Figuring out what gear to buy as a wedding photographer can be incredibly difficult. Sometimes all the options can feel crippling, and you certainly don't want to drop hundreds or thousands of dollars only to find out you purchased something you don't like.
Over the past several years, I've slowly grown my collection, taking time to add gear as my skills and finances are ready for it. Because of that, I am happy to share with you the gear I've purchased through the years, and why I've justified adding it to my bag, so that, hopefully, you can be assisted in your gear-collecting journey. This list specifically details my wedding photography gear, but everything listed can be used for most types of photography.
For more thoughts on my gear and what I have in my bag, I've shared my video about the topic at the bottom of this post.
Now, let's dive in to my favorite wedding photography gear!
While bags are essential for protecting your gear, carrying it around while shooting, and then ultimately getting it to your desired destination, let's be honest: they need to look good. While there are so many bags out there, (like so many... holy moly, there are so many) from hipster to hot momma to fresh-off-the-generic-camera-store-rack, I'm thankful that I found a brand early on that was absolutely fantastic.
I can proudly say that for eight years (holy moly to how long I've been shooting), Billingham has been my downright favorite camera bag brand, period. Even though it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of other camera bags, it is a straight-forward bag that stays in good shape despite a lot of abuse. As an added perk, at first glance it doesn't necessarily look like a camera bag, which for reasons like theft-protection and generally looking inconspicuous, I think that's pretty great!
The bag pictured at the top of this post is actually my second Billingham, and the only reason I upgraded was on account of size. I needed more space for a bigger camera body and bigger lenses. Otherwise, I still own my original Billingham Hadley, and parting with it would take a few tears and maybe a fist fight.
My Manfrotto Roller Bag fills me less with aesthetic passion and more with feelings of practically. I'm not really going to go into super detail about my bags in this post (truly this is just scratching the surface), but I will say I constantly push the limits of what this bag can carry, stuffing it to the brim and rolling it all over the country multiple times a year, and it's (shockingly) still functioning. In fact, if it weren't for the slightly scuffed up corners and wheels, it almost looks brand new.
Canon 5D MK III | https://goo.gl/2qbIhS
Ciesta Leather Hand Grip | https://goo.gl/OKK7nZ
Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II | https://goo.gl/Q9slhJ
Canon 50mm f/1.2 | https://goo.gl/XVGBtw
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 | https://goo.gl/wRKUPv
Ok, so here's where we get to the good stuff! I feel like extensively detailing ALL of my gear would just be a nightmare for all involved. So, I'm going to detail why I love my gear, because that sounds way more fun. Detailed below is my Go-To Gear. Everything in this category pretty much comes with me every time I'm shooting and lives in my bag more than anything else.
First let's talk about my main camera body squeeze: the Canon 5D MK III. It's a beauty AND it's a beast. Not only does it produce high quality images to get the work done, but it's of a reasonable size, it's easier to function than my previous body the MK II, and it's Canon. So... there's that. While the file sizes are bigger than my MK II, the quality is worth it. Naturally, I utterly adore it.
My Ciesta Leather Hand Grip is the sidekick to my MK III. I've had it for years (at least four). The grip occasionally loosens, but it's nothing a little adjusting can't fix. I prefer it over a neck strap as I have on occasion caught the neck strap by accident while my camera was resting on a table, and thrown my camera on the ground. Whoops! Emma proof = hand strap. It's an affordable and simple solution to relieving a little pressure on a wedding day!
The Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II is the bomb dot com. Not only is perfect for zooming in and getting far away ceremony shots, but it's a beauty in the compression department and allows you to get natural, non-distorted proportions when you're photographing portraits. Zoom can be used effectively to make the things in the background appear bigger, and this guy nails it. Also, because it has Image Stabilization, you can shoot at a lower shutter speed than you think. You might be tempted to look at buying the earlier versions, but I promise you, this one far out-performs them both. Just search for any comparison, be it video or blog, and you'll see what I mean.
The Canon 50mm f/1.2 is my right-hand lens girl. Woman? I'm not sure, but I love her. Not only is this focal length true-to-eye, but it's light-weight, it has some bonkers bokeh and lens flare, and it overall produces a better quality image than the two lower quality and cheaper Canon 50mm lenses, the 50mm f/1.4 and the 50mm f/1.8. I pined for this lens, and I do not regret purchasing it. If you're a photographer, I say this lady is a modern standard.
My Sigma 35mm f/1.4 has surprised me in the ways I have come to use it. When I first purchased it, I thought I made a mistake, and in truth, I have very limited uses for it. However, when I do need it, it performs beautifully. It's my go to lens for a not-too-wide candid moment that has killer sharpness, and it gets an intimate look during portrait sessions. In fact, this might actually be the sharpest lens in my bag, which... whoa Sigma. Didn't see that coming! While it took a while for me to grow accustomed to using it (I'm a bokeh-loving, compression girl, so this was a little wide for portraits for me), I came to see it's benefits and now it's a standard in my bag.
Now that we've covered the essentials, let's get in to the gear that I use less frequently but is still worthy of being listed here!
My Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro is a fantastic lens that I've been using a few years now to photograph ring shots at weddings. Despite it being a great portrait lens, I pretty much only use it for ring photos and the occasional up-close newborn baby detail. Because of that, I'm considering re-homing it simply because I don't use it often. However, I know with certainly that it would out perform the alternatives (macro filter or other attachment).
While I won't go into too much detail about the Canon 5D MK II, I will say that it's a fantastic body. I use it as my back-up body in the event I have unexpected gear failure with my primary body. Even though it's not my favorite, it still produces fantastic images.
While I initially purchased the Sigma 20mm f/1.8 years ago, because I thought that it was a fisheye lens (It is not! Research before you buy, people!), I now use it at every single wedding to photograph dance floor images. It's wide enough that I can really get a feel for the action, getting up close and personal while those people are getting funky!
Talking about flashes is weird, because I find flash work to be mostly confusing. However, there's so much freedom in being able to beautifully control your light at a wedding reception, and the Canon 600EX-RTs do just that for me. Because they have radio transmitters, I can sync them together and shoot almost anywhere in the room. When placed properly, they can be used to make some gorgeous images!
As a final note, the batteries I use for my flashes are Enelopes, and I use a lens filter with all of my lenses to protect them, as opposed to lens hoods. I buy them on Amazon here!
Now, in case you haven't had enough, take a look at my video where I chat a bit about all of my favorite gear. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments, and I'll be happy to help! Otherwise, I hope this assists your on your gear journey!