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What’s in your bag?
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 important to have a love for 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 on the images you capture.
When starting as a wedding photographer, it is quite understandable that you may not have the full arsenal of cameras, lenses, flashes, etc. Often we start with only the basic equipment in our bag and plenty of creativity (and for some, a healthy dose of confidence).
If you are considering being a wedding photographer and exploring what you can achieve with a basic kit, then this article is for you. These are also just my suggestions. I do not assume that you could not become a competent wedding photographer otherwise.
A full-frame professional camera is ideal, but if you only have a crop-sensor camera, there’s no reason you can’t shoot a wedding. The main impact of this would be the lenses. Unless it is a dedicated crop-sensor lens, a crop-sensor only uses a section of the lens, causing some loss in light and sensor use.
Newer cameras are equipped with better technology to handle noise, especially in low-light conditions. This technology is crucial because regardless of season, weddings will always involve low-light. Often very little natural light. The pixel size of images from newer cameras is also generally larger allowing more room for adjustments like cropping. It also allows better enlargements of your photographs in print. 24MP is now average for a newer camera whereas it was around 12MP 10-years ago.
I feel lenses are a must. If you want to shoot weddings, at least have the 50mm or 35mm prime lens. They open to larger apertures than the kit lenses (the ones that come with the camera body). A maximum aperture of f/1.8 will do, but even better is f/1.4 and f/1.2. However, these lenses can be pricey though. If you tend not to use a flash unit, the advantage of these lenses is made clear.
A zoom lens is a massive help when capturing unfolding events during a wedding day. You don’t have to zoom with your feet as you do with a prime lens. In my opinion, you can get away with using a zoom kit lens for candid captures and don’t have to shell out for a pricey f/2.8 zoom when starting out. I must also add that these f/2.8 zooms are amazing pieces of glass and are worth the investment if you can afford it.
Top tip: Use a hood or a UV filter on your lens to protect it from knocks and breakage. Some people say filters affect the sharpness. That may be so, but I’d rather have an intact lens and a 99% sharp photo than a broken lens and a 100% sharp photo. The difference is pixel-peeping minuscule.
Many people call themselves a natural light photographer. There is nothing wrong with that. However, if you want to shoot weddings, I encourage you to be open-minded and explore the possibility of learning to use flash. Weddings, especially evening receptions can be notoriously dark and having a flash gun will serve you well.
Top tip: Use a diffuser or bounce card.
These are self-explanatory. Have spares and spares of spares!
If you have to borrow extra equipment for back-up, do so. You never know when something will unexpectedly pack-up! When I shot my first wedding, I owned one camera body (a crop-sensor), and I borrowed my sister-in-law’s camera, just in case. I didn’t use it but having it with me gave me peace of mind.
The following can come in handy but in my opinion, you can do without them:
Grey card – You shoot at a fast pace in various lighting scenarios during a wedding – indoors, outdoors, tungsten, LED, natural lights, etc. It would be crazy to use a grey card every time you moved! You can shoot in Kelvin or use Auto White Balance. The important thing is that you shoot in Raw so you can adjust the white balance in post.
Reflector – I used to carry a reflector when I first started, but now I take my flash guns instead. And I never go without at least two of them! But a reflector is handy. Because I don’t carry one with me most of the time now, when I shoot small details, I use a small piece of white card or anything white that may be handy.
Brides are often grateful when you magically produce things that they did not expect you to have. For instance, bobby pins, hair grips, scissors, or tissues. Likewise, if you help in other ways when you can, for example, putting the buttonholes on, helping with jewelry, etc. As they say, it’s in the little things.
Lastly, invest in a good, well-padded camera bag. Your equipment will love being in it!
You can read more about lenses for wedding photography in an more exhaustive article I have written here.
I hope you found this article helpful and I wish you the best in your journey as a wedding photographer! Do share your thoughts or any equipment you may want to add in the comments below!
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