What Photography Equipment I Bring on A Wedding Day
I often get asked by other photographers what photography equipment I bring on a wedding day. This blog has been long overdue, but I finally decided to sit down and share. I want to go over a comprehensive list of the equipment and why specifically I choose to bring and use it.
Over the past 12 years in the wedding industry, I have spent tens of thousands of dollars buying a seemingly endless stockpile of gear. Some of it I still use to this day and others I might have used one time. By shooting with literally hundreds of couples I’ve found what works best for me (at least for now). There is no correct method; no tried and true answer. Everyone’s personal preferences are different and this is just what I’ve found works best for me. I used to have the mentality that more is more. The more gear I had on hand, the more prepared I was. I’m still a firm believer in “better to have it and not need it rather than need it and not have it”, but these days I like to keep things as simple and effective as possible.
Below I’ve broken down my gear into a few main categories- film, digital, styling, and everything else.
Let me start by saying that when I broke into this industry in 2009 I NEVER thought I’d be shooting film at weddings. I slowly began incorporating it into my workflow 5 years ago and I haven’t looked back. The film photography equipment I bring on a wedding day is pretty simple, but effective. Every single piece serves a purpose.
I’ve been shooting with the Rolleiflex for the past 3 years now. It’s by far the best medium format film camera you’ve never heard of. I recently did an in-depth blog post on it where you can read about all of its nuances. In short, the image quality is superb, it’s reliable, and it can still be serviced by the manufacturer.
It comes to every wedding and has produced the majority of imagery that’s in my portfolio. I have two lenses for it- the Schneider 80mm 2.8 AFD and 50mm 2.8 super angulon. The 80mm stays on the camera 99% of the time and I use the 50mm lens more for wide-angle shots. These are primarily taken during the ceremony and reception for long exposures.
The Pentax is my backup medium format film camera and also comes with me to every wedding. This thing is a workhorse. It doubles as both my backup camera for the Rolleiflex and also my black and white film body. This makes shooting two different film stocks simultaneously a breeze. Just like the Rolleiflex I also have two lenses for this camera- the 75mm 2.8fa and the 45mm 2.8fa. If something were to happen to my main camera, I want to be confident that this could replace it seamlessly.
What good is a film camera without any film, am I right? This is one of the most important pieces of photography equipment I bring on a wedding day. I have spent years shooting various film stocks and finding what works best for my specific aesthetic. Also, keep in mind that your specific look as an artist goes way beyond just what film you shoot with. The lab you choose to develop with and film scanners you use are equally just as important. Not to mention how to retouch the photos once you actually get the film back.
Up until last year, I shot almost exclusively with Fuji 400h. This film stock was wildly popular among film and hybrid wedding photographers. It was known for having an extremely broad tonal range and the skin tones were absolutely dreamy. It took everyone by surprise when they announced that they would be discontinuing this film by the end of 2021. I still have quite a bit in my fridge for personal projects but have since pivoted to a new film.
Portra 400 is my new go-to for all things film. It took some experimentation, but I’m really happy with the images I’m producing with it nowadays. It took many conversations with my lab to achieve my desired look. This film is slightly more light-sensitive than Fuji 400h which allows me to use it more throughout the day and in darker scenes. It can be rated at box speed (ISO 400) and renders ever so slightly on the warmer side.
Even though both of my film cameras have internal meters, I still prefer to be cautious and use a light meter. You might have seen photographers carrying these weird things around on their necks with a little white bulb. Its purpose is to meter the light in your scene and tell you how to set your camera appropriately. I use the Sekonic 358 and love it. It’s simple, well made, and incredibly accurate.
Film Inserts and Case
Everything happening on a wedding day is very fast-paced. Quite often there just isn’t time to think. You need to react to what’s going on in that very moment. When my camera runs out of film it needs to be replenished immediately so I can photograph the next moment. For this reason, I carry multiple film inserts that are pre-loaded with film. I have four backups that are carried together in a leather film pouch. This is especially useful if my assistant is running around and I just have my satellite bag by my side.
The digital photography equipment I bring on a wedding day is quite extensive, but nothing is superfluous. Believe it or not, this is actually the slimmed-down version of what I used to bring.
I recently acquired this camera and the only thing I am sorry about is I didn’t buy it sooner. This camera is AMAZING. It’s the first digital camera I’ve ever owned that’s truly a joy to use. The images are seriously impressive and it even gives my film camera a run for its money. The new eye autofocus technology is mind blowing and the live-view viewfinder makes taking well exposed images a breeze. I wear this on me all day and it’s my workhorse. It backs up all my film images throughout the day and is used during the reception one it gets dark.
Let me preface this by saying that I’m not getting paid to say this. This lens might just be the most impressive lens I’ve ever shot with. The autofocus is incredibly fast, the bokeh is buttery and even wide open, it’s as sharp as a razor. Granted, this lens is not cheap by any means. A new one will cost you $2,200 plus tax. But it is worth every penny. The 50mm is my go-to focal length for just about everything and this almost never leaves my camera.
