KIT + EQUIPMENT
It's actually not *much* about the kit that you have.. and it's true that 'the best camera is the one you have on you'. As much as Uncle Bob* would like to believe it's all about how big your telephoto lens is or how many megapixels your camera has, it's really not about those things. Saying that, it is important to be prepared, it's important to have kit and back up kit, and you need to ensure you're working responsibly. I shoot Canon, but I'll try and talk in more general terms about what kit I would recommend you have and how you can work professionally with what you have in your camera bag and what you use at home.
*Someone at a wedding, usually a family member, who fancies themselves as a decent photographer. Bob will usually have brought a huge camera along, can be found hanging around / walking into your shot / stealing your shot / asking about megapixels. Also goes by Auntie Roberta. "There was a terrible Uncle Bob at Saturday's wedding. He stepped out into the aisle and ruined my shot at the end of the ceremony."
WHAT DO I NEED IN MY CAMERA BAG?
It depends what you're shooting, but we'll talk about that further down. The first thing to consider is responsible working. I know that it's difficult when you're starting and you don't necessarily have hundreds and thousands to spend on every piece of kit that you'd like.. but you really have to ask yourself what you'd do if a piece of kit failed on the day of a wedding or a shoot. Would you be able to carry on? If the answer is 'no' then you have to remedy it and fill the gaps.
I've had kit fail at weddings, I've had a camera fail when the bride was walking down the aisle, I had one of my lenses stop auto-focusing, and I had one of my memory cards corrupt with images on it from the bride and groom's portrait session when I got it home that night. My couples were never told, they never found out and they never noticed because I had enough back up kit that I could smoothly cover their day - maybe in a slightly different way than I'd hoped - and I covered myself each time by what was in my camera bag.
I'm going to break it down into primary kit and secondary kit - the bare minimum that you need, and then how you can flesh it out.
2 X CAMERA BODIES
A PRIME LENS FOR LOW LIGHT (IDEALLY 35MM OR WIDER)
A TELEPHOTO/ZOOM LENS (IDEALLY COVERING 85MM OR MORE)
A BACK UP LENS OF YOUR CHOICE (EVEN AN INEXPENSIVE 50MM WOULD DO)
A MINIMUM OF 5 BATTERIES
ENOUGH MEMORY CARDS TO SHOOT A WEDDING TWICE OVER (YES, REALLY)
AT LEAST ONE FLASH GUN
A WIDER VARIETY OF LENSES
A BACK UP FLASH GUN
- I talk in-depth about what exactly I take to weddings and portrait shoots below -
WHAT ABOUT THE CAMERA BAG ITSELF?
I've had a variety of camera bags over the years, and it depends what suits you, but the one I have now saves my back (my camera bag weighs about 12kg when it's fully packed) and I recommend it to everyone. I used to use a boxy satchel bag for weddings which I loved but my shoulders didn't, and now I use a Venque CamPro and a Lowepro Passport Bag for shorter shoots (links at the bottom of the page).
The Venque bag has padded sections for bodies and lenses, smaller pockets for flash triggers, an area for cards and batteries, it fits a laptop in the padded back section, has a zipped area for personal items and it fits as your hand luggage when you travel. In short (and obviously), I love it.
You don't need to go for something similar - work out how you shoot and what suits the way you work. Some photographers bring wheeled small suitcases padded with kit to weddings and leave them in the car or hidden at the venue and carry a smaller bag themselves as the day goes on - it's whatever works.
Be careful about leaving your kit or camera bag out - it's unfortunately not uncommon for kit and camera bags to be stolen or go missing at weddings. Be aware of your surroundings and how safe your kit is at all times.
BUILDING KIT AND HIRING KIT
I know it's hard when you're starting out and all the gear you want just seem so expensive and so much to shell out in one go. I really do believe though that you owe it to yourself and your clients to work responsibly and carry backed up kit; if needs must, then there are ways around it when you can't afford everything in the early days.
