduction built into the body so all your lenses become VR-IS lenses. The k-5 also has ISO expandable from 80 to 51200! Although at the high end over 6400 ISO it can be grainy but still coverts to black and white well. I don’t use flash and they work well for me.

      - I also have my old Pentax K20D as a backup in the car although touch wood I haven’t needed it before.

      Zoom Lenses

      I use Tamron zooms and Pentax primes. I looked into all the Pentax and Sigma zoom options but chose Tamron zoom lenses. They are more affordable than pentax and make some great F2.8 zooms that are sharp and reliable. I have the 70-200mm on one body most of the time and interchange the others on the second body.

      Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 (IF)LD XR Di2 SP
      Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 (IF)LD XR Di2 SP Macro
      Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 (IF)LD Di SP Macro

      I’m happy with all of these lenses. The 28-75 is an excellent lens with very good edge to edge sharpness and is very under-rated. The zoom overlap I have between the 3 means I have everything covered. I also carry a Sigma 10-20mm super wide lens in the backup bag just in case ( large groups shots etc) but very rarely use it at weddings.

      Prime Lenses

      I use my 50mm f1.4 on one body as my walk around lens on one body at the reception especially when it’s usually darker, sometimes at the ceremony too if required. The other two lenses I use more seldom or selectively but I always carry them as backup lenses should one of my zooms malfunction/fail. The 50mm and 100mm FA lenses I bought second hand too.

      Pentax FA smc  50mm f1.4 (a little ‘soft’ but great in low light)
      Pentax DA smc  40mm f2.8 limited. (The sharpest lens I own)
      Pentax FA smc  100mm f2.8 macro. (Good for shots of the rings etc)

      Extras

      I have battery grips on both K-5 bodies which gives me plenty of battery to shoot all day. They also house my extra memory cards. There for in total for the two bodies I carry 4 battery packs and 6 x 8GB memory cards.

      I also carry a tripod for group photos mainly but rarely use it at the ceremony. I find them clumsy, non discrete and limiting to me moving around.

       

      Well that’s my take on Pentax equipment as a great alternative for Wedding Photography. Good equipment with good specs and can be a lot easier on the wallet to boot.

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    • Speaking of Pentax I didn't see anyone mentionning the 645d. I'm into street photography so to me the small yet rugged K5 makes a lot of sense. Lower price means I also feel more comfortable going anywhere without fearing too much losing my body.

      But if I'm gonna rent better gear for a wedding I'd go for the really bigger sensor with high quality glass and still use the K5 with fast primes for evening shoots.

      Any thoughts on that?

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    • Hi Frederic,

      I've had a play with a 645D and although they are quite user friendly and a current digital pentaxian will quickly get used to the controls I would still find it quite awkward to use at a wedding. For me it would be too large to lug around and maybe a little daunting for the people being photographed. I feel I also achieve plenty of detail in my photos with the K5.

      Since you've brought up the topic of fast primes, well since contributing my thoughts on shooting with pentax gear last year I now seldom use the zooms at all. I've since purchased the range of pentax limited primes and I absolutely love them. In fact with my last two weddings I've only used primes. 

      For the ceremony and couple photos I used mainly the 70mm f2.4 limited and the 21mm f3.2 limited both mounted on K5's.

      I have the 40mm f2.8 for in between range if required and still use the 100mm macro for ring, flowers and details photos and the 50mm f1.4 for the reception in lower light.

      I carry the whole lot in a Kata waste pack for easy access and use them as required.

      The 70mm is just devine. Its now easily my favourite lens. Its ridiculously sharp, its fast and the bokeh is smooth as butter. I'll post some photos when I get the chance.

       

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    • I am Not elitist, I am a struggling wedding photographer I have been for 25 yrs, what I would like to focus on is I started with film and moved into digital. people who think they can take just one or even two cameras to a wedding are at one point going to disapoint a bride and groom and get sued for more than the wedding was paid to you, sometimes triple depending on the area. I have had FIVE camera bodies stop working on me as well as two L series lenes during weddings the lower cost the camera eqipment the higher rate of failure (from my experiance). you don't have to own top of the line (however it makes a hard job that much easier) but own at least three bodies and three lenses. You are looking at a one time event you have one shot that is it!!!!!!! p.s When I first started weddings by myself I was so concerned that I would have bad dreams about not having my gear during a wedding as it was happening!!!!!!!!!! but good luck with ONE camera and ONE lens on such an important event.

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    • I agree with you Mitchel.

      Shooting a Wedding with only one body is a distaster waiting to happen. Two bodies always gives the photographer more scope for creativity and flexibility with two different lenses. And as you've pointed out if one fails you can still get some great shots with the other body albeit with more lens swapping at times.

      As far as a third body goes, well its possible that two bodies fail I guess but where do you draw the line? Just in case my third body fails I better get a fourth? Myself I carry an "older" spare body in the car for piece of mind but I think two new / well looked after bodies are enough.

