This is part 2 to a four-part series on preparing for a wedding day. You can see all the articles below:
YOU ARE HERE >> Wedding Day Gear
Let me start by saying a few things:
I am a wedding photographer. I shoot hybrid digital & film. My main setup is Canon. This is all my opinion and from my point of view, what works for me. You do not need a ton of gear to be a good photographer. One body and one decent lens can go a LONG way. Don’t get caught up chasing that desire to continually buy new stuff. Running a profitable and long-lasting business is WAY more important. Push the gear you have to the limits and be very logical about each purchase you make for your business. I’d suggest renting or borrowing a friends gear and figure out what you like before making a big purchase. I didn’t and lost some money buying and reselling along the way. I’ll dig in deeper below, but just know G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) is a serious problem and can stop you from running a healthy sustainable business. I read somewhere that a vacation or experience somewhere is worth more than any lens. I like that mentality. When you consider most good lenses are $1.5K - $2K that’s a pretty rad trip somewhere that you can either relax or gain some cool experiences and take some badass photos along the way. Please consider that. Also, I was not paid in any way to post about any of this stuff. Just sharing my personal opinion and thoughts.
Okay, disclaimer aside, let’s jump in.
One main question people had was “what’s a good starting kit or good cheap camera and lens?”. I am a Canon guy so all my experience will be around that, but you can google the comparable bodies for Sony, Nikon, Fuji, whatever. Here’s what I would recommend:
Canon 6D (or Canon 6Dmii)
You can find used ones with less than 50K shutter count for about $800 or less. It’s only a single card slot which makes it a bit sketchy for weddings, but just make sure you have a backup body. ALWAYS have a backup. Other than the single card slot the quality, feel and everything is pretty close to the 5Dmiii. Only big difference IMO is that the 6D only has 11 focal points as opposed to 51 in the 5Dmiii. Either way, it’s an amazing camera and a GREAT starter body.
Depending on how much or little your budget is, the best bang for your buck all around lens IMO is the Canon 50mm 1.8. Really sharp and beautiful bokeh. Super light (kinda cheap feeling, but that’s okay). It’s an incredible lens. I’d use that thing for a LONG time and would recommend skipping the 50mm 1.4 and jumping to the 1.2L if you ever want to upgrade. The 50mm is an awesome focal length that you can pretty much shoot an entire wedding with.
The reason I suggest a 6D is it’s a full-frame camera. Meaning the sensor is as large as a traditional 35mm camera and doesn’t crop your images like a Canon Rebel crop-sensor would. You can get a Canon rebel with a kit lens for $500, or you can buy a used 6D with a 50 1.8 for $700-800. I’d suggest trying for the latter. Also, I’d skip the intermediate lenses. Whenever I bought mid-range lenses I always had the urge to upgrade as I knew there was better out there. I’d recommend waiting longer and saving yourself that middle step. Jump right in to the L glass. It’s weather-proof, sharp AF and worth every penny. If I could only own one lens it would probably be the 35mm 1.4Lii or the 50mm 1.2L. Both super versatile, sharp and great lenses all around.
MY CURRENT KIT
Don’t miss the promo for holdfast and honeybook below, my two favorite business purchases.
Canon 5D Mark IV – My go-to digital camera
Canon 5D Mark III – Backup digital
Contax 645 – Medium Format 120mm Film – This is my new favorite. With the 80mm 2.0 (50mm equivalent to full frame) Zeiss Planar T* lens it’s the perfect film kit to give you the painterly, timeless look.
Canon EOS 3 – 35mm film camera that you can use Canon EF lenses with. If you want to explore film and have a solid investment in Canon glass, I’d recommend the EOS 3, EOS-1N, or EOS 1V, all those will let you use your EF lenses.
Canon 35 1.4L II - If I could only own one lens, this would be it.
Canon 50 1.2L - This gets used the least but is SO GOOD! Great for closeup intimate portraits and detail shots.
Canon 85mm 1.4L IS - Kick-ass portrait, detail and longer lens. Not long enough for me for the ceremony, see below, but I use this in combination with my 35 for the entire wedding day.
Canon 70-200 2.8L IS II - This allows me to get closeup shots during ceremonies without being obnoxious.
Canon 50mm 1.8 - Amazing lens, would highly recommend to beginners. I upgraded at some point to get that extra half stop. The 50mm 1.2L is an incredible lens too.
Canon 17-40 4.0L - Not a fan. I typically shoot wider than 4.0 at all times, so this just didn’t work for me. Not super sharp either IMO.
Sigma 24 1.4 art - A really sharp and beautiful lens but started to miss focus a bit. It also felt like it was getting loose internally. Not sure what that means but didn’t feel right. I struggled using that lens for anything other than wide landscape shots with the couple really small in the frame. I know there’s more potential there as there’s a few photogs I really admire who do amazing work with the 24. This was all prior to me having a 35mm which is my bread and butter and what I feel most comfortable with. I also use Adobe Bridge after weddings and look at all my photos and it shows how many was taken with each frame. The 24 was on one body all day and was accounting for only about 7% of my shots taken and probably 3-5% of my shots delivered. Not enough to take over one of my two bodies. With my 35 and 85 combo I’m much closer to 50/50 which to me is the sweet spot.
