Allison and Adam – Engaged

Allison and I met back in high school at West Hills High School in Santee, and have stayed in touch for a while. She is entirely too sweet, and when she told me she was engaged and wanted to talk to me about having me photograph her wedding I was elated. She is quite the planner, and even though my portfolio was slim, she had faith in me and my growth as a photographer. The more I came to know Allison, the more I noticed how kind and genuine she was. I was really interested to see which man has stolen her heart, and after meeting Adam for a few minutes, I am not ashamed to admit he stole mine a little bit too (only kidding).

These two are obviously in love, and are extremely easy to get along with. I instantly became best friends with both of them, and love what I do all over again.  Allison wanted a session in Coronado, yet something that screamed San Diego. I think we did a good job with it.

Right off the bat these two were comfortable with me “all up in their grill” (yes, this is how I speak during engagement sessions, doesn’t everyone?). Can’t you just feel the love between these two?

Allison is ticklish. Well, not if you ask her, but Adam knows her well.

That is Point Loma in the background.

Allison planned it perfectly to get a full moon during the shoot too.

Ok, maybe she didn’t plan the full moon. But with how much of a planner she is, it could be.

Stay tuned for their wedding – I can only imagine it being a spectacular affair.

 

 

 

 

Welcome Gavin and Nolan – the Conner twins!

I would like to introduce you all to Gavin and Nolan, the newest addition to the Conner family. The story behind these two miracle babies is wonderful, and after years and continuous support from their family, Jen and Josh received the wonderful news that they were going to be parents, double time.

The boys were born just a few days before Christmas, and I was able to photograph them yesterday, with Mom, Grandma, and cousins looking eagerly on, and what a great session it was. They only pee’d once, and it happened to be on big brother’s face for the most part. I think that will be a story that will be told at their wedding.

Anyway, I have made you wait long enough. Please welcome Gavin and Nolan.

Nolan

Q: How cute are his hands?

A: Adorable.

Good morning little one ūüôā

Mommy loves you.

Gavin’s turn. Someone wanted to play peek-a-boo.

I don’t think I like this…

Ok, it’s not toooo bad…

Basket?

This has to be one of my favorite images. Someone got a little jealous and wanted to be in the session.

And of course Nolan gets his time to shine in the basket.

Throwing up some signs for the homies?

Who’s number 1?

And I believe this shot signifies the end of the shoot.

I hope you enjoyed the session as much as it is obvious the boys and I did. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Chris and Kristen – Engaged

I first met Chris about 22 years ago, it was a bright April morning and I was trying to get adjusted to my new home.

Ok, with out getting any more graphic, my brother is engaged. Although my brother and I are quite similar, we also have distinctly different personalities. Chris and Kristen are quite the goofballs, and I think it is noticeable in their engagement photos.  They have plans to get married at the Thursday Club, in what is slowly becoming one super wedding.

Anyways, enjoy the photos!

Chris Koci and Kristen Anderson

Because it was overcast, I asked them to lift their chin a little.

Paradise Point Engagement Photos

Paradise Point Engagement Photos

Chris Koci and Kristen Anderson

Chris Koci and Kristen Anderson

Chris Koci and Kristen Anderson

I just love this shot of them!

Chris Koci and Kristen Anderson

Chris Koci and Kristen Anderson

Chris Koci and Kristen Anderson

Chris Koci and Kristen Anderson

Chris Koci and Kristen Anderson

Chris Koci and Kristen Anderson

Chris Koci and Kristen Anderson

Chris Koci and Kristen Anderson

Red Tie Photography – Internship?

I have been kicking around this idea for awhile, and I am interested to see if there is a demand for it. This is something that I really wish I had access to when I was starting out, and I honestly believe it can be a valuable resource to some people.

I do not claim to be any sort of master, or all knowing, and I understand that. A big craze right now is people who are experienced offering workshops that people can pay to attend. These talks range anywhere from the business of photography, shooting, lighting, marketing, etc. hopefully taught by experts. This is different.

I am offering a free internship, which I will only accept a few people. I feel keeping the number small will allow each individual more time to learn. I will gauge how many people I will take on depending on the level of interest.

