Dorset Wedding Photographer – Whats in my bag? and why?
After being a wedding photographer for over 10 years one question I often get asked is what cameras do i use, what lenses. In short what do I get choose to photograph a wedding with and why? Well first I’ll start with a brief history to get us where we are today. I started off my career shooting Canon – and had various bodies including 1-series cameras, 1DS mark II, 1D mark II, Canon 20D, Canon 300D (in fact until recently i’d had all the rebels up to the 600D) and the famous Canon 5D mark 1 although this was the 5d at the time.
This was when my first Nikon body came into my equipment list. The Nikon D3. This was a groundbreaking camera as far as i’m concerned with Nikon. It was the first camera that had decent Autofocus (AF) and also amazing low light capability (High ISO). This was something before now Nikon photographers said wasn’t important and now it was the best performing camera on the market.
From here I shot Canon and Nikon cameras alongside each other – which always got a few interesting comments. My take was that I was using the best of both. Some great Canon lenses (still are) and some great nikon lenses (14-24/2.8 springs to mind here). Roll on a few years and the 5D mark 3 was available and the Nikon D800.
It was now at a point where both Canon and Nikon had got the same options in lenses (fast AFS primes) and cameras were so close there was no difference in final image quality for practical purposes. Anyone who tells you different is either very very specialised or justifying their own brand choice.
All of this modern range of cameras can shoot in virtual darkness in comparison to what came before it AND take great images. We are no longer camera limited, it’s now limited by vision, skill and experience (I digress and this is likely another topic for another time). So long story short I sold my Canon equipment and moved wholly to Nikon. It could just have easily been the other way but for 2 things. There are video and business sense. I’ve already been doing more video work and my older canon bodies didn’t have that facility. My nikons did. From a business point of view it made more financial sense to move to Nikon than Canon – all else things being equal. So that’s what happened.
I now photograph my weddings with a Nikon D3S (the nikon D4 is newer but uses XQD cards and to my eyes the IQ isn’t any better just more expensive), the Nikon D800 and the Nikon D600. This last one may surprise you but it’s got dual card slots (so you’re images are automatically backed up), it’s in a light weatherproof body more than up to the job of weddings. It’s got great low light performance and the IQ is superb. Likewise the d800 has great IQ, brilliant AF, great build quality, the only downside is it produces 36mpx images which are huge, but, it’s better than the D3/d700 in every way including high iso image quality (for any given output size – ie real world situations) and for shots where detail matters is awesome. Sure you need more hard disk space… but thats a small price to pay. Discounting this camera is a mistake IMO. The D3S is simply a workhorse. Fast and responsive, enough resolution for most purposes and stunning low light quality, easily the king still for when it’s proper pitch black.
So thats the cameras, now what about the lenses?
Nikon 28/1.8 AF-S G
A great wide angle. I have used 24/1.4s and 35/1.4s whilst I love the 35 much more I find the 24 too wide for 99% of things and the 35 is sometimes not quite wide enough – so the 28mm is really earning it’s keep this year. As part of nikons awesome new 1.8 prime range it’s light, relatively inexpensive and a great lens. Sits on the d3s a lot of the time for wide shots.
Nikon 50/1.4 AF-S G
This is the standard 50mm, if you had to choose one lens this would be close (I miss my totes amazeballs 50/1.2L Canon lens, and i’m currently not sure whether it’s this 50mm of the 1.8 AFS-G thats gonna live in my bag. From 2.8 onwards this is awesome.
Nikon 85/1.4 AFD
Not the newest G version but oh so good and brilliant bokeh (out of focus rendering). This is a brilliant portrait lens and really helps with the isolation for bride and groom portraits and also some intimate portrait shots. Only gripe is the screw in lens hood – but that aside a great lens and has aperture ring too so you can use it for filming with full control too.
Nikon 105 VR AF-S G
This was a lens I bought when I fully switched to Nikon. I had the Canon 100mm L IS macro and it was a stunning lens – much more than macro it lets you capture some great portraits too and unlike the 85mm lenses you’ll never come up against the MFD and not be able to frame too tight. The VR also means it’s a great option for a bit more reach and in low light where you want a bit more DOF. Often overlooked because of the macro designation this is a super sharp and awesome lens to have in the wedding photographers toolkit. MUCH lighter than the 70-200’s you’ll see many wedding photographers carrying all day too!
I have a SB700 as it’s powerful enough can do master/slave and isn’t 100 metric tonnes like the SB900 and SB910s. Also pack the Yongnuo 560-III as it’s powerful, cheap and comes with a built in radio trigger which fits great with the wireless 603 triggers.
So thats a whistle stop tour of whats in my wedding camera bag. This isn’t to say it’s fixed, I do own some zooms (14-24, 24-70, 80-200), but, for weddings I find primes help me frame my shots and the image quality and dof control is simply superb. Look out for future posts where i’ll be comparing new and old cameras (image quality handling etc) and zooms vs primes. Lots of choice out there and no right or wrong answers. They are all just tools to help you capture what you see in your head. If they don’t get in the way then they are right for you.
I used to own much more camera equipment and would take a lot more to weddings. Here’s what i had in 2009 – way more stuff than i ever needed. Simplification and using whatt works is good – let time faffing more time photographing and watching for the moments is good.