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Equipment for Wedding Photographers

by Josh Root, October 2012 (updated November 2015)

Author’s note: This article was updated in 2015 to reflect new equipment on the market. I also added sections on backup equipment, third party lenses, Pentax/Sony gear, and mirrorless camera systems. Be advised that older photo.net user comments below may not accurately reflect the current article. — Josh

Should you try to make quality wedding images as a paid professional with just a Canon Rebel and the kit lens? The answer is no, you really shouldn’t. However, any digital SLR body combined with a decent lens (see below) is a good start. This article will explain the equipment that a typical wedding photographer uses and some of the reasoning behind those choices.

An Important Note on Renting vs. Owning

When you are responsible for documenting something as important as a wedding day, there is no excuse for not having the right tool. This is doubly true if you are presenting yourself as a working professional. So how do you get your hands on a $1600 Canon 16-35 lens when you only have $100 in your wallet? Rent it! Most professional photography stores have a rental department. Prices for a digital body range from $100-200 per day and most lenses range from $24-100 per day. Many rental operations offer a discount for multi-day or weekend rental as well. This is good because you get the chance to become familiar with a particular piece of equipment before you have to use it on the job.

No photography rental businesses near you? There are a number of companies who operate rental services over the Internet and via Fedex/UPS. LensProToGo.com (a photo.net partner—you’ll get a discount code for $25 off your first rental with a photo.net subscription), BorrowLenses.com, LensRentals.com, and ATSRentals.com all have solid reputations. We at photo.net HQ use LensProToGo.com because they are a local company that we have had great experiences with. While they are local to us, anyone in the US can work with them as the bulk of their rentals are handled via UPS.

© Michael Sulka

An Even More Important Note about Backup Equipment

Being a wedding photographer is a fairly high stress occupation as far as photography goes. So many variables that could mess up your photos are out of your control and it’s a show that only happens once, so you have to get it right. One thing you can control, however, is what happens when your camera gear breaks down. When, and I do mean when, this frustrating event occurs, a well prepared professional will simply reach into their bag, pull out their backup, and keep on shooting. Does this mean that you have to have an exact duplicate of every piece of equipment you own? Of course not, though if you could afford it, that would be a wonderful thing! You just need to have enough backup equipment to get the job done if any one piece of gear breaks. For example, if your standard gear is a full frame body and three zoom lenses, you might want to have a crop sensor body and a few prime lenses as a backup. Or you could change out the prime lenses for a single wide-to-mid telephoto. There are a number of different directions you could go. The idea is just that you have the gear you need to photograph the wedding even if your primary gear goes down. Backup equipment is crucial and not something that anyone who is working as a professional photographer can afford to skimp on. Without it, you are risking your reputation and your paycheck.

Insurance—Perhaps the Most Important Note of All

Speaking plainly, working as a professional wedding photographer without liability and equipment insurance is a terrible idea. Life is chaotic, and life at a wedding is even more so. The opportunities for disaster are everywhere, both for you and for your equipment. What would happen to your business if you lost some or all of your equipment? Watch this poor wedding photographer fall into a fountain with thousands of dollars worth of bodies and lenses. Or how about this fellow who had his gear straight-up stolen in the middle of the wedding (you can see the thief on the video).

Don’t stop at just insuring your equipment. Lawsuits are everywhere these days and professional liability insurance is crucial. Coming up with $10,000 to replace a bag full of equipment could be peanuts compared to a civil court case. Could you get sued for setting up a formal portrait where everyone fell into a lake? What about this guy who flew a drone into the bride and groom while filming? Your elbow bumping a cake, a grandmother knocked down while rushing to get a shot, or worst of all, something that causes you to lose a couple’s photos are all potential accidents waiting to happen. Sure, some people will be understanding about accidents, but others will absolutely not. Just to drive home the point, here’s a situation where a photographer had both her equipment stolen AND lost the wedding images because of it.

© Christy Rosado

You need insurance. There is no way around it. As a professional, you can’t go the amateur route and tack a rider onto your homeowner’s or renter’s policy. Most of those riders have specific exclusions for equipment used professionally (and have no liability insurance). You need an insurance policy that is specifically designed for professional photograhers. Photo.net partners with Brown & Brown insurance to offer discounted professional photographer insurance/liability packages for our members. With up to $2,000,000 of no deductible liability coverage, the option to cover home/office locations, and equipment coverage as low as $1 per year per $1000 of value, this insurance package should be an option for any photographer looking to protect their equipment and business. Click here for more information on this insurance through photo.net’s partner Brown & Brown. Additionally, call a good local insurance agent and they should be able to point you in the right direction. But beware anyone who doesn’t seem to understand that you are a working professional. You can also look into insurance offered through photographers associations like APA or WPPI.

Text and photos © 2016 Josh Root.

Article revised November 2015.

Readers' Comments

Add a comment

William Porter , October 31, 2007; 03:27 P.M.

I would note that there are good cameras that don't come from Canon and Nikon! My suggestions for a Pentax system for wedding photographers would be as follows.

1. First camera body, a Pentax K10D. Advantages include in-body shake reduction, a very solidly constructed weather-sealed body, very useful TAv mode (like manual mode, but with auto-adjusting ISO), support for the new DA* SDM lenses, and terrific ergonomics.

2. Second camera body, ideally another K10D, or the new K100D Super. The controls on the K100D Super don't work quite like those on the K10D, and it's annoying to have to adjust as you switch cameras, so paying that little bit more for a second K10D is worth it.

3. Two Pentax AF 540 FGZ flash units. These provide P-TTL compatibility. The 540 is a little more powerful than its little brother, the 360, and the 540 can swivel as well as tilt -- very useful for bouncing. Don't bother with the cables for off-camera use; Pentax wireless mode works very reliably. But get two units, as flash units are a bit more delicate than your camera -- and a second flash can be very useful for the formals, if you don't have more elaborate lighting equipment handy.

4. Normal zoom lens: I have settled on the Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 and it seems quite good. The new Pentax DA* 16-50 f/2.8 is no doubt also very good, but it is a LOT more expensive. The older Pentax 16-45 f/4 is a fine lens, too, but that one-stop difference between f/2.8 and f/4 is a problem, as it might spell the difference between shooting at ISO 1600 and ISO 1100 or 800. Budget alternative: the Sigma 28-70 f/2.8 or the (more highly regarded) Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 offer good compromise between price, range and quality.

5. Tele zoom: the new Pentax DA* 50-135 f/2.8 ED (IF) SDM.

6. Other lenses to consider: The Pentax auto-focus 50mm f/1.4 is a lifesaver in low-light, providing a two-stop advantage over the f/2.8 lenses. And in my own opinion, the Sigma 10-20 is a more useful ultra-wide than the Pentax fish-eye, as the Sigma is not a fish-eye and thus is less of a special-effects lens. Remember also that the Pentax dslr's are compatible with just about every K-mount lens made since 1974, and some of the older primes, while manual focus, are very high-quality glass indeed and can produce outstanding results.

7. Accessories: Be sure to get the excellent grip for the K10D and a battery pack for the 540 flash units.

Axel Cordes , October 31, 2007; 06:32 P.M.

Great that the learn section is continued - That was the reason I started with pnet in 2001. I was on a beginners level at that time. Nowadays I would also like pnet to enhance and to give also help for advanced. Advanced? Knowing all that stuff as DOF, composition of lines, light etc - it would be great still to stay here on pnet and continue the race. After knowing the rules & hardware (Canon Nikon Leica etc pp), the advanced needs some support in PhotoPhilosophy, a non technical related discussion. Some are out there, and can be found (just name Daniel Bayer) which are on that train - but how to organize the different levels? It's hard to find the pointers to the correct discussions - and pnet should think about that. I don't want pnet to become flicker.

Regards Axel

Jim Strutz - Anchorage, AK , October 31, 2007; 06:48 P.M.

Great list Josh! Well thought out, and complete enough to get a person started. Of course the main things a photographer needs to bring to a wedding are education and experience, but as far as equipment goes I think this is a good list for someone to start with.

I would add more stress to having backups though. A wedding photographer needs two of everything that is critical to getting the shot. So two bodies for sure, two fast normal range zoom lenses, or a zoom and a couple primes, and at least two flash units. Also, multiple spares for batteries and and memory cards. You never know when this stuff will crash on it's own or get destroyed in an accident, so bring extras of everything critical.

And then there are things like safety pins, invisible tape, needle & thread, etc., but that's another list entirely, and has been discussed in Photo.net forums in the past.

Also there are two schools of thought on camera variety. Should you bring two nearly identical bodies so that everything works the same with them, or should you buy a crop frame and full frame of the same brand? Mixing sensor frame sizes gives the advantage of using one lens to fulfill different uses with different cameras, but it takes more thought to determine the best backup solutions for both sizes. I suppose if done right a mix of camera bodies might actually save a person money.

Anyway, this is a great list, and should prove useful to many.

Ben Rubinstein - Manchester UK , October 31, 2007; 08:21 P.M.

The bit about backup should be in bold! Can't be emphasised enough. I also want to bravo the paragraph on gaffers tape. Those who haven't shot weddings before will question why gaffers tape has a paragraph as big as that discussing cameras. Those who do shoot weddings will know why!

