The type of cameras you should have to shoot a wedding, the myriad of lenses that should be in your bag and the lighting accessories required for a wedding day. This is not one of them.
Beyond the equipment, there are some critical “must-haves” that sometimes get overlooked when packing your gear in preparation to shoot a wedding. Here are the things that every wedding photographer should have on the wedding day.
Here’s a basic rundown of what you’ll need to take your wedding photography to new dimensions or to fill in the gaps in your present outfit.
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Upper-tier, full-frame DSLRs such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Nikon D850, and Nikon D750 are the cameras of choice for most experienced wedding photographers.
Their larger sensors deliver superior definition, detail, and sharpness, permit a greater degree of enlargement or cropping without loss of image quality, and provide outstanding performance at high ISO settings, allowing higher shutter speeds and reduced depth of field, creating striking pictorial effects.
Other advantages are rugged body construction, reliability under extreme use, superior weather sealing, advanced multi-zone autofocus (AF) and auto-exposure (AE) systems, Full 1080p HD video capability at a variety of framing speeds, and availability of high-end accessories, such as power grips and battery packs.
Many leading wedding pros also use upper-and middle-tier APS-C-format DSLRs, such as the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Nikon D500, and Sony Alpha a77 II primary or backup cameras. With image sensors that range from 16MP on up, they deliver sufficient image quality for wedding applications. When using your full-frame lenses, they provide a more extended reach by a factor of 1.5X or 1.6x (Canon), albeit with reduced wide-angle coverage.
Variety of Lenses: Faster is Better
After the camera, the second most important item is having a variety of lenses to choose from. For weddings, you’ll need to carry a wide-angle lens, a zoom lens, a portrait lens and any specialty lenses you think you’ll need or that fits with your style.
For instance, you may want to bring a fisheye lens if you know that you will be in a beautiful church or a tight spot. You may opt for a macro lens for close up shots of small details on the wedding dress, bouquet, or shoes. You’ll probably also want to bring a prime lens with a large aperture to get a nice bokeh effect.
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Lighting Makes the Difference
Many wedding pros pack four or more flash units in their bags for multiple lighting setups, but the bare minimum is two high-powered dedicated flash units plus a backup, either to use as a spare or for three-light portrait setups.
Small Location Monolights and LEDs
Monolights are high-powered flashes with built-in modelling lights, and the kits include one or more heads plus reflectors and a battery pack. Some photographers use two or more moonlight AC units for formal portraits or light up a dance floor. LEDs are versatile continuous light sources that can also be used for stills or video and have the bonuses of being energy efficient and cooler than hot light sources.
Flash Brackets let you position the light high enough above the lens to drop shadows behind the subject for a more professional, natural look while still allowing you to hold the flash and camera as a well-balanced, easily manageable unit.
Some allow you to position the camera vertically or horizontally on a rotating platform, a plus when shooting portraits.
Wireless Radio Slaves
Radio slaves are convenient because they let you sync multiple flash setups, trigger flashes, and fire cameras remotely. Some are simple triggers; others provide i-TTL or E-TTL flash control with dedicated speed lights. Non-TTL systems are generally used with a light meter offering flash-metering capability, such as the Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR-U, which can connect to Pocket Wizard units to control the power of your flashes using PocketWizard ControlTL technology.
Light Diffusers and Modifiers
Diffusers and light modifiers can make a real difference in achieving a soft, natural-looking light that flatters your subjects. Some also provide a range of stunning colour effects. There’s an incredible variety of umbrellas, reflectors, diffusers, and modifiers on the market.
High-Speed, High-Capacity Memory Cards
4K video is now the norm, along with continuous shooting rates in excess of 10 fps, meaning you will need fast, large memory cards to secure that data. For SD cards, the most common format, we would recommend UHS-II cards rated for U3 speeds if you shoot stills. This ensures the fastest write times and makes it faster to transfer to a computer via a card reader.
Extra Memory Cards
Always carry extra memory cards with you. In the span of a few hours, you’ll likely take thousands of shots, so come prepared with as many blank memory cards as you can.
