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Wedding Photography Equipment

This guest post on wedding photography equipment was submitted by F.C. from Camera Tech.

Image by man's pic

Image by man's pic

So you’re desperately keen to go into wedding photography — or maybe you’ve made a start. The only problem you’re faced with is the equipment: and there are a lot of choices.

Firstly, the most important thing to realize is that the camera and/or lens isn’t going to cut it on its own; you’re not going to see a magical difference. Your equipment can limit you, but at the end of the day it boils down to the photographer.

Cameras

Now, when considering a camera in wedding photography, you need to measure up your needs and your means. It all depends on your budget, but what if you can get it all? Pro-grade cameras aside, let’s consider prosumer models.

For Canon and Nikon, full frame bodies are readily available for not-too-expensive prices. Full frame bodies are extremely useful in wedding photography because of their low-noise capabilities, the sensor being larger. 2-3 stops can normally be gained in a full frame body as compared to a normal APS-C dSLR. This means that ISO 3200 can be used instead of ISO 800 and still have about the same amount of noise, and the shutter speed can be raised two whole stops: necessary, as weddings are normally conducted in not very bright light. If you only have one camera, it should be a full frame body.

A short note here: you should always get two bodies. There are two main reasons, these being 1. backup and 2. not having to change lenses (as much). So you could have a 24-70mm on one body, and a 70-200mm on the other, thus covering the whole field should you need to alter your field of view. You may not be able to buy a second body, but you can rent one. Make sure, however, that if you’re renting equipment, be they lenses or cameras, that you also rent them beforehand to get the feel and experience with them first, before the actual day.


And here we come to the second body, which can be a full frame — or an APS-C body. Why an APS-C body, if the ISO handling isn’t as good? Because an APS-C sensor has a 1.6x or 1.5x (Canon/Nikon respectively) crop factor, and this is applied to lenses for the field of view. Note that while full frame lenses can be used on ‘crop’ bodies, the other way does not work (the APS-C lenses denoted by DX or EF-S, Nikon/Canon respectively). So, by using a 70-200mm f/2.8 on a APS-C body, you effectively get around 300mm in f/2.8 as a maximum — not bad, considering the prices of a normal 300mm f/2.8! The decision to weigh the choices for the second body (full frame vs. APS-C) is ultimately up to you, and it isn’t an easy choice.

Which is why some photographers use three bodies. Again, renting is the wisest choice until you can get hold of one yourself. A third body can be cumbersome to have on yourself, and normally is stashed in a bag.

Lenses

And so we come to lenses. Look to lenses with wide aperture (large f/-numbers) as these allow more light in. For instance, f/2.8 gains a whole stop in brightness from f/4. The shutter speed can then be changed to a faster speed to adapt. The ‘bread-and-butter’ lenses for a wedding photographer is the 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 (IS). With these two lenses, you can shoot a complete wedding, from reasonably wide to telephoto (you would obviously use the 24-70mm on a full frame body to take advantage of the wide-angle). A lot of photographers also use an ultra wide angle lens, such as the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8. However, lens choice is a very personal thing. While those two are enough, some photographers have shot an entire wedding with a 50mm and that alone.

A common question that arises is zoom vs primes. It depends on what you are comfortable with. Zooms tend to be slower (aperture), and the maximum for a zoom is f/2.8, while primes go down to f/1.4, etc. A good prime kit consists of a 24mm (or wider), 50mm, 85mm and 135mm (and/or a larger telephoto). The 85mm is not necessary, but then again, it can only take one lens to shoot a whole wedding (not advised, however!).

Some take a mix of lenses; different lenses for different parts of the wedding. Dance shots and formals are normally conducted in wide angle shots, while the ceremony might have a wide angle shot with the congregation as well as a close up of the couple exchanging rings.

Flashes

Another major decision is flash. You can choose not to use flash or not, and the place the wedding is being held in may have their own rules on that. However, if you’re keen on using flash, a speedlight/speedlite is a necessity. A SB800/900 or 580 EX II is preferable, but a SB600 or 430 EX II will also do the trick. A diffuser or bouncer is also very helpful. Make sure you know how to bounce and manipulate flash, as bare flash is not always quite completely appealing.

Strobes can also be used. These or speedlights/speedlites can be used on stands, particularly effective during the dances. These can be wirelessly triggered using remotes. Umbrellas and/or softboxes are also frequently employed during formals as well.

Other things to remember:

  • memory cards. The most important thing is to get lots of memory; fast cards can help if you want to capture that moment (and not miss), using continuous shooting. Make sure you have enough memory to cover at least 600 shots: how many gigabytes will depend on whether you shoot RAW or not, and the megapixel count of your camera
  • tripod/monopod. These are absolutely vital, but they do help. Some photographers choose to employ both a monopod and a tripod, and some simply use one or the other.
  • remote shutter release. Use this with the tripod for the formals for more stability
  • lens cleaning materials. Brushes, lens pens… whatever you use to clean your lenses, bring them along. You never know what can happen
  • duct tape. Yes, it’s true: if it can’t be fixed with duct tape, it can’t be fixed at all! If not, duct tape is still handy to have along

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