Scott Zetlan , November 01, 2007; 10:41 A.M.

More than once I've taken a mediocre shot that was "saved" by the high resolution in the Canon 1Ds-mark II. It is indeed a big, heavy mofo of a camera, but 16.7 megapixels means that occasionally you can crop a not-quite-long-enough-lens image into something stunning, at suitable resolutions for a wedding album.

I recommend that your backup body have the same sensor size as the primary -- it's too easy to get tripped up by moving between different pieces of equipment. This is a risk you don't have to take.

No one mentioned "photobanks" or portable hard drives for offloading shots and re-using cards. Does anyone have general guidelines for how many shots you wind up taking at a wedding? Shot rate will vary, I'm sure, but I imagine you'll have a fairly predictable number of posed shots (varying by the size of the guest list and wedding party) plus a shot per hour rate for the remaining ones.

Pete S. , November 01, 2007; 05:55 P.M.

Many feel that a rotatable flash bracket and also light modifiers for the flash such as Gary Fong's LightSphere is a must have. Often used in combination with high voltage battery packs like Quantums.

One of the most important aspects in a wedding photographers kit that I missed from the article is a decent computer with a calibrated display and software suitable to process large amounts of shots, for instance Lightroom.

William W , November 02, 2007; 12:10 A.M.

How difficult is it to synthesise what most of us do; and with what gear; into a brief few paragraphs and label it: a beginning point?

Certainly, there will be nuances and differences, but this is a good, tight, piece, that gives a foundation, as well as stimulate questions, for those who really are interested in learning, from those who do.

In the next incarnation I, too, encourage more stress on the need for redundancy.

Redundancy is underscored apropos lenses; by comparison, it is somewhat glossed over in regard to bodies and lighting.

Specifically bodies: one might argue that `most` experienced professionals shoot with two and have a third as `back up`.

A really good piece and an easy and logical read.


Josh Laverty , November 02, 2007; 03:35 P.M.

What an excellent article. I too enjoy the instructional tutorials on this site. For many, especially those interested in starting out a more serious approach to photography, this article will serve as an effective introduction.

I would like to point out however that there are other manufacturers apart from canon and nikon that make lenses that the article claims do not exist. There are plenty of m42, minolta/sony, olympus and pentax lenses that will satisfy the criterias listed above, for small sensor cameras as well as full-frame. There are also a number of digital range finders now on the market that have low-focal length, large aperture lenses available.

All in all, a great article, with useful parameters. Cheers, -Josh-

Beau Hooker , November 10, 2007; 07:49 A.M.

Just wanted to say nicely done, Josh!

Denys Meunier , November 11, 2007; 09:09 A.M.

Great article Josh,I agree with you if you can afford all those equipement but I think its not necessary to have a D3 or Mark 3 to do a wedding.I use Pentax K10d,Pentax 16-50 2.8,50mm 1.4,55-200,540FGZ,gary fong light sphere,that's it and I do a great job to.

Ian Rance , November 13, 2007; 09:14 A.M.

Very good article, but for my wedding shoots I use Nikon film gear. I have had some very positive comments when I supply the couple with the end photos in the album. My current 'wedding shoot' equipment list is:

Nikon F6, 24-85mm f2.8-4 zoom, 50mm f1.8 for interiors, SB-800 with diffuser (superb soft light output with this flashgun). F80 is my back-up camera.

I speak with the bride and groom a few days beforehand and they often want a certain photo that I may not think of doing - and I may modify my gear on the day to suit.

The 24-85mm zoom (hood essential) does 98% of the day's shooting, and I supply the couple with a photo-CD of all the images taken for them to e-mail to relatives.

Christina Nation , November 14, 2007; 03:25 A.M.

"Can you take professional quality wedding images with a Canon Rebel XTi and the kit lens? The answer is no." There's a huge movement of us on flickr and even a site specifically for us kit lens users.

Do I plan to stick with the XTI?

As a back up to the 5d on it's way, sure.

But remember a TON of pro folks still use the 20d.

and the 20d is how old?

and is and was still considered a prosumer camera?

So's the XTI. It'll become the 20d of tomorrow, maybe. Maybe not.

But as I have defended before, it is a GREAT camera.

The kit lens is fine until you can get something sleeker and yes, better.

Don't get talked up into owing more than you can afford.

That's the sort of advice in articles about wedding equipment I read more from people that charge steep and love the work steeper.

I usually don't get into pissing contests with other wedding photographers because many can easily swing the bat of time and experience over mine. But, look, I made my first magazine photo job from a little fuji 5.1 mp. I jumped into my first wedding alone with one body and three lenses and a pack of 283's bounced into an umbrella. I've been paid ever since for my digital work. And it's good work.

It's about the person behind the lens. And my XTI CAN take professional wedding photos because of it.


Mark Anthony Kathurima , November 14, 2007; 07:20 A.M.

Josh, this is a great article! Well thought out and well laid out. I DO agree with Christina about choice of body, though. And not just because I use a 400D (XTi) myself :) In fact, I've only done about 5 weddings with it because I got it earlier this year. Before that? A Rebel G and 28-105 USM. Yup, that's it. Majority of my wedding photography has been done using a film SLR with one lens, no back-ups.

It really is the user, not so much the tool :) I'm all for having back-up and plenty of it! But if you can't afford it (or couldn't, like me ;)) do you turn down a job that you KNOW you can deliver on? (By the way, I don't have the option of renting here in Kenya)

I'd add that a light modifier is a very useful (and inexpensive) tool. I find the DFD Pro from Joe Demb invaluable and made sure I have one set for each of my 2 flashes.

Other odds and ends in my bag that ALWAYS come in handy and cost next to nothing are: hair clips, hair brush, small mirror :)

Best regards from Kenya,

James P. Jones , November 14, 2007; 04:27 P.M.

Preface: I haven't exhaustively read the article. There is a lot of interest in this work, so I think it is great that you are writing an article. Perhaps there should be a partner article on the ethics and expectations of wedding photography.

A couple of notes on changes:

The first line regarding the XTi and kits lens - Rather than "Can you" - perhaps it should be "Should you".

It is inadvisable to shoot with only the XTi and Kit; but at the end of the day it is about the photographer and redundancy. If the XTi and Kit lens are the extent of the experience of the photographer (and the only equipment they have) then it is no doubt a bad idea. But, it is more about redundancy and location. Indoor wedding? Kit would be troublesome. Outdoor wedding? It would probably be alright.

Second note:

The list of camera bodies drops the Fuji S5 Pro - a camera that seems to lend itself to shooting high contrast scenes such as weddings.

Josh Root , November 18, 2007; 05:07 P.M.

"The first line regarding the XTi and kits lens - Rather than "Can you" - perhaps it should be "Should you"."

An excellent edit that more accurately expresses the concept that I was trying to put forward, that professional photographers use professional equipment.

Exceptional photographers can shoot with anything. However, this article is not meant for the exceptional photographer, but rather the beginner.

Rick Rothwell , November 20, 2007; 02:55 A.M.

I did a wedding for friends this summer and it turned out ok. Better equipment would have helped some, but I feel knowledge, skill, and experience are the real enabler of good shots. The faster lenses are great for low light, but I wonder if this is a bit of a hold-over from film where you couldn't change the ISO on the fly like with digital, especially shooting in NEF (RAW) where I can do wonders with almost any exposure in Capture NX ? Well, there is that depth of field thing! Yes, an f/2.8 can make a huge difference in isolating the subject from the background, just have to get the right things in that shallow depth of field. Nice to have it all thru the focal range. I just can't afford that effect yet...

I wish I had the $4,700+ for the 3 recommended f/2.8 zooms. If you're going for speed and pricey lenses why not the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D ? I have that one! But some of my best looking pics were with the old but very nice Micro Nikkor 60 mm f/2.8D on my 2nd D80 (a.k.a. D200 Lite). All zooms have distortion, and I got away with using my Nikkor 18-200VR for much of it. Even it produced some nice shots and had a great range for a wide variety of shots without having to stop and swap lenses in a very dynamic setting.

Anyways, it was a 2nd marriage for both and they're great ballroom dancers - so were most of the guests. So the dancing was the main point of the shoot, go figure. We did some formals but with temps around 95 degrees we finished in under 15 minutes! They were very happy and paid only a very small amount for the shoot, and I got a great experience, learned a lot doing it and in post-processing. And they loved the DVD slideshow set to the music CD they put together, that's a strong point for me it seems. Total = 1480 shots, 709 decent or better, 511 on the 34 minute DVD slideshow. Yikes !

I might be starting this a lot later than most at 48 and with less equipment, but you've got to take a few steps to see where you stand, and where you're going. I may never make a living at it, but if I make a little money to pay for some of my equipment and make people happy enhancing their memories, then I did an okay job I guess. Thanks for all the info. For me, the joy is in the photo, not the equipment...

Asher . , November 25, 2007; 11:58 P.M.

Here's an article on equipment from a successful and experienced wedding photographer.

Jeff Ascough's take on equipment for wedding photography.

See the entry entitled "Cameras and the desire to upgrade". There's also an entry entitled "Bags and Stuff" showing what he has in his bags.

William W , November 26, 2007; 06:37 P.M.

