I got my first DSLR camera back in middle school, but I had no idea what I was looking for and simply got whatever the store salesman told me. My camera (and lack of camera knowledge) served me just fine up until I started shooting more regularly in high school and college, and I had to sort through all the reviews online to see what I actually needed to buy! I always found it so helpful when I would come across a post on a favorite photographer’s blog explaining the camera equipment they used, and I want to do the same for you.
As you read through this post, keep in mind that I am primarily a wedding photographer. If you only shoot portraits, you probably won’t need everything I mention below! Another important thing to remember is that the equipment does not make the photographer. Please don’t go into debt buying a bunch of expensive equipment! You can take AMAZING photos on very basic gear.
Click on the images in each category for the link!
- Canon 5D Mark IV: This is my main camera body and the one I use 99% of the time! It’s a full-frame camera and can also shoot video.
- Canon 5D Mark III: This is my backup camera. I bought it used back in college and it still works so well! I bring this camera with me to all my weddings in case something were to happen to my main camera.
- Sigma 35mm f/1.4: I use this lens mainly during the reception, when I need to shoot in really tight spaces (like a cramped bridal suite), or when I want to take a wide room shot. I know a lot of photographers who love using a 35mm for portraits, but I typically won’t do that—just a style preference! I do think a 35mm is pretty essential for a wedding day because there have been a lot of situations where I just could not get far enough back to use my 50mm.
- Canon 50mm f/1.2: This lens is on my camera at least 50% of the time because it’s so versatile. If you’re just starting to build up your lens collection, a 50mm is a must! I have a few friends who use the Sigma version and love it, so that’s another one to consider!
- Canon 85mm f/1.2: This is my favorite lens. I wouldn’t say this lens is a necessity, but most of my favorite images were taken with this lens! The compression and wide aperture work so well with my style, and this is my second most-used lens.
- Canon 70-200mm f/2.8: This is my most recent lens purchase and one that I don’t think is essential if you’re only shooting portraits. That being said, I do know some photographers who love using this lens for portraits, but it’s just too heavy for me to use during portrait sessions! I primarily use this lens during the ceremony when I need a little extra zoom.
- Canon 100mm f/2.8: This lens only comes out during detail photos. It’s a macro lens, meaning you can get insanely close to something like a ring. If I was only shooting portraits, I wouldn’t have this lens, but I do love using it on wedding days to get stunning ring shots!
Learning off-camera flash made a world of difference in my reception photos! I’ll be writing a post soon going into greater detail about my OCF setup, but for now, here’s what I use!
- Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT: I have three of these and love them! They are a little bit pricey, but another option some of my friends use are Godox flashes. They have a built-in transmitter meaning you can connect and control all of your flashes. I will have one of these on my camera with my MagSphere, one on a stand, and one on a stand with my MagMod softbox.
- FlashPoint 9′ AutoStand: I love these light stands!! They’re 9 ft tall which is perfect for reception spaces where you need a little more height. They’re also very affordable as far as light stands go, but they’re still good quality. But the BEST part of these stands is that the legs automatically collapse when you pick them up! So let’s say you have your lights all set up for the couple’s first dance, then the DJ announces they’re going to cut the cake (and of course it’s in a poorly lit corner of the room). Rather than having to lower your stand and close the legs so you can maneuver through the guest tables and get to the cake table, these stands will automatically fold in so they’re super easy to transport!
- MagMod: MagMod has so many amazing products for lighting, my favorites being the MagSphere and the MagBox 24″. You’ll need the MagGrip to use both of those things. I’ll go into this more in my future OCF post, but basically, MagMod products utilize magnets to attach your flashes to the equipment. I have two MagGrips and put them on two of my three flashes. On one of those flashes, I’ll use the MagSphere to soften the light on the flash I keep on my camera. The other flash with the MagGrip goes into the MagBox, which is an octagonal softbox. This page on MagMod’s website explains a little more, but the products linked above are the exact ones I use for all my weddings!
- SanDisk Extreme Pro 64 GB Compact Flash: One of the most important things to consider when shooting weddings especially is having a process for backing up your images. Part of my process for that includes recording to two cards at once in my camera (the Canon 5D Mark IV has dual card slots). I have several of these cards and keep them in my camera as my backup throughout the wedding day. That way if something were to happen to my main SD card, I’ll have this card as a backup.
- SanDisk Extreme Pro 32 GB + 64 GB SD Cards: Another way to reduce the risk of losing a bunch of images on a wedding day is to shoot on smaller cards. That way if something were to happen to one of your cards, hopefully only a small portion of the images would be affected (which wouldn’t be the case if you used something like one 128 GB card for the entire wedding day!). I’ll use a 32 GB card as my main card with the 64 GB CompactFlash card backing it up. When the 32 GBs are full, I’ll swap that one out and leave the CompactFlash card in until that second card fills up. I also have several 64 GB cards that I will give to my second shooters to use for the day. They’ll record to my 64 GB card and to their own CF card at the same time so we have multiple copies of those images as well!
I hope this post was helpful! I’ll keep it up to date whenever I make changes to my gear. Feel free to leave a comment with any questions 🙂