A few years back. when I was restoring my house, I frequented Lowes more than the grocery store. Most employees called me by my first name, and I could probably navigate the building blindfolded. When talking to one employee about my next project of refinishing my baseboard trim, he was adamant that I buy a certain tool. It had characteristics of a pry-bar, but was much smaller, angled differently and had a precision tip. This tool, while helpful, was an accessory, and not necessarily required for the job.
So, instead of accessories, lets talk about the bare essentials for a wedding photographer’s gear bag.
A seasoned professional is probably going to have an f/2.8 zoom lens attached to their camera throughout a wedding day, but that is because their camera sensor can handle ISO 1600 without showing much noise. However, working with a mid to low grade camera body, you’re sensor needs more light than a zoom lens can afford. Wedding venues and churches are hardly ever well lit. Rather than fighting against slower shutter speeds, your gear bag needs at least one fast prime. The 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8 or even the 35mm f/2 lenses are great options that won’t break the bank. The added bonus of a prime, is a shallow depth-of-field, which can be used to blur an ugly background. These are very common when lower-end brides hire you at the beginning of wedding photographer career.
Your camera’s built in flash is absolutely NOT acceptable for wedding photography. First, its has very little power, and secondly, it cannot be bounced off the ceiling or walls. You need to invest in a flash gun that has a rotating head. Flash guns also recycle a lot faster than a camera’s flash, allowing you to keep up your fast pace. Once you start becoming comfortable with bounced flash, you can tackle just about any horrifically dark venue or church with a moderately slow aperature lens.
Without power to your camera, your job as a wedding photographer isn’t non-existent. Like I said above, wedding venues are usually dimly lit, which strains your camera’s auto-focusing system. Instead of locking onto your target in the first pass, it might hunt for a bit. Your camera’s battery is driving your lens servos to move the glass, which will drain your battery faster. Now think about your flash head. If its having to provide more light to get a proper exposure, you’re flash batteries might only last 150 or 200 frames.
You might think I’m crazy for calling extra memory not a necessity, but with today’s technology, it’s okay to have a single 16GB or even 32GB card. Failure rates three years ago were bad, so shooting on multiple cards throughout the day was smart. Set your expectations of how many frames you’ll capture, and then make sure your memory capacity will cover that, and 500 more. The caveat to using one memory card versus three or four is the possibility of losing it.
The first purchase most photographers make after they buy their flash gun is some $20 modifier that is suppose to give softbox quality light. The simple fact is, light modifiers are so small, they simply don’t have the physical attributes to do much modification. I’m guilty of it. I picked up some sort of dome-bulb-flippy thing for my 430EX. I used it twice and has been collecting dust ever since. The best light modifier you can buy is a book teaching you about how to properly bounce flash.
There are two filters I own for each lens, which are a neutral density and a circular polarizer. I use them maybe 3 or 4 times a year, because they have a very specific purpose. The reason is, the more glass I stack on top of my lens, is the more distortion my light has to pass through before it gets to my sensor. There is no secret glass that filter manufacturers have that increases saturation, contrast or image quality. If there were, lens manufactures would most definitely be utilizing it inside the lenses themselves. Do yourself a favor… and sell the filter you got when you purchased your camera kit. I can absolutely promise you it does nothing but hurt your image quality.