Starting Out in Professional Wedding Photography – What Equipment Do You Really Need?

Firstly, to photograph a wedding you will need professional grade photography equipment with rugged construction and good handling. You are likely to be shooting outside, so proper weather and dust sealing is essential. Your aim is to produce better quality photography than the guests! Your expertise will play a big part in this and your gear are just the tools, but give yourself the best chance by getting some good quality and reliable kit! But what kit do you actually need?Camera body:Your chosen style will be a factor when choosing a camera – if you like to shoot using ambient light rather than flash then a camera which performs well in low light with a high ISO capability will be a good choice. I like to shoot weddings with the Nikon D3s – it produces amazing images in low light!Assuming you are looking at a DSLR (there are various other formats). Do you need a full-frame DSLR? It is unlikely that you absolutely need the higher resolution of the larger sensor, unless you are a fashion or landscape photographer.

The dynamic range of a camera is one of the most important features. Remember that wedding photographers may be photographing brides in white or light colours and grooms in dark, possible even black, in the same shot. A camera with the widest possible dynamic range will best cope with this. Otherwise, you can end up under-exposing too far to avoid clipping highlights.The Nikon D3S has dual card slots which means you can simultaneously shoot RAW and JPEG files, the JPEGs provide a useful back-up in case of card failure and are of good enough quality to print and present to a client if necessary. Also, the battery life is long.Also, the D3S is full-frame, but at 12MP the files are not quite so huge as the most recent Nikon offerings, such as the 36MP D800.Lenses:Your lenses should cover the range of focal lengths for the images you propose to shoot. Should you go for zoom lenses or primes? Some photographers prefer the convenience of zoom lenses, meaning that lens changes are less frequent. They do have certain disadvantages though – image quality is inferior, they can be bulky and the fastest zoom is slower than the fastest prime. If your style is to shoot wide open, to blur backgrounds, then fast lenses will be needed and prime lenses might be the way to go. When shooting wide open, the shallow depth of field means that focusing has to be precise.If you are just starting out and can’t stretch to the it might be a wise to invest in lenses that are compatible with full frame and APS-C sensors, to enable an upgrade to full frame later.What photography equipment you have will depend on your budget, your style and whether you have an assistant to help carry it. Photographing a wedding is a big responsibility and you need to have a spare of everything! You should be confident that you can deliver photographs of good enough quality with your back-up equipment.I usually carry the following equipment for a wedding assignment (there are of course many variations on this):Nikon D3s
Prime lenses: 35mm f1.4G, 50mm f1.8D, 85mm f1.8
70-200mm f2.8 G
AF-S 14-24mm f2.8G ED wide angle zoom lens
Speedlights
Tripod
Back-up: Nikon D300 +18-200mm
Batteries, memory cards.

This is quite an expensive list. It would be perfectly possible to shoot a wedding with the D300 + 18-200mm and you should get some good results. It is not so much about having the latest gear, but about knowing your camera, and it’s strengths and weaknesses. Practise all of the time, get to know the settings and what to do in different conditions.I recently had some feedback on a forum blog on whether photographers felt safe buying used lenses. Surprisingly most photographers who replied had purchased used lenses with great success. This is good way to build your stock of lenses. Camera bodies tend to get knocked around more, so I would be more inclined to buy new.Remember to set aside a budget for marketing – don’t rush out and spend all of your start-up cash on equipment. You will need to win clients, otherwise it will become an expensive hobby!

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