Wedding Photography Q & A | What’s In Our Bag?

Dear Friends,

Some of the first questions we wrestled with when we started our photography business was what gear to invest in.  Gear costs a lot of $$$!  Regrettably, $$$ is not usually what you have a lot of when you’re trying to get your photography business going…  So let go of the stress! Let this simple guide help you make some of those early, critical decisions with confidence!  Read on for an overview of what we have in our bag on every wedding day & how we built this collection of gear, with some pro-tips sprinkled here & there of course!

Let’s start at the beginning (a very good place to start)…

Camera Bodies  

1. Despite Canon 5Ds being prolific among wedding photographers in North America, we have always shot Nikon.  For the last 3 years we have been shooting on Nikon D750s and they are fantastic!   That’s another blog post but the bottom line is that both companies make top-notch cameras.  The more important factor no matter the brand is the size of the sensor.  Across most DSLRs you have two physical sensor sizes: full frame & crop sensors.  Very basically, full frame sensors capture the digital equivalent of classic 35mm film, while crop sensors are typically significantly smaller, capturing only a fraction of what a full frame sensor would.  Awesome, let’s do it!  Buy the full frame DSLR!  Oh wait, full frame bodies are a lot more expensive than crop sensors…  Yes, full frame bodies are significantly more expensive, but the value is there.  A full frame sensor captures a wider perspective than a crop sensor, allowing you to capture the greatest perspective.  Trust us, once you start shooting full frame, you won’t be able to go back!

Lenses

Wowza, this whole category can be so overwhelming!  You’ve seen the ad – you know what I’m talking about…

So let’s cut to the essentials:

2. 50mm f/1.4 – This lens is a must!  On a full frame sensor, a 50mm focal length is the closest to the perspective we naturally perceive with our eyes; making for a very natural & attractive photo perspective.  We have one of these on us during 100% of a wedding day.  Nikon makes an excellent middle-of-the road option here.  We have also tried the Sigma ART version but were not pleased so reverted to the Nikon version.

3. 35mm f/1.4 – This lens is also a must!  While the 50mm perspective is occasionally too narrow, especially for tight spaces, the 35mm perspective is deliciously wide & dynamic.  This is perfect for shooting inside, groups of people, or larger perspective shots like landscapes.  We have one of these on us during 100% of the wedding day as well.  Nikon’s 35mm f/1.4 is painfully expensive, so we opted for the Sigma ART version used & have been very pleased.

Let’s stop here for a second.  JP & I each have two bodies and two lenses on us throughout the wedding day.  During 100% of that wedding day JP has a 50mm on one hip, & a 35mm on the other.  That’s it.  I swap out either my 35mm or 50mm for one of four other lenses in very specific circumstances, but that’s it.  Let’s cover those four lenses:

4. 105mm f/2.8 – This lens is unrivaled for detail shots.  Ever wondered how people get those incredibly tight shots of rings & other details?  Yep, it’s with a 105mm.  Some people like to use these for portraits too, but we use our 105 exclusively for very tight detail shots.  We bought the Sigma version used.

5. 70-200mm f/2.8 – This lens is perfect for the ceremony.  But this lens is a BEAST.  I’m not kidding, I only use it for the ceremony because it’s so big & heavy!  It’s also intimidating, which is why we opt not to use it for couples photos or portraits.  We want to stay out of the way during the ceremony (use it) & present/intimate during every other part of the day (don’t use it).  We rented this lens for a while until we were able to purchase a Nikon VR II used.

6. 85mm f/1.8 – This lens is really wonderful for head shots, but we never use it on a wedding day because it’s almost too tight for a couple.  The 50mm however is really perfect for couples.  We bought the Nikon version used.

7. 24-70mm f/2.8 – This lens used to be standard issue for wedding photographers but we have found that we prefer prime lenses (fixed focal length) over zoom lenses for a few reasons.  Prime  lenses are smaller and lighter while delivering a sharper image at lower aperture for less cost (that’s a win-win-win-win if I count that correctly).  Nuff said.  The ONLY time this 24-70 comes out is if we need the super wide perspective at 24mm for very large group photos.

Gear

8. Fujifilm Instax – This Polaroid-style throwback is just a ton of FUN!  Our couples love having a physical photo which they can immediately take home from their experience with us.  (This model even has a built in selfie mirror.  WHAT?!?!?)

9. Extra Camera Batteries – We have tried several off-brand camera batteries with all the same specs & everything, but none of them last nearly as long as the Nikon brand batteries.  We have never had a Nikon battery die on us during a wedding day no matter how long it was.  I can’t confirm that the Canon brand batteries perform similarly well, but I would assume so.

10. SD Cards & the Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket – Each of our four D750s has two SD card slots, this means that we have eight SD cards going on each wedding day!  First, those cards have to be fast to keep up with the camera when shooting RAW (which we always do) so we use cards with a 95 mb/s minimum speed.  Second, we keep all our SD cards organized with the Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket!  This little pouch has been invaluable for storing & sorting our plethora of SD cards! 

11. A Good Old-Fashioned Lighter – This every day lighter is super helpful for taking reception detail shots.  Usually our best time to take these photos is right before the ceremony, but none of the candles will be lit that early, so we use our handy lighter to light up the head table for a few photos!  

12. The Business Card Holder – Our business cards used to be a hot mess.  On top of that, passing out mashed up business cards just wasn’t good form.  But then our dear friends @hillcityleather made us this super awesome custom leather business card holder so that we can keep our cards looking fresh always!

13. Breath Freshener – Yes, tacky breath happens.  Good thing there are loads of easy solutions out there!  Grab your favorite flavor of breath mint or gum & smack that bad breath in the mouth!

Pro-Tips

  1. Rent lenses you’re unsure about.
  2. Buy used lenses!
  3. If you have a full frame camera body, make sure your lenses are also full frame.  You’re limited by the lowest denominator here: if you use a full frame lens on a crop sensor body, or use a crop lens on a full frame body you will get a cropped image.  The only way to access the full perspective a full frame body is with a full frame lens.  (The good news is that most lenses are full frame.
  4. Reformat your SD cards before each major event. This rigor is super helpful for keeping your photos organized!  It will also minimize the risk of card corruption.  : (
  5. Store your blank SD cards right side up in your pixel pocket rocket.  Store your used cards backwards to keep them straight!

If you have any further questions, just ask in the comments below or email us at rainsfordphotography@gmail.com!

  1. This blog is SO helpful! And I love hearing from fellow nikon lovers! Thank you for sharing!!

    • Ryland Rainsford says:

      Hey Rachel! We are thrilled to hear this blog was so helpful 🙂 Excited to share more content like this in the future!! Please let us know if you ever have any questions & thanks for following along!!

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