Wedding Photography...professional equipment

MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
edited December 2012 in General Discussions
I was able to observe a wedding photographer in action recently, and the question in my mind arose as to the equipment needed to do the job properly.  While I have my opinions, these are generally to do the job like it was a $10,000 shoot.  So, I am starting this thread to gather the ideas of others.  Maybe some can give opinions as to the cameras you use, lenses, and the lighting setup for both formal and informal shots.  I will hold my thoughts until we have some participants.  I do believe we have some very fine wedding shooters out there, so let us all begin.
Msmoto, mod
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Comments

  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,199Member
    Good topic.  I don't do this type of photography, or want to do it, but I am interested in seeing what those who do use.  

    I would expect wide angle to medium telephoto fast lenses and two bodies able to shoot at high but clean ISO.  Artificial lighting? Two studio strobes with umbrellas able to cover the wedding party at the front of a church?  So what do those of you who do this use?
  • jonnyapplejonnyapple Posts: 130Moderator
    edited December 2012
    I haven't shot one in almost three years now, but I was using two D90 bodies, a 17-50 2.8, a 70-200 2.8, a 50 1.8, either a 60 macro or 90 macro, and at the end an 85 1.8 and a Tokina 11-16 2.8. None of my lenses were VR, so I used a tripod for a lot of low light shots; I guess it just depended on the venue. Lighting: two SB-600s, two alien bees AB-400 strobes for posed formals with a Paul Buff octobox softbox and an umbrella reflector.

    In my opinion bare minimum would be one body (preferably with two card slots so you can keep a backup), a fast normal zoom and a fast prime. At some venues a telephoto lens would also be needed.

    I started by shooting second camera with a D100, SB-28DX and a 18-70 DX, then switched to a D300 when I started doing them solo.

    Sometimes I miss it. Someone pays you to take photos of them on the day they're trying to look the best they ever have. Most people are happy, there are lots of people to talk to, there always seems to be some relatives/friends who are into photography and want to discuss gear (some had better cameras than I had, but I think my photos were better!). It is a lot of stress, though, and so much more work than anyone sees you do at the wedding. Life is less stressful without them.
    Post edited by jonnyapple on
    CC is welcome. DC is also welcome when I deserve it.
  • nbmznbmz Posts: 2Member
    On our shoots, I have a D700/D7000, Nikkor 24-70, 70-200, 14-24, 105VR, 50mm 1.4D, 85 1.8G, 35 f2, 3x SB800/900 strobes and SU800 controller and a stroboframe pro T.  Also have a few pocketwizards, as well as some indoor strobes setup.  (alienbees used on softbox or large umbrella, depending on venue)

    My other friend who shoots also has a similar combo, but uses the D4/D3 combo.  He has nicer indoor strobes, and has a really nice 300 f2.8 that he uses a lot.

    Sure, you don't really need all that gear and can probably pull it off with the 24-70 on a D700 with a flash on camera...but how will your work stand out against the rest? What happens when your 24-70 breaks, or your D700 fails, or your strobe fails?

    Better to be prepared.  Backup equipment for everything.  You never know...

    :)
  • MikeGunterMikeGunter Posts: 543Member
    Hi all,

    Weddings are generally less complicated than we make them out to be, NBMZ's equipment list looks pretty nice and would cover most bases - fast zooms that cover wide, normal and telephoto, with very fast wide, normal, mid-tele, and micro. That's pretty much my kit. 

    I don't have the Alien Bees, but use an eight-kit mix of SB900s/SB800s which works just fine. 

    My cameras are a D7000 and D90. I do plan to add a D600 or D800 this upcoming year, but might not. The full frame might be a 'better' choice, but I'm not really chasing too many jobs.

    Furthermore, I do plan to start another thread concerning careers in photography - I question how much how much life wedding photography, as a rule, has left to it. From my perspective, more people are having 'friends' shoot their weddings.

    Digital cameras are good and cheap, too. So I do see a disadvantage to a photographer who's idea is to earn his keep by only shooting weddings. Can it be done? Yes, but it will be hard.

    I think marketing will be the key issue.

    My best,

    Mike
  • JJPhotosJJPhotos Posts: 47Member
    I started out using two F100s, a Tamron 28-75 2.8, Nikon 80-200 2.8 AFD, 50 1.8 AFD, two SB28's, a Lightsphere and a Manfrotto tripod.

    In 2005 I went part digital with the addition of a D70s, Sigma 10-20 and a SB800.