I usually don't get into pissing contests with other wedding photographers (. . .) It's about the person behind the lens. And my XTI CAN take professional wedding photos because of it. (CN)

It ain`t about a pissing competition.

Putting aside the body for one moment, it is about a kit lens (comes to mind 17 to 55 F3.5 to F5.6) and whilst a Wedding CAN be done with this lens, (and my posts constantly defend this lens as `good` if the photographer knows its limitations).

Weddings (plural and: singular meaning `in toto`) CANNOT be done with ONLY this lens and (one) XTi.

That is a very important message to send out to anyone attempting this service and charging a fee for it.

The reasons are:

1. Equipment redundancy.

2. (lack of) Lens speed.

These two points cannot be underscored enough: when shooting an event such as a Wedding, the `Deer Hunter`s` ONE SHOT rule applies.

That is how I read the original message, and that is how I believe the message was meant, not as a slight against those who use a kit lens etc: personally I was not offended and I will continue to sell images created with my kit lens.


Matthew McManamey , November 27, 2007; 01:37 P.M.

I'd like to thank Christia for her comments on her low-buck equipment. The guys that scoff if you don't have the latest and greatest Nikanons really irritate me. I'm glad it's not just Pentax, Olympus, etc. users that they thumb their noses at.

Personally, I'd rather use something low end and familiar to me than rent something high end that I have to figure out as I go.

Some people act like you have to have a Mark III to make money, but here's my secret: Take good pictures. We were doing that long before the DSLR came along. I would have found this article more interesting if it covered how to shoot a wedding with a Rebel XTi...

Michelle Maor , November 27, 2007; 05:44 P.M.

I am so glad that this thread was created! I am starting out and always look for suggestions from seasoned photographer. It is so helpful to learn from others that way I don't have to recreate the wheel.

Gergely Maucha , November 29, 2007; 09:50 A.M.

This is a great overview of the required equipment recommended for professional wedding photographers. The image examples are convincing as well, demonstrating that there is a great photographer behind the lenses :) I miss here only the description of the used equipment in the "Detail" section below the images.

Additionally, some tips for those who are looking for lenses with excellent image quality, light weight (!) and lower price tag... Canon 3.5-4.5 / 20-35 mm; Tamron 2.8 / 28-70 mm SP; Tamron 2.8 / 90 mm macro SP DI; and well Canon 1.8/50 mm

Best Wishes: Gergely

William Kazak , November 29, 2007; 11:42 A.M.

A very well written article about wedding photography. It is essential to have backup gear and to know how to use it, especially flash. Fill flash takes some extensive "camera work" to understand and to use on a consistent basis. Some off camera flash can really look great at a wedding. When I started wedding photography in the 60's it was a two or three lens kit; 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. My, how things change and I still find these three primes in my current Nikon AF kit along with a 20mm and my Nikon F6.

Update: April 26, 2010

As I am writing this, I have gone totally Nikon digital for the weddings with a pair of D300 bodies. The instant preview screen is so handy and the guesswork/anxiety is all gone. The auto-focus is great with these cameras but the flash is much harder to balance than with film. I am using three SB-800 units because; I like fill flash, I like off camera lighting at the reception, I keep a backup flash.

My lens kit has changed because the D300 is a crop body (1.5X factor). I traded my Nikon 20mm F2.8 for a Nikon 12-24 mm F4. I gave up compactness and speed for more wide. Wide can be very creative at a wedding but you have to be ready to shoot wide. With many years of experience, I was finally ready to go real wide. You can easily get too much distortion going wide and, for people photography, look out if you do. The Nikon 35 mm F2, a great lens, is still in the kit. I tried the new 1.8 version and I did not like it. The 85 mm F1.8 has been replaced by the 105 mm F2 DC lens. That is my second try at the 105 mm F2 DC. This time, I finally figured it out. The 105 mm F2 DC does not totally wipe the backgrounds. It simply creates a very pleasing bokeh. It is faster than a zoom and more compact than a zoom. I can still use it in the house and I don't need anything longer at a wedding than 105mm (150 with the crop factor).

I have to mention that I always bring a tripod to the wedding ceremony. For the bride and groom kneeling at the alter, my pics are carefully composed and I have the depth of field I need to include the reverend without camera shake.

I recommend that you bring what you use everyday but bring backups too. If you have the lenses at the wedding that you have in your usual kit, you will be more comfortable. Only you know your own style. Live it and refine it as you go.

Tim Hinchliffe , November 29, 2007; 12:17 P.M.

Another vote for backups. I'll go further; have backups to the backups. I still love my Metz hammerheads, and I don't dare go to a wedding without four of them, several sca modules, and a boot full of any old body to get me out of a jam, even as far as a T90 tank. Also, hope that the car-park isn't too far away; and would someone please devise some sort of trolley affair that doesn't make me look like I'm headed for the airport ? Having three loaded cameras swinging round your neck isn't very efficient, and makes you look like an idiot. Two bags ?? You'd be lucky. Regards, Tim.

Dennis Morren , November 29, 2007; 12:56 P.M.

I like to think about my equipment as an artist does his brushes.

It is possible that in the hands of a artist even the simplest tools can create masterpieces. And the opposite is also true, that in the hands of anyone without any talent or eye, the $100 brush won't create the work for you. Equipment such as camera bodies, lenses and software can help you get where you are going, but you need to know WHERE you are going and HOW to use the tools to get you there.

If you have the tools and know how to use them, great. If you don't, and still are able to get the results you want, even better. I just feel sometimes we rely too much on the technology and not enough on our own God given gifts. _______________________________________________________________

Here's my Essential Equipment List:

2 eyes (my personal eyes, not someone else's)

1 brain (note: I tend to try to use both the right and left sides)

1 camera (any camera will do, even an instant one)

This is all I need to be a whatever it is people like to label as "photographer".


And as side note; my business cards do not list me as a photographer. I am listed as a photojournalist on one and an artist on another. Because the work I do either tells a specific story or else it fits the definition of art (Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature.). What is it that a so-called "Photographer" does anyway? Some of the one's I know personally have lost sight of WHY we do this and have become obsessed with HOW we do this. If you are reading this as a photographer, my prayer is, that this does not describe you.

Bob Doerr , November 29, 2007; 03:04 P.M.

Kudos to Dennis' comments about the tool bag God gave most of us. Although, this is an entirely different article his comments belong here to instruct "beginners" and remind the rest of us that the tools are only part of it.

In addition, Josh's article is like one you would love to get in a beginning art class when you have no idea where to start with equipment, but lots of ideas what you want to create.

Neil Ambrose , November 29, 2007; 03:21 P.M.

Good effort, but I found this article a little one dimensional. The most disappointing thing about it is the strange assumption that all wedding photographers will (i) be DSLR users; (ii) have nothing other than Canon or Nikon in their bags; (iii) be unable to function if they don't have a bag full of speedlights. Crazy. The good wedding photographers I know routinely produce superlative work with whatever they have to hand, and are masters of shooting by available light. Amongst them are Holga, Leica and Horizon users - not a Canon in sight.

Amos C , November 29, 2007; 03:27 P.M.

I agree with the notion that you should be responsible for what you do and get the best equipment that you can depend on to get you the shots you are after. However, I think rejecting gears outright is a bit extreme. I mean, if Joe Buissink wants to shoot a wedding with the XTi, who's gonna say no? A friend, actually husband and wife team that I know shoots with the 5D + XTi and they get awesome shots. You can hardly tell the differences.

Oh yeah, and the Nikon 14-24mm 2.8 zoom is for 35mm full frame, not just DX bodies.

Dominic Ramirez , November 29, 2007; 04:15 P.M.

Those of you using kit lenses for weddings should be ashamed of yourselves. You're just being greedy and you know it. people spend a lot of money on weddings and usually thousands for a photographer. Unless you're charging under $800 they deserve better. Nothing is more important in the image chain than the lens.

Those talking about portable drives, I have been using a PD70X for about a year and a half and love it. It's a no frils workhorse that has consistentally lasted all day on 4 AA batteries. I can usually get 10-14GB in the drive without even thinking about a battery change. I have also dropped it onto a tile floor while full of data from about 4 feet. My heart stopped but the drive didn't even blink, but it does smile at you (really). it also has a sad face if something is wrong. You can also swap common laptop drives in it for for storage.

Andrew Gale , November 29, 2007; 05:30 P.M.

You forgot to talk about a laptop. Although I have never shot a wedding, i know that it would be a good idea to bring a laptop and a card reader. If you lose a card, or get dirt in one, whatever, even if you have three, four or five, 4GB cards, sometimes you will just want more space than you plan before hand, and rather than keeping a bunch of extra cards, keep you laptop charged. Chances are that you can download all of your photos in the time it takes to shoot another card load, and you can therefore go on forever with two cards, swaping them around.

Also, regarding cards, make sure that you have deleted all the photos from them prior to the wedding (other event etc.) Nothing is more annoying to find out that one of your cards is full to the brim with valuable photos that you would not be willing to delete.

Make sure they are formated too. This will minimize the chance of an error, and hopefully keep the write speed a bit higher.

Tim Hinchliffe , November 29, 2007; 05:32 P.M.