Of course, I am still sorting this all out. I do not know what I want to go over, or how long it will be, or if I even will be making this at all.

Here are a few ideas on what I will be doing/covering:

  • Gear – what I use, what I believe you need, etc.
  • Shooting – hopefully set up a few group shoots to where I can talk people through things.
  • Your camera – get you off auto, and learn how to take advantage of your dSLR.
  • My products and the labs I use.
  • My shooting and editing philosophy.
  • How I got started to where I am now, and how I would recommend it.
  • Maybe bring an intern or 2 to a wedding.

Who this internship IS for:

  • Someone interested in wedding photography, and is serious about it.
  • Someone who has a dSLR, and wants to learn more from it. Sorry, point and shoot cameras will NOT suffice.
  • You do not need to have a lot of gear, but I am going to be recommending a lot to you. I feel if you are doing wedding photography, it is important to have a solid set of equipment behind you. Be prepared for this.
  • Someone in the San Diego area, or willing to come down.

Who this internship is NOT for:

  • Established professionals. You should know what I have to say, and going over camera settings wont be productive for you.
  • People wanting to get into different types of photography: Landscapes, babies, bands, clubs, etc. Although these things are often incorporated into wedding photography, these are not areas I specialize in or can give much insight.

If this is something that you are interested in, do me a favor. Leave a comment and tell me what you would like to learn. If there is enough genuine interest, I will work up some plans.

How to photograph a wedding. Warning, long post!

Lately I have been trying to give helpful tips for photographers, ranging from the gear needed to shoot weddings professionally, my non-photography wedding kit, and are you ready to shoot your first wedding. The next step in my advice would be, obviously, how to photograph a wedding and the flow you may be able to expect.

I am working on adding photos to demonstrate how I do it. Stay tuned while I continuously add images.

I am going to try to refrain from reiterating some of my previous posts linked above, and I am a firm believer there is more than one way to do any particular task. This is how I try to prepare and shoot a wedding that I think may be able to help others.I will also try to keep this photography related, and not get into consultations to delivering finished work. People write books on this subject, so everything I am saying here is the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it helps.

First things first – getting ready.

Getting ready for a wedding has a large range of responsibilities, and are an integral part of being prepared for the day. Here are some things that I do to get ready.

  • Charge batteries: Obviously you made sure you had enough batteries (at LEAST 2 per camera), but batteries do you no good if they aren’t charged. This also goes for any other batteries you may have, from AA’s for your flash, rechargeable strobe batteries, or ones for your wireless triggers. Always make sure you have backup batteries close by as well, in case your “fully charged” ones refused to fully charge.
  • Scout the location: I will do this for certain locations if I am unfamiliar with the layout or need to know what equipment I will need. Luckily, I bring all of my gear to each wedding, but when I was starting out I needed to know if there were things that I needed to rent (again, obviously you have backup gear if you are shooting a wedding, but you may need a strobe of a few faster lenses to deal with the particular lighting situation). If it is too far away, or you are stuck for ideas, it is always fine to check them out on your favorite search engine or social media site.
  • Clean/check your gear: Its the worst feeling when you show up to a wedding and find out you forgot a key piece of equipment, or the lens wont focus or camera wont take a photo. A quick once over with a lens cloth and rocket blower will not only make sure your equipment is fresh and clean, but also to remind you that you left your favorite lens in a different bag so you can put it back away. It is also not a bad idea to have a checklist of your equipment that you can check off before and after your wedding, making sure you aren’t leaving anything behind.
  • Format and pack your memory cards: Have you ever gone to a shoot without a memory card? Or realize last week’s shoot is on there, and you don’t remember if you have transferred them to your computer? I have, and it is not a good feeling – do this all before.
  • Fill up your vehicle with gas: its hard to get to a location when you find out you may have to walk. I like to leave a little early just in case of traffic, but many times I have realized I needed to fill up before I left.
  • Have several copies of directions, contact’s phone numbers, and timelines: In case you lose one, or your gps dies, its nice to have backups. You will see me preaching a lot about backups, which is the Eagle Scout in me – Be Prepared.
  • Get someone to help you out: Having an assistant and/or second shooter is a huge benefit to both you as a photographer and for the couple. I tell my couples not only will it give them different angles, but it will give them better photos because I will have someone to help me out. That added security you get from having someone have your back is a huge plus,and something I do not plan to stop providing for my couples. Even if its only a friend, girlfriend, or another photographer, having someone along is a HUGE help.
  • Do an engagement shoot: I know this sounds like an odd thing to put in the getting ready, but it really does prepare both the photographer and the couple for the wedding. I love doing them, and I get a good feel for what the couple is comfortable with, what poses work best, and their overall relationship. You can often mimic the romantic session with the engagement session, but use what works best, and take into account the change in attire.
  • Find a good camera carrying system that you are comfortable with: You will be carrying 1-3 cameras on you the entire day, several lenses, flashes, and other items for 6+ hours without much of a break. Find something that works well for you, places the weight in strategic places on your body to help minimize the soreness you will experience the next day.
  • Sunscreen: If the wedding is outside/on the beach, apply sunscreen before you leave, you will not have time to do it during the wedding.

