The Minimalist Guide to Wedding Photography Gear
That’s all I carry to 90% of my weddings, regardless if they’re 5 miles or 5 hours away from home.
Whether you’re lugging mountains of bags like a bellhop or if you’re just getting your feet wet as a wedding photographer and want to know a simpler approach, I’m here to tell you there is an easier way!
There is a minimalist approach to wedding photography gear!
Let me start with how I got here. Like most photographers, I love gear. Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) is the constant desire to have the latest and greatest in photography equipment. Justified as a business purchase that will make your photos stand out, the can’t-live-without-it pieces of gear seem to pile up.
I began with only a Nikon D700, a 24-70mm lens, and a rented flash. But, after my first wedding, I was hooked! I NEEDED ALL THE GEAR! Not only that, I desperately wanted to be taken seriously, by both other photographers and the guests at the wedding. I bought multiple cameras, all the f1.4 glass I could get my hands on, a 24-70, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 135mm, 70-200, a film camera (because I am an artist; I even dabbled with a polaroid camera at weddings, too), a hundred flashes and flash attachments, light stands, monolights, reflectors, clamps, hot shoes, radio slaves, and bags to store and secure everything. The list goes on and on and on.
I spent years carrying at least 6 bags in my car to weddings. My lower back thanks me now for my pack mule days (and because of the Dual Spider Pro Holster)! The big change came for me a few years in, when I booked a destination wedding. I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to travel with all the stuff I typically brought. I’d have one carry-on bag. As I whittled down what I was going to bring, I realized that if I could photograph this wedding with one bag and knock it out of the park, couldn’t I do that same thing at a wedding close to my home?
Now, nearly 10 years into running a successful photography business, I’ve grown a little wiser and boiled it down to this: What enables me to serve my clients best? It doesn’t serve them well if I am thinking about my gear all the time. I don’t want to have to switch lenses and I don’t want to waste time zooming when I could be missing exactly what I am there to photograph. If I give myself too many choices it becomes paralysis by analysis. In today’s saturated photography market, I need every edge possible and knowing my gear inside and out is the best photography related edge I’ve found.
In this article I aim to cut through the noise and share exactly what I use specifically at every wedding, why I use it, and why I bought it. I’ve tested a ton of gear in a dozen situations, from old fluorescent lighting fire halls to a castle in Heidelberg, Germany to the beaches of Curacao. I’ve photographed ten minutes from home, and I’ve had to take three forms of travel to get to a destination. Through all this trial and error, I’ve found the recipe of gear that allows me to never feel like I’m missing anything. Now I take the same equipment to every single wedding no matter where it is and I carry it all in one shoulder bag and one small rolling bag from Think Tank. That’s it.
What exactly is with me for 90% of the wedding day?
How did I arrive at that? Simple: Two cameras, one lens per camera, with one long lens, both flashes, both transmitters, and MagMods in my shoulder bag. I’m completely mobile and never forget any equipment while photographing. When the couple moves, I move! This allows me to focus on my couple 100% of the day.
So, whether you’re a beginner wedding photographer trying to figure out the essentials or if you’ve been in the trenches and are tired of carrying 5 pelican cases, you’re in the right place to discover the minimalist gear approach to wedding photographers gear. So without further ado, my recommended list for minimalist photography gear!
My Recommendations for the Minimalist Wedding Photographer Gear
(Check out the bonus section below! 4 unexpected items that make my life easier on a wedding day!)
Everything below is clickable and will lead you to my suggestions on Amazon.
Cameras & Lenses
There’s a few things I look for when investing in new gear. Size, weight, quality to cost ratio, flexibility and adaptability. Can I use it for an event, a wedding, and a corporate headshot?
Starting with a good camera is obvious. Through my personal experience and through anecdotal evidence from friends, I’d consider one of these three cameras as of early 2019. The Nikon D850 (Nikon broke the mold with this one), Canon EOS 5D Mk IV or the Nikon D750 (most bang for your buck anywhere).
There are so many lenses to consider but I’d stick with the tried and true 35/85 that many wedding photojournalists favor. For a 35mm lens, I cannot recommend another lens than the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art. I’ve had the Nikon 35mm 1.4G and the 1.8G version, but neither compare to the image quality to cost ratio. This is an amazing lens, but make sure you choose the version for the camera you have, Nikon, Canon, or otherwise. If you are going Nikon and are trying to save money, the Nikon 35mm 1.8G is a really great option!
For a solid 85mm, the Nikon 85mm 1.8G is a solid choice and what I have in my bag. For under $500, you just can’t beat it for the quality! For Canon, I’d go with the Sigma 85 1.4 Art. With the Canon L series being $1500+, this Sigma is a no-brainer.