It is said that wherever you have three photographers gathered together, you'll have four opinions, no matter the topic. How true. Just to calm it down a little; Yes, of course you can get spectacular results using your old Kodak Instamatic. But without wishing to start a fight, might I suggest that you keep a second Instamatic in a pocket somewhere, in case the first one stops working ? And you can light it with a torch for all I care, just take some extra batteries. Tim.

Candice Greene , November 29, 2007; 05:56 P.M.

Agree with Christina

I'm a professional wedding photographer as well and I couldn't agree more than Christina Nation's comments. Right on girl! Honestly, to add to that - weddings & especially receptions, are just too rough. You're dealing with dancing, crowds, drinks, fast movement and many other things. Wedding photography is different than studio so the equipment has to be right for each individual situation. I was saving for a Cannon 5D and then reality hit and I slipped from a bubble MACHINE leaking fluid on the dance floor (which the band didn't have approval for) and down went my Rebel XTi & it flew across the dance floor. While my second camera, an older Rebel with a telephoto lense, just made it through. Although I have insurance on the one that broke, I'm still sending it for repairs 4 months later. So why buy extra expensive things that I will just get the same or just as well results from. If you are worried about quality, shoot in RAW. If you are worried about creativity and if they come out good- it's all about the photographer skills not necessarily the camera. Also, I recommend buying numerous smaller size flash cards, because if one large flash card corupts or goes bad for whatever reason, you've lost the whole wedding. It's better to have a rotation system. I bought a waitress tie-around for my waist with three pockets: One for batteries, one for flash cards and one for biz cards etc. It's great and less to have around when your on the move. Always, always have a back up camera. Lastly, when buying a wedding camera, be aware of the weight of the camera. You will have at least one strapped around your neck for 8 or more hours! Holly

Dena Rosko , November 29, 2007; 10:17 P.M.

taken in low-light with 50mm/1.8f

Thank you Josh for taking the time to write this article. I have decided that the degree to which I am willing to invest in something will bear like results. Tools are an investment in whatever project they are designed to help build. Certainly a photographer's talent is required, and the time, experience, and _cost_ are needed to refine that talent.

Speaking of the person behind the lens, attitude can be more valuable than tools and talent because it influences how we use our tools and talents - and how we treat others.

No need for "p-ing" contests here at p-net outside of the literal fare. If you wish to state the benefit of kits for weddings, than perhaps you can take the time to write a _helpful_ article in the positive rather than criticizing another pro's work. See my post on Philosophy in Relating to Professional Peers.

I appreciate folks here such as Josh who take the time to share their expertise in a field that is so competitive and potentially artsy-fartsy and filled with brand groupies it can be downright snobby. Still I have yet to meet a pro -- a photographer with a business license on the wall, who pays taxes, who earns a wage by their work, who advertises, who invests in pricey tools to do the best job possible, who builds a cadre of colleagues -- wax cameras because they are trying to dominate someone else. Photographers like their craft, so they're going to talk about whatever contributes to it. I don't see any elitism here, and I thank you Josh for your article. As a writer I also know you can't fit everything into one piece. As an editorial, event, and wedding photographer, here's what is in my bag:

  • 18mm-200mm Nikon
  • 50mm/1.8f Nikon
  • SB800 speedlight
  • 3 batteries
  • lens cloth
  • 3 2GB Sandish cards (only filled 2 of 3 thus far; easy to buy more)
  • a bag full of AA batteries
  • Nikon 50D
  • first aid kit
  • lipgloss :)

I have a tamarac backpack I really like (can hold water bottles for a thirsty shutterbug and has a compartment topside for extra stuff). I have a velbon tripod I like, too. Note: not bragging about the gear; sharing the stuff I like perhaps it'll help someone, such as my friend who emailed me last night asking for camera gear advice.

I'd like to add the gaffer's tape in black and white, and the 28mm Nikon mentioned in this article -- love my 50 and they'll be friends! Speaking of which, a little kindness, a bit of common sense, a lot of hard work, and a God-given talent bordering on obsessive... that's a good pack, too.

Thanks Josh!

Christopher Perceval , November 30, 2007; 05:59 A.M.

Good article Josh. For me the right gear for a wedding is the gear that you find easy to use and that gets the result you like. Unless you shoot just formal shots, as weddings move fast and there are no reshoots the camera needs to be an extension of your eye. You use it instinctively. You must be comfortable and quick with your gear.

It may be that your choices look odd to others - so be it. I guy I know, Stephen Swain (for me one of the best there is - www.stephenswain.com) shoots film, likes Fuji Superia for his colour work and uses an 85 f1.4 as a standard lens. He likes the warmth of that film and is not bothered that the package does not have the word "Professional" all over it. As regards the lens, he told me "it looks about right"!

For me there is much merit in the argument that the viewer of a photograph should be drawn into the image and not be aware of camera or technique (taking or printing). The photographer and the printer's job is to become "invisible" if you like. Many of the great, iconic photos have this quality. If camera and/or technique are visible, a barrier has been placed between the viewer and the subject the photographer is trying to depict.

For what it's worth, I like the 50mm lens on 35mm film. It shows things as they are, undistorted. Oddly, depending on how you use it it can look at bit tight or a bit wide. Great! OM4Ti bodies (hate autofocus!) 50mm f2 Zuiko Macro lenses (they give an amazing 3D look) 40mm f2 Zuiko if I need a bit of width - (wide but does not have that distorted "wide" look of most SLR wides. RF wides are much, much better in this regard. I hate that sort of "bowed" look of SLR wides esp zooms - just because it is everywhere does not mean it is good! Leica and Zeiss 28mm or 35mm RF lenses have so little distortion and draw the image so naturally once you have tried one, well you may never go back.) 85mm f2 Zuiko 100mm f2.8 Zuiko Leica M7 body Ziess Ikon body 35mm f2 Biogon 50mm f2 Planar 50mm f1.5 Sonnar Rollei 6008i and 2.8 Planar for Gps Old Sunpak and Vivitar flash guns (TTL? TTWhat? - they work) Lumedynes in case I need to do gps indoors.

Plenty of spares are a good thing!

All on film, digital just looks so "wrong" to my Luddite eyes and too often the digital work I see has that "had printed by Ray Charles" look about it!

Whatever you use - be the master of it.

Randy Dawson , December 01, 2007; 11:28 A.M.

This is a good list for a photographer who has been doing weddings for some time. I do not see this as a list for someone starting out. The trouble with most starting out is they "think" they need the biggest and baddest camera out there.

I shoot with 2 Nikon D70s and one 18-70 kit lens, one SB-600 flash. I have also done weddings with just the on camera flash. A little bit of computer work is all they needed. I am looking to get a 18-200 VR lens.

I have been shooting weddings for 25 years. I find if you work hard at getting people to like you and make your photos stand out, a point and shoot would work well.

Thank you, Randy

Phil DeRosier , December 01, 2007; 03:58 P.M.

When you get right down to it, I think a pro camera body's main feature should be to allow the photographer to access the menu swiftly and directly. I really think all else is of less importance.

Many camera out there, including non-DSLRs, can actually do a good job in wedding situations (it's especially nice having the "live-view" capability of those digicams).

The drawback of less expensive cameras is the inability to swiftly access special operating modes and conditions, slowness, and noise. If the wedding pro can work around those,I say go for the less expensive camera.

K Chanakya , December 03, 2007; 12:54 P.M.

Excellent roundup.


What about practical thoughts on how to prevent digital Whiteout of that white wedding dress next the groom's black tuxedo(even grey one with top hat)? I struggle constantly to get the fine lace or the satin finish showing and even RAW is not always a solution if the white balance stubbornly remains out of kilter.


Laptop is best way to back up those cards from your empty and used pockets (of kitchen apron (v. good) or builder's belt) to save between courses to internal drive and an external Lacie or Iomega 100MB mobile drive powered by the laptop USB. I had terribe experiences with two portabke Jobos - at least they gave me my money back but not my confidence. I prefer to change 512MB or 1GB cards regularly rather then risk a 2-4MB card crashing. Paranoia.


Take a long electric extension cable with multisockets for laptop, for battery re-charger and a locking cable to chain laptop under and to the Church pew or statue /reception buffet table legs or by disco sound system where you can also work behind or under the table in darkness on the waiter's/soundman's side to check your results. I always case the joint first for such a position and for wall or floor plugs in the best position to set up a little work area and if no table a couple of chairs duct-taped or gaffertaped, together with my ever-handy RESERVED cardboard sign on, work fine. A cycle cape or poncho thrown over the trolley keeps off rain outside as well as any devil's hands inside. Don't forget cloth lens and rubber stick sensor cleaners, rubber rocket blower/brush for lens and camera sensors


I have used an old person's shopping trolley for 30 years at exhibitions/ conferences etc to cart emergency spares in the bottom and a separate camera bag sitting on top for fast access. I fix around the shopping trolley handle,(so it does not drop off) the strap of my valuables' shoulder bag. Trolley also takes monopod and tripod (and rain umbrella in back pocket where I store flash and Sony MS515 voice recorder batteries). Trolleys cost around 7-10 pounds (14-20 dollars). Make sure trolley stands up on its own and has large wheels at outside of frame (like a racing car) to go over church gravel paths or cobblestones and pavement to read drops and church steps. I have a quick release bike lock (key around my neck on my voice recorder nylon lanyard) which is use to attach trolley handle to outside railings/ indoor sound stand / chair back, so it can't be nicked, when my back is turned, by temporary catering staff brought in from Outer Galactica for the half day -- never assume such get togethers have no thieves.