Those are a few tips that I feel will help get you ready, next is photographing the wedding itself. Here are a few overall tips:

  • Shoot in RAW format: Even if you don’t know how to use RAW, shoot it anyways. You can convert it to JPG easily using free software, and if something gets biffed real badly, you have more leeway in post production. This will take at least double the space on your cards though, so keep that in mind.
  • Make sure you eat and stay hydrated: Things get hectic and it is easy to forget to eat and drink. Try to keep that in mind to allow you to continue working.
  • Do not be afraid to shoot a lot: It is easy to delete bad photos, but impossible to get those shots you never took.

The wedding is normally broken up into several parts, girls getting ready, guys getting ready, first look (sometimes), ceremony, family portraits, intimate/romantic portraits, and the reception. Lets look at each one a bit more individually.

Girls getting ready/Bridal party photos.

I normally spend a lot more time here than I do with the guys, as usually it take a bit longer. I am not going to give a straight shot list, but these are things I try to get.

  • Look for small details: I like to get some close-up shots of things around the room, like make-up, gifts to or from the bride, shoes, jewelry, etc. I also like to ask the couple to have the rings with the girls in the morning, and if there is time I like to shoot them here. Although I will also try to get them at the reception,¬† nice natural light makes for nice variety.

  • Putting on the dress: At this point I will step out of the room and wait until the bride is comfortable where I will walk back in. Before I do this though, I like to set up the shot. Be mindful of the background and the light coming in. Ill try to place the bride in the middle of the room, in front of the large sliding glass door if there is one, and place the bridesmaids behind her. This gives a great interaction in the photos, and starts getting everybody ready for photos.

  • Taking the girls out for photos: Hopefully there is time to do bridal party photos, and at this point I will bring them out to a location close by to get some photos together. I have learned that different groups like different things, so although I will give a few ideas, I rely heavily on their ideas. Once you throw out a cheesy idea that gets shot down, it rocks confidence and people start doubting you (at least I feel they are).¬† I also like to try to back light the groups, and fill them in with either a flash, strobe, or reflector. Make sure you do a few group shots, but also the bride with each bridesmaid. Bridal portraits are also important, but normally the light is quite harsh around this time, and I will reserve those for later.

I have all of my lenses accessible in my main bag, but I usually pack a few lenses in my shoulder bag for quick and easy access. I thought sharing which lenses I pack may help out. So, for the gear I pack in my bag:

  • Canon 35mm f1.4L
  • Canon 50mm f1.2L
  • Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II
  • Flash or 2 (580ex2 and my Quantum Turbo)
  • Extension Tubes: these are great to use for the rings and small details I mentioned earlier

Guys getting ready and bridal party photos.

Guys usually go much quicker than the ladies because there is much less prep. Many times I get there the guys are already dressed. I try to get similar photos as above.

  • Small details: normally the aren’t as cute, but details really even out wedding coverage. Look for interesting shoes, socks, cufflinks, ties or pocket squares etc. Normally you can get a nice shot of some sort of alcohol in the room.
  • Shots of the groom: Or should I say photos of the groom (sometimes you need to get shots of the shots though). I like to get a few of these, and they normally have to be posed. Adjusting the tie, fixing the cufflinks, tying shoes, and looking out the window. Make sure to find good light, and have a clean background behind.

