Education

July 8, 2020

Photography Gear for Beginners

Let’s face a cold hard truth, Wedding Photography Gear is EXPENSIVE. The cameras, lenses, flashes, bags, and accessories make it seem like you need another job just to buy your photography equipment. I am here to tell you that the amount of gear you actually need is far less than you think. After 10 years, I can tell you, I have spent thousands of dollars on gear I didn’t need and wish I never bought. This post is to give you a NO BS wedding photography equipment for beginners gear list to make sure you don’t buy gear you don’t need.

Best Camera for Wedding Photography

This is one of the biggest questions I get all the time. Which camera would I recommend to use Canon, Nikon, or Sony? To be very honest, it is completely up to you. I would recommend you rent different camera bodies and see which one works for you and feels the most comfortable. I would also read up on each company to see how financially sound the company is. The last thing you want to do is invest in a brand of photography equipment and then have to change it in five years. Photographers tend to stay with a brand of camera for 10 years or more and change their cameras every 3-5 years. So picking a brand that will be around for a while is a necessity. For this article, we chose the Nikon D750 for wedding photography with entry-level DSLR. We would recommend you invest in a full-frame camera as it is better prepared to handle the low light situations of a wedding day. For years, we used a crop-sensor camera that caused us so much frustration and aggravation. If we would have just invested in a slightly more expensive full-frame camera, we would have gotten further a lot faster and saved money in the end. 

PRO TIP: Invest in gear that will last. You don’t have to buy the top of the line but invest in gear that you can take throughout your career. The Nikon D750 rereleased in 2014 and is still used by thousands of people to this day. Investing in cheaper options may seem like a good idea but will usually cost you more money in the end.

Top Lenses

So if you just breeze over this whole article please read this section and remember, YOU CAN’T SKIMP ON GOOD LENSES. We also call lenses “glass” in the photography industry. Glass is what allows you to capture your imagery. The better your glass, the better your pictures. In fact, if I had little money, and wanted minimalist wedding photography gear, I would invest my money in great glass and rent my camera body. Camera bodies change literally every 2 years but glass usually stays pretty consistent. Most beginning wedding photographers think the opposite and buy a great camera with less than stellar glass and wonder why their images look awful. A camera is only as good as the glass you shoot with. How do you know if your glass is top-notch? Look at the aperture. You want that aperture as low as you can afford (i.e. f/1.4 or 1:4) to ensure you can let the maximum amount of light through. You will find the lower the number, the more the lens costs. For our beginner gear list, we have chosen the Nikon 50mm f/1.4. This is a fantastic prime lens that will allow you to take portraits and detail shots. This is truly a versatile lens that we still use today. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure your lenses can fit any camera you own so that if you are shooting a wedding with one camera, it will not slow you down. 

Another great group of lenses you must have just starting out is a zoom/variable lens. This lens usually has no less than an f/2.8 and can allow you to adjust your focal length without moving your body or changing your lens. We recommend starting out with the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 lens. This lens has some telescopic capability, but more importantly, it allows you to get wide-angle shots. At a wedding, large bridal parties, big churches, or family shots are a normal part of the day. That 24mm focal length allows you to capture those shots. Some photographers will tell you that you need a 70-200 lens focal length. While this lens is great for getting close up, I found myself needing a wider angle even more. My suggestion is that if you don’t have the funds, rent a Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 lens for the day. 

Download our complete gear list here for both Canon and Nikon:

Camera Bags

Protecting your gear is vital to maintaining it during the wedding day. More importantly, a quality camera bag will allow you to store your gear so that it is less likely to get stolen. There are so many camera bags on the market, I will not bore you with a whole list or different ones we have used throughout the years. Instead, when choosing a camera bag consider the following factors: protection for your gear, security, storage, and portability.

The camera bag should work with you on the wedding day and not be a hindrance. Most importantly, pick a bag that all of your camera equipment can fit in. Through my career, I have seen so many photographers carry multiple bags on the wedding day and look like a disheveled mess as they are lugging them around. To this day I have one bag for all of my camera gear and one for all of my lighting gear. Jason (my husband and second shooter) carries only one bag as well.

The bag we recommend for a beginner photographer is the Sal Cincotta Bug out Bag EXT.  With this gear list, all of your equipment can fit into this bag and it offers enough storage to allow for easy expansion as you move on with your career. To this day, Jason still carries this bag to every wedding. 

Flash Photography

Oh here it comes, I can imagine the comments that will come from this section. What it comes down to is, do you need a flash for wedding photography? Most photographers think that all beginners should start as 100% pure natural light or no flash photography. I could not disagree more with this logic. In wedding photography, you are expected to shoot in any lighting condition. The most challenging come from the reception and formal exit.

During this time, the amount of consistent light is almost non existent as DJ strobes are firing, sparklers are going off, and the venues have different color temperature bulbs. In order to have some semblance of control, you need to have some sort of on camera flash. This usually takes the form of a speed-light. This will allow you to properly light subjects faces and provide a more consistent light in the picture. In addition, speed lights are readily available and are usually inexpensive (save that for your glass).

The one we recommend for beginners is the best flash for wedding photography Nikon SB-600. We have had this since the beginning of our career and still use it to this day. Now, if you want to take your photography to the next level, we recommend you get a transceiver that allows you to take your flash off of your camera. This will allow you to have more directionality of your flash and give your photos more depth and detail.

Accessories

Most accessories photographers buy are completely unnecessary. As a beginner wedding photographer, your focus should be on learning how to navigate your camera and learning principles of proper picture composition. But, if you have some money left over, I would buy a tripod for wedding photography and a light reflector (also called a scrim). For the tripod, I would recommend a Savage 6’ Multi-flex Light Stand.

This stand allows you to adjust your leg length so you can set it up on steps, uneven ground, or tight corners. This is a new purchase but a must-have in a beginner photography gear bag. The next one is a Profoto Collapsible Silver/White Reflector. You will find you use this accessory more than any other. This will allow you to capture great catch light in your subject’s eyes and properly light faces when needed. In addition, the handles on this are an absolute lifesaver. 

This list is just the beginning. To view are full list go to our latest video:

 

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