When I was a new wedding photographer, I was freaked out about not having everything I needed. Being the organized photographer that I am, I made a list of essential equipment for wedding photography; everything that I needed so that I wouldn’t forget anything. Over the years, I’ve added things and taken things off the list, so that I now only bring what I need. This list allows me to get the job done without breaking my back lugging gear.
The most important equipment is your backup equipment!
These are the equipment essentials for wedding photography
1. Camera and backup camera
I actually bring three cameras so I can shoot with two and have one additional as a backup, but I think only two would get the job done. It is essential to have a backup in the event that something goes wrong with your primary camera -- and there are so many things that can go wrong.
2. Medium zoom lens
I use a 24-70 f2.8 as my medium zoom and the lens that is on my camera most of the time. This focal length is great for wedding portraits and photojournalism, offering both wide and tight perspectives. The pretty wide aperture gives me some flexibility in spaces that aren’t very well lit.
3. Telephoto Lens
You will need a longer lens to capture events from a distance, in particular the ceremony. I like to stand toward the back or sides of a ceremony as to not be blocking anyone’s view and taking photos from a distance with my 70-200mm. I also use this lens for closeups of the first dance.
4. Wide angle lens and prime lenses
These are not as essential for a wedding, but are certainly nice to have. The wide angle can get you shots of architectural details or big groups. The prime lens can allow you to shoot in dark spaces and give you dreamy depth of field.
Using an external flash can be a lifesaver when you need to get a shot that is just too dark to get otherwise. I have to use speedlight photography techniques for nighttime weddings and dark churches. The alternative is dark or grainy images.
6. Memory cards and batteries
Always bring more cards and batteries than you think you need. I will shoot 50-60 GB of images for a wedding and go through two sets of batteries per camera and per speedlight. Make sure the batteries are all charged up in advance.
7. Tripod and light stands
A good tripod will get you out of a pinch if you are low on light and just need a little more stability. It’s also helpful if you are working in very low light or compositing images together. The light stands are helpful to place your speedlights on and allow you to adjust the placement of the lights. Shoot-through umbrellas are also helpful to have with the lightstands and speedlights for portrait work.
8. Flash diffuser
I like to bring a Gary Fong Lightsphere to put on top of my flash. It helps to diffuse the light and make for better portraits on the fly when you don’t have time to set up lights.
9. Camera bag
You will need something to put all your gear in. Make sure it’s big enough and comfortable enough to haul around with you as you’re moving throughout the day.
10. Studio strobes and umbrellas
Some people may disagree with me that this is essential, but I like to have powerful strobes (more power than speedlights) to use on formal portraits if I need them. Sometimes, it rains or is too cold and I’m forced to take formals in a dark church. In this case, I like have the speed and power of strobes to evenly light up a large group of people.
11. Lens cleaning kit and lens hoods
It’s possible for the lens to get dirty or wet throughout the course of a quick moving event, so it’s good to keep a cleaning kit or lens wipes with you to keep smudges from ruining your shots. Lens hoods are a good way to keep lenses from getting dirty in the first place and also serve to keep sun flare down. Take a look at our post for 5 tips for caring for your lenses, and ensure that all of your equipment is well-maintained.
In his class, Off-Camera Flash Photography, Neil van Niekerk discusses how to generate the best light for your subject via speedlights, umbrellas and further equipment. His Portraits with On-Camera Speedlight further delves into the importance of creating the best light no matter what kinds of conditions you may be shooting in.