I often wonder whether I should also set up on a spare tripod (I carry two in case I lose camera mounting) my old 35mm film EOS Canon with good quality roll of film, for the posed family and portrait shots. They've been waiting a lifetime and have a lifetime ahead before the divorce so they will not object to several repeat shots from two or event three cameras (a G9 with a wide angle lens which can hang around your neck while you flash your big machine) different cameras - then the film would not only be a backup but maybe even hold the best quality finish of the most important shots and those white dresses and veils. Any views if this film backup is pointless for those of us without $4000 dollar bodies?

I also have a car cigar lighter camera battery charger...plug in while driving between event and reception..that extra boost may save your life.

There must be more but my brain cannot recall -- oh yes, a pencil with a 10 pence ring notebook to list what I have to remember to do including sneaky shots of the best man secretly attaching tin cans to the departing car.

Rick Rothwell , December 04, 2007; 11:46 P.M.

After my last post I somehow convinced myself to afford some lenses that give me much better low light and depth of field - Nikkors all, 12-24 f/4, 17-55 f/2.8, and the 70-200 VR f/2.8 - and another SB-600. Like any business investment, it can be a risk.

I want to take the best possible photos I can, and I do feel I owe it to the people I'm photographing. Better equipment extends my reach and depth to a point. As David Ziser puts it, the differences set you apart much more than the samenesses.

One other small detail - before any shoot with more than one camera be sure to set the clocks to exactly the same time, so that later on you can sort the photos by time, rather than file name. This will let you have a perfect chronological series of shots, that you can then use as you see fit.

Landrum Kelly , December 26, 2007; 07:31 P.M.

Back to the issue of the XTi and the kits lens combo: It is possible to do professional work with such an outfit, but a lot of shots are either going to be missed or are simply going to be out of the question--no matter how good one is. The simple fact is that one often cannot get enough light with the kit lens, even with the ISO turned up, and it is typically worth the money to spring for at least one fast lens that can save the day and deliver the critical shot without having to resort to a flash.

If I had to sacrifice my 5D or my fast lenses, I would sacrifice the 5D--in a heartbeat.


Maria McManamey , December 28, 2007; 12:47 A.M.

Response to Dominic: Yeah, I use my kit lens to shoot weddings, because my Pentax kit lens doesn't SUCK like Nikanons do! And I have a bag full of fast primes. Image stabilized, fast primes. One bag that is nothing but primes.

Romeo Calin , January 15, 2008; 06:24 P.M.

after all those arguments and contradictions, as a novice, i am more confused about the "machines" and more knowledge about what i most focus on. in the end, all that matters are two things: a) a happy couple with what i present them with; and b) a check in my pocket when i leave. how did i do it and with what? i don`t think they will care and probable... neither do i!!! ...but i used duck tape(joking). it is not important what i have in my hands. what is important, is what it is in front of what i have in those hands.rc.

Peter Ferling , February 11, 2008; 11:56 P.M.

Very good article. I shoot product photography in studios and some corporate work, and a few weddings as gift for family and friends.

Having a consumer camera and kit lens should not hold one back. If your good and well versed, you'll get shots that will please. You see, how can one judge what was never there or happened? I remember many a good shoots with a canon T50 in program. Framing and composition will yield much.

Today I shoot with an EOS 1Ds, and a 40D. Both cameras raise some eyebrows, stir attention from the security guards for a press pass, and command more attention -they say "professional". But you can take just as aweful pictures with those as with a basic kit, only in higher resolution of course :)

Don't let a basic kit get in the way. Learn to be good at it. Only then can you evaluate any need for an upgrade. Gotta start somewhere.

Very nice article, and even more informative thread.

Andrew Finnestad , March 02, 2008; 12:43 P.M.

Thank you for a great article.

I have had the experience of being brand new in photography, and purchased a canon rebel XT, the kit lens, and some 300 and 500mm lenses off of ebay. I then shot some pictures of a relatives wedding because they could not afford a photographer. I had the nightmare of being in the back of the church with a 300mm F6 lens with large windows behind the bride and groom in a dimly lit church with only on camera flash. The pictures were useable, but only after lots of photoshop work.

I graduated to a Nikon D70 (better, but not the best) and some quality lenses (not VR yet). I had sold the canon and the crap lenses and exchanged it for a Nikon SB-800 flash (hard to swallow the price, but wayyyy worth it).

I've already taken many more pictures in similar lighting and things turned out better.

To other peoples' points about you being able to get good pictures with any equipment; absolutely. Tiger woods will still beat you with wal-mart golf clubs, but he's tiger woods. I think it's the same with camera stuff. A great photographer can take great pictures with a pin hole camera, but would prefer the rig described for sure.

It's an eye opener to me about what I may need to be "comfortable" with my equipment so that I can concentrate on taking pictures, not as much about the shortcomings of my equipment.

I'll rent what I can't afford right now.



Micki F. , April 19, 2008; 09:49 P.M.

Well thought out and well written Josh. I myself (a Nikon girl) know it is alot about the person behind the camera as well as what you have in your hands. You made lots of good points that I have now "bookmarked" this and will be back over and over to read it and study some of these things for the next couple of weeks (till my first wedding ~ eeek). And it is on the BEACH (go figure).

Thanks so much for all your support (as always). ~ micki

Mike Dubnoff , May 22, 2008; 01:37 A.M.

In general I agree with most of this article, but I think there is far too much emphasis on equipment these days. I used to shoot with Hasselblads back in the film days, but for weddings, I found that my Nikon did just as well. The key to wedding photography is creating images with Impact. Photos that evoke emotion and tell a story. This can be done with most of the mid level cameras on the market today. I have a section on my webpage that talks about this. Its called: "Its the final result that matters."

Grant Corban , June 09, 2008; 11:43 P.M.

Who holds the camera is important. But the performance of the camera body itself is certainly not negligible.

I started out with manual focus, shooting both small and medium format then went through the AF revolution and am now in the digital realm. When I moved from film bodies (EOS 1's and 3's) to 10Ds and 20Ds I lamented the slow AF and needed to revert to manual focus again (without the benfit of split screens on my OMs an A1s)

If you have ever missed a shot due to your 20D/5D/D70/S2 whatever...cameras I have owned and used, you will quickly appreciated the superiority of the AF in the top of the line bodies.

If you ever have your mirror fall out during a shoot (5D!) you will appreciate the better build quality of a pro DSLR.

If you ever need repair, pro bodies get very quick turn around compared to consumer bodies. In my neck of the woods both Nikon and Canon really treat their pro body users great.

If you want high ISOs for available light, the pro bodies again trump the consumer ones.

I do a lot of weddings at resorts, where superior sealing from salt and sand are nice to have.

So, can you shoot weddings successfully with entry level cameras? Yes. But if you had the choice between using a D3 or 1D mk3 or one of their lesser siblings would you choose the lower spec camera? Honestly 5% of the time I actually would but only if I wanted to be discrete. But the other 95% of the time...are you crazy?

Lastly, if you are shooting professionally you sometimes need to look the part. It doesn't make the photos any better but it gives you respect. I shoot a lot of people with rich friends. If I show up with a rebel and kit lens, and they have relatives with big bags of L glass and the latest D3/1D, they will get in my way during the shoot as they will not take me seriously.

Your mileage may vary, but I am speaking from the experience of shooting not just 4 or 5 weddings....I do 40-50 weddings per year. Over the years that amounts to 100s of weddings, and travelling worldwide doing it.

My couples expect to see well over 1000 images from the day for their selection. (Before I am taken to task as to why so many shots please remember peoples facial expressions have many nuances). That amounts to close to 50,000 exposures per year, perhaps another reason to reconsider not relying on a consumer DSLRs?

John W , July 02, 2008; 04:32 P.M.

Hi I'm not an expert but if you read www.dpreview.com they Highly recommend the Nikon 70-200f.2 vr lens for use with DX format and only recommend with FX format..thought id let you know

Dan Seymour , July 14, 2008; 11:50 A.M.

Page offers good information and does recommend the best equipment for the job. But of course everyone would like to to be shooting with Canon's or Nikon's flagship everything. It would be nice if this article referenced some of the best price/quality compromises for weddings for those of us who can't afford to take out a loan for photography equipment.

Alex Foto , July 17, 2008; 12:03 P.M.

One of the most important, interesting, and helpful articles I have ever read, by far, on this forum!

Thank you very much Josh Root!

Angela Smith , August 16, 2008; 04:59 P.M.

I agree with the last poster, great article. As a wedding photographer myself, it's important to be prepared. I highly recommend doing a walk through on any location prior to the day of shooting. Even if you find you are short on the correct equiptment, you can often rent the necessary equiptment from a local retailer. That way you don't perform at anything less then your best! Angela

Kulvinder Singh , September 09, 2008; 04:41 A.M.

I appreciate that a wedding could be shot with one entry-level DSLR and the kit lens.


As someone on the other side of the camera recently - if, after I've organised two sets of families and friends to come travel to a wedding from all over the world, the photographer finds that the shutter is jammed or the a memory card slot pin is bent or other somesuch and they don't have any backup.... there could be violence.

