I do get asked on a fairly regular basis by young photographers starting out. “What gear do you use?” and “Why?”
I think back to when I first first got into photography. I bought myself a little Nikon D70 because it looked like a proper camera and it wasn’t super old and it was within my meagre $400 budget. The first wedding I ever shot I used that body with the 18-55 kit lens as well as a borrowed camera from a friend which had a few more lenses with it. I had zero clue what I was doing. I didn’t even know how to shoot in manual yet. I was the scientific definition of a NOOB.
Eventually I did a lot of google research and sort of figured out that there’s a lot to choose from but I wanted to stay safe and go for a trusted brand with all of my gear. Now I absolutely cheaped out and still to this day everything you see in the image above except for the camera straps was bought used off eBay. I slowly slowly accumulated my kit over time and slowly swapped out my cheap 50mm 1.8 for the 50mm 1.4 and then eventually the 50 1.2 which I’ve now broken and am not using. I took the slow road and didn’t fork out a big investment until I was already earning money from photography to put back into photography. I’m not sure that’s the best way to go but that’s how I chose to do it.
Lets get to what I’ve currently go in my bag.
Firstly my camera bodies. 2x identical 5D Mk iii’s one is a bit older and more beaten up than the other because I kept using my 5D classic for quite some time after the 5d iii’s came out because I liked the tones it created much more but the low light performance was crippling for most wedding receptions so thats really where the mk iii bodies shine for me. I know there’s other cameras out there now which have better sensors for low light but coming from the mk 1 body I was stoked with the low light capabilities of the 5d mk iii body. I really really love these cameras. They’re built tough, fit nicely into your hand and just get it done. Day after day after day. One of the Pro’s to investing in a pro body rather than something cheaper for weddings is the build quality. If you’re just shooting portraits or fashion stuff indoors and in nice light every time you shoot you’ll probably get away with a lot but at a wedding it might be raining, snowing, cold, hot… doesn’t matter the show goes on and your gear needs to be able to cope. So pro series bodies and lenses are pretty important because they’ll take a beating if you use them a lot for weddings.
Canon EF 35mm f1.4 L This lens is by far my favourite. If I could only own one lens this would definitely be it. It’s just the most ideal focal length for the look I’m always trying to achieve. 35mm isn’t far off the view you’ll see with the human eye so if you’re goal is to recreate the ‘feel’ of really ‘being there’ or to put someone who’s viewing the photo in the shoes of someone who really was there this lens is the ideal choice. I use this lens for probably 75% of the shots I take at most weddings. I shoot with two bodies at all times and this lens usually stays on the right hand camera all day and night. It’s great in low light and is nice and sharp. I’ve put this bad boy through a bunch and he’s covered in scratches but he’s still my favourite.
Canon EF 45mm f2.8 TS This lens can sometimes get a bad wrap for being, ‘unnecessary’ and if I’m brutally honest, I agree. There’s never really a time where I NEED this lens but I almost always want it. It’s just another way to create a unique perspective and draw peoples attention to the focal point of a photo in an unconventional way. I also like to use this lens if the foreground isn’t ideal or perhaps the tree-line above the couple is a bit messy. Tilt Shift will just blur all of that into oblivion and leave the attention on the moment you’re trying to point people to.
Canon EF 85mm f1.8 A lot of people like to go on and on about the L series 85 mm lens. To be honest it does take sharper pictures, it does give you the edge in dimly lit receptions and it does look boss. But! It’s incredibly heavy, super slow to focus and for chasing fleeting moments on a wedding day its just downright impractical. It’s rad for portraits if you like slow moving targets.. but that’s not me. I’d rather save $1400 and use a lens that will let me get the moment rather than care about how sharp it might be. The 85 f1.8 is light and nimble and focuses a lot quicker than the L series lens and for me that’s really important. You can pick these up for $350 AUD on eBay if you’re not fussy about buying used gear.
Canon EF 135 f2 L This is a lens I never really intended to buy and then after borrowing it briefly once I immediately realised I needed. The focus is super fast, crazy precise and the depth of field on this thing is incredible. It’s amazing for isolating a subject for either portraits or candid moments of guests at the reception where movement isn’t as easy, i.e. during the speeches.
CANON Speedlite 430 EX II I’ll be honest with you I use flash for the dance floor only and even then not always. It’s not for me a priority and I don’t go for flash’s with crazy features. I want something light and simple to use to just add a little bit of flavour to the dance floor shots. This is definitely not Canon’s top of the range flash unit but for me I don’t need anything else and I’ve never upgraded. I use it for one thing and one thing only and it works for me. If you want to do crazy flash stuff and use multiple flash’s and all that jazz.. this isn’t what you’re after. For what i’m using it for it definitely does the job.
Fuji X pro-1 + Fujinon 35mm f1.4 This little beast is one of my favourite things.. it sits proudly on my bedside table because it’s just so damn pretty. It just oozes old-school cool and I really hope when the X pro-2 eventually comes out that it looks exactly like this. I think it’s one of the best looking cameras around and I big reason I own it is because it looks great hanging over my shoulder. It’s not the best camera for fast moving subject so for me it’s main use is when I’m on the road and I don’t want a big piece of kit hanging round my neck I take this. For shooting on my motorbike or other situations where I need something light. I shoot a lot of stuff for instagram using this combo. I haven’t used it at a wedding yet and I would probably say it’s not quite up to the task of a full speed wedding. But I love the look I get from the 35mm f1.4 and I love the feel of this camera in my hand. Fuji keep bringing out exciting stuff every day so keep your eye out for their ever growing lineup of pocket rocket cameras.
Hold-fast Moneymaker Harness Easily one of my favourite pieces of kit. I always wanted a double strap set up but without looking like I was going hiking. It’s a wedding! look sharp! As soon as my friend showed me a photo of these I knew I had to have a set. Their not super cheap but they’ve lasted me 3 years already and still look good as new.. the leather is sturdy and like a good leather belt they wont break for decades. I use leather conditioner on them every few months to keep the leather from drying out too much and cracking but even that’s probably overkill. I even use this setup when I’m shooting single camera. I just clip the other clasp onto a belt loop and keep on going. For the fashion conscious wedding photographer a must have.
The Bag itself
ONA Brixton Messenger Bag As far as I’m aware this is the best looking camera bag that exists. Super nice leather really comfortable and I manage to fit two bodies, 4 lenses my straps, flash and batteries and cards into it. (it’s a squeeze but I also get my 13″ macbook air in there when i’m travelling) I have a bit of a soft spot for brown leather and for me having a nice outfit for weddings is important. So brown traps, brown bag, brown boots. All important parts of the outfit.