What wedding photography equipment do you need for the big day?
If so, this post is for you.
This tutorial and video are all about what is in our bag when we are out shooting a wedding.
Wedding photography equipment – camera bodies
Between the two of us, we have four camera bodies. We carry the Nikon D800, D700 and two D7000. (This post was originally written in 2012 – newer camera bodies like the Nikon D750, D850 or D7200 make more sense if you’re purchasing new gear. See our D750 Review here!)
This gives each of us two cameras to work with, including a full-frame and a crop-sensor. It also gives each of us a backup camera should something go wrong. Having a back-up camera body and other key equipment is crucial to protect against a main camera failure. Cameras can and do fail. A backup keeps you from missing any shots and crushing your clients on their big day.
Nikon is our preferred brand, but it doesn’t really matter. Canon, Sony, Olympus…you’ll see top pros carrying all different brands. What’s important are the features and quality.
Wedding photography equipment – lenses
You might be surprised to know that we use only 3 lenses for 90% of the wedding day. Check out the video for yourself below.
Our lenses (Nikon):
- 28mm f/1.8 G
- 35mm f/1.8 G
- 50mm f/1.4 G
- 85mm f/1.8 G
Our wedding photography lenses include 2 wide-angle lenses, a medium-length lens and a portrait-length lens. All of our lenses are prime lenses. We prefer prime lenses for a few reasons, namely that they are faster and lighter.
Having “fast” lenses (wide apertures) is an absolute must for weddings as churches and receptions can be extremely dark lighting conditions! An f/1.4 or f/1.8 lens will give you a wide enough aperture to shoot in very dark conditions without maxing out your ISO or using flash. This is especially important at weddings because some churches and other venues don’t allow flash. A wider aperture also renders busy backgrounds into creamy blurriness when shot wide open.
For more on the prime vs. zoom debate, read our tutorial!
If you prefer the convenience of zoom lenses, make sure your zoom lenses cover a wide-angle focal length (50mm and below) and a portrait focal length (50mm and above). That will give you the flexibility to shoot wide-angle storytelling shots as well as outstanding bridal portraits.
The crop factor
Remember if you’re shooting a crop-sensor camera to consider the crop factor. A 35mm lens on a crop-sensor camera functions more like a 50mm lens. Be aware of the limitations of a crop-sensor camera when shooting storytelling angles. But also use it to your advantage when necessary! An 85mm lens on a crop sensor camera functions as a 127mm lens, giving you a bit of extra reach. This can come in handy at a large outdoor ceremony, allowing you to shoot great up close shots without carrying a big, heavy zoom lens.
Other lenses to consider
Many photographers include a macro lens as must-have wedding photography equipment. These lenses are great for shooting detail shots and making small details big. If you love those up-close ring shots, a macro lens like the 100mm f/2.8 or 105mm f/2.8 lens is a great option. That lens can pull double duty as a portrait lens and a macro lens!
Other wedding photography equipment
The best wedding photographers know how and when to use flash. You might not ever use your flash, but you must know how to use it. Be proficient with lighting and using your external flash both indoors and outdoors when necessary. We carry 3 Nikon SB-700 speedlights for use at a wedding, but really only use them at the reception. Other speedlight brands to consider are Godox and Yonguo.
We also carry the Demb Flip-It speedlight modifier. It helps soften shadows and gives us an on-flash solution to bounce light.
You can use strobes such as the Paul C. Buff Alienbees for wedding photography. But those are heavier and can’t be put on camera. Use the equipment you are confident and comfortable shooting in a variety of situations.
Don’t forget about extra batteries for each of the camera bodies in your kit. Weddings can last eight or nine hours! If you burst shoot or are shooting video in conjunction with your still images, you’ll use up battery more quickly. Cameras low on battery power can perform sluggishly. Swap your batteries out before they die completely. Be prepared with plenty of juice to last you the entire day!
Don’t skimp on your memory cards, either. There’s nothing worse than missing a shot because your memory card is full or busy buffering the last shot. Use fast cards from reputable brands purchased from reputable dealers. San Disk, Lexar and the Sony XQD cards are all popular wedding photography gear items.
When it comes to the size of your memory card, that’s a personal preference. Some photographers like to shoot a few larger cards so there’s fewer cards to mess with and less time spent swapping cards. Others prefer to shoot several smaller cards. That way, if a card is lost or becomes corrupt, you don’t lose as many images. That’s a personal decision.
But what is important is to have plenty of cards available. Be sure to format them before the wedding day so you can grab a new one and start shooting seamlessly. And have a system in place for keeping track of which cards are full and which ones are empty. Don’t write over the wedding images at the reception!
Want to see what another pro keeps in her wedding kit? See her wedding gear tutorial!
Don’t own the gear? Rent it!
Renting a lens or camera body is a great option for new pros on a budget. Renting lets you include high-end glass or newer camera bodies in your wedding day arsenal without having to own the equipment year-round. If you don’t shoot a lot of weddings each year or aren’t sure it’s a genre you’ll stick with long term, renting is a smart option!
Know before you go
A wedding is not an appropriate place to practice technique. Please do not take on a wedding without first assisting as a 2nd shooter and gaining experience. Styled shoots are another great way to gain experience shooting wedding-type images. You should be absolutely confident in your skills, camera, flashes and other equipment heading into a wedding. Remember, there are NO do-overs!
Links for Our Wedding Photography Equipment (Nikon)
- Cameras: D800, D700, D7000 x2
- Lenses: 28 1.8G, 35 1.8G, 50 1.4G, 85 1.8G
- Flashes: SB-700 x3
- Flash Modifiers: Demb Flip-It
Wedding photography equipment will vary from photographer to photographer. We prefer to travel fast and light. Other pros pack a more extensive kit so they have more gear to choose from. And we all have our favorite brands and focal lengths. So there’s no one perfect wedding kit. You’ll need to build your own based on your shooting style and budget. Over time, you’ll find yourself adding or subtracting to what you include in your wedding photography equipment must-haves!
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