I would be just as 'joyed' if the camera broke and the photographer then pulled out an disposable camera and told me he only needed two eyes and a brain :)

Brent Michael , September 21, 2008; 07:48 P.M.

Overall I'd say this is a good startng point advisory. A few responses to those previously commenting:

Yes, of course you CAN shot a wedding with inexpensive equipment and no backups - but it is both shortchanging yourself and your client, not to mention dangerous in terms of backup gear.

In the days when I had less expensive equipment I naturally shot the best I could with what I had. Of course, that sometimes didn't work out as well as I'd like; get stuck shooting from a balcony with no flash or tripod allowed (the only way and place the church would allow me to shoot from) with a slow lens and a maximum ISO of 800 and see if equipment doesn't matter; even steadying myself on the balcony rail I got very few usable shots - and did I mention we only had 35 minutes to do all the returns? The 70-200 f2.8 L is worth its weight in gold - just yesterday I had a similar restriction (back pew only, no tripod, no flash) and at ISO 1250 with IS my 5D performed admirably. Having printed them before for comparison I know shots taken at 1250 with my 5D look less noisy than shots with my Nikon D80 did at 800, and the IS will give me far sharper shots.

As for brands, well, there's a reason Nikon and Canon are battling for supremacy and those other brands are far behind, and it's not just marketing. On a consumer level they might be fine, but a full-frame DSLR blown up to 16x20 or larger has far less noise than a DX size. Read reviews that do actual tests, not just rewording marketing hype. As I have designed albums using shots from modern Pentax, Olympus, and Sony Alpha cameras, I've had the chance to see and work with digital files from them, and while not terrible they are not up to the "Nikanon" standards for full-frame sensors. Also, if you do need modern accessories with full function, there is a comparative dearth of choices - even aftermarket lens companies often don't make mounts that fit them.

As for backups, I really, really wouldn't want to have to tell a bride "Sorry, I have no photos, my camera died." I always carry two 5D bodies with two batteries in each grip plus two spare batteries. One body has the 24-105 f4.0 IS L, the near-perfect all-around lens, ready to capture any surprises. The other rotates lenses between the 70-200 f2.8 IS L, a 16-35 f2.8 L, a Lensbaby 3G, a 50 f1.8 (cheap but sharp & fast, I tried the f1.2 but couldn't justify the $1300 difference), and a Tamron 28-75 f2.8. I never, ever, erase anything from a card until I've backed it up - using BackUp&BurnPro - to three hard drives (all external) plus DVDs. I shoot RAW on 4GB cards, using three to five for a wedding - and alternating cameras, so if a card fails there will be small gaps, not big gaps. I also cannot imagine taking the risk of setting up a laptop and downloading at a wedding and erasing cards onsite - ever hear of a hard drive failure?

I have studio lights and Microsync transmitters and I generally leave them behind - in 95% of situations Gary Fong's Lightsphere II system, with assorted domes, covers everything I need with a single flash. On rare occasions I'll use the Microsync to get the flash off the camera for a special effect I can't get by bouncing or reflecting, but mostly I'm more about posing and angles than lighting effects, and my flash is more often fill than the primary source...even using the domes I dial it down 1-1/3 to 2 stops and just kiss away the shadows - I almost always shoot manual.

Anyway, I think this article overall is pretty good advice for the beginner shooting for the higher end. Sure, if you're happy shooting for those $600 wedding clientele, then by all means don't spend any more than you have to, but if you hope to make weddings more than a hobby, start here!

Dan Marasescu , October 22, 2008; 08:31 A.M.

Thank you for a very useful article. I would simply like to point out that there is a f2.8 ultra-wide lens for cameras with a crop factor: the Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX 11-16mm F2.8. I just ordered it for my Canon 40D and I'm looking forward to putting it to the test.


Joseph Snively , November 02, 2008; 08:01 A.M.

To all those who discussed the use of cheaper equipment, I must comment that the reason I got into wedding photography was primarily because of the bad experience I had with my own photographer bringing an XTi with the 18-55 kit lens (not the 18-55 Mark II either). The images were all soft and grainy. Disgustingly poor images to both my wife and I. My best man owns the 5D plus L lenses and he took photos after our formal pictures as well. When you thumb through our album you can immediately tell which photos he took and which were taken by the "pro." We hired another photographer after our wedding to redo all of our bridal portaits and "together shots."

With all my heart, as a client, husband, and photographer, I can't overstress the use of high quality lenses. It makes a huge impact on the quality of the client's experience.

If you are using kit-lenses right now, don't assume you'll always have clients that are satisfied with the bare minimum in quality. Give them the best you can. It's not about pride as a photographer, it's about the clients.

Paul A. - Los Angeles, CA. , November 23, 2008; 02:08 A.M.

Here is what is in MY bag:

Leica MP with 35mm/1.4 Summilux ASPH.

Nikon F6 with 85mm/1.4, 50mm/1.4 Zeiss, 28mm/2.0 mf lenses.

Nikon SB900 Flash units.

(backup Leica, primes, flash units).

Josh -- tks for the article. very informative.

Vanessa Fulcher , November 30, 2008; 03:22 A.M.

I don't see much conversation about the battery packs you're using for your flash... any specifics? I've used Quantum's AC and SC... are there better options out there? I've found the AC to be too bulky but the SC on/off switch can be very stubborn and still not recycle as quickly as I want. I'd love to have your input. As for the original article, great job!!!

Bruce Stenman , February 06, 2009; 04:50 P.M.

Between the choice of a studio monolight and a small flash like the SB800 or 580EX there is the medium power strobes by Quantum. The Quantum strobes support iTTL and eTTL so are fully compatible even when used as slaves for Canon or Nikon masters or the SU800 or Canon equivalent. A single Quantum light is more effective than two Nikon or two Canon strobes and much easier to manage. When shooting groups in full sun the Quantum puts out enough power for excellent fill lighting even with 30 people back lit by the sun.

There are also excellent soft box options for the Quantum flash units, multiple power pack options, and the best RF control setup available. The Quantum FreeXwire flash triggering system provides full TTL flash at distance of up to 200 yards and does not need to be line of sight. The transmitter can even be used to autofocus and release the shutter on a remote camera and also fire a flash and all that is required is a single additional cable that connects into the Nikon's 10 pin port. In general a much more versatile system than Pocket Wizards provide.

Quantum also provides hardware upgrades for its strobes at very reasonable prices so an old strobe can be brought up to the latest technology for 10% of what a new strobe would cost.

Curtis Copeland , June 16, 2009; 10:13 A.M.

Great insight and a very detailed list of equipment needed to professionally shoot weddings. For a professional photographer we can not afford second rate equipment. Nice article!

Brian Signa , January 14, 2010; 10:36 P.M.

I was just wondering how William Porter's (the first poster) Pentax equipment is holding up: my last Pentax today still rests under water at Walt Disney World since 2006. It was not a respectable burial at sea, mind you.....

I won't buy any camera that doesn't end in its' name with the letter n unless the name begins with a letter L.

Ron Houston , February 01, 2010; 02:54 P.M.

Good point that good glass is key to good shots. I used a kit lens with my Canon 40D and wasn't really happy until i upgraded the glass. If you're using a lower line DSLR get the best glass you can afford. What most new photographers don't concentrate most on is good exposure with good lighting. Always bounce the flash off of walls and ceilings when possible to get a nice soft look. I play in a wedding band and a cool effect when shooting my band at weddings is to turn off the flash to capture the color of our stage lighting. We have different color washes from our lights on our band and when the photo captures the stage lights it really looks pro as opposed to just a white light on us from the flash. To see what this looks like without the flash visit our photo gallery on our web page here Houston wedding bands

baRRY mitchell , February 05, 2010; 04:34 P.M.

I have been using my 40d and 18-55mm lens with great success recently. I don't think that it is essential to buy a mega expensive camera unless you really are looking to impress the people you are shooting with the technical spec and price of your gear. Surely it comes down to composition and the couple personal preferences ?

baRRY mitchell , February 05, 2010; 04:35 P.M.

I have been using my 40d and 18-55mm lens with great success recently. I don't think that it is essential to buy a mega expensive camera unless you really are looking to impress the people you are shooting with the technical spec and price of your gear. Surely it comes down to composition and the couple personal preferences ? As a wedding photographer in Dundee I think that it is more about what the client expects from your photos rather than having the best gear on the day. My gear is 40d, 18-55mm lens, 17-85mm lens, 10-20mm lens for fun shots and 50mm prime. ikf i need any more then what is it ?

Image Attachment: weddings.png

Boyd M , March 09, 2010; 06:35 A.M.

Great list and great advice. Love the gaffer tape in there. :)

Michael McGrath , December 20, 2010; 12:24 A.M.

Back in the day, the Sixties, as a local press photographer I shot a few weddings with a Pentax Spotmatic and SMC Takumar 50/1.4 plus a couple of flash units in my pockets  - I am still, today, in 2010 complimented by happy couples on those weddings!

BTW you needed no batteries except a couple of AA's for the flashes in your pocket. I found it much easier to move around as I didn't have to think of changing lenses or anything like that. I had none to change!

I only had to remember shutter speed 60th second for the flashes. I also employed Metz Mecablitz with power pack , also a similar old Braun, as time went on and I could afford them.

