I am what you would consider a gear nut. I love trying out new gear, techniques, and different uses of everyday things to see how (and if) they can be used in my photography. I get asked about my gear quite often by artists looking to capture most weddings.
When purchasing gear, I have a few things in mind. Quality, portability, and low light capability. I need to be able to break it down and put it back up fast, I hike into elopements and engagement sessions and like to use multiple backdrops for portraits when shooting weddings.
Most of the things I share will have been after many trials and errors with other products. So I will try to list why I chose one over the other.
Also, I am in no way paid or endorsed by any of the listed products.
My Main Gear:
This article isn’t a Nikon vs. Canon thing. My husband initially bought me a Nikon D80 to play around with. As I grew in skill, I upgraded my camera bodies from D80, D7000, D610, and now the D750. I kept all my lenses and other gear as I grew.
The low light capability and fast focusing speed of the D750 is what got me. I wanted a second full frame camera to capture weddings just in case my D610 decided to fail mid-season.
After some research, a fantastic deal from a local photographer switching brands came up, and I nabbed it. I will make it known that I have never bought a brand new camera (other than the D80).
All of my camera bodies have been purchased as used and I have never had an issue with them. I was having problems with my D610 caching the images fast enough, in fact, it wasn’t writing all the pictures to the SD cards. Yes, I checked my cards, they were fine. After some research, it seems like this was a standard issue. So it is now relegated to my 2nd, lesser used camera in which I use my 80-200 2.8 on.
This is my favorite lens. Its fast, its sharp, and the 2.8 lets in lots of light and gives me the beautiful bokeh that I love. Yes, it is more expensive than what some consider the walk around lens, but it is worth every cent! This one barely leaves my D750.
As I got more and more experienced, I started noticing the chromatic aberration in my Nikkor 18-200, especially when shooting in full sun. I could fix that in post process, but I like to capture things correctly in camera as much as I can. Upgrading lenses have indeed decreased editing time and significantly improved the sharpness in my lenses. I also have the Nikkor 80-200 2.8 (the grandfather to the newer Nikkor 70-200 2.8) and the 105macro that I keep on my other camera body when I shoot. Smooth transition for when moments happen that need a little closer look! All I need is the wide angle, and I have the holy trinity of Nikon lenses.
My husband says that I should get a job in a test lab because I seem to break almost everything. It’s true, especially when it comes to speed lights. Dropping them or having a light stand tip over is a typical thing for me. I average about three broken speed lights a year. Luckily, these babies take a beating, are a great price, and Amazon offers a warranty on damage done to them. What isn’t to like!
I did have a Nikon SB600 in this rotation, but when it died, it was about twice the cost of these to replace. Rarely do I have any issues with the Yongnuo flashes and triggers, so now I just purchase these.
Having a total of 4 of these, I rarely use all of them. Two of them are in heavy rotation as most situations rarely call for more. However, I am shooting in larger and larger inside venues. Being able to put up one in each corner helps with the lighting and making sure that your wedding images are incredible.
You need something to hold your lights while your shooting, otherwise your arm is going to get mighty tired.
I started out with some cheaper stands as I was still testing the waters to see if I was going to build something with my photography passion. Well, it seems to be happening so I have been investing in better gear that will stand up to the test of time (and my abuse). I bought one of these stands earlier last year, and I love it. It’s heavier, so the wind doesn’t move it as much, and the legs automatically setup and retract as you lift and set up the stand. It saves so much hassle when you’re constantly moving things around. So this year, I picked up a few more.
The adapter I use is an “S” bracket. It holds the flash head like a vice and it easy to set up and take out. The standard spring-loaded adapters that come with most stands tend to break on me pretty quickly, and I needed something more sturdy. This will also hold onto the light if the stand is bumped into, I’ve had plenty of spills when the dancing starts, and it seems to protect and carry the lights. The other nice thing is that any modifier with the Bowens mount can attach directly to it. I have a collapsible beauty dish that is amazing to work with for portraits where you’re constantly moving around.
YONGNUO YN360 LED Video Light
Need to light something tricky, and don’t want to fiddle with flash? This is your magic wand. With adjustable brightness, white balance, and multiple colors, this little guy does wonders. Powered by a special battery, I use him to light cakes, rings, and other details where it may be tricky for me to get a light stand near it. Plus, it is continuous light so you can see where it falls instead of multiple light tests.
I had some cheaper, small video lights, but they didn’t give me the options for colors, so this was a natural choice.
Starting as a landscape photographer, I like to travel light and use simple, quick gear. The Magmod system allows me multiple light setups, easy to clean and store, and amazing results. I can cram all of my modifiers in a small bag for the entire night.
I also have the Gary Fong light sphere. While I like the end product of both, the Magmod is just easier to take on and off, and I don’t have to fiddle with continually adjusting velcro.
The grid portion is great for directing light and limiting spill.
This is another one of those items that I have fiddled around with for a while before finding the one that works perfectly for me.
I was using the Carryspeed sling for a while before, but that only held one camera and my shoulder would start killing me halfway through the wedding. I had looked at the Moneymaker before but always thought they were expensive and not worth the money.
Finally, last year, my shoulder was tired, I had a little bonus money, and I wanted to look a bit more professional while out with clients. I bit the bullet and got the standard Moneymaker and do not regret a dime. Not only can I wield two cameras, but I can also wear it all day with no fatigue or worry that my cameras will drop. It uses climbers Caribeaner as the primary connection and has a second strap that attached in case the other fails. Some piece of mind and some comfort, YES PLEASE. Throw in the fact that you kind of look like an old west gunslinger while wearing it, and its perfect.
Flashpoint Rovelight 600w
This is the little trick up my sleeve. On the gorgeous summer days that we have up here, it can get super tricky to shoot against the sun. If you have your subject facing you and the sun behind them (so they don’t squint), shooting without any light will cause horrendous shadows on their face. When you’re shooting close in, you can easily manage to fill these in with a reflector or speedlight. With A larger group or you want to move farther back, it gets much trickier. That’s where this bad boy comes in. You can easily light large groups in full sun or the middle of the night. I’ve also used it to backlight images that I shoot farther away in a landscape. Light up a giant ballroom? Not an issue.
You can see this baby at work backlighting images at Holly and Jeff’s wedding.
This is another trick up the sleeve if you don’t want to pick up the big guy. ND filters limit the amount of light that reaches your sensor, so it allows you to shoot at slower shutter speeds in the high sun or knocks down sunlight in midday so you can balance your exposure on your subject while using HSS on your speedlights. I use this very often on sunny days so that I can shoot at a 2.8 aperture and a lower shutter speed to get the look I love on images. I can also achieve the slow shutter effect on water in full sun. This is a MUST for any photographer.
My gear may not work for you; everyone is different. This is just the stuff that I feel works great for me at this point in my photography career. Heck, it may even change when I get back from WPPI later this month.
Don’t be afraid to head down to your local camera store, play around with gear, and even rent a few pieces here or there to see how they work for you.