Extra Batteries: Be Prepared!
Battery grips are dedicated accessories that provide extra battery capacity for shooting many more frames per charge and also have a secondary set of controls (including a second well-positioned shutter release) that makes shooting verticals much more convenient.
Be sure to pack at least one extra set of fully charged batteries or a power pack (or more than one of each) capable of powering every battery-powered device in your kit, including cameras, flash units, lighting equipment, wireless remotes, and flashlights. Power packs also provide faster recycling times, a big plus when shooting action. Make sure to pack the proper cables for each battery pack.
Tripods and Monopods: Stability Equals Sharpness
Experienced wedding photographers include a sturdy middleweight tripod and a monopod in their kit. There’s no better way to ensure crisp images when you’re relying on natural light and have to shoot at slow shutter speeds. Monopods combine increased stability with increased mobility, a real plus at wedding venues.
A tripod will come in handy for the ceremony, especially if you’re working with low light and you need to reduce camera shake as much as possible.
You may also want to pack a monopod or selfie stick to use for getting overhead shots or difficult angles at the wedding venue.
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Super Clamps: Hold those Lights and Cameras in Place
Super clamps are super because they’ll hold cameras, lights, and practically anything else in place securely without requiring an assistant, and they can often be affixed to a handy banister, railing, or table edge, so you won’t need to deploy an extra light stand or tripod. Typical uses are: holding a remotely triggered camera in place in the chapel balcony; positioning a spotlight, key, or hair light while you concentrate on composing the shot; securing lights or flash units above the corners of a dance floor to achieve wide-area coverage.
Now that we’ve covered the essential gear you need in your camera bag for wedding photography let’s talk about the bag itself. For wedding photography, you’ll find that an ordinary bag isn’t going to cut it, and you’ll need to invest in a good camera bag.
This is a very personal choice, and you should pick the case that suits you best. Just make sure your chosen bag has defined areas for each of your gear, so it’s convenient when you need it.
Wedding pros employ a wide variety of carrying gear methods, including lens bags, cases for flash packs, light stands, accessories, and different sizes of task-oriented cases, camera shoulder bags, and backpacks for carrying what they need on location. What works for you largely depends on your workflow, the venue, and whether you’re working with an assistant.
Essentials for Every Wedding Photographer On the Wedding Day (Besides Equipment)
Good Communication Skills
Make sure that before a wedding day you’ve discussed with the bride and groom their expectations as well as yours. I send out a multi-page questionnaire with my contract that asks for the names of all the vendors, bridal party, parents, and special issues regarding families that I should know about. (I’d rather know that Mom and StepMom don’t get along before the punches start flying when you try to get them in a “one big happy family” photo).
In the questionnaire, I also ask the bride to circle adjectives about the feel of her wedding day and her style to know her personality and expectations a little better.
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Introducing yourself to all the wedding vendors that day also is a proactive way to help things run smoothly. Not only does it make life easier if you all work together, but there’s also always the possibility of future weddings together and referrals as well. It always makes the job more fun when you enjoy the people you work with, and photography is no different.
- The Coordinator: The first person I usually introduce myself to the wedding coordinator (or the person in charge of the venue if there isn’t a coordinator). They can help make the day run seamlessly and figure out how to sneak your couple away during the reception for those awesome sunset photos.
- The Videographer: The videographer is also an important person to befriend as they will be right by your side almost the entire day, and you will most likely get into each others’ shots at numerous points throughout the day.
- The Officiant: Before the ceremony, I also pull the officiant aside and ask him if he has any restrictions or instructions for me (which in the light of this recent viral wedding video when the officiant interrupts the ceremony to tell off the photographers, is an excellent idea). At this time, I request that when the officiant pronounces the couple as husband and wife and allows them to have their first kiss, he moves to one side to get a great shot of my bride and groom.
- The DJ: The DJ is usually super cool about helping you work with the schedule for the remainder of the day especially giving you warnings about surprise speeches during your dinner break when you’re trying to shovel a plate of food in your mouth in 60 seconds or less.