Through the years I graduated to a Bronica SQA with a Mamiya 645 outfit ( two backs for each) , with various Nikon, Pentax and Canon  backup 35mm outfits and lenses from time to time .

The medium format definitely gave much more ' punch' , more '3D' effect in the eventually thirty 10X8 shots selected for the album because of limited depth of field , more' bokeh' I suppose in times before that word was known. I am always glad I went to medium format , so are my thousands of customers through the years!

The 16X20 for the wall of the couple's new home was a cinch :-)

Today I believe that you can't photograph a wedding , at least the traditional posed shots, without using film medium format. So I still use the Bronica 6X6  and Mamiya 645. Yes it's done, all digital, to my mind no way as good, as professional, thus you get tons of amateurs today covering weddings.

But I admit that I DO like a few shots from my 'old' Fuji S2 Pro, I employ Sony Alpha plus Panasonic Lumix Leica 12X as well for candids.

I only ever found myself, through 44 years of wedding, using a wide angle for The Big Group.  Possibly a wide angle on the Bronica for a shot of the entire church of the Bride & Groom on the altar from the organ loft , always hand-held - I could handhold the Bronica on 1/15th second on 100 ASA . Despite being 63 now I can still do that. ( depending on what they're paying!)

But no matter what the DSLR , I still see digital wedding prints as flimsy , not 'solid' as in film , but the almost ephemeral immaterial quality of digital prints does suit some portraits of the Bride, and Bride & Groom, the romantic moments together.  

And I have always seen a massive problem for a photographer at weddings if a rich guest has the same main shooting camera ( or better!)  as the professional photographer , as cited in an above entry.

My big tank of a Bronica SQA with bellows lens shade on tracks and Metz Mecabitz 45CL has seen that this never happened to me!

Semi-retired today, the sight of me laden down with two medium formats, four film SLR's , three digital cameras, and several lenses plus flash units , like a heavy infantryman in a war zone, makes certain that it doesn't!

I need no bag, I have big bulging pockets!

In my day the Happy Couple got about 60 or 70 postcards to view, 30 were selected for the album, one to 16X20 for the wall. ( Bigger if they wished , off the Bronica) .

And as I work in Ireland, mainly therefore in Catholic churches, flash in churches was, and is, no problem, ever. In fact I always 'stalked' around the altar, and took the Placing of Rings usually standing beside the priest!  No problem whatsoever - whatever one may thing about the Catholic Church, it is always very broadminded and liberal and accommodating here in Ireland in such matters. Most Protestant ministers, therefore, are as well.  

Photographing Confirmation ceremonies with the Bishop, I actually place my lights on the altar, he sits in front of it, and I shoot every kid being confirmed as he gives them the slap in the face, confirming them  as the ceremony takes progresses. ( Video men, hired by the Parish Priest,  actually take over the pulpit!) .

I have made a lot of money from Confirmations over the years, I still do, I don't think it's as big an event outside of Ireland in the UK or USA. I enjoy it more than w wedding as a community day of celebration where as many as 400 families are involved.

In the huge dioceses of the USA in particular, you could be working and earning nicely almost every day of the year on Confirmations rather than jostling for a wedding business that is disappearing fast , thanks to Digital, thanks to a relation or guest having a Nikon D3, or more likely a Nikon D90 or a Canon 7D ( fab camera for a Digital, ergonomically perfect !) .

It could only happen in Ireland:-)

Michael McGrath , December 20, 2010; 12:48 A.M.

Here in Kilkenny, Ireland, I fell in with the local Bishop over 30 years ago ( though I'm not a practicing Catholic) and I have never looked back through three bishops since.  

Basically all you have to do is email your local Bishop for the Diocesan Confirmations List around now each year.

Better to hop around and see him , get to know him ( they can be lonely and love to see you!)  - that way I have Bishops posing with each family involved in the Confirmation for an hour after the ceremony is over- with an Assistant to the side , taking payment for each order in advance , issuing receipts.

You need an Assistant who can come to the fore as a sales person too directing families into you ( and the Bishop) when your Assistant is not busy taking money.  She acts like an attacking back in soccer!

Your Assistant should also be a good driver as you organise yourself in the car on the way to the church for the ' Confo' , and as you drive back home or to the Studio laden with money , remembering and checking orders immediately afterwards.

Yes , it's sweat - you're fit to collapse after an hour of it , as families tend to rush you and the Bishop altogether. I try to use medium format all the way through with a stack of loaded backs ready , today I tend to' machine-gun' a medium format, but it's worth it if you can sell 16x20's afterwards.

Otherwise 35mm  for 10X8's , do not do any other sizes or your Order Book will get confused, a Digital is no help  especially as you do not get a second to look at the screen!

Your Assistant has to get down all names, addresses and amounts paid, as you won't always get the full sum , but deposits.

Show up at the church an hour before to canvass all the families going in. With samples. Work every day as you wait for the weddings to come in , they probably won't now that everybody has a good digital.

( Do the same for First Holy Communions! ) .

Cyrus Procter , September 13, 2011; 04:01 P.M.

I do not think Josh's intention was to disregard the people shooting kit lenses and XTIs. Matter of fact all of you XTI owners that were offended at this notion took it horribly wrong, you've done great with your XTI and kit lens, so he's trying to show the next step. Obviously he isn't preaching to the people who own 2.8 zooms and\or 1.8 or 1.4 prime lens trios, he's talking to you XTI + kit owners who have already done well with what you have. Is that because your kit lens and XTI is of poor quality? Heavens no, haven't you already proved what that you can take good pictures with it? But now as you grow as a photographer, you will be limited by what your XTI and kit lens can give you, so Josh is trying to help you see where to go next. Its very, very true that an XTI can take excellent images, as can the kit lens. There limitations are documented fact though, that doesn't mean you can't find a creative solution, it means your options are limited. As two old phrases go, there is more than one way to skin a cat, and never ever give up, so anyone with a XTI and a kit lens can certainly take great photographs, even in challenging situations, which may involve something crazy like pulling a roll of paper towels out and lighting it on fire to get a shot (based on a true story). Even if you are very creative as the past example to burn a roll of paper towels to light a scene, it doesn't mean you don't need better gear. You still need the creativity, but faster glass or better bodies will give you more options with your burning paper towels than just an XTI and kit lens. Does it mean now you are a better photographer? No. Does it mean you can turn your brain off and the camera will shoot itself just because you bought a D3s\1DmkIV? No. It means when your brain comes up with that wonderful creative idea to capture a couple's union, in that creative moment you will have more ways of shooting than you did previously, especially in difficult situations in which certain gear may provide your only reasonable option in a pinch (notice I said certain, not expensive, it might be the 50 F/1.8 that costs less than your kit lens that gets you out of a pinch even fancy 2.8 lenses couldn't provide options for)

Its food for thought.

Marty Schoo , October 09, 2011; 10:00 P.M.

Pentax Equipment:

Firstly good article Josh. There should be no offence by readers for Josh to only recommending 'Canikon' brand gear, as the majority of photographers use those brands and for the purposes of the article it would get cumbersome listing every brand.

Secondly I would like to add to William Porter’s view (first post) on Pentax equipment now that we are 4 years and 3 camera bodies in technological terms removed from his well written response.

I also use Pentax gear and they make some great equipment as an alternative to Canikon brands. For those that are interested, here is a list of what gear I use and carry to shoot a Wedding and why. I with natural light and don’t use flash.


2 x Pentax K-5’s

2 Bodies like others have mentioned are necessary. I can have two different lenses on the go at any time without the need to change lenses too often. The K-5 is 16 megapixel (plenty) with shake reduction built into the body so all your lenses become VR-IS lenses. The k-5 also has ISO expandable from 80 to 51200! Although at the high end over 6400 ISO it can be grainy but still coverts to black and white well. I don’t use flash and they work well for me.

- I also have my old Pentax K20D as a backup in the car although touch wood I haven’t needed it before.

Zoom Lenses

I use Tamron zooms and Pentax primes. I looked into all the Pentax and Sigma zoom options but chose Tamron zoom lenses. They are more affordable than pentax and make some great F2.8 zooms that are sharp and reliable. I have the 70-200mm on one body most of the time and interchange the others on the second body.

Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 (IF)LD XR Di2 SP
Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 (IF)LD XR Di2 SP Macro
Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 (IF)LD Di SP Macro

I’m happy with all of these lenses. The 28-75 is an excellent lens with very good edge to edge sharpness and is very under-rated. The zoom overlap I have between the 3 means I have everything covered. I also carry a Sigma 10-20mm super wide lens in the backup bag just in case ( large groups shots etc) but very rarely use it at weddings.

Prime Lenses

I use my 50mm f1.4 on one body as my walk around lens on one body at the reception especially when it’s usually darker, sometimes at the ceremony too if required. The other two lenses I use more seldom or selectively but I always carry them as backup lenses should one of my zooms malfunction/fail. The 50mm and 100mm FA lenses I bought second hand too.

Pentax FA smc  50mm f1.4 (a little ‘soft’ but great in low light)
Pentax DA smc  40mm f2.8 limited. (The sharpest lens I own)
Pentax FA smc  100mm f2.8 macro. (Good for shots of the rings etc)


I have battery grips on both K-5 bodies which gives me plenty of battery to shoot all day. They also house my extra memory cards. There for in total for the two bodies I carry 4 battery packs and 6 x 8GB memory cards.

