Filed in: photography tips

November 16, 2020

What’s in my Bag? My Wedding Photography Gear

  1. Robert Conner says:

    Most well written and informative photography I have read to date. Fully useful information, very happy I ran across it.

  2. Philip B says:

    Came across this article from a Google search. I’m trying to begin wedding photography myself next year and attempting to ascertain the essentials for my first wedding season.

    I have experience with Photography, just not weddings. Would you recommend purchasing some of these items and be a wedding photographer assistant for a couple months while having my own business be on the side?

    Thank you

    • Christina Hunter says:

      Hey, Philip! Awesome questions!

      So, as you know, weddings are a big deal. After all, you can’t repeat them. When initially getting into wedding photography, here are some of my suggestions:

      1. Be upfront with any couples that want to book you. They’ll be intrigued by your lower starting price since you’re newer to weddings. But just be honest about how many weddings you have photographed as the lead photographer vs a second shooter/assistant. They may not even care and just love you and your work! But always let them know, if only just to protect your integrity.

      2. Work with other wedding photographers. Volunteer to carry bags, equipment, and assist (not even photographing anything) for FREE just to get some experience with how the day flows, expectations of the photographer, etc. THEN start requesting to be what is referred to a lot of the time as a “second shooter.” This means you’ll be responsible for photographing certain parts of the day (sometimes entirely on your own), but you aren’t the lead photographer that’s in charge.

      I will say that any photographer you shoot for (if you don’t have references from being a second shooter on a wedding day already) are going to want to see a portfolio and to know what kind of gear you’re shooting with. For example, wedding days can throw lots of challenges at you– like photographing in low-light situations. For this reason, most lead photographers will want to see more professional-level gear in your arsenal (like what I have linked here) such as a full-frame camera body (that handles low-light better) as well as a good variety of lenses (so that they know you have what you need to capture difference scenarios).

      I started off with one full-frame body and then slowly built my lens collection up. Then, once I felt like I had all the lenses necessary to capture a wedding day in the best way possible, I purchased my second full-frame body. (<– having a body backup is NECESSARY in my opinion if you are photographing alone).

      Let me know if I can help with anything else, Philip!

  3. Philip B says:

    Thanks for the words of encouragement on on getting hired with no experience. I might be fortunate enough to be able to photograph a friend’s wedding. I’m hoping this happens so I can say I’ve shot at least one wedding. But I’ll probably still need to be someones second to get the full breath of the industry.

    Never thought about volunteering just being an equipment handler. Is this a common practice? That makes me feel more optimistic about getting my foot in the door. Because the only other opportunity for photos in a wedding I’ll be able to get is one in which I’m a groomsmen ha. I might be able to get about 15 minutes of portraits with everyone after the hired Photographer has their fill.

    So I’m working with a Nikon Z6 with a 24-70 mm f/4, Sigma 105 MM macro (same one you have listed), and Sigma ART 14-24mm. I have a tripod, but flash, stands, filters, diffusers, etc, I still need. Not too mention the 50 mm prime lens and true telefoto. I plan on purchasing all the lighting gear and the Nikkor z 50mm lens withing the next 6 weeks.

    The Nikkor z 70-200 mm f/2.8 is quite pricey. The Tamron you mentioned is affordable though. I figure I probably have to haha the prime before I am even considered as a second shooter anywhere.

    • Christina Hunter says:

      Hi again, Philip! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you on the friend’s wedding. That’s how many photographers get started because their friends support and trust them so much. Most weddings consist of the same type of events throughout the day, but the actual flow and technical skills will constantly vary depending on the venue, time of day, etc. Being a second shooter as much as you can will certainly be beneficial!

      And yes, being more of an assistant and not really shooting throughout the day can be quite common for photographers that are just starting out with weddings. You are providing the lead photographer with free and valuable assistance on a stressful wedding day and you get to absorb knowledge first hand!

