Okay, so it’s gear talk again today. And yes, it’s one of those cliche “whats in my bag” posts. But, I really do need to stress, this is not a gear review. I’m not going into image samples, no 100% crops to show how amazing the mega pickles are, or to examine coma, chromatic aberration etc…. If you want that, go check out one of the blogs that has heaps of photos of brick walls. I don’t have time for that stuff, I’m a full time working wedding photographer, which means I spend 10% of my time taking pictures, the other 90% editing, retouching, printing, designing albums, doing web design/maintenance, budgeting, marketing, meeting clients etc etc etc.. no time to photograph brick walls here.
So, my main gig is wedding photography. Now I’m not a photographer that shoots 10,000 frames per wedding and does 50+ weddings a year.. thats just crazy. I cap my wedding numbers, and there has to be a very good reason to go over 30 each year. But thats a story for another day. But shooting 20-30 weddings a year, and not being a spray and pray shooter places certain demands on me and my equipment, so I have gradually over the last 5 years found a kit that will get the job done every time, and that I can trust 100%. I know that I’m good for a long day, and have the necessary backups to cover any mishaps. Now this post is titled “Whats in my bag- Primary wedding kit”… does that mean I have a secondary wedding kit? Why have a secondary kit? and why isn’t it included here? well I will explain as I go. My secondary kit is currently in flux.
So, on my average wedding over the last 2 years, this has been the kit that I pack. Most rolls with me all day, some stays in my car for the random situations that may arise. My main kit is kept in 2 bags.
Bag 1- Cameras and Lenses
For most weddings, this is my Think Tank Airport Navigator Rolling bag. It fits a tonne, and has super quick access… a necessity for the mayhem of your average wedding.
In it I carry:
Nikon D850- This is my workhorse. It has to be one of the most all round capable cameras that I have ever used. To be honest, I spend most of the day shooting it in its medium resolution mode, as 24mp is more that enough for most photos, but I do quickly pop it over into high res (45.7 mp) for the portraits and hero shots. There are more reasons to love this camera than I have space to go into here, suffice to say this is an amazing and super reliable piece of kit. I shoot 70% of the day on this.
Nikon D810- Old faithful. Not as fancy as its younger brother, but just solid and reliable. Runs with a lens on it ready to go, and at times will be shot side by side, photo for photo with my 850 to give a different focal length and perspective.
Nikon 14-24 2.8- Ok.. this generally stays in my bag. Probably comes out for half a dozen shots each wedding.. I’m just not an Ultra Wide angle guy. In fact, I really don’t like zooms. But thats a topic for another day. I use this for scene setting shots, the occasional super big dramatic shot, or stuff like shots looking down a stairwell.
Nikon 24-70 2.8- This is the mainstay of any wedding photographers bag. probably gets the most use all day as it is covers that standard focal length range. Its a great lens, and some would say a must have. I can’t fault it at all. It gets the job done.
Nikon 70-200 2.8- Out of all the zooms, this is my favourite. If you have the space to move, this can be used for full length portraits, or tight crops of the couples entwined hands… At 200mm the compression is wonderful, and the out of focus rendering (bokeh) is so smooth and soft. If I replaced everything gels with primes, I would still keep this.
Nikon 58 1.4- Now this is a unique little beastie. If you aren’t familiar with tis lens, the first thing you will ask is why the 58 and and not 50? Well Nikon had their reasons for producing this lens, and in all honesty, I dont think it replaces a 50 prime, in fact I am planning on adding one of those soon, it has its own purpose. You CAN use it for the shots that you would use a standard 50, but you need to understand the quirks and idiosyncrasies of this thing first. To start with, wide open its soft. but nice soft.. smooth soft… dreamy soft. It does lend itself well to dreamy bright high key portraits of the bride. But not so much detail shots, as the softness becomes a distraction. Stop it down to f2-f2.8 and it somehow still seems to maintain an impossibly shallow DOF, but becomes nice and sharp. The focus fall off is smooth and unlike a normal 50 1.4, so you end up with portraits with a much greater 3 dimensional feel… I love this lens, but sometimes hate it. Its unforgiving and requires you to think, or your shots start to look blurry in a bad way.
Nikon 105 1.4- Yeah.. this is the shizzle my dizzle. So sharp, such shallow DOF, in a 105mm focal length. I always smile as I grab this from my bag, as I know its going to deliver the goods. I know the images are going to be sharp, with beautiful compression, and just be WOW.
