Intimate & Adventurous Wedding & Elopement Photography | Australia | New Zealand » Wedding photography for the wild at heart

What’s in my Bag

Brixton Messenger bag

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.

Lenses

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.

FLASH

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.

Travel Camera

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.

Camera Straps

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.

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Authenticity as Branding *For Photographers*

I feel like this is something that’s been on my heart for quite a while now and I just feel like it’s worth saying. Just to clarify before you feel like I’m pointing a finger at you. I’m really writing this post in many ways as a rebuke to my former self and the way I approached the business early on and how foolish it was. 

So please hear this coming from a heart that made these same “mistakes” and didn’t do a good job of this at all but maybe in writing this I can stop you from being as foolish as I was. 

The story goes like this.. guy buys camera.. goes, ‘I like taking photos’, I’m going to make a website and show everyone what I can do. *goes off into photoshop types his name and photography afterwards in a semi terrible font and registers a domain* 

Now here is where the trouble starts. Because wordpress will just come on out and ask you for a bit of a description of what you do to help people find your site. Same thing with instagram bio area or Facebook.. And we all think.. ooh.. wordpress doesn’t know me… this is the internet. I can be whoever I want! 

And so we start typing those fateful words… “Destination Wedding Photographer” STOP! stop right there. 

I remember the day I thought that would be a good idea.. Jonas Peterson had that written on his website so I thought well I’d like to do that so I’d better throw that up into my bio… (At this stage I’ve got a Facebook and instagram account like many of you probably do with about 100 followers, all your high school friends and a few women in their forties at that stage. You’ve shot 10 weddings in your local area and thats about it. 

Now you might be thinking as I did. I don’t want people to know I haven’t shot many weddings, I don’t want people to think I’m new, I definitely don’t want them to think I’m not a superstar international sensation. (even though I’ve got no international weddings on my blog) 

We’re afraid, I was afraid. If people see me for who I really am, they’ll never hire me. 

But I’d like to propose a counter argument. I think that being really authentic with where you’re at in your photography journey, particularly when you’re starting is actually the best way to book clients and not only to book any clients but to book the best clients for where you’re at. As I’m drafting out more of these posts for later in the year I’m realising a common thread of working out who your ideal client is and working at how you can get them to hire you. It’s really important and it’s been a huge part of my short journey so far.

I’m going to make a big assumption here and say most of you reading this are probably those who are more on the photojournalism side of wedding photography, you appreciate the raw honesty of it and you think that honest story-telling is really moving and anything else is just not cutting it.

(I’d in my personal opinion I’d agree with you) 

So if you’re going to try and communicate that to prospective clients through your website… starting off with anything less than authenticity… isn’t something I’d really recommend. If you want to draw in couples who appreciate your raw, honest, story-telling, then be authentic and raw about your own story. That’s what they’ll be drawn to.

I was so concerned with trying to make people think I was more experienced than I was when I first started. But the more I met with clients and spoke to them I realised they weren’t interested in my credentials.. or my fancy “destination wedding slogans” They were interested in my story-telling. Which has been with me long before I ever picked up a camera. Clients really want to trust their photographer. And I think that most people are smarter than we give them credit for when it comes to seeing through advertising and branding tricks. We live in a world so saturated with brands trying to seem impressive.. people know what you’re trying to do and they’re not buying it. Be different, be real, stand out from the pack and be really honest with people. 

One of the best things I ever did when I first started putting myself out there was say to couples, “I’ve never shot a wedding before, but I’m so excited to shoot weddings, would you give me a chance?” I truly believe that the first few couples to ever give me a shot did so because they saw my passion and excitement to be involved in their wedding and that it was all just on the surface not hidden behind any marketing scheme. And they trusted me. And I like to think I didn’t let them down. Partly because I worked my ass off to do the best job I could… but also because they were under no illusions about my experience level and they’d taken me on, knowing full well that I wasn’t a big-shot destination photographer.

I’d like to suggest, “Authenticity is the new branding strategy.” 

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Jessica & Jacob Cliff-top Engagement

Country Wedding Photographer

I feel like I’m starting to say this a lot but these two were just so so lovely in front of the camera. If we’re honest there’s an awkwardness when someone points a camera at you. I’ve felt it. I think most of us have. But there are some couples who just have this wonderful way of just melting into one another when you point a camera at them. It’s so beautiful when a couple just naturally interact with each other in such an affectionate way without a hint of awkwardness in front of camera. These guys were the perfect example of that couple. They have a rare love and it was an honour to photograph them. I’m so excited for their wedding next year.

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