      With the lenses that you mentioned, I’ve got a few tips/suggestions:
      -The 24-70 f/4 (in terms of wedding photography) is mainly used for small getting ready spaces where you need a wide lens as well as dancing shots at the reception. The only thing that I would say about that lens is that it’s got a high max aperture of f/4 and with Getting Ready spaces and dancing at receptions, it is VERY common to be in a low light situation. Since you can’t open you’re aperture open (Ex. f/2.8) you may struggle with noise/grain due to needing a higher ISO.
      -Yay macro! There’s really nothing like it when it comes to using it for tiny details like rings, earrings, cufflinks, etc.
      -With your Sigma ART 14-24mm, I don’t typically see a super wide lens like that used in wedding photography. The reason being is that once you start shooting people wider than 35mm, it can start to skew their facial features. This lens would be awesome for super wide epic location-centered shots, but I’m not sure you’ll find yourself using it a lot on a wedding day unless you’re doing large group shots.

      In terms of equipment to add to your arsenal first, I would recommend:
      -A Prime 50mm lens
      -A longer telephoto lens for the ceremony. You could get a 70-200mm zoom or even a 135mm prime (but then you’d probably find yourself changing lenses during the ceremony unless you carry two camera bodies. It’s not a bad thing, just something to consider).
      -Flashes (at least 2, I use 3) are a MUST to be fully prepared as well as at least one flash stand (I use 2). Diffusers are a nice to have, but not a necessity when starting out.

      Hope that was all helpful, Philip!

      • Philip B says:

        Yea, the 24-70 m f/4 was the kit lens. The f/2.8 of the same focal length is 2k for the Nikon z. Many of the z series lens are expensive. I have always said that Nikon is the Mac of the camera world but the quality comes with that.

        I think I was going to get the Nikkor z 50 mm prime lens, and all the lighting equipment. The 70-200 lens I will get eventually, but I don’t know if I’ll have it by my first gig as a second shooter.

        The wide angle lens is actually for architecture, landscape, and astrophotography, but I figure I might be able to use it for some specialty shots.

        The flash is something I plan on probably buying this week. This aspect I’m very unfamiliar with. I’ve used a flash back in highschool yearbook but that’s about it. I can definitely see having questions. Would you recommend me buying 2 just starting out? Idk how I would use 2. I can see the lead needing it if it’s in a big group or big area.

        • Christina Hunter says:

          So regarding the 24-70mm lens, it is a zoom lens and, because it has more moving parts, it tends to be more expensive. If you know that you’re going to invest in a 50mm lens, you could always make the decision to invest in a prime 35mm lens if the 24-70mm isn’t in the budget just yet. I personally don’t own a 24-70mm and haven’t felt restricted by my 35mm.

          If you don’t have a 70-200mm or other long telephoto lens in your gear bag, no worries! Just be sure to communicate that with the lead photographer. They’ll probably just ask you to be in charge of the wider ceremony shots that help set the scene.

          And yes, that super wide angle lens can be great for some epic architectural/landscape-featuring shots!

          The flashes that I have linked on my page are VERY affordable and I haven’t had a single problem with them in the 2 years that I’ve owned them. I did some research and it looks like they’re compatible with the Nikon Z6. The also have triggers built-in to them so you don’t have to buy separate triggers to get your flashes to communicate with each other. The best thing you can do is to watch some YouTube videos that walk you through the settings as well as to play with them at home beforehand so you’re comfortable making adjustments to them on the wedding day.

          I typically use 3 flashes at every wedding (this is primarily at the reception). One flash is on my camera that provides some soft fill light to the front of the couple/subject in the direction that I’m shooting. A second flash is placed to the side of me with an umbrella on it that provides the main directional light to illuminate the couple and the area around them in a soft way. The third flash is towards the back of the space/area I’m photographing (usually at a 45 degree angle from the light stand with the umbrella on it). Without this third flash to help illuminate the background, the image will tend to look flat. Unless there is a SIGNIFICANT amount of ambient light in the background, your subject will appear to just be floating in a black space and, for my style, it makes for a boring image. Hopefully that explanation of my setup gives you an idea of how many you’d like to start off with!

  4. elifas willem says:

    hi’ i am a biginner and i was booked to shoot a wedding this coming august. i only own one camera body nikon d3000 with one baterries, one lense 55-200mm , one speedlighte, a drone and one 4k hd video camera, do you this this gear can make it?

