How much gear do you need to be a successful wedding photographer? You may be surprised to discover what is classed as essential... have a look at our guide to what every wedding photographer should be packing in their kit bag.
If you’re thinking of going into wedding photography – or you just want a nosy at what the pros might be using – we’ve put together a wedding photography kit list of what you might find in the typical bag of a wedding photographer. Hint – it’s a lot.
Wedding photography is one of the most varied jobs, photographically, that anyone can do, and as such, you’ll find that the average wedding pro has to be prepared for all kinds of situations. There’s portraits, reportage, low light, macro, close-up, action – and more genres in between that all need to be captured.
Have a look at a basic set-up and bear in mind that this can be expanded almost ad infinitum.
Wedding photography kit list: camera
The choice of camera can be a contentious one for wedding photographers. There’s lots to bear in mind including how heavy the camera is, the lenses which are available for it, how sturdy the camera is, and the kind of photography you’ll be doing as part of your wedding photography style.
Most tend to find that a full-frame camera is the best option for wedding photography as full-frame sensors can cope well with low light, tend to have the most detail, and create beautiful shallow depth of field effects.
Time was that a full-frame camera left you with one option: DSLR. However, with Sony’s introduction of the full-frame mirrorless cameras, all that has changed. The benefits of the Sony system is that its light (which is great for carrying all day), and you can shoot silently (ideal when in quiet churches and for not ruining the atmosphere). The Sony A7S II is also famed for its lowlight capabilities.
For now though, the lens ranges for Canon and Nikon systems are far greater, so many will probably stick with these options. You have a good range of choices for full-frame Canon and Nikon DSLRs, including the Nikon D810, Nikon D5, Canon 1DX Mark II and Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.
Most wedding photographers will also have a second camera in their arsenal. This means they don’t need to swap lenses all the time, and you can rely on one if the other fails for whatever reason. Some people stick with two of the same model, while others will have one camera which is cheaper than the other to cut down on costs.
Wedding photography kit list: lenses
Because you’re likely to be shooting a fairly wide range of subjects, you’re going to need a seriously diverse range of glass.
Top of the list will probably be a full complement of prime lenses. 35mm and 50mm are great lengths for “documentary” style shots, while an 85mm lens is a classic portrait focal length.
You may also want to consider a 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lens which will give you a good range of focal lengths without the need to swap lenses. The maximum aperture is not quite as wide as prime lenses can offer though.
Next up, telephoto lenses for when you can’t get close to the action, such as during the ceremony. A 70-200mm lens is a classic choice for many wedding photographers, but you may also want to consider going a little longer if you can.
Other speciality lenses which can be useful for wedding photographers include a macro lens for details such as wedding rings and flowers, a tilt-shift lens for interesting portraits, and a very wide angle lens for capturing venue interiors and for very large group portraits.
Wedding photography kit list: camera bags and straps
Many wedding photographers may equip themselves with two different camera bags which are useful at different points throughout the day.
You may want to use a very large suitcase or backpack type bag which holds all of your gear – just make sure there’s somewhere suitable at the venue that you can securely leave your gear when you’re not working with it. A nice example is the Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader 55.
A messenger style bag is great for walking around the ceremony and you need to quickly access a couple of different lenses or other accessories. A strap which allows you to carry two camera bodies can be a great investment too.
Wedding photography kit list: tripod and stands
A tripod won’t be necessary for many types of wedding photography shot, but they can be useful for certain shots, such as posed group shots. Placing the camera on a tripod and arranging various groups can be a quicker way to work than handheld. The 3 Legged Thing Equinox Albert is ultra-tall, which can be useful for large group shots.
Also think about stands if you’re going to be using off camera flashes, diffuses, and lights.
Wedding photography kit list: flashes and other lighting equipment
At least one flash is almost essential for wedding photography – especially when it comes to the end of the day and it’s time for first dances and night-time shots. A flash can also be useful for dark ceremony shots (although you’ll need to check with whoever is holding the ceremony that flash is acceptable).
You might also want to equip yourself with external lights, diffusers to soften the light if you can’t bounce it from a wall, and remote triggers if you’re using off camera or more than one flash.
Wedding photography kit list: reflector
A reflector is a simple piece of kit than can save lots of subjects. They’re useful when photographing wedding portraits, or for photographing still life shots of things like wedding rings, flowers, clothing and so on.
Ideally you’ll want to look for a 5-in-1 reflector which features a gold side, a white side, a silver side, a black side, and a diffuser to equip you for various lighting conditions and situations. Something like the Lastolite Circular Bottletop Reflector is ideal for this kind of thing.
Wedding photography kit list: batteries
You can never have too many spare batteries when it comes to a wedding. It’s likely you’ll be photographing all day, and quite intensely too. Make sure you pack at least two spare batteries for each camera. It might be worth carrying the charger with you too so you can find somewhere in the venue to charge any flat batteries. Remember to also pack spare batteries for any accessories, such as flashguns, that you’ll be using.
Wedding photography kit list: memory cards
As well as spare batteries, spare memory cards are also essential purchases for wedding photographers. Ideally your camera will have two memory card slots. You can use the second slot to make a backup of the first memory card to guard against memory card failures and corruptions. Make sure you have at least three spare memory cards, and ideally you’ll want to buy high capacity cards.
As you’re going through the day, backing up your card using a back-up device (or your laptop) is also highly recommended if you can. The WD My Passport Wireless Pro is a good example of something you can easily fit in your camera bag for backing-up on the move. You can never have too many backups when it comes to wedding photography.