  • Bridal party shots: I try to take the guys the same place I took the girls for continuity. Start with the individual shots with the groom and each groomsman, and then do some of the formal shots. Sometimes people need to loosen up, and this helps. I tell the guys the same thing I told the girls, and look for their suggestions.
    • Like with the girls, my ideal spot is somewhere which is backlit and has a somewhat dark background, this helps them really pop.

Equipment I pack/use most often:

  • Canon 24-70mm f2.8L
  • Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II
  • Canon 35L or 50L
  • Flash or 2

First Look

Many photographers like when there is a first look, and I am no exception. The intimate time between a bride and her groom when they see each other for the first time, when they can look, hug, kiss, embrace their partner and be alone (except for the photo and video guys that is). It makes for some great photos, and also frees up a lot of time. This way the photographers can get bridal party and sometimes family portraits done before the wedding, and frees up more time during nicer light to be with the couple and for them to enjoy their cocktail hour if they please. I use this time to let them be them, and do not pose or direct them besides the initial setup. Here are a few things I do.

  • Find good light and backgrounds: I find this challenging many times, because this is often done midday and you run the risk of having harsh, direct light. Try to find a nicely lit place, preferably in some sort of shade, with backgrounds that aren’t too distracting. I know this is asking for a lot, but we are working for ideal, right?
  • Set the groom in the spot you want them to meet, and have the bride come from behind: I love the anticipation of the groom as he waits for his bride, as I stand in front and eagerly snap photos as she walks up behind him, the tap on the shoulder and the instant look of relief, joy, love and appreciation on their faces. Sometimes I will tell the bride to tap him on a certain side, depending on the light and the backgrounds, but often this is their time.
  • Use a long lens: I don’t want to be right in their face, so I will take a long lens and give them some room. This will also help separate them off from the background when I am shooting at wide apertures (f2.8) and make some backgrounds less distracting.
  • Let the couple have their special time: This time is not for me to direct, its for them to see each other, all dolled up, on their wedding day. After I will often take the couple to do a few photos, but this time is for them. Depending on the couple, this session can take anywhere from a minute to 20, so be mindful and budget your time accordingly.

Equipment I pack/use most often:

  • Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II (my most used lens for this part)
  • Canon 35mm f1.4L
  • Canon 50mm f1.2L

Ceremony

This is a time where it is really nice to have two shooters, and I am going to assume that you were able to beg/bribe someone to help you out, so these tips are how to shoot a ceremony with two people.

  • Placement before the wedding ceremony starts: I like to place one shooter up front, kneeling on the bride’s side (the left side normally) to get the bride being escorted down the isle by her father. At this point I will also have another shooter in the back, getting things with a long lens (like the groom’s expression) and shooting wide to get the entire ceremony in the shot. Sometimes I also like to get the ceremony and reception site when it is empty (without people) but that doesnt always happen.

  • During the ceremony: I like to move around a bit during the ceremony, discretely that is. My second shooter and I will be watching each other, and try to mirror our placement (If I am midway up on the outside right, they are midway up on the outside left). As the ceremony comes to an end, I will place one of us in the isle, just in case things get going quickly and the kiss randomly happens. Depending on where the ceremony is, it is not always feasible to get many different angles, and if that is the case try to at least be at different focal lengths.
  • Catch reactions: I always try to get the parents during the vows, or friends and family wiping away tears or laughing. These types of shots really bring life into the wedding, and show the emotion that was there.
  • During the vows: Again, I try to stay on the opposite side of my second shooter, but at the same angle so we are not in each others shot. If there is only one shooter, then I try to get the person who is having the vows said to them, as to not get odd faces while they are talking.

  • Watch the children: Sometimes they get antsy and do some cute things. Just don’t get carried away with it.

  • Recessional: At this point I will hopefully be down the isle, and get a shot of the bride and groom towards the end of the isle. I tell them to lean in and kiss, and get a great shot with their guests behind them. This is one of my favorite shots I try to do as often as possible.