- Everyone Else: I also make sure I introduce myself to the banquet/catering manager, florist and make-up artist as they are a good source of referrals for future weddings.
One last thing about communication, make sure you have tact. At times you’ll need to be firm (and a little bossy to corral all the family members for the formal portraits), and other times, you’ll need to use tact (so you can politely ask the man that keeps jumping in front of you to get the shot, to move…or else).
You would never forget your backup camera and lenses for a wedding day, but here are some things you might not think to pack:
- Snacks: Every wedding season, I lose about 5lbs. Besides chasing the bride everywhere, I usually don’t get to eat lunch, and I have a rapid-fire dinner at about 9 pm during the reception. I survive wedding season on protein bars, almonds and whatever food I can shovel into my mouth in about 5 minutes.
- A Change of Clothes: As a photographer, I could sometimes double as a gymnast, contorting my body in strange yoga positions to get the shot. Other times, there are wardrobe malfunctions, and sometimes one could fall into a murky swamp-like body of water (That’s only happened once. Okay. Maybe twice).
- A Wooden Hanger: How many times, while you are doing the detail shots, have you gone to hang up a wedding gown only to find that it is resting on an ugly plastic hanger? Throw a few wood hangers in your trunk, and voila, a nice hanger every time.
- Lately, brides have been providing their customised hangers, which adds a nice touch.
- An Emergency Kit: When you’re surrounded all day by gaggles of bridesmaids and other ladies, you’ll find that Kleenex is usually needed, along with blotting paper, scissors, double-sided tape, a little sewing kit and breath mints. Sometimes the coordinator has one, but if you’re prepared, you can be the hero.
- Ear Plugs: Receptions can be a lot of fun. Shooting people get crazy on the dance floor that is partying it up. Many times though, I find myself in front of speakers (and sometimes on top of speakers), and it can get very, very loud. Doing that almost every weekend is detrimental to your hearing (and probably your sanity).
Whether there is a coordinator or not, I always send a wedding day photography schedule for the bride and groom about a month before the big day. On it lists everyone that I am expecting for pictures (by name if possible – I ask for a list of essential people for portraits in my questionnaire).
I ask the bride and groom to send this list out to everyone on the schedule to know where they are supposed to be at what time. Then I practice being flexible.
If it’s a venue I’ve never been to before, I try to visit before the wedding day or a few hours before my scheduled start time to scout out epic places to shoot.
Choosing the right wedding photographer in Melbourne to capture every moment on your wedding day.
A Solid Contract
It seems like everyone is lawsuit happy, and you must protect yourself and your business. Make sure your contract is solid, and review it often to make revisions as necessary. I’d advise having a lawyer look over it just in case. Here is a template to help you get started.
An Assistant or Second Shooter
I always, always shoot with a second shooter, just in case. One time my camera failed right as the bride and groom were walking into the reception hall and their first dance. My backup gear was across the room. Unable to get to it in time, I looked at my second shooter, and she saved the day. A second shooter is also handy to help get detail shots or candid moments that you might miss. It’s also fun to have someone work with you throughout the day and provide an extra set of hands and eyes when needed.
Weddings are vibrant and full of emotions, making it all too easy to have a purely romantic view of the day. For the couple and guests, that is very true. However, if you are a supplier on the day, it can be a very different experience. All the more if you are the wedding photographer! The pressure is on, and you have a huge responsibility to capture the day.
When you first begin photographing weddings, it is crucial to love weddings and a connection to the occasion. If you hate weddings – which some people do – I suggest you steer clear of wedding photography. It is also beneficial to have a creative eye. If you lack both, it will be apparent in the images you capture. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.
When starting as a wedding photographer, it is pretty understandable that you may not have the full arsenal of cameras, lenses, flashes, etc. Often we start with only the essential equipment in our bag and plenty of creativity (and for some, a healthy dose of confidence).
If you consider being a wedding photographer and exploring what you can achieve with a basic kit, this article is best for you.