I get asked all the time about the wedding photography gear I carry on a typical event. Every photographer is different, and if you’re like me and you’ve been doing this a long time, so your gear evolves over time.
Here’s my latest kit, along with a few shots from Kristy and Leonard’s recent wedding at Brock House in Vancouver. I’ve tried to describe how I use each piece of gear as well, along with a bit of how I think about the process.
This is pretty much all you need to shoot most weddings. I had a major reset during the pandemic and decided to move from large heavy professional Nikon D4 cameras and high speed f/2.8 zooms to the new and very high-tech Nikon Z6 mirrorless cameras, along with a mostly prime lens based style. To be blunt, I had just gotten tired of dragging the huge D series cameras and lenses around. A Nikon Z6 with a 35mm prime lens feels like pingpong ball compared to a Nikon D4 with a 24-70mm f/2.8. So the list of gear is,
- Two Nikon Z6’s
- Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8
- Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8
- Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4
- Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4
- Godox V860ii N Flash Unit.
I always carry two cameras, especially on a critical event like a wedding. If you only have one camera on hand, all you have to do is drop it and the day is over. You always need have equipment redundancy at your finger tips, so no one piece of gear should be critical to the day’s event.
My current camera system is the Nikon Z6. It’s what known as a mirrorless camera, or one that is totally solid state electronically. For 60 years the standard was the SLR camera that had a reflex mirror built into the viewfinder. With the Z6, that complex viewfinder is replaced with an electronic viewfinder similar to what you’d find on a video camera. The really cool thing is you can see what the image will look like, colour exposure, contrast, etc, in real time. When you use the dedicated Z lenses, the camera automatically corrects for chromatic aberration and lens distortion. That makes them extremely sharp, especially with high speed lenses stopped right open. With older lenses, you had to stop the high speed lenses down to get optimum sharpness. With these guys, they’re brilliant wide open.
Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8
My all time favourite lens of all time is the 35mm prime lens. The old time newspaper photographers who taught me my trade all swore by them. I carried one from my start as a teenaged freelancer through my time as a photojournalist in Africa. The Nikon Z version I have now is light years ahead of the previous models I had, but still a bit of a throwback. Since Nikon uses a realtime lens algorithm to correct distortion and chromatic aberration, it make these easily the sharpest lens I’ve ever used. I shoot it wide open at f/1.8 pretty much all the time.
Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8
The Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 is my go-to lens for portraits and longer shots, replacing my gigantic Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 lens that I’d used for years. It’s a really lovely lens, deadly sharp with super quick autofocus. Like all the Z lenses, it’s very sharp at the wide open f/1.8 setting, which is where I tend to use it.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4
The primes are great, but you need to have a wide lens for tight spaces. I first bought the Nikon Z14-30mm f/1.8 for my architectural work, but I’ve found to be an invaluable lens for getting wide shots of the ceremony and working in tight hotel rooms and dinner venues. Like all the Z lenses, the camera corrects for whatever lens distortion is going on in real time.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4
I have to say the 24-70mm literally came as part of the package when I bought my first Z6 camera, but I never expected it to be such a great lens. I use it mostly for shots of the wedding reception where things are moving a fairly quick pace.
Godox 860ii Flash
Modern cameras are so good at working in low light that I hardly ever use my flash anymore. Still, when you need them, you need them. Sometimes you might have enough light to work, but it’s so contrasty that it’s too unflattering on the subjects. Just look at the people in the background of the dancing photo of Kristy and Leonard and you start to see what I mean.
I used Nikon strobes for a long time, but I picked up this Godox 860ii flash because it used the same off camera flash controller as the large studio strobes that I use for my commercial and corporate work. It’s pretty basic, but it really does the job nicely. I keep the off camera radio slave unit, the X-Pro for doing off camera flash shots, but most of the time I just leave it on the camera.
The Bag Itself
I prefer a canvas shoulder bag to carry my gear. I’m not a fan of elaborate slings for carrying gear, they just makes it tough to put things down if you have to unhook yourself from a bunch of straps. I use backpacks for travel and conference photography jobs, but the problem with them is that you have to take the backpack off and unzip it whenever you need to get anything out of the bag, which really slows you down. With a shoulder bag, you just reach into it. Canvas is also a lot more comfortable and lower key to carry around than big bulky nylon and foam box.
For generations of photojournalists from the mid-1970’s to the late 1990’s, camera bags where known simply as Domke Bags, after American photojournalist Jim Domke who designed the original canvas bag in his kitchen and then started selling them by mail order. They fell out of favour in the 2000’s when digital cameras got huge, and sadly Jim Domke had passed away and the old bags weren’t being updated. The old Domke bags where too small for the new digital camera gear. Once I swapped back to the much smaller Z cameras, I needed a new bag, and found that the original 70’s era Domke bags where still being sold, so I picked one up. All that gear goes into it nicely, and it’s such a great throwback to an older era.
What’s in the Car?
You can’t carry everything with you all the time, so I stash a lot of gear close at hand in my car. First up is my ginormous 70-200mm lens, because sometimes you need it for really large wedding venues where the 85mm is just too short. If I need it for a ceremony, I usually drop it back in the car as soon as I’m done with it.
I also carry extra batteries, a 12V battery charger and a studio strobe for when you have to do portraits after dark. I also keep some clean shirts, so I can change into a fresh one while everyone is at dinner. It’s a must for long summer weddings.