How to Choose the Best Gear for Wedding Photography
Find your perfect match in time for your next (or first) big wedding shoot. Many of you are probably worried about not bringing the right equipment. We have thousands of items for you to rent but only certain items are ideal for weddings. This list will help you narrow it down to just the essentials to fit your shooting style. Take note of these 10 tips that will help you complete your skills and choose the best gear for wedding photography.
Ten Gear Tips for a Better Wedding Day Photography Workflow
1. Zoom with a View: Using Long Focal Lengths
2. Safety in Numbers: Spring for a Second Body
3. Fall in Love with Battery Grips
4. Something Borrowed, Something Blue: Mixing Artificial with Natural Lighting
5. Enjoy the Silence: Quiet Shutter Options
6. Portable Prowess
7. N+1 Yourself: Using Dual Memory Cards
8. Up Close and Personal: Macro Lenses
9. Practice Mindfulness: Gear Security
10. Going Slim to Win: Consider Mirrorless
Zoom with a View: Using Long Focal Lengths
Longer lenses tend to keep your subject’s facial features in proper proportion, which is more flattering. There are a couple of fast telephoto zooms we rent that allow you to shoot with a wide-open aperture for a very pleasing out-of-focus background without sacrificing the convenience of being able to shoot at a variety of lengths. Plus, having a longer lens means you have to stand further from your subject. Sometimes this allows the couple to relax a little bit and act more naturally for their portrait.
• Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II
• Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II
• Sony 70-200mm f/2.8G SSM II for Sony A Mount
• Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS (for full frame or crop frame E mount shooters)
• Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO for Micro Four Thirds Mount
• Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 Lumix G Vario Zoom for Micro Four Thirds Mount (Also suitable for video shooters thanks to a silent AF system.)
• Fuji XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR for Fuji X Mount
Safety in Numbers: Spring for a Second Body
There are many benefits to shooting with two cameras. You’ll keep dust out of your own camera when you’re not switching out lenses plus you’ll be able to get the shot much faster with different lenses already mounted onto cameras. If the worst happens and your camera seizes up, the spare will save the day. Don’t have someone to shoot alongside you? There are dual-body straps to help make you carry the load.
Fall in Love with Battery Grips
Unless you have a pro body camera, such as the D4s or 1D X where a grip is built in, you can rent a battery grip and attach it to the bottom of your camera. The grip houses an extra battery for your camera to draw from when the first battery runs dry, which is much more efficient than manually swapping out batteries. Plus, most grips have the same dials the main camera body has, including an additional shutter button. Having 2 shutter buttons greatly improves shooting ergonomics. Grips also add weight to your camera, which some shooters like because it helps counterbalance longer lenses.
Something Borrowed, Something Blue: Mixing Artificial with Natural Lighting
Set your environmental light to the exposure you like with your ISO and shutter speed (pro tip: try not to exceed 1/250th of a second because a lot of strobes and flashes do not fire in sync with really fast shutter speeds) and then use your artificial light to fill in the dark parts. A lot of photographers will intentionally underexpose the sky for drama and then use their flashes to illuminate the couple. If you need more flash power, either increase the power of your light or widen your aperture.
Enjoy the Silence: Quiet Shutter Options
You want people to know you’re the official photographer but you also want to be inconspicuous. We have sound blimps that will silence camera noise but they are bulky and probably best for ceremony use only. Canon’s 5D Mark III has a quiet shutter mode as well as a quiet video mode. Nikon’s D800 also sports a quiet mode and gives you “beep” volume control. Sony’s a7S sports a fully silent mode and mirrorless cameras, in general, tend to be quieter than DSLRS. Many other cameras have similar modes, usually in the “shooting modes” menu or dial.
There’s a constant battle between bringing it all with you and shooting lean. Here are a couple of tools for your arsenal:
• The Custom Brackets PRO-E Camera Rotation Bracket with Universal Camera Plate gives you an ergonomic hold on your camera and an easy swivel bracket for shooting in vertical mode. Mounting the flash a little further from your camera’s hot shoe reduces the deer-in-headlights lighting effect. Another option is the Vello V-Rig Triple Shoe Bracket, which mounts to the hot shoe of your camera and also holds 2 additional accessories, such as microphones and LEDs, just to the left and right of the top of your camera to prevent crowding and sports a third shoe in the middle for adding a handle.
• If you’re trying to avoid carrying a full-size tripod with you, consider a Manfrotto 143 Magic Arm Kit instead. You can treat it like a tiny tripod or mount your camera to just the clamp head and clamp it to railings or table edges for support. Avoiding light stands? Try the ever-versatile Manfrotto 175F Justin Spring Clamp with Flash Shoe.
• Don’t forget your dual camera strap! Even if you’re winging it with just 1 camera, you can carry a spare lens with that extra strap mount.
N+1 Yourself: Using Dual Memory Cards
In programming parlance, the component (N) needs an independent backup (+1) for reliability. You may want to consider upgrading yourself to a dual memory slot camera body. You can set slot A as your main and slot B to mirror the contents of A. If you suffer a card failure or randomly lose it, you still have your extra slot and card. Cameras with dual slots include (but not limited to):
• Canon 5D Mark III (1 CF, 1 SD)
• Canon 1D X (2 x CF)
• Canon 1D X Mark II (1 CF, 1 CFast)
• Nikon D810 (1 CF, 1 SD)
• Nikon D4s (1 CF, 1 XQD)
• Nikon D5 (2 x CF)
• Nikon D7200 (2 x SD)
• Fuji X-Pro 2 (2 x SD)
• Sony a7 III (2 x SD)
Up Close and Personal: Macro Lenses
Most lenses don’t have a very close focusing distance – at least not good enough for fine details and ring shots. If you have to choose 1 specialty, limited-use lens to drag around with you then it should be a macro. If you’re trying to keep the load light, remember that most macro lenses double as fantastic portrait lenses.
• Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro
• Nikon 105mm f/2.8G AF-S VR IF-ED Micro
• Olympus M.Zuiko ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro for Micro Four Thirds Mount
• Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro for Sony A Mount
• Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 G OSS Macro (for full frame or crop frame E mount shooters)
• Fuji XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro for Fuji X Mount
When choosing a macro lens for a wedding, avoid the Canon 65mm MP-E. It is a specialty lens for microscopic work and cannot double as a short-telephoto portrait lens. Please see my post about why this lens is amazing (just not for wedding work).
Practice Mindfulness: Gear Security
Our damage waivers do not cover theft. Keep your gear in a secure bag (the Think Tank Airport International V2.0 Rolling Camera Bag has locking features and is also serialized for easier tracking), keep your gear on you as much as possible, and be sure to register your own stuff for free on Lenstag. For rentals, call your insurance company and see if you can put them on a “rider” (paid for as extra coverage and tacked onto your normal insurance) for a one-time event.
Going Slim to Win: Consider Mirrorless
Mirrorless cameras are small which makes them particularly attractive to event shooters. Thanks to new models, like the Sony a7 series, you can get full frame sensors at a fraction of the weight of DSLRs. They are also increasingly light sensitive, making them suitable for natural light lovers even as the reception continues on into the evening. Mirrorless cameras with Micro Four Thirds mounts enjoy a vast array of lenses from almost every brand as it aims to be a more universal mount type. Mirrorless is fast becoming an industry standard but know that the digital technology is still fairly nascent and some shooters get frustrated with the lack of lens selection, features like dual card slots, and getting used to electronic viewfinder refresh rates. Be sure to try it out before going live.