What’s In My Bag?

I get asked every so often about what equipment I use at weddings and other events or sessions. Sometimes it’s other photographers, other times it’s just a curious guest. I thought I’d put together a blog post detailing some of my favorite lenses and other goodies that you’ll find in my bag that helps me every day I’m shooting. We’ve all heard that the equipment doesn’t make great photographs, but the right equipment will help me get the shots I see in my head. It helps to know my gear inside and out, which is important especially at weddings, where changing settings often needs to be done quickly and in little or no light.

^Canon 5d Mark II
I love this camera. It’s the perfect camera for me as a wedding photographer because it’s got great low-light performance and the full frame sensor that helps create the beautiful separation between the subject and the background that helps define my style. I don’t ever use the video function of this camera, but it’s fantastic from what I understand, and film-makers from all over the world are using this camera to create some very impressive short films.

^Canon 7d
My ever-trusty backup camera. I use this camera quite a bit with the Canon 10-22mm lens attached as well as the Canon 70-200mm to get that extra reach I need during a wedding ceremony. Because the 7d has a crop sensor, it allows my longer lenses to get even closer to the action.

^Canon 10-22mm f/3.5
Mostly used for sweeping church shots, tight dressing areas, and reception crowd shots. It’s very wide. It lives on my 7d.

^Canon 50mm f/1.2
Probably my most used lens. It’s locked onto my camera 85% of the time. The 50mm lens (any version) is a great normal-view lens and is one that I’d recommend to anyone starting to build their lens kit. (check out the 50mm 1.8) It’s got great depth-of-field, and really isolates the subject of the image. Prime lenses contribute heavily to my style of photography, and this lens is the best of the primes as far as I’m concerned. I could shoot an entire wedding or engagement session with this lens if I had to. I love it that much!

^Canon 24mm  f/1.4 II
A newer lens to my lineup, this lens is very wide, but also very sharp. This lens is wonderful to use to get dancing shots – it allows me to get in real close and really get a good feel for the action and emotion. It’s also a great lens for a reception venue or church set up shot – a nice wide shot of the way the room looks before people fill in.

^Canon 35mm f/1.4
This lens quickly became a favorite of mine! It’s probably my second most used lens, and it really shines during the entire wedding day, from getting ready through the reception.  I also use it heavily for engagement sessions and portraits where I want to bring the environment into the image with the subjects. It’s great for seeing the bigger picture. It’s tack sharp and focuses lightning fast. I love it!

^Canon 85mm f/1.8
Probably my least used lens at weddings, but I can’t bear to get rid of it because it really is a beautiful piece of glass. It’s better suited to senior portraits or corporate head shots because it really allows the face to be the star of the image. It’s got fantastic contrast and color for such an inexpensive lens.

^Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
This lens is very sharp for a zoom lens. I use it predominantly during the reception, because things can change so quickly with regard to where people are within the frame. I will also usually have this lens on when the bride and groom turn and walk down the aisle after they are married because it allows me to get in tight, then take a nice, sweeping shot of them exiting the church or ceremony venue.

^Canon 70-200mm f/2.8
I normally use this lens during the wedding ceremony only. It’s got a great reach on it, and stays nice and sharp at a distance. I will also sometimes put this lens on my camera at the beginning of engagement sessions to photograph the couple without being right in their faces. Later in the session I’ll get closer with another lens to make it a little more intimate.

Canon 580ex II Flash
Not much to say about this piece of gear, just that it performs as advertised, consistently ever time.

^Vivitar 285hv (2)
These ridiculously cheap flashes once were the backbone of my off-camera lighting kit. They’re reliable and packable, but made rather cheaply. They allow me to add another dimension to reception lighting or a little punch of light during the couples portraits when needed. They can be hidden in the smallest of places. It’s nice to have these tools in my bag.

^Elinchrom Quadra Ranger
The most powerful light in my kit, the Quadra bridges the gap between small speedlights and studio strobes. It insures that I can light just about any situation I could find myself in over the course of a wedding day or other assignment, and it’s still small enough to pack in my bag. It’s completely battery powered like the speedlights, but is rated over 4 times as powerful as my Canon 580 exII. It makes it easy to kill the ambient light in just about any situation, including some of the brightest portions of the day.

^Pocketwizard (5)
The under-appreciated tool. These guys are more expensive than their off-brand counterparts, but they always work. Always. If a flash isn’t firing, it’s the cord or the flash(or me!), never these guys. The pocketwizards connect my camera to the flashes placed around the reception hall, or to light the subject during portraits, and they provide the necessary link to firing those flashes. They also allow me to hide a camera (and fire it remotely from my other camera) where a person would be distracting, say, behind the priest during a ceremony.

^ LitePanels Micro LED Video Light
This tiny light allows me to throw a little splash of light into a scene in a “what you see is what you get” kind of way. A lot of times I’ll approach the bride and groom later in the evening after dinner has started to see if they’d be up for taking a few more images outside. Most times I’ll bring just this light or maybe this light and a small speed light to light the scene.

No photographer’s gear bag would be complete without all the little extras that come along with doing what we do. Gaffers tape, random connectors, batteries, business cards, iPad camera connector kit, flashlight, ball bungees, A-clamps, color gel kits (for changing the white balance of a flash), and so on. It’s all in the name of being prepared for anything that this job can throw at you.

What IS my bag?
My current main bag is a Think Tank Airport International rolling bag which gets me in and out of most spots I’ll find myself working. Occasionally I’ll pull out my old LowePro MiniTrekker backpack for a smaller kit that’s far more portable. For engagement sessions and other times where I only need one camera body and a couple of lenses, (with cards and extra batteries) I’ll open my Think Tank Retrospective Lens Changer 3 for a shoulder bag that is super portable and comfortable for long walking trips.

If you have any questions on any of the gear I carry with me – please leave a comment below!

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