I'm going to assume you have a DSLR body, and maybe an affordable but decent starting lens like a 50mm f1.8 (personally, I wouldn't bother shooting anything you're being paid for with a kit lens, but it could be useful as a back up at the beginning). If I could invest in one more lens on top of that I would make it a 35mm prime, f1.4 if you can afford it, but f2 for now if you can't. It's a solid and reasonably wide lens that should cover you as you build your kit. I worked with a 35mm f2 and a 50mm f1.8 set up for a good few months at one point as I was saving for the next lens, and even after I upgraded to the 35mm f1.4 I kept the other 35mm in my camera bag at all times as my new back up. I would strongly recommend having at least one good prime lens in your bag for low-light shooting. I shot entire weddings at one point in the early days on a 35mm f2 and it's totally do-able, not ideal, but do-able. I've included a few examples below.
You need a back up camera body. Even if you borrow or hire one for a wedding, even if you never need to get it out of your back, you just can't turn up to a wedding without a back up camera. Don't do it. If the worst happened and your only camera failed, what do you do? Also, your couple would be pretty pissed off (rightly so)and you could get into all kinds of trouble..
You can hire kit that you don't yet have - it's affordable and a way for you to get around the initial costs of buying kit. Also when you're still building your kit, don't worry if your two cameras are the same spec or if one is a much better camera than the other. Just make your best camera your main camera for the day and have the other as a secondary camera with lenses on that you're like to use less during the day. Having two cameras, even if they are different, is better than having one with no back up.
In the early days, I had a Nikon D90 and then changed over to Canon and bought a 5Dmkii - not ideal at all, I couldn't switch lenses between cameras, the images needed different editing to make them all look consistent in the set, the camera controls were different.. but it was still better than a one camera set up; and as soon as I could I bought another body and made the full change to Canon. Do what you have to do as you build, but be responsible.
PRIME LENSES VS ZOOM LENSES
Eventually you may use both, but in some circumstances you'll pick one up over the other for a variety of reasons.
Best for when you can't move much but want a range of shots - i.e. ceremony / speeches
Often zooming is faster than 'focusing with your feet'
Best for shooting without flash in low light
Shallow depth of field + lovely quality for portraits
Generally sharper images
CAMERA HARNESSES / STRAPS
After years of a bad back and one shoulder always being much more sore than other other after a wedding, I invested in a camera harness which helps spread the weight across my back and both shoulders evenly. One of the most popular and well-known harnesses is the Holdfast Money Maker which is a company based in America, I found a very similar one called a Blackhold from Brazil which was much cheaper, and my friends recently found another company in Belgium producing the same sort of harness which was cheaper still. I'd hugely recommend investing in a strap that helps your back - cameras with lenses and flash units are heavy things to be carrying around all day.
OTHER WORKING EQUIPMENT
A laptop at least, and a desktop ideally. You'll find working with a desktop, generally, a lot quicker; and speed is everything when you're powering through thousands of images each day. Personally I'm a huge Apple fan (Apple wanker) and have a MacBook for working on the go and an iMac for most of my editing; but whatever system works for you is fine. I have Lightroom on both, as well as various other softwares that aren't strictly as necessary but can make things easier for different things (more on software below).
In my set up, to cover everything, I also have various chargers for camera batteries, rechargeable AA battery chargers for flash units, a printer/scanner and hard-drives for backing up. You may also need SD/CF card readers for backing up, depending on whether your laptop or desktop has a built-in slot for plugging cards in.
RESPONSIBLE WORKING - HARDDRIVES AND BACK UPS
I know I've banged on about this already (a few times), but it's hugely important to work responsibly. You could end up in real trouble, even court, with clients if you don't take care and work as professionally as possible. From backing up images to carrying spare equipment (above) - please consider if you're doing everything you can be to work as responsibly as possible.
You must back up everything you shoot at least twice. I use a system of paired hard drives, meaning that I have duplicate hard drives which are identical to each other in content, and I back up RAW files as well as processed files on them and keep them updated with my latest work and files at all times. (This also helps keep your desktop clear, and therefore helps your computer run quicker as you only have on there what you're currently editing or working on). I keep these hard drives separate from each other - if (touch wood) anyone were to break in and steal my computer equipment, it would make things a lot easier for me knowing that I still have my files somewhere else on another drive. I also back up high resolution processed files on my client galleries, which I pay monthly for. It adds another layer of cloud back up.
I talk in more depth about this in trick 'Working Responsibly'
KIT FOR WEDDINGS
Below is what I typically take to weddings, this is based on how I shoot and work, and my own experience. Other photographers will take their on combination of kit that they find works for them - there's not right and wrong answer as long as you're covering yourself with what you need to work well.