    In 2007 I went completely digital with a D300 and D200 as backup. I also acquired a set of radio triggers, brollies and small lightstands as well as a full set of studio strobes (Lencarta).

    In early 2011 I got a D7000 and used it as the primary (D300 as backup) until this September when I got the D600 and use the D7000 as backup. I also swapped out the 28-75 in May this year for the 24-70 AFS.

    I don't often use the studio lights but like the results when I get the chance, as do clients.

    I wouldn't say that this is a particularly expensive setup and my purpose in running through a decade's worth of kit is to say that I've had plenty of happy clients with fairly simple kit. I find that I use one camera throughout the day and generally favour the wide angle zoom. I also use the flashes in a completely manual setup when off-camera so that it is completely predictable so I don't feel much need for an SB910.

    Jamie






    JJN
  • framerframer Posts: 491Member

    To do a wedding it's about professionalism and presentation.   It not about the equipment you use. It's about a total package you can put together with a bit of showmanship thrown in.  To command $10g's for a wedding shoot you'd have to be a true Master and deliver.

    framer

  • SkintBritSkintBrit Posts: 79Member
    edited January 2013

    To do a wedding it's about professionalism and presentation.   It not about the equipment you use. It's about a total package you can put together with a bit of showmanship thrown in.  To command $10g's for a wedding shoot you'd have to be a true Master and deliver.

    framer


    Abslolutely! I agree with many of the comments made here, but these are my experiences of shooting weddings over the years:

    1) it's not for the faint hearted.....if it goes wrong all eyes (and litigation) are on you. Make sure you are prepared, insured, and have professionally written terms and conditions. Mistakes can and do happen, it's how you deal with them that will decide how long you stay in business.

    2) I would not dream of going in to any wedding without at least two bodies, (I normally have a third in my car). Because my preferred style is "reportage", I need to move quickly, silently and with the minimum of equipment. I will normally use my 24-70/70-200 2.8's for this reason. DON'T UNDERESTIMATE HOW FIT YOU NEED TO BE. Carrying two pro bodies with zooms and other equipment, for up to 10 hours without a break and often without food or drink, really takes it out of you! If you work as part of a team (something I rarely do) it makes it far less stressful, as one of you can be on duty while the other takes a leak, but remember, second shooters need paying also, so unless I've charged in excess of £2500 I'll do it myself. The saying "the hardest working person at a wedding is the photographer" is true!

    3) Photography is an art, not a science. Not everyone will like my photos. ALL that's important is that the client does. It also helps if you're a businessman/woman, and can sell your vision of what makes a great shot.

    4) When a prospective client phones you to say "that they won't be using you, as their uncle Sid has just bought a new camera, and has volunteered to do their wedding for free", just smile and politely walk away. Anyone who would consider entrusting their once in a lifetime day to a "noob", will NEVER place the value on your services that you do.

    5) ALWAYS receive full payment before the wedding day. Couples will have paid for the food/venue/dress/church etc, so why not the photographer? You don't want to be in the situation where you contact the couple a few weeks after the wedding, to inform them their pictures are ready, only to find out they've split, as the groom thought the honeymoon would make the ideal opportune moment to confess to his past indiscressions, and they no longer want the photos!!! IT'S HAPPENED, don't let it happen to you.

    There are so many other pointers I could give, (how to dress, organisation and order of photos on the day, doing your homework in to any family politics, what to do in inclement weather etc etc), but lets just say "refer to suggestion 1".

    Good luck!
    Post edited by SkintBrit on
    D3s's D700 F100 / Trinity 2.8 Zooms & 1.4 Primes / 105 micro. SB900s with Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 / Mini TT1s. Camranger remote control system.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    Thanks...you have confirmed my suspicions.  Now, how long after the wedding should one have to wait for the first photos. And, what fees would one expect if there were two photographers, and two videographers for the wedding and one photographer, two videographers for the reception?
    Msmoto, mod
  • mtkmmtmtkmmt Posts: 7Member
    Hi all,

    I shoot about 30 weddings a year and my opinion is that wedding shoot is all about preparation, planning and knowing where to be during most important moments.

    You should have two bodies but i know wedding photogs who use very different lens setups. The most important thing with lenses is to use something and stick to it long enough to really know what you can do with it. You can shoot whole thing with 50mm 1.8 if you know what you can get out of it. 