Equipment I pack/use most often:

  • Canon 24-70mm f2.8L
  • Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II
  • 15mm f2.8 Fisheye (rarely)
  • Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 (sometimes)

Family Portraits

Most of the time, now that I have my strobe, I will set up my strobe off to the corner, ready to go before the ceremony starts. This way, I will be able to get up and ready in a matter of seconds, and will often have my second shooter fetch it while I am getting people situated. Here is how I like to run my family portraits.

  • Pick a spot close by: I like to do the family formals often right where the ceremony took place. It is too difficult to move that many people too far, so I find the best light/background and post the family there. Often I will use my strobe to fill the group in.
  • Get a list: This is extremely important, and will streamline this process for you. Although I do not guarantee shots, it helps to have names. I also like to have someone with me (a family member) that knows who the people on the list are and can help me organize them for the next shot.In addition to names, I like to have associations with them, so the list comes out something like: June (Grandma), Bob (Uncle), etc.
  • Put the bride and groom in the center, and build off of them: You want to try to keep the group symmetrical, keeping both sides with about the same number of people. Don’t feel the need to get too creative, and arrange them tallest to shortest, but if you have to make 2 rows, then put the taller people in the back.
  • Start large, get smaller: I like to pick a side – either groom or bride – and start with the largest group we have, then cut¬† away at it. This gets more people out of the way and on to the party. Trust me, people will like this.
  • Get grandparents done quickly: After my large group shot, I take everyone out except the grandparents. This allows them to go back and sit down, relax, and not have to stand in the heat the entire time.
  • Get done quickly: This isnt a part of the wedding where you will have a lot of time to get things perfect, or arrange people artistically. Speak with a large, authoritative voice and get people arranged. Make sure you can see them and the lighting on them is relatively even.
  • Take several shots with the same focal length: This really helps when people are looking away or blinking and you can swap their head in Photoshop. I don’t like the idea of “Ill just get it right in Photoshop” but with large groups, sometimes you do not have a choice. Again, take quite a few shots, re-focusing after every one/few shots.
  • For big groups, have them point their belly buttons towards the middle. It makes the group look not too spread out and gives a good feel to the photo.

Equipment I pack/use:

  • Canon 24-70mm f2.8L
  • Canon 35mm f1.4L
  • Strobe and umbrella with my triggers

Intimate and Romantic Portraits

This is my favorite part of the wedding. It allows me to be creative, and is often during the best light of the day. This is what you will be showcasing on your website, and what many couples will book because. There is too much to put into this blog post on posing ideas, but I will give a few tips.

  • Watch the clock: If the wedding is running behind, this is usually the first place people see to cut it. Keep an eye on timing when you are doing group shots too, because the more time you take up there, the less time you will have for this portion.
  • Take only the couple: I like this to be their alone time (with me that is), so I do not recommend others coming along, this includes, but is not limited to: bridal party, parents, cousins/friends/uncles with cameras, etc. Having others along will slow you down, limit creativity, and many times make the couple self conscious. OF course, I bring my second shooter with me to help out, and I prefer it to be just the 4 of us.
  • Bring a flash: Many times this will happen as the sun is setting, and although there is plenty of light when you start, it can fade quickly and you may want to get some sunset photos with the couple being lit as well.

Equipment I pack/use most often:

  • Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II
  • Canon 35mm f1.4L
  • Canon 50mm f1.2L
  • Canon 24-70mm f2.8L (rarely)
  • Flashes and/or strobe with diffusers

Reception

Going from the romantic session to the reception can be the most hectic time, especially if the couple goes right into the first dance after the grand entrance. I like to set up off camera lighting, so it is often a rush to do this. Just be aware of that.

  • Store your gear in a safe place: Often times this is with the DJ or in the corner of a room. You don’t want your equipment walking off in the middle of the wedding. Even though it is all insured (right?), it would still put a damper on things.
  • Befriend the DJ: The DJ is going to be the one running the reception, and will be the one to let you know before things are announced. Things like cutting the cake (so you can get a good spot), or the garter/bouquet toss (so you can get your lighting ready), or any other major event. Not only will they be watching your stuff, they can make the reception so much nicer for you by warning you ahead of time. Once things settle down, I try to ask them if I can get them a drink at the bar (soda or water).
  • Know the schedule: Goes with knowing the DJ, but be prepared and know if things are running behind.
  • Be prepared to leave your meal: Sometimes toasts happen in the middle of the meal, so just be prepared at any minute to grab your gear and run out to the dance floor. Most of the weddings I shoot, I am put into a different room than the reception, so sometimes you wont know something is going on. So, once again, befriend the DJ.
  • Take the couple out during the reception: These are some of my favorite photos from most of the weddings. Taking some off camera flash and getting the bride and groom after they have relaxed a bit can be awesome for photos.

