Every wedding that I go to, there is always an uncle or a cousin who is a keen photographer and loves to ask ‘So, What’s in a Wedding Photographer’s Camera Bag?’. I’m always more than happy to answer! I also do a lot of mentoring and coaching, and the subject is a popular one for other photographers who are keen to understand how I create the imagery I do.
As a Wedding Photographer, on my feet with my camera gear for 10-14 hour days, I need to balance the weight of my equipment along with the performance, so you’ll find a lot of things in the list that provide a good degree of versatility and can be used throughout the various parts of the wedding day.
I have a few requirements with my gear. Firstly, It needs to be reliable – so weather sealing and robust designs are always favoured, I don’t usually have the time to be delicate with the gear and I need to know it’s going to work weekend after weekend.
Secondly, working across all four sessions, in wedding venues in the UK also means I require gear that does well in low light! Think after sunset, late December, in a mahogany panelled ballroom – darksville. So as you can imagine, my gear needs to be great in low light.
Best Camera for Wedding Photography
In my opinion, you can’t beat Canon. I’ve been with Canon since I began my career in 2005 and I’ve never felt disappointed with their performance – in 400+ weddings, they’ve never let me down, so I’m happy to recommend them.
I know a huge majority of wedding photographers have moved over to Sony in recent years, in part because of Canon and Nikon’s lack of mirrorless offerings.
We picked up some Sony A7 III’s for the video side of the business and they are amazing, but for me, it’s all about the feel of a camera – both the ergonomics and the ‘soul’ of the thing. Something I’ve found the Sony offerings to be lacking.
Honestly, I’ve never enjoyed the ergonomics of the Sonys, maybe it’s having big ‘hockey player’ hands – I just find them too small, sharp edged and fiddly. I’ve also never loved the view through their EVF’s (Electronic View Finder) – it makes me feel removed from the situation and I’m not a fan of the colours I get from Sony – they just feel a bit over contrasty and ‘heavy’.
But I’ve seen stunning work made with them, so it’s entirely a personal thing.
I’ve recently started using Canon’s mirrorless offerings, starting with the EOS R and now the EOS R6 and EOS R5. The EVF is still an issue, and I still feel a little more removed from the subject than with a traditional optical viewfinder – but for some reason, I feel better with their EVF than with Sony.
I think the Canon’s flippy screens have also allowed me so much versatility in the way I shoot, I’m able to be more involved with the subject – simply by completely removing the camera as a barrier between us (and using the flip screen to shoot from the hip).
Wedding Photographer Camera
Canon EOS R
My favourite camera for Wedding Photography over the past few years has been the EOS R. Its an amazing allr round camera, but it comes with a major drawback (which has now been solved by the Canon EOS R5 & the R6) – The Single Card slot.
This was a borderline unforgivable move by my favourite camera maker and one that kept me on the fence about mirrorless for the longest time. As a wedding photographer, I simply cannot run the risk of losing images and I can’t have a camera that only has one card slot, as it presents a big risk that I’m unwilling to take.
But once I took the plunge and started shooting with the EOS R I was immediately looking for ways to work around the drawback, such as using two cameras and backing up my cards throughout the day.
**Fortunately now with the R5 and the R6 this isn’t something I need to worry about**
The mirrorless way of shooting was game-changing for wedding photographers being able to see exactly what you’re shooting and what you’re going to get before you press the shutter, opens the door to so much more creativity and has not only improved the quality of my work but has greatly reduced the amount of editing I need to do after the day as the consistency of my images is much higher.
So if someone wanted me to recommend a camera for wedding photographers. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending the Canon EOS R5 or the Canon EOS R6 – but I wouldn’t ignore the Eos R – for the price it is phenomenal – just if you can live with the single card slots.
Most expensive option: Canon EOS R5
The Canon EOS R5 is a beast of a camera well above anything you would need, but that gives you the versatility to do anything with him from it’s the huge sensor which produces the most beautiful images to its brilliant autofocus nailing every single moment I throw at it, in even the toughest of lights – it’s a very easy recommendation
The only thing that holds you back from recommending it fully is the price at £4200 (September 2020) it’s bloody expensive, but if you have the cash and image quality is your absolute priority, you will not be disappointed and I adore mine.
Canon EOS R6
Fortunately, it’s little brother the EOS R6 steps in at £2500, offering many of the same features including the Blazing fast autofocus and the build quality that I love. The drawbacks are the sensor doesn’t have as high a megapixel count (just 20mp), but it makes up for this in increased dynamic range and lower noise levels in dark conditions so for me the perfect wedding photographer camera combination is an EOS R5 on one hand and an EOS R6 on the other. Giving you the versatility in lowlights and the image quality when you need it both also have dual card slots to save you from the stress of losing images.
Budget option: Canon EOS 5D Mark 4
My primary camera before the mirrorless revolution and still with a place in my camera bag is the Canon EOS 5D Mark 4. It’s a traditional DSLR and it feels a bit bulky compared to the R, the R5 & R6 – but it’s still a lovely camera and in many ways better suited to weddings than any of the others.