    I don't bore you with my own opinions about lenses, lights and stuff but i point out something else that has not been discussed that much on this forum. First, power. You should have endless stash of Eneloops and matching amount of chargers. If you have 4 flashes like me, you should have 16 batteries in use and other 16 charging at all times during shoot. Same with camera batteries, batteries for PW's etc.

    Memory cards. Always presume that they are going to break. I always use so many that i could shoot about 2000 pictures without using same card twice. 

    Backup. i always have MacBook on site and after card is 2/3rds full i download it to computer and to external HD at the same time. This way i have all files on 3 locations after shoot. With cameras like d800 where you have 2 cards, do it anyway. Card is the most unreliable and easy to lose element in your shoot. Also, divide different sections of day to different cards. Portraits, ceremony, reception, dance etc. always to different cards. If something goes really wrong it's better to have only 200 pics lost than the whole day. 

    Wedding photography is all about being able to deliver. There should be nothing that comes as a surprise during the day. Discuss all elements of the day beforehand and visit all the places beforehand. Most importantly, don't promise anything you can't deliver. All venues and churches have their own limitations. The couple should be made aware of these so they don't expect you to do miracles. 

    And before anything - Have a written and signed contract. Mine is 3 pages long, it's detailed and almost paranoid but all couples have signed it and usually they are impressed by it because that shows that photog has really thought things trough.

    And like SkinBrit said, this is a trade for physically fit persons.




  • JJPhotosJJPhotos Posts: 47Member
    I would agree about needing to be fit, you don't get time to stop. A key lesson for me has been to make sure my footwear is comfortable and to stay hydrated. If you don't get some water down you every couple of hours and you're constantly on the move you will get frazzled and that isn't conducive to good photos.

    Batteries- I used to use rechargables but found that they lost capacity pretty quickly. I now prefer to get two large 'bricks' of one-shot Duracells for each wedding and simply change out the sets in my flashes between different parts of the day.

    Backups- I used to be paranoid about getting everything onto a laptop and hdd throughout the day but it can be time consuming. With the dual card slots on the D600 and 7000 this is no longer a concern. I agree with the previous poster about using cards which don't contain too many shots. 16gig is as large as I'll go at the moment.
    JJN
  • jonnyapplejonnyapple Posts: 130Moderator
    Great comments, everyone. Tommie, what you charge depends on your market, and I think the time frame is negotiable. My norm was to tell clients I should be done within a month then try to pleasantly surprise them with the photos after two weeks (no one cares about those two weeks, anyway because they're on their honeymoon). 

    Every couple was different, though, and some wanted to combine bridals with posed formals the same day. I liked that because it meant less stress on the wedding day, made it easier to deal with weather, car troubles, hair troubles, gear problems, and other acts of God. I know it's considered bad luck for the groom to see the bride, but most couples would rather have nice photos sooner and, as the Pirate King would say, "chance the consequences!"

    I usually offered as part of the package 1-3 mounted prints from the bridal/engagement sessions, to be displayed at the reception. There were a couple of reasons I did this, admittedly mercenary, but it's a win-win. First, it's good advertising to have some of my photos on display, since the wedding party usually has friends/family in the same marriageable stage of life. Second, I feel like having the tangible prints from me meant people were less likely to back out and opt for Skinty's Uncle Sid. If anyone's familiar with Robert Cialdini's weapons of influence, think reciprocity—I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.

    When I got started I read a lot of books. Some were more helpful than others, but I don't remember what I read. They were written by people using things like a D100, film, or a D2, but even though the tech has improved I think the suggestions are probably still valid. Photo.net also had some good articles on the subject. Like everything in life, if you do your homework you're probably going to be okay for the exams. Also, as SkintBrit and mtkmmt said, have a good contract so you make sure you're not going to lose your house when things go wrong.
    CC is welcome. DC is also welcome when I deserve it.
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited January 2013
    Awesome topic msmoto.


    Thank you...that was very educational and insightful. 
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • shivaswrathshivaswrath Posts: 7Member
    2 bodies.

    4 batteries (2 per body).

    2-4 flashes.

    Off camera flash ability (Nikon CLS or PW's).

    8 CF cards (make sure your body can duplicate pictures, with dual slots).

    24-70 / 70-200 / 50 1.4 / 60 macro [minimum].

    24 1.4 and 85 1.4 depending on your style (when I'm shooting a small ceremony, i'll just use those two and have fun with it on the 2 bodies).

