Wedding photography gear – what’s in my bag?
It’s a question asked by everyone from clients to photographers, and even sometimes friends and family. What am I carrying around with me during wedding days and why is there so much of it? What is actually in my bag? What wedding photography gear travels with me to each wedding, and why? In fact… you’ve got like three bags! What are you doing with so many bags?! Stop hoarding all the bags!!!
The short answer is: I bring everything with me that I need to cover (virtually) any eventuality, and backups in case of any hiccups. It means I carry a hell of a lot of bits and pieces with me to not only take photographs, but also to create and shape light in virtually any situation.
For example, let’s imagine an energetic guest dunks a whole pint of beer over my camera in the middle of the danceloor while they throw some serious shapes. Tragedy, right? It could have been. Sure, I’ll have to bury it in basmati for a while the next day and then send it off to the manufacturer to get repaired. I may even have to buy another one (and get on the phone to my insurer in the process). But, thankfully, in the moment I can simply switch to the other camera I have. Boom. Memory cards get changed regularly, so images will be safe as well. And let’s imagine a flash breaks down in the middle of the first dance… nightmare! But luckily… boom – another one comes straight out of the bag and we carry on. Nothing missed.
However, the main reason I carry so many bits and pieces with me is to allow me to be as creative as possible throughout the day. Some shots are more technical than others and some things – to really make them work – just need that one little extra piece of the puzzle to make them shine. Maybe a type of lens. Perhaps a type of filter. Enough batteries to let me work well into the wee small hours without needing to recharge. It’s all about being ready and having the right tools at the right time.
A good example of needing very particular equipment (including sparklers) was this photo.
But the long answer is… all this!
The work horses and stars of the show, my two camera bodies. I’ve used a variety of cameras over the years but I’ve been constantly astonished by the D750. They’re lightweight, handy, easy to use and are complete beasts in low light situations. Need to pump the ISO up to 5000 without worrying too much about grain? No problem. They’re also full frame and weather sealed, allowing me to shoot onto dual SD cards so that I’m backing up as I go. The dream.
I carry with me, to each wedding, a minimum of 8 SD cards. Both cameras carry two at a time and I switch out cards during dinner so that I’m not reliant on the same ones all day long. Each and every one is labelled and stored in a ThinkTank Pixel PocketRocket, which is super handy for keeping them organised in the bag as I travel.
I’ve got a LOT of batteries. There’s two in use in the cameras at any given time, but I’m always rolling around with at least four spares. Again, I make regular changes throughout the day to make sure nothing stops in the middle of something important.
Primes: 35mm 1.4, 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.4
If I had only these lenses with me at a wedding, I would be perfectly happy. Obviously, I’m a super huge nerd and always want new lenses (see below…) but these are stunning and brilliant for 99% of situations. The 35 is a classic photo reportage focal length that (so it’s claimed) most closely mimics the width of view of the human eye, and it’s a long-held favourite of many photographers with good reason. The 50mm is the ‘classic’ focal length that we will all have been familiar with as children – most ‘old’ film cameras came with a ‘nifty fifty’ – and is somehow able to both be a beautiful portrait lens and also capture details, candids, ‘wide’ shots and everything in between with no problem whatsoever. The 85 is the true portrait workhorse and is almost unbeatable for isolating the subject and creating the creamiest bokeh (background blur) around.
Zooms: 24-70 2.8, 70-200mm 2.8
However… these zooms are so dependable. I’ve always had good fortune with the 24-70 (the so-called ‘wedding lens’) because of its versatility and incredible sharpness for a zoom lens. But the real star of the show is the 70-200; it has the ability to make literally anyone look like they could be in a fashion catalogue. The warmth and richness of the images that come out of that lens almost always make me say ‘ugh I love this lens so much!’ literally any time I use it. (It’s super heavy though, which always gives me a good incentive to get down the gym before wedding season kicks off.)
Lights and modifiers
At every wedding I attend, I always always, always, always take flash with me and make use of it throughout. Naturally, they get the most use in the evenings but I often use them for detail shots earlier in the day. They’re lightweight, versatile and are just as happy sitting off my camera on a stand as they are sitting on top of the camera itself.