Featuring dual card slots and a 30mp sensor (fitting nicely between the R5 and R6) it has the best balance in my opinion between the excessive megapixel count of the R5 and the ‘not quite enough’ of the R5. Obviously, I’d kill for an EOS R that had dual card slots… but the 5D4 is the nearest to that.
Granted, the Autofocus is nowhere near as good as the mirrorless options, but it makes up for that in a higher dynamic range than any of the others. It’s also almost half the price of the R5, which makes it a very easy recommendation.
Wedding Photographer Lenses
Having amazing cameras is one thing but to truly succeed in this business you need incredible lenses too and the lenses are one of the main reasons I stuck with Canon when everybody else was moving to Sony. Canon lenses are in a League of their own the red stripe that denotes the L-series of lenses is the stuff of legends and I adore both the colours that come from their lenses and the Beautiful creamy bokeh.
Canon EF 50 1.2L
By far and away, my favourite is the Canon 50MM 1.2 L. I’ve had this lens on my camera for the past 15 years and it very rarely comes off 90% of my imagery has been created with it and I adore it. It’s failed a few times over its career – but then I do work it hard! It’s had to go in for repairs, but whatever the cost, I always repair it because no lens matches it both in terms of quality and feel in my hand.
Golden hour with this baby at 1.2 is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Soft, dreamy and creamy bokeh paired with warm colours, for beautiful romantic imagery.
Canon EF 85 1.2L
My next favourite lens is the Canon 85mm 1.2. It’s a beast of a lens. It’s heavy, full of glass and it’s bulky. Ok, it is quite slow at focusing. But the image quality is amazing – from its sharpness to its bokeh to its focus fall off – absolutely everything about it is dreamy, creamy and beautiful.
The 85 is a bit of a tank, and I don’t enjoy using it all day long especially on one of the mirrorless bodies. But if I need to use it for a long period pairing it with a battery grip helps balance it better, without that it just becomes quite front heavy and puts a lot of strain on your wrists. But for portraits or candid photos when you need a little bit more reach it’s hard to beat
Update – Canon now have an 85mm 1.4L – it’s a very similar lens to the 85 1.2, focuses a bit faster and is a bit lighter, so well worth a look.
Canon EF 24 1.4L
My next favourite is the Canon 24 1.4 it’s an amazing combo with the 50 1.2. It’s great for providing beautiful wide compositions, making it perfect for tight spaces during bridal prep or creative portraits.
I recommend avoiding putting people on the outside edges or you’ll make them look bigger then they are.
Canon EF 35 1.4L
Occasionally if I’m limited in the amount of gear I can carry I’m leaving the 50 and 24 at home and carry the 35 1.4L. It’s an amazingly versatile combo with the 85L giving you wide coverage and close. The 35L makes for an amazing general-purpose lens. It also renders colours beautifully and I know many photographers swear by it as their number one lens but it’s never quite overtaken the 50 1.2 for me. I just find the distortion for portraits a bit much.
Canon EF 16-35 2.8L III
Another lens that I adore is the EF 16-35 f2.8L. It’s a weird one for me because I’m always drawn to prime lenses for weight reductions and an improvement in sharpness, over zoom lenses. But once I picked up the 16 to 35 I was blown away it’s versatility and its sharpness, especially on the RF bodies. When there are parts of the day that I’m not quite sure what I’m going to be facing, the 16-35 is always in my bag and always delivers amazing imagery. Although stay away from 16mm end for portraits unless you know what you’re doing!
Canon EF 135 2.0L
Occasionally I’m told I have to stay far away from the couple during the ceremony – especially church ceremonies. The next lens, the 135L only really comes out in those instances. People swear by its sharpness and its bokeh, which I have to agree are both incredible, but I’ve never got on with being so far away from my subjects. But when a vicar or a priest tells you’ve got to be at the back of the church, the 135 shines and allows me to get those close intimate moments, without pissing off the padre.
Where are the Canon RF Lenses?
So being that I’ve covered the Canon mirrorless cameras in detail, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t embraced their mirrorless lenses the RF series. simply put far too expensive and damn heavy. a combo I’m not interested in right now.
Yes, the RF 50 1.2 is an incredible lens. A technical marvel, the sharpest tool in the box. Fast at focusing, beautiful bokeh and everything you could want for in a lens but it weighs a ton, it costs a ton and it just doesn’t do enough more than my EF equivalent.
I’m currently just using all of my old EF lenses with an EF to RF adaptor and I’m finding they all work beautifully – fast focusing and lightweight.
In time I might move over to some RF lenses, but not right now.
I’m quite attracted to the prosumer lenses the RF35 1.8 and the rf85 1.8 simply because they’re really light and relatively cheap – perfect for lugging around on long days. quality isn’t quite as good as my EF L-series lenses.
Wedding Photographer Camera Bag / Shoulder Bag
So, when you’ve got so much camera equipment to carry around what do you carry it in? I love travelling light on a wedding day, so I’ll often leave my Peli case in the car with all of my back up gear and variations of equipment that I might need. I usually just carry my main cameras and a couple of lenses on me. This means I can keep up with the day and move around freely and inconspicuously.
