These are comments that are often thrown my way at a wedding and to answer them, "Well, yes it is (there are bigger ones)" and "thanks but there's a bit more to it than that!" and "why thank you, it's important to make an effort!". I also often get asked about the sort of kit I use so I thought that it might be interesting to share with you my go-to pieces that I have with me when I shoot a wedding. Now, it should be said that this is just my preferred set-up and, whilst I'm sure other photographers have different requirements (especially when it comes to lenses!) this is my preferred set-up and works for me. It's fairly minimal as I have to move around a lot and be prepared for anything and everything.
So, with the bag packed ready for a wedding up at Trinity College in Oxford tomorrow, here's what I'll have with me:
1. Bag by Billingham - Hadley Large Pro.
This is my workhorse and holds everything I need. I used to use a Lowe Pro back-pack and, whilst it was a good bag, it made me feel a bit like a student on gap year. I'm all about aesthetics and the Billingham has that classic/retro design that I was looking for. It looks cool and classy and is rugged enough to take a beating all whilst protecting the contents.
2. Camera harness by Hold Fast
I always use 2 cameras at weddings and events (as well as family shoots amongst others!) and this harness literally saved my life. A camera with an extra battery pack and a 70-200 lens is a pretty heavy piece of kit and when you throw another camera into the mix, that equates to a lot of weight that I have to carry around for 12 hours. This harness enables me to have both cameras within reach on my hip and ready to shoot at a moments notice whilst distributing the weight evenly thus saving my already fairly knackered back from further pain!
Plus, for the Brucey bonus, it looks really cool. Many's the Usher or barman who has said "wow, you look like you're packing heat!" to which I just give my best Dirty Harry sneer, whip one off the hip and then take their picture in "was it 6 shots, or only 5? To tell you the truth I'd forgotten myself in all this excitement...."
Okay, moving swiftly on...
3. Canon 5D Mk III & Canon 5D MkII (plus batteries and battery packs)
Canon or Nikon? Coke or Pepsi? Jack and Dani or Josh and Kaz?*
It's all down to personal preference really, I've always been a Canon man because I've known nothing else and know the system like the back of my hand. The Mk III is my main camera, it's functional, shoots well in low light and has a decent frame rate if I don't want to miss anything. There is a swankier Mk IV out, but for now the III ticks all my boxes. The Mk II is Mr Dependable, solid and will never let me down. In fact, for any personal stuff I'll generally just use it with the one lens, one card and one battery and I know it will deliver.
Both cameras have an added battery pack that holds 2 batteries each which will give me all the juice I need for a 12 hour day.
*Huge apologies for the Love Island reference. I'm as ashamed as you're surprised (Jack and Dani if you're wondering)
4. Memory Cards (Compact Flash)
I take a lot of pictures throughout the course of a wedding so I have 2 x 64GB cards (each one will hold approx. 2000 images each) as well as some back up 16GB cards. Some folks like to spread their days across a whole bunch of different cards but I found that trying to stay on top of changing cards and remembering what was on what without missing any of the action was too much. I don't have too much time at a wedding and I don't want to miss any moment so the larger memory cards work for me. All cards get backed up as soon as I get home on 2 separate drives - you can never be too careful!
5. Canon L Series Lenses - Canon EF 70-200mm f.2.8 L II USM, Canon EF 24-105mm f4 L USM, Canon EF 50mm f1.2 L USM
Ask any photographer and they'll always want another lens to add to the collection and I'm no different but the ones above are my go to lenses on a regular basis.
The 70-200 lens is great for those candid shots of folks when they don't know they're having their picture taken, it's big and weighs a ton but allows me to stand back and just observe what's going on without getting in anyone's face. Plus this one is great in lower light situations like old and dark Anglo-Saxon churches where I usually have to stand away from the action to avoid upsetting a very strict Vicar*. I have a more lightweight f4 version which I use on a lot of other quicker shoots but this one is the bomb.
The 24-105 is kind of an "everyman" lens. It covers most bases, wide enough for the massive group shot of the whole wedding where I'm invariably hanging out of a window somewhere but can still zoom in for that candid reaction shot. Its a good one to have on the dancefloor (yes, I go on the dancefloor - see previous blog!)
Then there's the 50mm prime or the nifty-fifty as it often gets called. This is probably my favourite lens. Fantastic for portrait shots, it has an amazing depth of field and with an f stop of 1.2 it can shoot in really low light situations. I generally have it on me at all times (when I'm shooting, not like, in bed or anything because that would be weird.)
*I did have one Vicar though who once said to me "My dear boy, you're the most important person here! So please stand wherever you like!" Plus he played the trumpet, during the service. Legend.
6. Canon Speedlites 430 EXIII-RT x 2 and Speedlite Transmitter
If you have 2 cameras you need 2 flashes. I'm not a big fan of flash photography to be honest and I try and avoid it whenever possible but you know, needs must. When night falls and you have a dark dance floor or you need to do some outdoor portraits, then you have to go with your flash. The transmitter triggers the flashes with a radio signal which is useful when you're using off-camera flash.
7. Speedlight brackets for stands
These enable me to mount my flashes onto a stand and place wherever I like for off-camera flash photography. Not very cool gadgets in the great scheme of things but handy things to have.
8. Watch - Omega Seamaster Professional
I have to be super organised on a wedding day, knowing whats going on and at what time. The first part of the day is definitely against the clock with a lot bases to cover and I do have to be on the ball and my trusty Seamaster helps with that. It's also James Bond's watch of choice so I'm in pretty good company. The NATO watch strap is from the chaps at Smart Turnout and is in the colours of the long since gone Yorkshire Hussars regiment.
9. Knitted Tie
I'm always smartly dressed at a wedding, I think it's so important and shows respect to the couple, the families and the occasion, plus it helps me blend in. I've been to weddings as a guest before where the photographer is in jeans and a polo shirt and it just looks terrible. I'll always ask about the clients dress-code and I'll stick to it. Generally its a suit but I have been known to shoot a wedding in full morning coat. I love a knitted tie though and this is a favourite from my growing collection, I couldn't tell you where its from as it was a gift but I think they look great.
So, that's it! Missing from the picture are the pre-requisite fully charged mobile, pack of polo's, safety pins (for Bride/Groom emergencies) and a tube of Volterol for my aforementioned dodgy back.
I hope it's been of interest and gives you a bit of insight into what goes into delivering a great set of wedding pictures.
If you're getting married and want to talk about pictures for your big day then drop me a line!