Wedding photography is one of the largest and most varied areas of photography around. Different photographers have different styles, and no wedding album will be exactly the same. Many wedding photographers have kit worth tens of thousands which can be quite off-putting for somebody just breaking into this industry. So what kind of kit do you really need in order to take stunning wedding photos?
The answer might surprise you. You may think you need ten different lenses, four different cameras and every accessory under the sun, but it isn't necessary. Yes, wedding photography is an unpredictable beast. After all, you're capturing an event as it unfolds which means it's largely out of your control. However, changing lenses all the time really isn't something you're going to want to do.
You'll want to be able to move around quickly while keeping an eye on the celebrations as they happen. In the time it takes you to select a lens, remove the old one, attach the new one, turn the camera on, frame, focus and then finally take the photo, the opportunity has probably passed you by. What you really need is a lens that suits many different situations, but is there really such a thing?
What Lenses Do You Need?
Many photographers (and indeed, couples) these days prefer a reportage style of photography – candid shots beautifully captured while everybody goes about their business, seemingly unaware of the camera being pointed at them. It's natural and it's flattering. For this style (and many others besides) a longer lens is often preferred; a mid range zoom, maybe longer. Depending on lighting conditions, it'll have to be fairly fast to make life easier (using a flash is one of these variables, something I'll get to later). The ability to zoom means you'll be less of an intrusion and more likely to get far more natural shots, as you won't be sitting in people's laps as you take their photo.
Another route is prime lenses – a 50mm is great, and many photographers stick to this and only this. A 1.8 is good for the purpose, but if you have the cash you might want to consider splashing out on a 1.4 or even a 1.2. Yet another great lens (and famous for it's ideal portrait focal length) is the 85mm. Again, f1.8, 1.4 or 1.2, the option is yours.
As a bonus addition to your kit, you might want to consider a wide angle lens for those scenes in the church and any large group shots you end up taking, but that's fairly style specific and only you'll know whether you'd benefit from this type of lens. To summarise, any one or even two of these lenses mentioned will let you take 100% of the shots you want to take. Something fast with a long(ish) focal length is the idea, and this will suit nearly every style as they're all incredibly versatile.
Don't Forget About Renting!
But what if you can't afford the lenses you want yet? No problem – rent them and include it in your price as you normally would. There are many companies who'll rent lenses for affordable prices and it's an ideal solution for many photographers.
What Camera Bodies Do You Need?
So that's lenses, what about a body? Surely you need a camera that costs more than your car? Well, no, not really. I shot my last wedding party on a D5000 with a D70 as backup. By many standards, it's considered an entry level camera. However, I had a 24-70mm f2.8 stuck on the end of it (and sometimes a 50mm f1.8).
If you haven't heard it yet, I'll say it now – the glass is where it's at. Think of it this way – you wouldn't put a dirt cheap plastic lens on the end of a top of the range camera and expect it to give you stellar results, no matter how amazing the camera is.
As you progress you'll probably upgrade as your needs change, but for now your current camera will probably do. The chances are the bride and groom aren't going to be printing life size (and bigger) photos of themselves so resolution is pretty much a null point.
Take a Backup!
Also worth noting is making sure you have a backup camera of some sort, as there is nothing worse than arriving at a job only to find out your camera has decided it doesn't want to work that day. You won't be happy, and I can guarantee you that the happy couple won't be quite so happy anymore either. As the wise old saying goes, prevention is better than cure.
Still not happy with your camera? Good news again! You can rent camera bodies for a decent price too. The only downside to this however (or upside, depending on your mindset) is that you might want to familiarise yourself with the camera first, which means renting it for a day or two beforehand. You don't want to be figuring out how to stop the aperture down when the bride is walking down the aisle.
What Flash Will You Need?
Speedlights: More often than not, one will do. If you're moving around you're going to want to have something that'll move around with you, so a speedlight is ideal.
Anything that'll work with your camera will do – you don't need anything fancy. Preferably, you'll be able to move it around a little and point it towards the ceiling, behind you, to a wall…basically anything that means you won't be firing it straight at your subjects. Something to diffuse it also wouldn't go amiss. This could mean a fancy diffusing dome, but it could be as simple as some tape and a bit of tracing paper. Need a catchlight card but don't have one built in? Use a white post it note or a bit of white card and tape it to the speedlight.
You might want to take some gels with you too to balance the lighting conditions – flash has a different colour temperature to artificial indoor lighting. Doing this will save you hours later when you're busy editing your shots.
An added bonus is using a flash that'll work with triggers, which also means you might want to get some triggers too. This allows you even more creative freedom and lets you place the flash somewhere else in the scene other than on top of your camera. You might want to bring a stand for it though, just incase there's nowhere to put it. You'll probably have heard many photographers singing the praises of pocket wizards and many other expensive triggers, but you may find that something cheap and cheerful does the job just as well. The general rule of thumb is never to buy something and use it for the first time during a job. Test it out first. If it doesn't work, you don't want to find out when it's too late.
Of course, you don't have to use flash at all – natural light can be very beautiful on its own, but depending on yours and the couple's preferences you might want to give it a little fill-in light to soften shadows. Additionally, if the light really isn't doing anything nice that day you'll be glad you have one.
What About a Tripod?
So that's the camera, the lenses and the flash sorted. Is there anything else? What about a tripod? Do you really need one? That's entirely up to you. I meant to take one with me once but in my haste forgot it (d'oh). Funnily enough, I didn't realise I'd forgotten it until the end of the job. I didn't find myself wanting it at all as I was moving around far too much to be bothered with one.
A monopod could be of use, and maybe during the evening do you could set yourself up in a corner with your tripod/monopod while you capture people dancing. For the most part though, you're going to want to be as mobile as possible. Try it and see what suits you best!
Don't Forget About Spares!
Have I left anything out? Ah yes, spares. Take spare memory cards (make sure they're all formatted before the job and working) and spare batteries for the flash, the camera and anything else that requires them. Charge everything up the night before, and get it packed so you're ready to head out the door the next day. Most of all, enjoy yourself!