What photography gear do I use
What photographic equipment do I use at weddings?
Whether you work as an amateur or professional photographer, the choice for a camera and lenses is a major one because, firstly, the equipment is not cheap and secondly, it's a long term choice. For an amateur, this will be the workhorse that will be used in the coming years and with which you will take awesome photos that will help you capture memories of all the important things in life. For a professional photographer this is even more important, because this camera will take the photos that generate an income. Making the wrong choice therefore has an extremely large impact on personal life.
It is therefore understandable that when you see a nice photo, you want to know which camera it was captured with and how the photo was taken. Nevertheless, it is important to know that the equipment is only one part of the final image. Circumstances, post-processing and especially the photographer himself play a crucial role in the final photo.
These days, we are also lucky that it is difficult to make a bad choice. Cameras are so good these days that even phones can take a cool photo in the right conditions. Because of this it's more about the details that each camera or brand offers that can be a decisive factor in making a decision for the particular gear.
Let me jump right in and tell you what I use to shoot weddings:
- Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8
- Tamron 35mm f/1.4
- Nikon 58mm f/1.4
- Nikon 105mm f/1.4
Strobes and accessoires
- 4x Yongnuo and 1 Nikon strobe
- Remotes to controle the strobes
- Magmod flash tools to control and shape the light
- Tripods, gripping tools, leather camera strap, cleaning set, etc.
For me, choosing this combination of bodies and lenses is a process. This is my setup now, but it can change later. I am constantly developing myself and my photography, which means my gear sometimes might be changed, improved or even downscaled.
In this blog post, I will go into more detail about the choice for my current equipment and explain why I made these choices. My opinion is always personal and therefore it is recommended that if you like my photos, you do not copy my equipment one on one. As I said, the camera is only a small part of the creative process and the equipment must also suit your personal preference and photographic style.
A simple answer:
It was my first choice...
And that may sound crazy, but that's how it really happened because years ago I once made the choice to buy a Nikon DSLR, the Nikon D3100. It was my first serious camera and my workhorse to take all the photos for the fashion blog that my wife was running at the time. It was easy to use, auto mode worked fine, and it took great photos.
When it came time for a new camera, I stayed with Nikon for the simple reason that I was satisfied with the results and I didn't have the money to buy all new lenses. Lenses can sometimes be used with adapters on cameras from other brands, but this often affects the functionality. Also, I was happy with my camera, so why switch to a different brand?
It was through the upgrade that I started to see the value of Nikon's bodies. In this price segment, quality, functionality and ergonomics are really improved compared to the cheaper models and the quality of the brand really stands out. For example, I fell in love with the double dial, both front and rear with which you can quickly adjust settings, the buttons and the placement of them felt much more logical, I saw a dramatic improvement in the autofocus system and the camera generally just felt a lot better in the hand.
The choice for Nikon is a combination of coincidence and personal preference. Coincidence because it happened to be my first choice and personal preference because I was starting to see the value of the features the camera offers, which is not to say that other brands don't offer this functionality. Canon also had excellent bodies with fantastic autofocus and buttons in exactly the right places and although I did not conduct any further research into it, I assume that other brands also offered excellent products.
The camera bodies
In the end I ended up with the Nikon D750 and D850. Both fantastic bodies with their own pros and cons. I will highlight the main points of each camera and explain why they work well in wedding photography.
Sensor (24 MP vs 45 MP)
The D750 has a 24 MP sensor and the D850 a 45 MP sensor. Although the D850 has many more pixels, you will have to take into account that it also means that the photo files will be much larger. This means not only more storage that is needed in the camera, but also on the computer. Also take into account longer times to copy and export the files. The D850 does offer options to also save smaller files, but there are advantages and disadvantages that are described in detail in this article:
I opt for the larger files and deal with the consequences. The big advantage of more MP is of course that you can crop much further without giving away too much resolution and I think this advantage is more important than the disadvantage of the larger files.
Yet the D750 24 MP sensor still holds up extremely well compared to the D850 sensor. It is 3 years older and although the ISO range of the sensor is less extended, it is sometimes even slightly better than the D850 in low light with high ISOs (although the difference is extremely small). This is because the sensor of both cameras is physically the same size, but because there are fewer pixels on the D750, they therefore occupy a larger surface on the sensor and thus also receive more light. In this case, the less Megapixels of the D750 actually work in its favour in low light situations.
This is where the D850 beats the D750. The autofocus system in this camera is simply better. There is a fantastic tracking function in the D850 that makes focusing on moving objects much easier and more precise. In addition, there are more focus points and there are also more 'cross-type' points that are more sensitive. Focusing in low light also simply works a bit better than with the D750. In short, a huge plus for wedding photography because often many moments have to be captured in a very short time.
Here the D850 also beats the D750. There are some useful functions such as focus peaking that make manual focus in live view a lot easier. This is also more convenient during a photo shoot because I simply have the shot I am looking for faster.
Both cameras have a tilting screen, which is really useful. I often shoot close to the ground so I also use this functionality a lot. The better live view function on the D850 is more user-friendly and the screen itself is simply better. It is sharper and also has a touchscreen, which can also be advantageous in some cases, for example to check whether a photo is really sharp by quickly zooming in.
