When it comes to weddings photographers have to make sure they are capable to cover the day without sacrificing special moments of the day. And these moments usually happened to be there almost all day long. The question is how quickly can you react to capture them. The second and probably the most important part of this – is your photo gear capable of doing that?
During my photo workshops in Downtown Vancouver I have met couple local wedding photographers and want to be wedding shooters. At the end of the workshops they usually asked me what would I recommend them to buy so their gear is ready for the tough times of this creative profession.
To keep this post as short as I can I will approach this from point of the most used camera brand name for wedding photography: Nikon and Canon
Why only these two DSLR camera makers? Well, we could go and include Sony, Olympus, Leica, Hasselblad, Pentax and others but in reality the majority of us PROs is relying on one of those two and if the trend changes in the near future I will be happy to add them here.
First of all, I am not going to be saying buy this brand because it is better than the other etc. No I just want to give you a fair information what you might need, why it is important to have this kind of cameras, lenses and flashes for a wedding assignment and why if you do not have it you might simply fail to create these kind of looking shots:
Let’s start with Nikon and what I use and carry around at my vancouver weddings.
MY CAMERAS: 3-4 DSLR bodies in my camera roller case including: Nikon D3s, Nikon D700, Nikon D300s and Nikon D800 . The last mentioned had been returned back to Nikon due to the AF issues Nikon still refuses to admit and you can read more about it in my post here.
My main DSLR camera is still D3s even though the D4 has been out for a year. Should I replace it for D4? In my case there is no need to do so. This is probably one of the best Nikon digital flagships ever made for sport and low light photography. Its dynamic range, low ISO performance and AF system that is super fast is exactly what my brides needs. I know they have no idea what I am describing right here, but it is not up to them but up to us – wedding photographers to make sure our camera equipment delivers no matter what conditions are around us. No wonder NASA uses Nikon D3s for their spaceships projects and you can see some amazing time-lapses shot from orbit with this unbelievable camera.
My second DSLR is Nikon D700. Let’s call it a smaller brother of D3s without a battery grip for vertical shooting. Boy I love this camera. Light yet powerful and when combined with a fast lens you have the winner in front of you. Same 12MP full frame FX sensor like D3 and reliable like nothing else! This is a great size of a DSLR is you are a female shooter. D3s is a lot bulkier and even for my muscles too heavy when I have a 10 hour shooting going on!
My DX format DSLR choice is simple – Nikon D300s. This camera rocks for the last 3 years and even though they are newer cameras around the durability and precision of this body has not been overcome yet. Still the best DX format from Nikon and soon there might be a replacement but till then, this is my back up if longer lenses are needed. Great for the second shooter, little bit behind in low light but at outdoor locations this piece delivers 100%.
My newest camera I was dreaming about was Nikon D800. A long waiting machine with newest 36PM sensor and huge dynamic range but it gave up on me badly and I returned it back to Nikon after couple projects! When this camera works without any issues then the image quality is amazing and you can crop so much details from that sensor that is unbelievable. My model had AF back-focusing issues, LCD calibration problem and WB issues and even though Nikon does not admit some of these till today, there are thousands of photographers who know what I am talking about. Even worse happened to the latest Nikon full frame model D600, which has an issue with oil being spilled on the sensor for the first couple thousands shots… Nikon, please learn from these mistakes, I like you equipment and these 2 models did not cut it through for me!
Another shot of mine to wake you up
So lets put the part about camera bodies together and simply explain why you need to have couple of them. You need to be fast and changing lenses all day long is sometimes impossible. When you do change them and there is a time for it, make sure you do it proper way so the dust do not get inside your camera, because the small tiny black spots on you images will be rapidly increasing its numbers there. If one of your cameras fails / like my D800 did ! / then you still have couple of them to use without loosing precious moments. And trust me there is never enough safety when it comes to a wedding day – because the chance it is going to be repeated are small !!!