    I would practice a lot and def do free shoots before you start charging...
    w: www.neilphotos.com
    p: www.suneil.net

    I shoot, therefore I am.
  • mirtosmirtos Posts: 16Member
    edited January 2013
    Its a very decent thread, but i would also be interested in wondering what the range of what people cost these days are.  I think wedding photography might be a lot less lucrative than people think.  Theres a lot of competition out there these days.

    Also what do you provide for that.  How much photo editting work, etc..




    Post edited by mirtos on
  • mtkmmtmtkmmt Posts: 7Member
    Pricing is a tricky business and since we have people from all over the world it's hard to give any advice
    about that.

    What you provide is relative to what is common in your area, nation etc. Try to match that and come up with something unique that makes you better buy than the other guys. Make sure that editing guidelines are on your contract. Make sure that you specify the number of portraits and formal poses you are willing to photoshop and set some fee to additional photos. The most valuable thing in your pricing is your time. Never promise freebies
    that consume time, whether it's traveling or photoshopping. Customers always have same questions after shoot and those questions can be answered beforehand in your contract with a price-tag. Also, when you are starting you have to be good but because you are not known you have to compete with a price. Not too much though because that makes you look cheap. It's a hard game of looking confident without being arrogant. 

    One more thing not related to pricing directly. Be friendly with other photogs. There is only limited amount of saturdays in one year and you will get multiple enquiries about some weekends. You have to have some other good and reliable guys you can forward those surplus customers and hopefully those photogs recommend you to people. Other photographers are your competition but it's not like selling cars where specs and price determine the product. Customers decision is made within some price range but there could be 50 guys meeting that range. Among them the customers decision could be quite irrational. It's about personalities, recommendations or there is one particular photo in your portfolio that closes the deal. So, the only real competition is you. Be the best photographer you can be and be yourself as a person. 
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited January 2013
    Its a very decent thread, but i would also be interested in wondering what the range of what people cost these days are.  I think wedding photography might be a lot less lucrative than people think.  There's a lot of competition out there these days.

    Also what do you provide for that.  How much photo editing work, etc..







    Could I suggest we keep this thread to  equipment only

    If the Mods are happy, I will start a new thread on making money

    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • JJPhotosJJPhotos Posts: 47Member
    The only problem I have with CLS, which is great in many situations, is that it can be hit and miss if there are obstructions. For example, I'll often want to put a flash behind a pillar and this can mean that its sensor doesn't pick up the command flash from the camera. I therefore prefer to use radio triggers in all but the most straightforward scenarios.

    I agree that the money thing is a whole different question.


    JJN
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited January 2013
    , for up to 10 hours without a break and often without food or drink,



    As this is about equipment I would add

    a thermos

    a lunch box

    Mars Bars

    Water bottle

    Tissues

     


     

    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • chrisjakeschrisjakes Posts: 43Member
    This thread is what I have been looking for. I am getting ready to shoot a small wedding (probably about 20 people attending) for my future sister in law.  Expectations arent very high but i would like to do a good job.  I did help another friend do my other sister in laws wedding this summer and we got some pretty good stuff i think.

    Right now I have:
    D5000
    55-200mm Kit lens
    18-55mm Kit lens
    35mm 1.8 DX
    SB700

    I am planning to upgrade to the D7000 or maybe the new DX if its out before then and i can get it.  So then i will have both cameras to shoot.  I would also like to buy another lens. I do like to do photography as a hobby just dont have much experience shooting a wedding so i wouldnt mind some decent glass.  i'm just having trouble deciding 1 lens to add to what i have now.  Lenses i was considering.......

    18-300mm zoom
    70-200 f4
    70-200 f2.8 (would probably have to get the sigma for cost possibly have access to a used one)
    24-70mm (getting a little pricier)

    any thoughts?  i figure i would used the 35mm 1.8 on the D5000 and something else on my new camera.  Thanks for the suggestions in advance!
  • nbmznbmz Posts: 2Member
    In reply to chrisjakes, I would not personally bother with the 18-300 lens. It will not keep up with you, especially if your going to end up shooting in a dark location. 

    If your cost is really tight, and your sticking with DX, just get the nikon 70-200 2.8 VR1, and a tamron 28-75 f2.8.  I would mention the nikkor 80-200 f2.8, but I had issues with mine having soft images on the long end. :(

    I have both the tamron 28-75 as well as the nikon 24-70 2.8.  The nikkor is faster focusing, and shoots sharper wide open.  But it costs a heck of a lot more than the tamron...and if you have a good copy, the tamron is no slouch, not to mention being much lighter.

