Ever since the inception of the digital camera, technology and photography have been bound together in an ever-evolving relationship. Our camera bags grow, change, and adjust to ensure we have the tools needed to capture all those amazing moments for each of our clients.
Before getting into specifics, I think it’s important to note my choices in equipment support the style of photo, process of shooting, and workflow I prefer. There is no perfect combination of equipment for everyone, nor is there a brand that will make your work superior to others. What I am currently carrying has been cultivated and curated over the past 10 years into the perfect setup for me.
This is the part of my bag that changes most frequently. Over the years, I have worked with a ton of different cameras within the Nikon ecosystem. Starting with a D80 in 2009 and moving through a D90, D300, D300s, D700, D3, D3s, D4, D750, and Z6 in the years since, I have put a majority of Nikon’s cameras to the test. At this time, I am primarily using D780 bodies.
With some photographers (myself included) waiting on Nikon’s mirrorless lens lineup to mature, their D780 bodies hold a great balance of tech, resolution, dynamic range, and usability. The flip-out touchscreen gives me the opportunity to find compositions and angles I couldn’t get to with fixed screens/viewfinders, and the compact size keeps my back and wrist feeling good on long wedding days.
For many years, I was a huge fan of PocketWizard for our wedding kits. The reliability of their transmitters/receivers are unrivaled, and to this day, we still use them in our studio sessions. In an effort to lighten my bag up and simplify our setup/teardown, I moved to flashes with built-in transmitter and receivers. That switch lead me to currently using Godox AD200s and Profoto A1 flashes.
For the past 2 wedding seasons, my go-to for lighting wedding receptions have been a handful of Profoto A1s. Aside from their amazing design and interface, these flashes give me the flexibility of dialing in the exact amount of light needed and the ability to adjust as conditions change on the fly.
The Godox AD200 flashes serve as my afternoon creative session strobes. With a pair of these supplying enough light to overpower the midday Ohio sun, these are perfect for epic shots on those bright sunny days.
Both the Profoto A1s and the Godox AD200s are compatible with my favorite modifier company, Magmod. These guys have an amazing line of light modifiers geared toward wedding/event photographers who need to couple precise lighting with speedy setup. I use their MagGels, MagGrids, MagSphere, MagBeam, Magshoe, and MagBox. Of all the gear I carry, I am most impressed with Magmod’s products, responsiveness, and community.
Lenses are the most important tool we carry beyond the actual cameras. If given the choice between the best camera bodies or the best lenses, my choice will always be to side with lenses. Pairing the right lens with the correct situation can take a less capable camera and push its photos past the best camera body with a lesser lens attached.
Over time, I have cultivated a lineup that gives me the freedom to create freely and develop a bold signature look. This lineup also aids in the off chance we have technical issues with our gear, as some of the focal lengths overlap in our prime and zoom array. From closeup photos of rings and jewelry to portraits and wild dance floor photos, my go-to lenses for weddings are:
Odds & Ends
Having covered the bread and butter of my wedding gear, I want to be sure to mention some of the unsung heroes. These not-so-common tools, though small in size and specific in their uses, deserve their moment in the spotlight for making my job easier day to day.
These little guys give me the ability to hang and photograph wedding dresses anywhere without worrying about damaging walls.
Used specially for rings shots, these lights are powerful enough to photograph details at smaller apertures. They also come in handy when you need to grab focus for those end of the night shots.
I feel like this one is a given but you can never have enough batteries.
Though its the part of the evening everyone is looking forward to, those big speakers can take a toll on your ears. As opposed to the expensive, custom molded earplugs, these are great to use without having to worry about losing them.
Snacks & Water
Like the gear we carry, nothing runs without power, right? I always keep a ton of water and a snack or two in my bag to keep myself going on long wedding days. If I don’t end up needing it, it’s always great to hand off to a bride or groom should they need a little pick-me-up.
Easily interchangeable with a small cloth or something like that, you never know when you will need to wipe something off or, for those hot summer weddings, keep the sweat out of your eyes. At the very least it’s a cool fashion accessory with a practical use.
These days camera straps are a dime a dozen. Cameras come with their brand-specific straps, and there are countless other companies that have created ways to hang a camera off your neck, shoulder(s), belt, wrist, and any other place a camera fits. When searching for a system to carry my camera(s), I had three boxes that needed to be checked: I wanted to be able to carry multiple cameras, ensure the security of my gear, and look cool. All of those boxes were checked by Holdfast Gear.
Specifically the Holdfast Money Maker and the Holdfast Money Maker Solo are my current go to straps. For long wedding days, these straps comfortably hold a camera on each of my sides keeping me focused on creating and capturing. With a ton of leather, vegan leather, and canvas options, they are as stylish as they are durable.
Being a wedding photographer, it’s hard to find a balance between durability, weight, price, and aesthetics when it comes to light stands. After searching for the best combination of those traits, I landed on Paul C. Buff 10ft.air cushioned stands. Aside from carrying the aforementioned traits, Paul C. Buff is an amazing company to work with and stands by all of their products with great warranties and customer service. We also use their light stands and flash units in our studio.
Bags & Cases
Having collected the perfect combination of gear, you need something to carry it all in. Depending on the amount of gear I need and specifics surrounding logistics of the day, the bag(s) I use change day to day. Though the exact bag I use changes, there are specific companies I have grown loyal to. Both ThinkTank and Pelican make stellar lines of bags, known for their durability, comfort, and bold aesthetics. The bags and cases I am currently using are:
With enough room to pack all my gear into one rolling bag, this is my go to for weddings. Because this roller is so large, I use it as a hub and carry a smaller bag with me throughout the day.
For destination weddings, space is more valuable than local weddings. This bag is just under the allowed size for carry on luggage and packs all the essentials needed for a wedding abroad.
For engagement sessions or weddings in somewhat remote locations, this small bag is a fantastic combination of comfort, durability, and size. This bag has kept both my gear and back in tiptop shape.
ThinkTank CityWalker 30
My most commonly used bag by far, this bag has been to every wedding and most, if not all, of my other sessions. This messenger style bag has enough room for the basics needed to photograph just about anything. The CityWalker line has been discontinued, but I was fortunate enough to stockpile a few.
When we know travel will be a bit rough and unpredictable, this case is built like a tank. These things are watertight, crush proof, dust proof, and have a pressure balancing system built in. Aside from the excellent build quality, these cases are wildly customizable when coupled with TrekPak Dividers.
The Wrap Up
With so many specifics being shown here, I think it’s important to make sure I reiterate that this setup is what works best specifically for me. I know many amazing photographers who use some, all, and none of the same things I do and yield amazing photos. When it comes to weddings, the ability to find light, anticipate moments, and showcase the best of everything your camera crosses paths with will always trump any piece of gear in your bag.
Regardless of what brand of camera you use, lenses you own, or lighting gear you choose, I think Chase Jarvis said it best: “The best camera is the one that’s with you.”