For me, this means I need a small shoulder bag and after 15 years of searching I found the Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L to be game-changing, it’s an amazing size, it’s rugged & it holds everything I could need. It looks subtle, which I love.
**I was sad recently when after 3 years, the zip failed on my v1 Everyday Sling 10L – but I’ve just contacted Peak Design about their famous lifetime warranty. Happy days, fingers crossed they help me out.**
**Edit 2: Peak Design are absolute stars, they are sending me a brand new replacement Everyday Sling – a couple of emails, zero stress, zero hassle – fantastic service, can’t recommend enough!!**
When not inside the peak design bag in a Peli case 1510 and I’ve written a lot more here.
Wedding Photographer Rucksack / Backpack
When I’m going to be away from the car, and need to carry ‘all’ my gear with me, such as weddings in London, destination weddings or when we’re travelling my go to bag is the Lowepro Protactic. It fits ‘carry on luggage requirements’ and holds everything I need, especially now we’ve moved over to mirrorless so we can take multiple cameras, lenses, flashes and batteries.
The webbed straps on the front also allow me to carry more things, pack-mule style like light stands & tripods, making for an incredible versatile camera backpack.
Wedding Photographer Camera Straps
Where possible I like to use one camera, but for large portions of the day, I must carry two cameras – in case one fails. By far the best way to carry two cameras for long periods is with a holdfast strap, and my water buffalo money maker in Black has never failed me. it also makes me feel like James Bond. (or not.)
I’m also a huge fan of the Peak design sling straps, in part because they’re so easy to put on and take off, and I am partial to a camera without a strap. When I go for days out with the family and I want to carry a camera over my shoulder, I’ll always grab my peak design strap – the quick-adjust mechanism is incredible for when you want to throw your camera over your shoulder and get on with the adventure.
Flashes for Wedding Photographers
Next up, flashes. As previously mentioned a lot of my work takes place in really dark wedding venues so I must know how to light my scenes with flash. I’ll use natural like wherever possible but love to have a good array of flashes in case I want to get creative or just two supplements the ambient light.
I love Yongnuo flashes and Godox Flashes, as they provide all the functions I need – including wireless triggering and are very cheap.
I once broke an official Canon Flash and it cost me over £200 to repair it. To put that into perspective, a set of four young euro flashes will cost you about that. So they’re pretty much disposable!!
But saying that doesn’t do them justice, they’re brilliant. I’ve been using a set for nearly 5 years now and they’ve never failed me, but I’m quite happy using them in difficult situations knowing that if they break – I can live with the replacement costs.
But honestly, my Yongnuo’s are brilliant they’re just as good as the official Canon flashes for my purposes. They trigger wirelessly (reliably!) and I can even control their output from an on-camera flash – which allows me to put my flashes in inaccessible locations and adjust on the fly.
Lightstands for Wedding Photographers
I love my Manfrotto nano light stands as they fold up so small and they’re very light, yet they’re very strong and robust. They’re very easy to carry to and from the wedding reception. They’re also really discreet when you set them up at the corner of the Dance Floor. When I’m working with bigger lights or modifiers, things like soft boxes or continuous video lights – I also have some more heavy-duty light stands, but for 99% of my wedding photography, the Manfrotto Nanos do the trick.
Tripods for Wedding Photographers
I don’t tend to use a tripod for a lot of my work, but occasionally I use them for creative reasons and when I do my Manfrotto 190 Pro is never far away. it’s robust, stable and does everything I need. I mainly use it with a ball head which gives me quick versatility, but we also have a few fluid heads for when we’re working with video I also have the amazing peak design tripod which is amazing light and brilliantly designed making it one of the easiest recommendations on this list if you could stomach the relatively high cost.
Monopods for Wedding Photographers
I don’t tend to use a monopod unless I’m doing video work in which case my camera lives on a monopod. We have a few Manfrotto x-pro monopod and for the video work, they are revolutionary. They’re quick to set up, quick to move and they give you a camera a great amount of stability adding to a professional finish to your films. Combining them with a fluid head also means you can tilt and pan to add some Motion to your footage, but as I say I don’t tend to use them as a wedding photographer.
SD Cards for Wedding Photographers
All the best Cameras mean nothing if you’re shooting on poor quality cards you don’t want to risk losing your images which is why we exclusively use SanDisk extreme pro cards quick reliable and give us confidence when shooting. We also pair them with SanDisk card readers for maximum reliability.
Wedding Photographer Starter Kit
I often get asked to recommend starting kits for aspiring wedding photographers and I would probably recommend something along the lines of:
It will give you the versatility you need, in a lightweight kit – combined with the reliability of canon and the incredible autofocus you get with the RF bodies and Lenses. Of course, you want to start to upgrade lenses and get some L-series glass in your bag once you’ve a few weddings under your belt – but you’ll be able to go a very long way with the above combination and produce amazing imagery, while you build your skills.
If budgets are tight I recommend renting gear for your first weddings, to ensure you have enough to capture the day properly and with backups in case anything fails.