I also carry a tripod for group photos mainly but rarely use it at the ceremony. I find them clumsy, non discrete and limiting to me moving around.


Well that’s my take on Pentax equipment as a great alternative for Wedding Photography. Good equipment with good specs and can be a lot easier on the wallet to boot.

Frederic Veilleux , February 07, 2012; 02:55 P.M.

Speaking of Pentax I didn't see anyone mentionning the 645d. I'm into street photography so to me the small yet rugged K5 makes a lot of sense. Lower price means I also feel more comfortable going anywhere without fearing too much losing my body.

But if I'm gonna rent better gear for a wedding I'd go for the really bigger sensor with high quality glass and still use the K5 with fast primes for evening shoots.

Any thoughts on that?

Marty Schoo , February 09, 2012; 08:18 P.M.

Hi Frederic,

I've had a play with a 645D and although they are quite user friendly and a current digital pentaxian will quickly get used to the controls I would still find it quite awkward to use at a wedding. For me it would be too large to lug around and maybe a little daunting for the people being photographed. I feel I also achieve plenty of detail in my photos with the K5.

Since you've brought up the topic of fast primes, well since contributing my thoughts on shooting with pentax gear last year I now seldom use the zooms at all. I've since purchased the range of pentax limited primes and I absolutely love them. In fact with my last two weddings I've only used primes. 

For the ceremony and couple photos I used mainly the 70mm f2.4 limited and the 21mm f3.2 limited both mounted on K5's.

I have the 40mm f2.8 for in between range if required and still use the 100mm macro for ring, flowers and details photos and the 50mm f1.4 for the reception in lower light.

I carry the whole lot in a Kata waste pack for easy access and use them as required.

The 70mm is just devine. Its now easily my favourite lens. Its ridiculously sharp, its fast and the bokeh is smooth as butter. I'll post some photos when I get the chance.


mitchel mcclure , March 05, 2012; 08:59 A.M.

I am Not elitist, I am a struggling wedding photographer I have been for 25 yrs, what I would like to focus on is I started with film and moved into digital. people who think they can take just one or even two cameras to a wedding are at one point going to disapoint a bride and groom and get sued for more than the wedding was paid to you, sometimes triple depending on the area. I have had FIVE camera bodies stop working on me as well as two L series lenes during weddings the lower cost the camera eqipment the higher rate of failure (from my experiance). you don't have to own top of the line (however it makes a hard job that much easier) but own at least three bodies and three lenses. You are looking at a one time event you have one shot that is it!!!!!!! p.s When I first started weddings by myself I was so concerned that I would have bad dreams about not having my gear during a wedding as it was happening!!!!!!!!!! but good luck with ONE camera and ONE lens on such an important event.

Marty Schoo , March 05, 2012; 08:01 P.M.

I agree with you Mitchel.

Shooting a Wedding with only one body is a distaster waiting to happen. Two bodies always gives the photographer more scope for creativity and flexibility with two different lenses. And as you've pointed out if one fails you can still get some great shots with the other body albeit with more lens swapping at times.

As far as a third body goes, well its possible that two bodies fail I guess but where do you draw the line? Just in case my third body fails I better get a fourth? Myself I carry an "older" spare body in the car for piece of mind but I think two new / well looked after bodies are enough.

I have had one body "freeze up" on me before right during the ceremony and I managed to shoot through with the other body. Thankfully with a few spare few seconds a quick remove/refit of the battery solved the issue. (My mind was already focussed on which lens I was going to primarily shoot with, thankfully it didn't matter). I guess what it comes down to is being prepaired for anything. For me that means two bodies and 6 lenses is plenty. For some that might be three bodies and 3 lenses always fitted. But one body with one lens does scare me... a lot.

But again Mitchel you make a good point in that anyone looking at shooting weddings should be not only confident in their skill level but also well equipped to ensure that they can provide the wedding couple the photographs that they expect for their big day.

Mickey Turner , March 07, 2012; 05:24 A.M.

Very nice article. I still use 2 x Bronica ETRSi Systems for my weddings with a selection of lenses. As back up I have a Nikon F4s with a few nice prime lenses and a spare speedlight.

Stephen McPherson , January 30, 2013; 03:18 P.M.

I fully and completely agree with the comments by Dennis! Photography is all about light and how you - the photographer - use it to create an image. I dare to say that a good to great photographer could shoot a wedding with a Argus C 3 and get stunning results. Too many photographers - wedding and otherwise - are gadget freaks. Leave the gadgets in the store and focus on the craft.

PS - I regularly use an Argus C 3 I picked up at a flea market for $5.00 bucks. It came with the 3 kit lenses, bulb flash and the leather cases. It might be old, but it's mighty! Using it has helped me immensely with my digital photography and made me an infrequent user of Photoshop. Get it right on the camera the first time! 

Wedding Photographer , November 14, 2015; 10:35 A.M.

I think you stress too much the pro bodies and back-up bodies without considering the business point of view. I use an older d700 with even older lenses and they work out very well. Here's my site.


Telling people to spend 5K on a top of the line body and another 5K on the latest lenses, isn't wise if you wanna run a profitable business.


Even if you rent gear, how much are you spending each time you shoot a wedding: 100-200 usd per body, another 50-100 usd per lens, lighting on top of that... Are you making any profit at all? 


Also, shooting weddings with equipment you're not familiar with - that is the case with rented equipment - is a path to disaster.


Just saying that older gear deserves credit and that you should look further than the latest & greatest from nikon or canon.


Bill De Jager , November 14, 2015; 02:13 P.M.

Oops!  The D750 has a full-frame sensor.  I think you meant the D7200.  In principle the D750 would be a good full-frame choice both in terms of value and low-light performance.  Hopefully this comment will quickly be rendered irrelevant by a correction.

Victor Panlilio , November 17, 2015; 06:06 P.M.

Nikon's "entry-level" full-frame (FX) body deserves a mention: the D610. I haven't used one, but I don't see why it couldn't serve as an adequate backup to another full frame Nikon DSLR.

jaap roskam , November 17, 2015; 11:52 P.M.

I stopped wedding photography in 1996, after a very active career that begun in 1977. Won 3x the Dutch Kodak wedding award ;-) So I hope my two pennies of advice are taken a little serious:
Travel light ! Do not indulge in endless loads of gear. Analise your shooting practise and focus on what you like to use instead of what others tell you to carry. Less gear makes better photos.
BUT: Use top equipment , do not play games with the couple in using cheap gear. Carry at least a spare camera (can be a very good point and shoot ... just in case). Carry a spare flash (can be a small one that just can handle the job) , learn to look at your flash intensity while taking photos and realise a low intensity flash from a softened flash head is enough for every situation, carry a flash extension cable and hold the flash in your free hand where ever you like 'top, bottom , left , right etc. , do not bother about complicated flash handle bar brackets - waisting your and the couple's time. Carry more batteries as that you need.
Now my most secret tips:
Carry a sheet of dense foam for the bride to sit on - keeps her bum clean & carry a white umbrella or two for when the rain or dust or sun or privacy needs that 'out of the blue' , for years I had a white 'double' umbrella soooo popular but never could find another one - Carry a bottle of mineral water for the couple : keeps them alert.
happy shooting ;-)

Photo.net Editorial , November 18, 2015; 12:11 P.M.

Thank you, Bill De Jager! You are quite right and the error has now been corrected.

Michael Gatton , November 23, 2015; 06:25 A.M.

According to the terms of the insurance policy you recommend, the theft of equipment cited in the article (in the paragraph on the importance of insurance) would not be covered:

- Theft and mysterious disappearance claims are covered as long as there are signs of forced entry.

Brian Gordon , November 23, 2015; 11:58 A.M.

Wedding photography is 80% diplomacy, 20% technology.  Yes, buy the best equipment you can afford, and carry backups for both camera and flash equipment, but realize that most wedding pictures are taken from about 15 feet, which is what an old Box Brownie snapshot camera was designed for.  Beginning photographers worry too much about having the "right" cameras.

Brian Gordon

Phil Brown , January 05, 2016; 01:01 P.M.

It's the singer, not the song-Mick Jagger

I've shot weddings with an M3 and a 50. I've shot weddings with a 'Blad. I've shot weddings with an A1 and a bag full of lenses.

Modestly, they all turned out well. Must not have been the equipment.

Stephen Behr , July 25, 2016; 11:43 P.M.

My partner has been shooting weddings for 20 years. She bought a D700 with a 24-70 and that was it. I know that people say more pixels is necessary. Its just not true. She ends up cropping most of the shots and even the leading picture printed to A3 has more than enough detail.  You could buy that gear used for $1500.

She purchased a used D7000 and an 18-200 as a backup a year ago thinking she was tempting fate. I bought that gear in March. She replaced it with a Sony RX10 with the amazing 24-600 stabilized lens. Now thats her primary camera. Keeping all this in the family means that she has a double backup if needed.

I'm not sure if you have what we call "all risks" insurance over there. Its a policy that literally insures your gear for any mishap or adverse event. No exclusions. You can buy that cover with a public liability component. Thats what she has.

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