6 stop ND filter- For the 105… for the times the sun is just too bright for wide open aperture and I want a bit of flash. (HSS doesn’t always cut it)
3 Spare Batteries- Heres the thing… Nikon DSLR battery life is seriously good. I have actually NEVER needed to put a spare in one of my cameras at a wedding (vastly different to the 10 batteries I would go through shooting fuji) But , you just never know, so I have 3 spares charged and ready in my Think Tank DSLR battery holder 4
Spare Memory Cards- I’m not a spray and pray shooter, I probably top out at 1500 images total for a 12 hour wedding, so I rarely need to switch cards due to filling them up. I have however had cards fail at weddings. So I keep spares. Blank formatted cards live in the blue Pocket Rocket holder, used or failed live in the red. I also dont reformat or reuse cards from a wedding until its delivered to the client, so this means I need to have 3-4 sets per camera.
Peak Design Straps x2- (possibly changing). I’ve got a post coming up about straps. Some I love, some I hate. For the most part, to avoid a pain filled Sunday, I try not to have my cameras hanging off my shoulders or neck at all. But there are times I need them (ceremony) so I use the Peak Design Slide straps as I can clip them off/off super fast.
Bag 2- Speedlights
Think Tank Retrospective 30. Its blue… kinda like the TARDIS. somehow bigger on the inside than the outside like the TARDIS. you just keep jamming stuff in and it fits. The guys at Think Tank are either working with inter dimensional technology, or some dark magic. I don’t want to know more, I just accept that it is.
It currently carries:
3 x Cactus RF60 Speedlights- These are multi brand cross TTL and HSS capable flashes. I used to have 4, but killed one recently. Good reliable units. What more can I say?
2x Nikon SB-5000 Speedlights- My main flashes. Using the Nikon CLS gives me excellent control, and these are fantastic units.
1x Nikon SB-910 Speedlight- Backup/ party flash.. The only one I put in the hotshoe (ever), mainly for dance floor/party time shots. Never used when I am counting on my flash every shot as it tends to overheat quickly.
Cactus V6ii trigger- You need to be able to trigger those cactus wirelessly. again, multibrand. Also can be used with a second to trigger my Nikon flashes (just killed my second trigger/receiver)
Nikon WR-10 transmitter module- tiny little antenna thingy that plugs int the D850 to fire the SB-5000’s. Sio small I am terrified of losing it, and also pretty fragile, so I dont leave it on the camera when I’m not using it, as they are currently hard to replace. Ione thing I did discover at a wedding recently is that is more susceptible to interference tan my cactus radio system, as the moment the wedding singer turned on all his wireless in ear monitors and guitar connections, it started misfiring… Not thrilled with that. Luckily I had backups.
Mag Mod Magsphere- Round. Opaque. Vomits light in all directions.. use with caution, but when used right can be quite a versatile tool.
MagMod Snoot- Used infrequently for detail shots mainly
Mag Mod Gel wallet- full of correction and effects gels.
4x Mag Mod Grids- These get heaps of use. I like controlled lighting, and these do that nicely and thanks to the MagMod system are super fast to switch around.
3x Mag Mod Gel holders- How you hold your gels on the flash… no velcro any more!
12x AA eneloop batteries- Because when you dont want them to, batteries go flat.
1x Speedlight foot thingy- Just in case I need torpor a flash up somewhere a stand won’t fit.
Sticky Dots- Used to hold small details in place for shots… rings, jewellery etc.
4x Ziplock Plastic bags- When it rains, flashes get wet and die… Stick a ziplock bag over them and keep firing.
…..plus the rain cover and it STILL has space left for odds and ends.
The other bits
So I also take a few other bits that don’t fit in my bags, and may or may not see use on any given day.
Mag Mod Magbox- I backed the kickstarter for this, it replaces my old X-lite shallow umbrella octa. Is it better? light is light. Is it faster to use? yes, only because of the magmod system. save 30 seconds setting up and packing down… its just more convenient and less fiddly. The light is no better.
4x Kupo Click stands- medium size lightweight stands that clip together making them easier to carry around. Quality is not amazing… as soon as drunk guest Fred knocks one over, you get a slightly bent stand which will forever be hard to extend/retract. But that’s likely with any stand that isn’t a C-stand.
2x Monopod/boom- One in the car as a backup, one in the mag box case for my assistant to use holding the mag box.
Reflector- 5 in 1 Omega round reflector. Used rarely, but has that super handy hole that I could have cut myself, but buying one with it was easier and is more durable…..
Icelight- Used occasionally when I need a little more light but not a flash.
Tripod- Family group photos mainly, to ensure consistent framing. Also comes out after dark for nighttime shots when I will be running low shutter speeds.
So that, is it, thats what I have been taking to pretty much every wedding over the last few years… I did used to have a nIkon D750 as a third body backup, but parted with that to make room for something a bit different in the lightweight wedding kit that I am currently building… for the weddings that I am solo, and don’t need the whole kit and caboodle, or the days of back pain afterwards…. but thats a whole other post…