One of the main reasons for hiring a wedding photographer is that they are going to use more than their phone or pocket camera to record your wedding. In general the client is going to assume that the photographer is going to bring an extra level of technology and equipment – something that the couple or their family can’t provide themselves.
All wedding photographers are different. They will all have favoured pieces of kit that they like to bring to a wedding. Some of it they use all the time, other bits & bobs come out when there’s need or opportunity. Here’s what I’d bring, and why, if you were to hire me as your wedding photographer.
Of course I’d bring some good quality DSLRs (including a backup!). We wouldn’t get far without them. The advantage of using these larger cameras when compared with compacts or phone are the speed and accuracy of focussing, ease of use (all those little buttons over the body allow me to change the settings without fiddling around in menu screens) and quality of image. Unlike the majority of cameras a DSLR will record a RAW image file, letting the photographer to do more in the digital darkroom. It’s like the difference between dealing with film negatives and final prints.
Most importantly though a DSLR lets me choose the lens I want to use. For weddings my primary lens is a wide ranging zoom, that lets me quickly adjust to whatever’s going on.
I also bring a 50mm prime lens with a wide aperture. It’s my favourite. I love the crispness of the detail and the shallow depth of focus I can get with it. It’s not suitable for the whole wedding though, but it does lovely detail shots and portraits.
I’ve have a few other zooms and primes in my kit bag as well, but these are mainly backups. On occasion though I may use my lensbaby.
It's a very manual and slow lens to use though, so not always suited to the hustle and bustle of a wedding day.
Something that very few guests bring to a wedding, even if they have a consumer DSLR of their own, is a flashgun. The general rule of thumb is that the further away a light source is from the lens the better the image will look. With the flash bulb only an inch or two away from the lens on most compact cameras the results can often look bleached out, and maybe even scary. A professional flashgun moves the direct light source further from the lens, and even allows the flash to be bounced back off a wall or ceiling giving a nice even distribution of light. It can also be useful to have to fill in shadows on a very sunny day.
I always pack a flash diffuser, to soften the light even more, and can also adjust the colour of the flash to accurately match iridescent or fluorescent lights in the room. Plus an outsize reflector for outdoor backlighting on sunny days means that I can do a lot with my on-camera flashgun. Going beyond that I also carry some wireless flash triggers in my bag. These let me use more than one flashgun at once. Adding some coloured gel over the flashheads mean that I can get some interesting and unusual effects, something no one else at the wedding is getting.
Away from flash there are other methods of working with light. My favourite is to reflect existing light back in toward the subject to fill in and illuminate. Unpacking a huge white circle normally gets a gasp of surprise from the couple. It’s bulky, but is a far more gentle way to light a close portrait.
That’s generally it. I carry some polarising filters to bring out exterior colours and blue skies, but weddings tend to be fast moving so I’ve yet to have a job where it would be appropriate to setup light stands, or bring in snoots, honeycombs and umbrellas. I have a yearning to generate a moonlit composition (it’s possible with flash and post-processing) so that will be another blog post for the future.
Have a look through my wedding gallery for more examples from my portfolio.