Canon 135mm 2.0L - Was my favorite portrait lens for a minute. Such a beauty. Bokeh and compression is gorgeous. I’d definitely recommend. I bought it to sell my 70-200 but ended up deciding my 70-200 was a better overall lens. That extra focal length helps during ceremonies and was a quicker, sharper, more reliable lens. Nothing against the 135mm though. Amazing lens. Would highly recommend. Just be careful to keep your shutter at 1/250 or higher as the long focal length will make your photos blurry at slower shutters.
Holdfast Money Maker Dual Strap (allows me to shoot with two cameras and have my hands free. Best purchase. It takes the strain off my neck with a neck strap and allows me to shoot mainly with prime lenses rather than zooms) - Don’t miss the promo code for these below!
Holdfast medium wide pouch (so I can attach to my Holdfast and carry an extra lens, film, light meter, etc.)
Holdfast Money Maker Solo (great if I just want to shoot one body while traveling)
Tap & Dye Legacy Film Pouches (fit 5 rolls of 120mm and 35mm film)
Sekonic L-358 Light Meter
Hoya macro filters 72mm that fits my 35mm and 50mm and Contax 645 Zeiss 80mm (+1 to +4 magnifications so I can get my lens closer to the subject for ring and detail shots. Amazing little things so I don’t need to buy/carry around an additional macro lens)
Yongnuo 560-IV Speedlites, not the top of the line but for $69 a piece, hard to beat.
Yonguno 568EX-III Speedlite, this one has an AF-Assist beam and TTL which is nice, but a bit pricier at $97. Still a steal compared to name brand ones.
Yongnuo YN560-TX Manual Flash Controller // So I can control my flashes off-camera
Flash Diffusers: MAGMOD Mag Grip and MagSphere Flash Modifiers
MAGMOD gels. - These allow me to change the color of my flash to match the ambient light. So if there’s orange string lights, I put an orange gel on my flash and that way all the light is orange and I can cool down as needed in post.
Canon LP-E6N backup batteries, I had off-brand backups and it ended up frying my battery sensor and costing me $200.
VTIN Punker Speaker - $30 on Amazon. Such a steal for how loud this is. And it clips to you.
As many SanDisk Extreme cards as I can get my hands on
Pelican 0915 Memory Card Case to hold those cards
Mrs. Boxes and currently building out my styling kit to do better detail photos.
Trash Bags // You never know when you need to cover your gear or pick something up
Ziplock Bags, Prism, Glass Shards // To get creative with some shots
Mophie Powerstation // Mobile Phone Charger and a lifesaver. They're all different sizes, I have 4,000 mAh
A Stick-On Hanger Hook for Dresses // Command Forever Classic Metal Hook, Large, Brushed Nickel
As a Holdfast Ambassador, they gave me a promo code: WODARCK2019 to get 15% off your Holdfast straps. There’s only 25 uses of the code available so use it quick!
Holdfast Promo Code for 15% Off Straps: WODARCK2019
I’m working on including more items to my styling kit, ring dishes, trays, styling boards, fabrics, stamps, etc. For now I’d highly recommend checking out Mallory Dawn’s blogs on styling. She’s the best!
Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Tilt-Shift Lens
Let me take a second to say Honeybook is the single best investment I’ve made for my business. It’s like hiring a personal assistant at a fraction of the cost. Honeybook is an incredible tool to manage your clients, from emails to invoicing, expenses, contracts and everything in between. I love it so much that I'll gift you a free 30-minute mentor session upon signing up if you use the link below. Why? Because Honeybook kicks me back $200 and because I love you.
Squarespace (Website) - easy to use, clean and good for mobile. Make sure you’re always looking at your site on mobile. 80% of my traffic comes from phones.
Adobe Bridge (Culling) - One star my favorites, two star the okay ones, three star the ones I want to save but don’t need to go in to the client’s galleries. When you get to the end, see how many one stars you have, if that’s enough, you’re all good. Bring those in to LR and get to work. If you need more, grab from the two stars.
Lightroom (Edits) - Get your presets dialed. Make brushes to help you do repetitive work like brightening, softening skin, etc.
Mastin Labs Portra Pushed (Presets) - LOVE these. Can be a bit too orange or contrasty at times. You can fix by lowering the contrast, raising the shadows and playing with your orange saturation and luminance sliders.
Photoshop (Edits) - Try to stay out of here unless I’m doing Pano photomerges or really cleaning up one photo. It’s not efficient in my current workflow.
Alien Skin Exposure (Edits) - Love the bokeh tool to do post tilt shifts or increase the blur on certain photos.
Currently Pixieset (Client Gallery Delivery) but in the process of upgrading to Pic-time per a late-night pumped-up chat with Ryan Horban. I’m going to gladly owe him dinner and drinks for this recommendation.
Pixellu SmartAlbums 2 (Album Design) - LOVE! I will be doing a separate article soon about this process.
WHCC (All Printing) - Love their quality. Go sign up and they give you five free 8x10 photos to see how the colors match your screen and to check out their quality. Love them and their fast shipping.
All in we’re talking about over $20K in gear. It didn’t happen overnight. I grew my kit as I grew in my business. Make sure you aren’t buying endless amounts of gear always chasing more stuff. Ultimately a small well-used and purposeful kit is going to be your best bet.
Lastly, make sure you invest in good insurance. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories, lenses falling in the ocean, gear getting stolen, etc. etc. Invest in insuring all your gear so you don’t have to worry about it. I personally use Hill & Usher and am very happy with their service.
My next article will go in to what gear I use for each part of the wedding day. If you need any help, have any comments or have any questions, leave them in the comments below or shoot me a DM on instagram.