Phottix Odin 2 trigger system
These changed my life. Using this trigger system I can control the power and zoom of up to 5 flashes at a time, all from the top of my camera. I can also use them in TTL and make any EV +/- adjustments as necessary on the fly. The trigger itself also has a built-in AF-assist lamp that I find performs far better than the lamps found on speedlights or camera bodies themselves.
Currently in my bag are about two shoot-through umbrellas, a silver reflector and a folding softbox. These cover off the vast majority of uses throughout the day and allow me to quickly switch between bare, harsh lighting and softer, more controlled light.
Gelling and colour-correcting light, depending on the situation, is vital. It’s also the key to more dramatic lighting methods. These rogue gels get the job done and do it very simply and easily.
When lighting details during bridal prep, the best man during speeches or the bride and groom on the dancefloor, stands are always a must. I carry two 10’ stands and two 15’ stands which cover most eventualities.
I don’t know why I ever bothered with ‘cold shoe’ clamps – these are the only way I work now. They allow the light to be held without any stress on any part of the body, while also allowing me to attach any bowens-type modifier super quickly.
Gaff, electric tape, bungee cords
Sometimes, in life, the only thing that will help is more tape.
Crucial for long exposures and handy for any panoramic/landscape work.
Tools and other
I take so many other bits with me as well, I feel a bit like a boyscout I’m that prepared:
- Holdfast camera strap – comfortably carrying two cameras all day could be really uncomfortable, but this makes it comfortable AND fashionable
- Shutter release – a must for long exposures
- Pen knife – almost always necessary during the day at some point. (I normally have to cut a label off something every morning of every wedding I shoot!)
- Multi-tool – in case anything needs fixing (it happens)
- Snacks – I get hungry!
- Water – beware the ‘wedding photographer’s hangover’! AKA, not staying hydrated enough during a long day, not drinking any booze, yet somehow waking up the next day with what feels like a stinking hangover! Always stay hydrated… 🙂
The bags themselves!
ThinkTank Airport Pro v2
This absolute legend of a bag is with me wherever I go. It’s great because it’s inconspicuous – it looks like any other hand luggage – and it’s super sturdy, while also able to carry loads of equipment. It’s good for carry on and there’s so many pockets it’s always handy.
It’s cheap and cheerful but it does the job, carrying all of my lighting stands, clamps, mods, tape and bungee cords.
While a lot of the stuff featured in this blog post is carried by plenty of photographers, some of it isn’t. For example, there are lots of photographers that don’t work with flash because that suits their style of photography. Ever since I learnt to use it, though, I’ve found it be too valuable to ever look back on.
I’m also constantly – and I mean constantly – on the look out for new things I can do to make a difference to the photographs themselves or to make the experience for my couples that much more special. As such, there are currently a few things in my bag that I keep totally secret! At every wedding, there’s usually some kind of new gizmo, tool or even technique in my head that comes with me. Experimentation and creativity never ends. (If you think it has… I’ve got bad news for you, bub!)
What’s NOT in my bag?
There’s a bunch of stuff that I use that I don’t, for obvious reasons, take with me wherever I go! All this stuff remains at the office, but makes all the difference to what I do when I return.
- iMac 27” – a total beast and workhorse
- Second monitor – two is better than one (especially for watching Arrested Development during long editing sessions)
- MacBook Pro – for when I want to work in a cafe and pretend I’m cool
- Hard drives for backing up – I don’t think I can ever have enough backups
- Screen calibration tool – to make sure prints look stunning
- LightRoom – for 90% of editing and image management
- Photoshop – for more in-depth photo manipulation where required
- Photo Mechanic 5 – for image culling at incredible speed
It’s fair to say I spend a lot of time with my nose figuratively pressed up against the shop window of new camera equipment. There’s always something new out there and I’m normally eyeing up a new purchase at some point. Up next will likely be a super-wide zoom, or a NAS drive, or a new piece of software or…you get the picture! If you’ve got any questions about any of the above, feel free to drop a comment below.