Equipment I pack/use most often:

  • Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II (speeches and toasts)
  • Canon 135mm f2L
  • Canon 35mm f1.4L

After the wedding

There are even steps after the wedding, and I am sure this blog post will look like the work afterwards is less, but it often works out to be at least double the time you spent at the wedding. We have established that you have an editing workflow in the beginning of this post, so I am not going to go over that. But here are some less-obvious tips.

  • Stretch: I try to do this before I leave the wedding. If I don’t stretch before I drive home, I get really stiff and sore. This will help your soreness the next day.
  • Backup your images: Ok, pretty obvious. This is a necessary step, and cannot be overlooked. The more places you back them up, the better. You need at LEAST 2 copies, but the more you have in different places, the better you will be protected.
  • Schedule a massage: I like to get one about once a month to relieve some stress and relax. Its interesting, during the busy season I can shoot 3 weddings in a weekend and be less sore than shooting the first wedding of the season. I guess it is what you are used to.
  • Make a timeline for your editing process: Set deadlines when to edit, and meet those deadlines. It will keep you on top of your game.
  • Try to be prompt with your delivery: Delivering in a day is not necessary, but try to keep it prompt. This is one thing I am continuously working on improving.

I know there is MUCH, MUCH more to say for each category. I plan to continuously add to this post, and I will differentiate it by adding the date on each new bullet. If you have anything to add, leave a comment and I will try to work it into the post.

Miss Greater San Diego – Swimsuit Poster

With the Miss Greater San Diego Pageant USA  coming up quickly (tomorrow) I thought it would be appropriate to blog the swimsuit poster we came up with. I really had a lot of fun, and working with my new strobe really took this shoot to the next level (and also helped fuel my gear addiction).

Well, without further ado, the photographs.

After the poster shot, a few girls asked to have their photo taken individually. Here are just 2 of the individual photos I did.

And a few options for the cover of the pageant book.

Thanks for looking!

Required Gear for Professional Wedding Photographers

I have a lot of information in this post about various cameras, lenses, etc. but I thought I would give a small, easy to see breakdown of the minimum equipment I would feel comfortable going to a wedding with.

  • 2 capable camera bodies
  • Lenses that range from 16mm-200mm f2.8 (on full frame)
  • Tokina 11-16mm f2.8, Canon 24-70mm f2.8L, Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS II are the zooms I have.
  • Backup lenses that you can use if your other lens breaks (should cover a strong section of your primary lenses. You should be able to shoot a wedding on the backup kit alone
  • Canon 28mm f1.8, Canon 34mm f1.4L, Canon 50mm f1.2L, Canon 85mm f1.8, Canon 135mm f2L are the primes I use to supplement/backup the zoom range
  • At least 2 flashes.
  • Canon 580ex2 (x2), Quantum Qflash Trio, YN-560 (x3) are what I have. If one goes down, I have plenty to choose from.
  • Batteries and memory – enough to photograph 2 weddings on.
  • As far as other specialty lenses go (fisheye, macro, etc), they can be fun to have, but not 100% necessary to shoot your first wedding. If you are doing this professionally, I do think it is important to have some sort of macro capability.

Recently I received an email from a friend who informed me that his camera was stolen and asked for my advice. He was looking at getting a new camera (Canon) and wanted to know what I recommended. Although I am sure he was only expecting a few lines saying – “get this camera, its a good one” I proceeded to break things down for him, giving him quite a few options, something I am sure he did not expect.

I have a confession to make РI love having new camera equipment. The gear does not make the photographer, and I completely agree, but I sure do love buying it and being able to give different looks to my images. In this blog post, I will be giving my opinion on equipment to use for weddings, which I feel would be a great read for those just starting out or looking for their new toy tool. Then I will talk about my camera bag, what is in it and why, and what is on my wishlist. I will also talk about some of my gear that I feel every photographer should have. So buckle your seatbelt (click it or ticket), because this is going to be a long one.

