Wedding Photography Essential Gear Guide
You’re passionate about photography, want to make a living doing what you love and have decided to take the leap into the wonderful world of wedding photography. Capturing a couple’s momentous day is tiring, but rewarding work. After all, your images will be looked back on — and admired — for generations to come. If that sounds overwhelming, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide, offering a rundown of the recommended gear you’ll need as you get started in this exciting, fast-paced career.
Click here to download the full equipment checklist and make sure you’re prepared!
A Solid Foundation: Selecting Your Main Camera
What’s the first thing you’ll need for any photo shoot? A camera, of course! And as a wedding photographer, you’ll want a sturdy camera that can withstand the wear-and-tear that comes along with capturing the big day — plus offers the features and image quality you’ll need to make your photos stand out.
Our top pick is the EOS 5D Mark IV. This is one of the most popular cameras among wedding photographers — and for good reason. The 30.4 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor makes no compromises in quality and low-light performance, with the flexibility to edit in post-production and the resolution to print large, high-quality images. The 61-point autofocus system, coupled with its fast shooting speeds (at up to 7 frames per second), helps you nail your shots and capture key moments. Dust and weather sealed, the rugged 5D Mark IV is built for demanding professional use and will serve you through thick and thin.
Don’t Get in a Pickle: Have a Back-Up Camera
A wedding photographer’s greatest advice? Bring a second camera! Packing two camera bodies — with different lenses mounted on each — will allow you to work much faster and have more creative flexibility. Changing lenses in the middle of the action isn’t ideal, leading to missed opportunities for unforgettable shots. Mount your wide-angle lens to one camera body for wide, expansive shots, and your telephoto lens on the other body for close-ups, portraits and detail shots. With this approach, even if your main camera malfunctions (which is every wedding photographer’s worst nightmare), you’ll thankfully have a backup camera to continue the action with — and not skip a beat.
The EOS 6D Mark II is a great option for a second body. It’s lighter and smaller than the EOS 5D Mark IV, but still packs professional-level features such as a 26.2 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, 45-point autofocus, continuous shooting up to 6.5 frames per second, as well as dust and weather sealing. Another benefit? The full-frame CMOS sensor means both bodies can use the same lenses, avoiding any incompatibilities or focal length differences associated with an APS-C sensor.
Pack Powerhouse Lens
If you could only have two lenses to shoot a wedding, the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM are the ones you want in your gear bag. These two workhorse lenses will cover everything you need, from wide-angle shots on the dance floor to intimate head and shoulder portraits of the bride and groom. The constant, wide f/2.8 aperture will allow for beautifully blurred backgrounds and low-light shots. Plus, these rugged, weather sealed lenses will serve you for years to come.
Get Creative with Extra Lenses
Looking to expand your creative options? Branch out with prime and ultra-wide lenses.
The EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM is a classic portrait lens. The medium telephoto length is perfect for head and shoulders portraiture, and the wide f/1.4 aperture allows for unparalleled subject isolation. Shoot wide open to blur away everything but your subject, making them the center of attention.
Pick up the ultra-wide EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM to create dramatic environmental portraits. The exaggerated perspective can be tricky to master (tip: try to keep guests near the center of the frame), but it can create a unique sense of grandeur or make subjects and scenes look larger than life.
If you prefer a photojournalistic style, the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM offers a wide — but not too wide — perspective that looks and feels natural. This focal length gives you a guest’s-eye view, documenting the festivities in a way that looks like you’re in the midst of the celebration.
Lighting is Everything: Invest in a Flash (or Two)
We asked one of our Canon experts how he manages the different lighting scenarios at weddings. His pro tip? “I use Speedlite flashes for just about everything.” Fill lighting is incredibly important for wedding photography, mainly because harsh lighting — much like the bright sunshine you’d get at an outdoor afternoon wedding in July — can be really unflattering on faces. Indoor weddings are equally challenging, as many venues either have darker mood lighting or ambient fluorescent lights that can cast unnatural colors. It’s a good idea to start with at least one flash for outdoor fill lighting and for illuminating dark receptions.
The Speedlite 600EX II-RT is powerful enough to light large spaces and overpower harsh sunlight, recycles quickly so you can shoot fast and has built-in wireless capabilities. Use it to control and trigger groups of Canon “RT” (radio transmission) flashes off camera for magazine-quality portraits or to light up the dance floor. Add an external CP-E4N battery pack for faster recycle times, longer bursts and extended battery life.
Want to experiment with multiple flash setups without breaking the bank? The Speedlite 430EX III-RT is the 600EX II-RT’s smaller, lighter and less expensive little brother. It has the same wireless capabilities as the 600EX II-RT, and is also able to wirelessly control and trigger other “RT” flashes.
As you hone your skills and gain more experience using flashes, you can add more to your kit. Having two or three Speedlites will take your photos to the next level and set you apart from the average wedding photographer.
If this all sounds intimidating, we offer online learning classes in flash photography that cover everything from the basics to more advanced techniques.
Stock Up on Extra Accessories
Every wedding photographer should have extra sets of batteries for their cameras and flashes. The last thing you’d want to happen is to run out of juice. Bring extra memory cards for your cameras in case they malfunction or fill up. Battery grips can also be a nice addition to your camera, as the extra battery life, vertical shooting controls and ergonomics make for a more seamless experience.
As you start getting more comfortable with Speedlites and the idea of multiple flash setups, you’ll want to buy light stands, umbrellas, reflectors, diffusers — the options are endless. Be fully prepared for each moment of the big day with an assortment of useful accessories for your gear bag.
Remember, the sky’s the limit. As a wedding photographer, you will have so much room to grow creatively and professionally. Over time, you will develop your own unique, personal style and the gear to go with it. This is just the start!