      I have had one body "freeze up" on me before right during the ceremony and I managed to shoot through with the other body. Thankfully with a few spare few seconds a quick remove/refit of the battery solved the issue. (My mind was already focussed on which lens I was going to primarily shoot with, thankfully it didn't matter). I guess what it comes down to is being prepaired for anything. For me that means two bodies and 6 lenses is plenty. For some that might be three bodies and 3 lenses always fitted. But one body with one lens does scare me... a lot.

      But again Mitchel you make a good point in that anyone looking at shooting weddings should be not only confident in their skill level but also well equipped to ensure that they can provide the wedding couple the photographs that they expect for their big day.

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    • Very nice article. I still use 2 x Bronica ETRSi Systems for my weddings with a selection of lenses. As back up I have a Nikon F4s with a few nice prime lenses and a spare speedlight.

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    • I fully and completely agree with the comments by Dennis! Photography is all about light and how you - the photographer - use it to create an image. I dare to say that a good to great photographer could shoot a wedding with a Argus C 3 and get stunning results. Too many photographers - wedding and otherwise - are gadget freaks. Leave the gadgets in the store and focus on the craft.

      PS - I regularly use an Argus C 3 I picked up at a flea market for $5.00 bucks. It came with the 3 kit lenses, bulb flash and the leather cases. It might be old, but it's mighty! Using it has helped me immensely with my digital photography and made me an infrequent user of Photoshop. Get it right on the camera the first time! 

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    • I think you stress too much the pro bodies and back-up bodies without considering the business point of view. I use an older d700 with even older lenses and they work out very well. Here's my site.

       

      Telling people to spend 5K on a top of the line body and another 5K on the latest lenses, isn't wise if you wanna run a profitable business.

       

      Even if you rent gear, how much are you spending each time you shoot a wedding: 100-200 usd per body, another 50-100 usd per lens, lighting on top of that... Are you making any profit at all? 

       

      Also, shooting weddings with equipment you're not familiar with - that is the case with rented equipment - is a path to disaster.

       

      Just saying that older gear deserves credit and that you should look further than the latest & greatest from nikon or canon.

       

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    • Oops!  The D750 has a full-frame sensor.  I think you meant the D7200.  In principle the D750 would be a good full-frame choice both in terms of value and low-light performance.  Hopefully this comment will quickly be rendered irrelevant by a correction.

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    • Nikon's "entry-level" full-frame (FX) body deserves a mention: the D610. I haven't used one, but I don't see why it couldn't serve as an adequate backup to another full frame Nikon DSLR.

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    • I stopped wedding photography in 1996, after a very active career that begun in 1977. Won 3x the Dutch Kodak wedding award ;-) So I hope my two pennies of advice are taken a little serious:
      Travel light ! Do not indulge in endless loads of gear. Analise your shooting practise and focus on what you like to use instead of what others tell you to carry. Less gear makes better photos.
      BUT: Use top equipment , do not play games with the couple in using cheap gear. Carry at least a spare camera (can be a very good point and shoot ... just in case). Carry a spare flash (can be a small one that just can handle the job) , learn to look at your flash intensity while taking photos and realise a low intensity flash from a softened flash head is enough for every situation, carry a flash extension cable and hold the flash in your free hand where ever you like 'top, bottom , left , right etc. , do not bother about complicated flash handle bar brackets - waisting your and the couple's time. Carry more batteries as that you need.
      Now my most secret tips:
      Carry a sheet of dense foam for the bride to sit on - keeps her bum clean & carry a white umbrella or two for when the rain or dust or sun or privacy needs that 'out of the blue' , for years I had a white 'double' umbrella soooo popular but never could find another one - Carry a bottle of mineral water for the couple : keeps them alert.
      happy shooting ;-)

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    • Thank you, Bill De Jager! You are quite right and the error has now been corrected.

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    • According to the terms of the insurance policy you recommend, the theft of equipment cited in the article (in the paragraph on the importance of insurance) would not be covered:

      - Theft and mysterious disappearance claims are covered as long as there are signs of forced entry.

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    • Wedding photography is 80% diplomacy, 20% technology.  Yes, buy the best equipment you can afford, and carry backups for both camera and flash equipment, but realize that most wedding pictures are taken from about 15 feet, which is what an old Box Brownie snapshot camera was designed for.  Beginning photographers worry too much about having the "right" cameras.

      Brian Gordon

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    • It's the singer, not the song-Mick Jagger

      I've shot weddings with an M3 and a 50. I've shot weddings with a 'Blad. I've shot weddings with an A1 and a bag full of lenses.

      Modestly, they all turned out well. Must not have been the equipment.

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    • My partner has been shooting weddings for 20 years. She bought a D700 with a 24-70 and that was it. I know that people say more pixels is necessary. Its just not true. She ends up cropping most of the shots and even the leading picture printed to A3 has more than enough detail.  You could buy that gear used for $1500.

      She purchased a used D7000 and an 18-200 as a backup a year ago thinking she was tempting fate. I bought that gear in March. She replaced it with a Sony RX10 with the amazing 24-600 stabilized lens. Now thats her primary camera. Keeping all this in the family means that she has a double backup if needed.

      I'm not sure if you have what we call "all risks" insurance over there. Its a policy that literally insures your gear for any mishap or adverse event. No exclusions. You can buy that cover with a public liability component. Thats what she has.

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