Wedding Photographers and the necessary equipment.

A few disclaimers before I get too detailed. First, this is just my opinion. There are photographers out there that can do amazing work with less, and those that can do poor work with more, but this I feel is a good “rule of thumb” so to speak. Second, I am a Canon shooter. I think Nikon makes great imaging equipment, and has some things that are better than Canon, but I will be talking about my experience and my knowledge base comes from Canon equipment.

I truly believe that something more important than the top of the line gear is knowledge of how to use that equipment. It is IMPERATIVE that the photographer knows the basics of the camera; this includes everything from shutter speed, ISO, aperture, AI Servo and One Shot focusing, the difference between spot, evaluative, and center weighted modes, how to use flash and manipulate your camera, knowledge of post processing and editing your images, the difference between Av, Tv and Manual mode, etc. You dont have to use everything listed here, but you should know how to use it all. Failing to do that will leave you ill-prepared for the challenges and diversity of shooting a wedding. Now that I have said my piece, here is the equipment which I will break down into categories.

Camera bodies: It is obviously important to have something to take photos with, and in my opinion (as all of this article is) is needs to be something with interchangeable lenses. I prefer the semi-pro/pro bodies, but even a couple of rebels can suffice when you are just starting out. Some things to keep in mind when buying a camera.

  1. Know your budget. Figure out your entire budget, including all of the extras. This includes lenses, batteries, memory cards, bags, etc. Make sure you leave enough left for those items.
  2. Don’t buy it because of the marketing buzz. For most of us, video is not a big deal, and megapixels are not fully utilized 90% of the time I shoot. Basically, everything on the card in front of the camera at Best Buy or Frys isn’t as important as what isn’t placed there. Things like focusing, sensor size,¬†usable¬†ISO range, etc. How will you know this? Research, ask professional photographers, and really understand the differences before you buy. Buying the most expensive camera is not always the best decision.
  3. Plan for at least 2 cameras. If you are doing weddings, you HAVE to have at least 2 cameras. If you don’t, rent or borrow an extra. If one fails, saying “Sorry, but my camera broke. I am going to go home now” will not cut it. I have 3 camera bodies, and hire assistants/second shooters that have at least 2. Will I ever use all 5 cameras? Hopefully not. Do I need them? Absolutely.
  4. Should you buy the kit lens? That is up to you. On 2 of my cameras (40d and 7d) I did buy them, with the intention of either reselling them for a larger profit or using it as an extreme back up. That being said, almost no kit lens (with possibly the exception of the 24-105L that you can usually buy with the 5d2) should be used as a primary lens for weddings.
  5. Buy used or new? All depends on what your budget is, what you are buying and how much cheaper you are getting it used. Canon 40d’s can be had for $400-$500 on craigslist pretty easy (I got mine there for a third camera) and are great cameras. Cheaper than a rebel and can do many things better is a good option in my book.

So what camera options are you looking at?

Canon Rebel: This is the cheapest option, and best if you are looking to add some nice glass to it. While this will get you started, it isn’t something I would consider using full time for too long. The smaller, cheaper made bodies are not nearly as rugged as the larger ones, and many of the features are somewhat crippled.¬†¬†They are much smaller and do not balance nearly as well as some of the larger cameras, but getting them with a vertical battery grip would be beneficial.

Canon 60d: In my opinion (and many others) this has turned into a “super rebel”. Basically everything I said above applies, with a slightly larger price tag and a few added features.

Canon 7d: I just bought a 7d to compliment my 5d2, and absolutely love it. It has a super fast auto focusing system, and quite advanced. The way the camera feels is great, and with a nearly 100% viewfinder, it makes it much easier to see your subject. It also has a wireless flash command unit built into the popup flash which is great if you need it in a pinch, and of course video mode. It has a burst rate of 8fps (which is really fast) and can put out some great images. It also uses the same battery as the 5d2, which works great for me.