    • Christina Hunter says:

      Hey, Elifas! Thanks for reaching out. This is a great question. Weddings are a big deal and can’t be repeated. Therefore, I’d make sure you’re as prepared as possible. If purchasing isn’t an option right now, I would look into renting a full frame camera body along with a few lenses. A full-frame body (such as the Nikon D750, 780, or 850) can handle low-light situations way more effectively. As far as lenses go, just try to be prepared to cover a variety of focal lengths. Sometimes you may find yourself in small Getting Ready spaces where you need as wide as a 24mm or 35mm lens. Other times you may need a lens with a long reach (200mm) like during the ceremony with a long aisle.

      For lighting, this can vary a lot based on the size of the room, color of the wall, height of the ceiling, etc. If the Reception area has neutral/light walls and lower/average ceilings, you could probably get away with bouncing our speedlight. BUT, if the room is larger and not ideal for bouncing, I would recommend getting AT LEAST one more speedlight to put on a light stand more towards the back of the room to give your images light and dimension.

      I hope that helps and I wish you the best of luck!

  5. Andrew Douglas says:

    Hi, I have a Canon 5D Mrk 2, Canon 16-35 f/4L IS USM, Canon 135 f/2L USM, Canon 85 F/1.8, and Canon 50 f/1.8 STM
    Will sell the 16-35 as it’s too slow
    The 50 1.8 STM could be used but the 1.4 would be better.
    Would the 50, 135, 85 & rent 2nd body & 70-200 2.8L IS USM II or III be good for a first wedding shoot?

    • Christina Hunter says:

      Hey, Andrew! Thanks for the gear question! I think that you will have a great focal length range available between your lenses and renting. The only tricky part might be not having anything wider than 50mm once you sell the 16-35. I don’t use my 35mm a ton on wedding days (it’s just not my style), but when I do need it I’m so glad I have it! Some situations are having a large group photo (like family formals) or photographing the bride and groom in tight getting ready spaces (hotel rooms, small rooms at a venue, etc.)

      My big question about your 5D Mark II is this: does it have two card slots? This is so so important for weddings since they are an un-repeatable event. You want to make sure that whatever camera bodies you use allow you to shoot on two cards at a time so that you can automatically create an image backup in case of card corruption, damage, etc.

  6. donavan lakeman says:


    • Christina Hunter says:

      Hey, Donavan! Great question as this can greatly impact some photographers’ approach. I have done both: I’ve photographed a full wedding day entirely on my own as well as have a second shooter with me. These days, I almost always have a second shooter. However, I do keep the time that we are apart (meaning we’re photographing entirely different things) to a minimum. I want them to be there to assist, get different angles, and candids. Sometimes we have to divide and conquer to keep the day on schedule, but my preference is to always have us together as much as possible!

  7. andy says:

    I loved your post on the equipment in your bag. I’m getting back into wedding photography and was wondering if you might be able to provide me a ballpark figure in US dollars what all of this gear would cost me, so that I can get togeather the funds to purchase it all ?

    • Christina Hunter says:

      Hey, Andy! I’d be happy to give you an estimate! However, even if you were to buy the same exact pieces of equipment that I use, there will be a bit of a difference. This is because some items have been out for awhile vs the “brand new technology” prices I paid several years ago. Meanwhile, other items may retain their value very well over long periods of time. But keep in mind, there are several online places that offer used equipment in good condition at discounted prices. As a rough estimation, if you were to purchase two full-frame DSLR camera bodies, all 6 lenses, 3 speedlights, 2 lightstands, one umbrella, a minimum of six 64GB memory cards, 2 additional backup batteries for your cameras, and batteries for your speedlights… it would come to about $12,800. That wouldn’t include external hard drives to store images, a proper laptop to operate editing software, external lighting modifiers, etc. Hope that’s helpful and good luck in your future pro photography endeavors!

  8. Hi Christy,
    I’ve never tried this one actually, MagBounce.
    I have a feeling that it helps me with taking pictures of my jewelry in general.
    Thanks for sharing a detailed info guide.
    Regards, Edyta

    • Christy says:

      Hi, Edyta! I think since you’ll be photographing pretty close up for jewelry pieces, either the MagSphere or the MagBounce will work great. The bounce will push forward more light than the sphere, but the sphere will produce softer light up close.

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