Bonus: if you want a long lens but don’t feel like spending $2000 on a 70-200, I highly recommend the Sigma 135 Art! This thing is tack sharp, has beautiful bokeh, and is a life saver in dark churches.
Now, onto lighting. If you want the biggest bang for your buck from versatility to ease of use, look no further than the Godox System. It all talks to each other and is applicable in so many different uses. I will use the speed lights on wedding days both on camera and off camera. I’ll also use them for location lighting, for kickers during headshots and corporate portraits along with my trusty Godox AD-400, and even, in a pinch, as a main light for headshots. (For this, just get a flash or two along with the Wireless Transmitter.) I have three, yes, three of these flashes! Two go with me on the wedding day and one is a backup at home that will occasionally come along on headshots. I also have two transmitters. Again, make sure you buy the correct version to go with your camera system. Look for the N, S, or C for Nikon, Sony, or Canon. (Be sure to check out my favorite hot light in the accessories below!)
Minimalist Wedding Photographer Equipment – Accessories
Bags, Straps, Holsters & More
The ThinkTank Airport Navigator Rolling Bag is AMAZING! I freaking LOVE this bag! It’s super small but incredibly useful. There’s a quick access folding top so you can stow and grab your cameras quickly. Then there’s also a big zipper pouch in the front to drop in lenses and flashes with room for a laptop and more. Oh, did I also mention it fits TSA carry-on dimensions? Yeah, I know. Try to find a more useful bag!
ThinkTank Photo Airport Navigator Rolling Bag
This Evecase shoulder bag is my favorite Amazon find. I spent $150 on a “big name” shoulder bag that fell apart in 6 months. I bought this same bag below 2 years ago and it still looks perfect. It’s on me every wedding. It also doubles as a messenger bag with a removable laptop pouch. This is a rugged bag but they also have some nicer leather bags that look more like a lady’s arm bag!Evecase Shoulder Bag (Any of their bags are great! Cheap and durable!)
I had shoulder straps for a long time. No more. It takes a little getting used to but I won’t go back now.
Incredibly Useful Wedding Photography Accessories – Clamps, Cold Shoes and more!
Not all of these are must haves, but they can be incredibly useful. Multiclamps, hot lights, and cold shoes will all allow you to get super creative with your lighting. These little gadgets below—from the clamps to the cold shoes to the LED hot light—are all things that occasionally make an appearance on a wedding day.
Manfrotto Super Clamp
Manfrotto Spring Clamp (aka Justin Clamp)
Giottos Mini-Ball Head
5 Pack of Black Cold Shoes
Waterproof Card Wallet (XQD Case, SD Case, CF Case)
Powerex Precharged Rechargable AA Batteries
Powerex MH-C800S 8- Cell Battery Charger
Yongnuo YN-300 Hot Light
BONUS! 4 Simple but Unexpected Items that Make My Life Easier on Wedding Days!
These items are varied but have earned a permanent place in my shoulder bag/pocket because of how useful they are. I use them every wedding!
We all know how long and jam packed wedding days can be. Sometimes when there’s zero down time it’s great to have a little snack at the ready. Enter the GoStak Twist N’ Lock Storage Jars. All stacked up, they’re about 11 inches tall and 2.5 inches wide and can hold a few little goodies to eat throughout the day. I tend to put nuts or nut butter in the top small one. A scoop of protein or electrolyte powder in the second one (to easily mix with water), some trail mix in the third one, and something to dip in the nut butter in the big one on the bottom. They clean easy, carry easy, and can contain enough snacks to get me through till dinner!
I don’t drink enough water on a wedding day and I’m certain you don’t either. I’m certainly not going to carry around one of those giant 32 oz Nalgene containers. Enter this cute (as so many bridesmaids have remarked) 14 oz. Nalgene bottle. It’s just enough to be able to pound down when you’ve got a minute but not so heavy that it weights your bag down when full. It easily fits in a side pock on a bag or in a jacket pocket! (Available in many colors.)
From looking on the ground for lost bridesmaid earrings, to pinpoint accuracy on ring shots, and quick rim lighting in a low light sunset photo, this silly little flashlight has saved my butt more times that you can imagine. It’s super cheap, zoomable and takes ONE AA battery. The uses are ENDDDLESSSSS!
I’ve found the lens pen to be a bit more useful than your standard cleaning cloth. I like the brush side for dust and dirt on my lens and viewfinder, and the opposite side for smudges and tougher gunk. Admittedly, this stays in my rolling camera bag, not my shoulder bag, but I still use it every wedding.
Well there you have it! The Minimalist Guide to Wedding Photography Gear! Let me know what you think in the comments and what your essentials are!
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