MY LENSES: Nikon 14-24 f2.8 AFS, Nikon 70-200 f2.8 AFS VR, Nikon 105 f2.8 AFS VR macro, Nikon 17-55 f2.8 AFS DX, Nikon 50f1.8D, and two newest family members Nikon 24 f1.4 AFS and Nikon 85 f1.4 AFS.
If I had to choose only two lenses to carry to a destination wedding due to a baggage allowance I would 100% took my 14-24 f2.8 AFS + 70-200 f2.8 AFS VR!
These are my workhorses and every serious wedding photographer should have something similar in his bag to cover the focal length these two lenses do. Nikon 14-24 f2.8 AFS is a serious wide-angle machine which offers to capture amazing close ups of the small groups of people in areas where the distance can be a problem, it is a superb sharp wide angle choice for my bride+groom+architecture shots and amazing landscape creator! With fast f2.8 aperture this lens allows me to shoot even in the dark areas like at shot 1 where groom and bride had a Wedding at Vancouver cathedral. Using just an ambient light mixed with fill in video light I captured an atmosphere which is really priceless to even describe. Fast lenses with f number f 2.8 or smaller are a MUST for serious wedding photographers!
Nikon 70-200 f2.8 AFS VR is another great example of a fast tele photo lens. This is the most used lens during any wedding. It is one of the fastest AF lenses from Nikon and it focal length is perfect for portraits from any distance. It is heavy, but the quality which comes out of this beast is amazing. If this lens broke down during the wedding day on me than my replacement would be Nikon 85 f1.4 AFS G ED. If you know what bokeh represents in photography than here is the king of the low light portraits! This is my dream come true lens to use. Period. Most of the wedding portraits on my Vancouver commercial wedding website had been captured by using this lens!
When the wedding rings close ups are needed then Nikon 105 f2.8 AFS has it all under control. It offers a life size macro feature so even the smallest diamond on your wedding ring will be as sharp as it can gets and you can almost count those carats on it . The AF is a bit slower compare to the first 3 lenses but what do you expect from a macro lens . You can lock the focusing ring on it for certain distances so it does not hunt too much during focusing! Love it.
The Nikon 17-55 f2.8 DX AFS is being used when I shoot with my DX format cameras such as Nikon D300s. These DX format cameras has a crop factor of 1.5 times of the focal length used so 17 – 55 represents 25-80 focal length in FX full frame format. Where I find the strongest point for using DX format cameras is the focal length. As soon as you need to reach and subject in your composition which is too far for your FX body simply change the lens from it and put it on a DX format camera and you can reach 1.5 times further! So my Nikon 70-200 2.8 AFS is basically 105-300 mm lens on DX format Nikon camera! Which is a great advantage for sport and wildlife photographers as well!
When it comes to the prices of the photography equipment you can start to either pray or dream. Most of my lenses cost average from 1500- 2500 $$$ each !!! The camera bodies from $1500 – 6000 each !!! It means I carry around a small fortune to every wedding shoot. Yet is is expensive to be a wedding photographer but it all comes to the priceless results at the end. Th biggest contrast are probably my last two lenses. The Nikon 50 f1.8D is my cheapest lens and you can get it for around $140 from photo shops like this one.
On the other hand the the Nikon 24 f.1.4 AFS is going to cost you extra $2000 for just 1 EV stop of light but the unusual angle and the perfect creamy soft background is the answer for every demanding bride or groom. So yes it all depends how creative your vision is but without the best wedding photography gear you will have a hard time to beat your competition. But do not forget it is not about the gear only! What would be the best camera of fastest lens without a person behind the viewfinder. An expensive but useless tool! The camera does not deliver you your dream come true wedding pictures. We do ! Think about it and the answer is as simple as it gets. We are the souls behind those reckless cool shots which are unique-edgy-fun to create when you know HOW !!!
Thank you for reading part 1. In the part 2 I will discuss with you which Canon cameras and lenses I would consider to have as a wedding photographer even thou I do not shoot Canon, I admire their quality.
Tags: 14-24 f2.8 AFS, 70-200 f2.8 AFS VR, D3s, D700, D800, Nikon, portrait, weddings, workshops