There’s something about wide(r) lenses with a shallow depth of field that I’m just drawn to. The Sigma 35mm is a wonderful focal length for anything the 50mm is just too tight to capture. It doesn’t get used as often but is a must-have for me.
If you want a lens that can wear multiple hats and looks damn fine doing so, then this is it. This surprisingly affordable macro lens has image stabilization, a 2.8 aperture, and can stop down to f/32. I use it for all my ring shots, headshots, and love it for capturing speeches and cocktail hour.
This lens likes to party. It has a super-wide perspective at 16mm and is perfect for when the dance floor opens up. It can be used in incredibly tight spaces and handles 50-person family group photos like a champ. It’s wonderful for capturing architectural shots, landscapes, and anything that requires a wide perspective.
This is used primarily for ceremony shots and candids during cocktail hour and reception. It’s certainly my least used lens but the quality is incomparable. The lens works especially well if you have a spot to place your couple and want to really exaggerate lens compression.
I recently picked up a pair of these alongside the Canon R5 camera. Because the lens mount on the RF body is different from the traditional EOS camera, a lens adapter is required. I keep these on two of my lenses during weddings to make it easier to swap out focal lengths during the day. They allow full autofocus and aperture control of all of my lenses.
These are my go-to flashes for any time of day I need some extra light. I always carry two with me for two reasons: as a backup in case my main flash goes out and to use the second as an off-camera flash for lighting reception shots.
Styling backdrops are a must-have for anyone who styles details on a wedding day. I bring an assortment of different colors and materials with me depending on the wedding decor colors. I use these to photograph everything from the shoes to the rings, bouquets, and the invitation suite.
Every now and then on the wedding day the bride’s dress in hanging on a plastic hanger. This isn’t the most ideal or flattering when photographing it so I like to have a decorative hanger as backup. It’s not used for every dress as it sometimes clashes with the style of the gown.
Having a collection of trays in various styles and sizes is great for incorporating into photographing flatlay details. Incorporating trays into the shots adds additional layers of detail to the photos.
Vintage stamps are a wonderful way to incorporate pops of color into flay lays and wedding day details.
Risers are an easy and effective way to elevate photographing your flatlays. They can literally be made of anything- lens caps, a wallet, deck of cards, or even dominos. Staggering the height of your risers gives dimension and allows you to style and create truly beautiful flatlays.
Ribbon is another simple and easy way to elevate the quality of your detail styling. I always have a variety of colors and materials on hand so that I’m prepared for any color palette.
I cannot stress this enough- there is no such thing as too many memory cards. The last thing you want is to be on a shoot and you run out of memory. Spend a little extra money and buy fast reliable cards. Keep backups for your backup’s backups. Memory should be one of the things that you should never second guess and always have on hand in bulk.
Just the same as memory cards, I always keep more batteries on hand than I know I’m going to need. This is because Chaos Theory is real and what can go wrong most certainly will go wrong. I have backups of backups of batteries for everything in my bag. Eneloop makes fantastic rechargeable AA’s for my flashes and I recently found that Duracell Direct makes fantastic batteries for my Canon camera that includes a 3-year warranty.
While I don’t use my video light as much as I do my speedlites, I consider this a crucial piece of equipment. It’s great to use for assisting in focusing in low light, lighting during first dances, and great for cake cutting. The power is adjustable and so is the color temperature; two of the most important features I look for.
A drone is a great way for me to capture vantage points that I otherwise couldn’t with my regular cameras. It’s a little time-consuming to set up but it’s well worth it. I especially like to use this to capture overall shots of the ceremony site, venue, and reception space.
Having a sturdy, well-made tripod is truly invaluable. I purchased a carbon fiber Gitzo tripod back in 2016 and it will be the last tripod I ever buy. It’s great for holding lights or my camera if I need to take long exposures.
My holdfast straps come with me to every wedding and are on me from the first moments in the morning to the very end of the evening. They are fantastic at keeping my camera’s weight evenly distributed throughout the day and look great in the process! The straps allow me to wear two cameras simultaneously and even attach a third across the chest if I like.
A reflector is a crucial piece of gear for any professional’s bag. A reflector is great for filling in shadows or even used as a flag to block unnecessary light. I prefer using the double-sided Profoto reflector in sunsilver and white. This allows you to reflect a slightly warmer or neutral light source. It has two handles which make it very easy for my assistant to hold and is very durable-; a quality all Profoto products are known for.
Hoya macro filters are a great alternative to having to buy an expensive, bulky macro lens. They come in three sizes depending on the level of magnification required and they can be stacked for extreme closeups. I use this exclusively for all of the macro shots with my Rolleiflex.
I’ve linked the equipment through the images and item titles where you can purchase directly.
What photography equipment do you bring on a wedding day? Feel free to share your current setup below in the comments section!
Photography | Alex W Photography