I thought I would post some information regarding the equipment I use when shooting a wedding. There are plenty of options out there so it really comes down to shooting style and output. A Shoot-N-Burn photographer that simply shoots a wedding for really cheap and gives the client a CD with all the images can probably get away with shooting an entire wedding with a consumer-level SLR like a digital rebel or equivalent because they are not responsible for prints. For the absolute best image quality, you need a pro-level SLR camera back with good lenses and a solid workflow for post-processing.
Equipment is very important in wedding photography because you are a portrait photographer and a photojournalist and you need superior performance and image quality. If you are presenting your images in an 24×36 framed portrait or a 60 page 12×12 leather wedding album, you need very high resolution images and great lighting. If not, you are providing an album that is a beautifully gift-wrapped piece of crap.
Canon is my camera of choice. I started using canon due to their quality SLR camera backs and sharp optics. I currently shoot with the Canon 50D and I love it due to its image quality and high resolution raw image files. The 50D is a 15.1 megapixel workhorse and it creates beautiful images with my lenses. I always carry two cameras with me at all times during a wedding with different types of lenses mounted for the flexibility of capturing different types of shots.
often times, flash photography is not allowed during a wedding ceremony. This means that I need to capture the entire ceremony with available light, which is not always good light. This is where the expensive equipment really shines. Today’s professional SLR cameras are ready for those low-light conditions. Shooting at higher ISO’s with faster lenses is the only way to capture these shots where available light is scarce.
During the ceremony I have my EF-S 17-55mm IS (image stabilized) USM (ultra sonic motor focus) wide angle zoom mounted on one body for those wide shots of the ceremony and the other, I have my 70-200mm L IS USM for those close up shots where it looks like I am standing on the alter with bride and groom. Most times, they do not even see me when I am taking these photos. I can also use this lens to get in close to capture reactions of the parents and family members in the first couple of rows which are really nice captures.
For the formal shots, I bring some extra lights and umbrellas with me to get the best light quality for any shooting conditions. I fire all my remote strobes using pocket wizard multi-max tranceivers. They allow me to trigger my flashes from up to 1,600 feet away as soon as I hit the shutter release on the camera.
The reception usually takes place into the night or in a dark catering ball room which works well because I can capture the dark mood shots as well as add my own light to certain shots where it doesn’t exist. For these conditions, I bring a lighting assistant with me who carries a quantum T5D-R flash head on a monopod stick and follows me around to get off-camera flash lighting while I am mobile during the reception. I also have a room light available if the ambient light in the room is just too low where my shutter speeds are slow and producing blurry images. This strobe is powerful enough to light the entire room when shooting it into a white ceiling. We want to always produce the sharpest images possible.
I have two more prime lenses that I carry with me and usually use them both at the wedding reception and they are my 24mm L 1.4 IS USM and 50mm L 1.2 IS USM. Canon’s L-Series lenses are their best offering as far as lenses go. When canon puts the L stamp on their lenses, that means that is their best lens in that category. Each of my lenses are protected with a B+W UV filter that both protects the glass on the front of the lens and reduces glare if a stray beam happens to reach beyond the lens hood.
Throughout the day, I am going through several CF cards. As I finish shooting with a CF card ( I use Lexar Professional UDMA CF cards exclusively), I back it up to my Epson P-7000 Multimedia photo viewer (which is really just a portable hard drive for on-location backup) for safe keeping. I always keep a backup on location. When I get back to my studio, my day is still not over. No matter what time I return, I then import all the images into my raw image processing software, while at the same time backing everything up to my RAID storage device for yet another copy. This is a time-consuming process so I usually do all this while enjoying an ice-cold alcoholic beverage and cleaning my equipment so it is always ready for the next shoot. After all the files are safely imported and backed up, I backup the originals one more time to DVD which I keep with the clients file. My Epson Multimedia backup device stays with me wherever I go until all the clients files are finalized and uploaded to my online gallery. This is just one more safety precaution in the event of a disaster at the studio (God forbid).
I have many more toys and special use equipment that I use occasionally such as filters, gels, light-shaping tools, clamps and stands to mount flashes (or cameras) in a nice hiding spot, but the more important equipment is listed above. It’s nice to experiment with new toys, but for the most part, my shooting style and equipment setup during a wedding is the same, unless otherwise necessary.
Post-production in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop and album design is always custom.
If you are reading this, thank you for your interest.