2 x Canon 6D bodies
Sigma Art Wide Angle 24mm f1.4 Lens
Sigma 35mm f1.4 Lens
Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art Lens
Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art Lens
2 x Canon Speedlite 430 EX II Flash Units
6 Canon camera batteries
12 rechargeable AA batteries (for Flash Units)
2 x Yongnuo Wireless Flash Triggers
Enough SD memory cards to shoot a wedding twice over.
I find that this set up works for me. How exactly I work evolves all the time and also changes seasonally. During the Winter months I'm pushed to use my prime lenses more because of the low light, depending on where I'm shooting I may need different lenses depending on the circumstances there.. but this full set of kit is always in my camera bag on a wedding day. I'm covered for kit failing, I have more than enough batteries and SD cards that I'll never run out of power or memory as I shoot and I know I'm working responsibly.
KIT FOR OTHER SHOOTS
It depends what you're shooting but you can generally scale your kit right down if you're only going to be shooting for an hour or so, whether it's commercial or family.. You'll be able to gauge best yourself but this is what I'd take for both.
2 x Camera Bodies
35mm Lens (less distortion and a nice portrait lens)
24-70mm for range if shooting children
Also 85mm for an outdoor shoot with kids
Batteries + Cards
2 x Camera Bodies
24mm Lens (for any wider shots of a premises or similar)
Batteries + Cards
Currently, Lightroom is your best bet for editing software. It's simple to use, has great options for organising files, batch-editing files, and it's not difficult to learn when you're just starting. Lots of photographers work differently, but my entire editing process is in Lightroom. Over the years I've really honed my LR workflow and find it so speedy and efficient. I would completely recommend editing with LR over anything else on the market. Adobe offer monthly subscriptions with cloud storage for their softwares, or you can still buy the software outright for a one off payment too.
Further down the line you may find yourself discovering other software that can help you in your own workflow.Other software I have and use includes album designing software, a software that helps resize and collage images for blog posts and the printing company I use have their own software for ordering products. There are studio software options, usually subscription based, which you can use to organise everything form book-keeping to emails to your calendar. Over time how you work will evolve and you'll work out what works best for you. I'll include links for everything I use in the 'links' section at the bottom of this page.
BATTERIES, MEMORY CARDS + OTHER THINGS FOR YOUR CAMERA BAG
As I mentioned above - bring more batteries and SD/CF cards than you ever think you'll need. They are the cheapest part of your kit and there's no excuse for running out of charge and memory on a shoot or wedding day.
I use a mix of Canon batteries and compatible batteries - I have never noticed a difference between the branded batteries and the non-branded batteries, personally. I carry at least six on a wedding day, and usually go through 3-5, depending on whether I'm shooting for a stop motion film or not.
My cameras take SD cards, and I use the fastest, professional-quality SD cards I can afford. It's worth paying more to have fast cards, by all means keep older and slower cards as back up cards in your camera bag, but by buying faster cards it means you're not waiting for your camera to catch up when you're shooting a lot of images in a short space of time, i.e. confetti or a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment that you want to make sure you've captured.
I use hard case SD card holders which are also waterproof, I have a plain one for unused cards, and a marked one for used cards, and I keep them organised throughout the day - I've attached a link to the memory card holder below under 'links'. It's important to shoot across a number of smaller cards if your camera only takes one memory card, I talk about this more in 'Working Responsibly'.
Other things I carry in my camera bag when shooting weddings are:
Zeiss Lens Wipes
A small sewing kit - you'd be surprised at how often a button or a dress needs a quick stitch
Cash (especially if shooting weddings where you'll need to pay for parking)
A copy of the couple's timings form
Tampons (more women are caught short weddings than you might expect! I've had a good few women come and quietly asked if I have any in my huge camera bag..)
PRINTABLES - CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD
TAKE AWYA PRINTABLES - KIT CHECKLIST - ENTRY VS IDEAL. SOFTWARE SUGGESTIONS. PACKING FOR A WEDDING CHECKLIST. PACKING FOR A LIFESTYLE SHOOT. PACKING FOR A COMMERCIAL SHOOT.
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