    Sell the 55-200 and the 18-55 lenses, and use that money towards good glass.  And remember, you don't always have to buy brand-new glass. 

    One thing I have learned over the years is that decent used glass almost ALWAYS retains it's investment value over the years.  This has saved me a huge bundle over the past few years, and if your good at testing your equipment, you will know whether the lens is in top shape or not. 

    You will usually lose a bit of money on brand new glass...



    D
  • SkintBritSkintBrit Posts: 79Member
    Pricing is a tricky business and since we have people from all over the world it's hard to give any advice
    about that.

    What you provide is relative to what is common in your area, nation etc. Try to match that and come up with something unique that makes you better buy than the other guys. Make sure that editing guidelines are on your contract. Make sure that you specify the number of portraits and formal poses you are willing to photoshop and set some fee to additional photos. The most valuable thing in your pricing is your time. Never promise freebies
    that consume time, whether it's traveling or photoshopping. Customers always have same questions after shoot and those questions can be answered beforehand in your contract with a price-tag. Also, when you are starting you have to be good but because you are not known you have to compete with a price. Not too much though because that makes you look cheap. It's a hard game of looking confident without being arrogant. 

    One more thing not related to pricing directly. Be friendly with other photogs. There is only limited amount of saturdays in one year and you will get multiple enquiries about some weekends. You have to have some other good and reliable guys you can forward those surplus customers and hopefully those photogs recommend you to people. Other photographers are your competition but it's not like selling cars where specs and price determine the product. Customers decision is made within some price range but there could be 50 guys meeting that range. Among them the customers decision could be quite irrational. It's about personalities, recommendations or there is one particular photo in your portfolio that closes the deal. So, the only real competition is you. Be the best photographer you can be and be yourself as a person. 


    Words of wisdom!
    D3s's D700 F100 / Trinity 2.8 Zooms & 1.4 Primes / 105 micro. SB900s with Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 / Mini TT1s. Camranger remote control system.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited January 2013
    .... I am getting ready to shoot a small wedding .....
    I am planning to upgrade to the D7000 or maybe the new DX



    What ever equipment you decide on; two  words of advice:

    1)  buy everything well in advance of the happy day,   make sure  the controls and setting are second nature and if you are going to use two cameras, practice  carrying  and using two cameras

    2) Hire a professional wedding photographer, leave the camera at home and enjoy the wedding


     

    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • chrisjakeschrisjakes Posts: 43Member



    What ever equipment you decide on; two  words of advice:

    1)  buy everything well in advance of the happy day,   make sure  the controls and setting are second nature and if you are going to use two cameras, practice  carrying  and using two cameras2) Hire a professional wedding photographer, leave the camera at home and enjoy the wedding
     

    They dont want to pay for a pro and just asked me to take some.  Its only going to be siblings and parents so no big deal. plus and excuse for me to buy things......
  • JJPhotosJJPhotos Posts: 47Member
    I'm not in the "hire a pro" camp so long as people know what they are getting and it sounds like your family do, so there isn't a problem.

    In some ways the "hire a pro" thing is a bit unfair as most people get a start in wedding work by doing one as a favour to a family member of friend. It'll either put you off for life or you'll enjoy yourself. I can only think of one wedding I've done which was awful and that was more because the two families were so bad mannered (to each other and everyone else, not just me). Even then the shots came out well.

    I would agree with sevencrossing insofar as you should obtain the kit you are wanting well in advance to get comfortable with it and do try to get your hands on a second body (borrow one at a push).

    If you get the D7000 just be aware that its AF may be finnicky - ensure that you have nailed the AF point on the eyes and that it hasn't decided to focus on some interesting foliage just over the bride's shoulder.
    JJN
  • mtkmmtmtkmmt Posts: 7Member
    chrisjakes

    35 1.8 get's you pretty far especially when it's not a paid gig. That 18-55 kit lens focuses pretty close so you
    can use that to take closeups from rings etc. but you have to ask the couple to pose for those. I'd left that 55-200 out of the bag unless you shoot in a good daylight. Try to get close instead of zooming. i would recommend something wide to add to your kit but don't buy it day before wedding. Wide is cool when you are familiar with it and it takes some practice. 10-20ish range is nice for dx. Since you don't have experience from weddings, some things about the day can be surprising. Therefore try to use settings and stuff you are familiar with so there's one less thing to worry about. 
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