Canon 5d Mark II (5d2): What a beast of a camera, and I absolutely love mine. 21 megapixels, video mode, full frame censor which allows better color, more shallow depth of field, and great high ISO noise rendition (I often use 6400 without thinking twice), this is one of the best wedding cameras out there. Of course, it does have its flaws. Using a nearly archaic focusing system (especially compared to the 7d), achieving focus can be difficult. Also, using those large file sizes will fill up your hard drive, fast! And of course the price tag that comes with it, and the fact that you can no longer buy/use EF-S lenses with it somewhat limit your options, and is a big step when upgrading to buy all new lenses. If you are planning on buying this camera, plan so from the beginning so you do not have to re-buy all of your lenses.

Lenses:

Now that we have your camera body figured out, lets look into some necessary lenses. This obviously can change, but I feel it is the duty of the photographer to cover as big of a range they can, preferably covering from 16mm-200mm (full frame equivalent). Personally, I cover 15mm (fisheye, and then 16mm with my Tokina 11-16) to 320mm (with my 70-200mm on my 7d). I think it is my duty as a wedding photographer to be able to shoot when the lights are low, which is why I do not recommend variable aperture lenses (ones that change your f stop when you zoom) or anything slower than a f/2.8 lens as your main lenses. I will go over the gear I use in the next section and why I use that gear in particular.

So which lenses/ranges are a must? In order of importance: (I am only listing a few Canon lenses. There are third party lenses that are more affordable, but lack things like image quality and focusing speed/accuracy. I will mainly be posting Canon lenses

Normal Zoom lens: This will be your bread and butter lens. It can get you things from wide shots, formal shots, dancing, etc. A full time pro could most certainly shoot an entire wedding on this lens (not that they would absolutely want to, but it is doable). I prefer to use lenses at least f2.8, but you can do it with f4 and some good flash technique.

Canon 24-70mm f2.8L
Canon 24-105 f4L IS
Canon 17-55mm f2.8L IS (Crop sensor only – great focal length to match up similarly to the 24-70mm)

Telephoto Zoom lens: This will get you places your feet cannot. Close up shots at the ceremony, great candid expressions and wonderful background separation.

Canon 70-200mm – there are many versions with different price tags, but as I have been saying all along I prefer f2.8, IS is a plus.

Edit: I just bought a the 70-200mm f2.8 IS II and it is AMAZING. Before when I said IS is a plus was right, but after using it more, I find the lens is severely crippled without IS. Not to mention how sharp this lens is, wow! If you can afford it, go for it!

Flash

Still to come

Wide Angle Lens: Sometime the group is too big to get everyone in with 24mm. These are some popular options.
Canon 17-40mm f4L
Canon 16-35mm f2.8L
Canon 10-22mm
Tokina 11-16mm f2.8

Macro

Still to come

Primes: Primes go from wide to telephoto, and of course there will be more than I list here, but these are some popular ones, most I have had experience with.

Canon 24mm f1.4L I’ve heard great things, but 24 is a bit too wide for my shooting style.
Canon 28mm f1.8 I own it, and its a good lens, but it now sits in my backup bag, waiting to be sold.
Canon 35mm f1.4L Amazing lens. 99% of my dancing shots come from this lens, and it does great for getting ready too.
Canon 50mm f1.8 This is an affordable prime that will be the first prime for many people. I do not find it reliable enough for wedding work, seeing that at my first wedding, it broke and would not even allow me to manual focus.
Canon 50mm f1.4 Good lens, but I was worried about the build quality. So I bought the L
Canon 50mm f1.2L Great lens, and I could probably shoot an entire wedding with it if I had to. If I had the choice of 2 lenses though, they would be the 35mm and my new 70-200mm
Canon 85mm f1.8 Great little lens – sharp, focuses quick, light and doesnt take a lot of room in the bag.
Canon 85mm f1.2L I dont own this, but it is a great lens. That being said, I dont feel the need to sell my 1.8 to buy this.
Canon 135 f2L Great lens, and is my go-to for dark ceremonies and speeches throughout the night. It can create some magical images,
Canon 200mm f2.8 A lower priced option for a longer lens. Although I havent used it, I have heard good things about it.

Obviously I am still in the process of writing this blog, and will update it as soon as I can.