Here the D850 only just wins compared to the D750. There are slightly more buttons in logical places and there is also a joystick to adjust autofocus points. The D750 does not have this joystick. In addition, the buttons just feel a bit more logically placed.
This is where Nikon is always very good at and I think the ergonomics of both cameras are fantastic. The D850 is much larger, which is something I prefer at weddings because in combination with the large lenses it feels a bit better in the hand. The D750, on the other hand, is still fine and, because of its size, also the camera that I bring when travelling
There are a lot of small details in which both cameras differ from each other. For example, the D750 goes no further than 1/4000 shutter speed while the D850 goes up to 1/8000. The D850 has illuminated buttons on the back which can be useful in the dark. They both have 2 card slots, but the D850 has an XQD and an SD slot. XQD is faster, but considerably more expensive and therefore something that must be taken into account. The D750 has a built-in flash, the D850 does not. The viewfinder of the D850 is a bit bigger and brighter, etc. All minor differences, but they can just be the deciding factor to choose one over the other.
And this is where the main difference between the two cameras is felt. The D850 is currently sold for 3100, - and the D750 is sold for only 1229, -. Of course, the D850 also requires investment in the much-expensive XQD cards and is therefore mainly a camera for the professional photographer.
People still have the impression that if they have an expensive camera, there is also a guarantee for good photos. However, the reverse is true! Keep in mind that a more expensive camera also has technically more advanced options compared to the cheaper cameras. The automatic modes that can be found in consumer cameras, for example, are not even present in the D850 and the way in which you operate the camera is also much more complicated. Therefore, make a good decision whether you are ready for that new body. Have you made the most of your current body and will the new body really produce better photos? If so, go for it!
Choosing my collection of lenses has been a long process. When I first started with photography I went for what everyone did, a standard kit lens with an extra zoom lens. While not the best options in terms of quality, they may have been the best options to get started with. Because the lenses let in little light, it can sometimes be a challenge to take a good photo at dusk. Also, taking care of that nice soft blurred background is difficult with these lenses and they challenge you to see how you can still create a certain effect with these tools. Also, aspects such as composition and the anticipation of moments cannot be is an important skill in photography that can only be taught by experience, so better gear will not help here.
After a few years, I thought it was time for an upgrade. I bought a standard f / 2.8 zoom lens (for a crop sensor camera) and an 85 f / 1.8 prime and immediately noticed a huge difference in the quality of my photos. The lenses were a lot sharper and the world of blurred backgrounds became much more accessible. This also brought new challenges, because with the prime lens I could no longer zoom and I suddenly had to start moving for a different point of view. It also became increasingly important to have good control over my focus.
After a while, serious work began. I was already working as a photographer and thought it was necessary to really invest in glass. My next two lenses were the 50mm f / 1.8 and 70-200 f / 2.8. The choice for the 50mm was simple and actually a no brainer due to the fact that it was on sale and only cost 180 at that time. To this day I do not regret this choice. This lens is so much value for money that I actually recommend it to anyone who wants to take a bit more serious photos and wants to upgrade from the standard kit lenses.
However, the 70-200 f / 2.8 is a different story because of its price. Although I bought the Tamron G2 version and thus already saved a lot compared to the original Nikon versions, it was still not cheap, at the time about 1500 euros. I actually bought it for a really bad reason; Because other photographers used it, I wanted it too. And although nothing has lied about this lens in terms of sharpness, speed and functionality, you also know that if you use a lens that almost everyone uses, that it is one factor less in which you can distinguish yourself from other photographers. Don't get me wrong, it's a fantastic lens and I still own it for practical reasons. However, I no longer use it for weddings because it is a lens that no longer suits my style. It's now especially useful when I do commercial assignments.
That brings me to the lenses that I do use for my weddings. There are 4 of them and they all have a specific reason why I use them. Yet they all have one thing in common and that is that they are rarely used lenses in wedding photography.
Yes, a zoom lens, but one that can take a unique photo due to its ultra-wide angle. At 15mm, this lens is at its best and the distortion on the edges really draws the attention to the centre. I really like to use this effect in my portraits and it is also a very useful feature at parties where everyone is extremely close together. The fact that the lens can zoom up to 30mm is a nice bonus, because this way it can also function as a backup for my 35mm lens.
Thanks to the 70-200 f / 2.8 and 15-30 mm f / 2.8, I fell a bit in love with Tamron lenses. Price / quality is really on point with Tamron and rivals famous brand like Sigma. Sigma sells fantastic lenses, but I miss what you can only describe as 'character' in the Art series. And this is something that Tamron has succeeded in with its 35 mm f / 1.4, while it is also one of the technically best 35 mm lenses on the market. Even at f / 1.4 it is extremely sharp, autofocus is super fast and accurate (after fine-tuning on a DSLR) and it simply feels like a tank. The character this lens has is also unique, fantastically beautiful 'bokeh' and a feeling you get when you look at the results that I have never experienced before. The 35mm length is also ideal for weddings because it is very close to how we as humans see the world through our eyes. As a result, photos taken with a 35mm always give you the feeling of really being there.
Character, that's exactly what this lens is all about. And although technically ok, character was the focus when Nikon developed this lens in honor to the old 58mm f / 1.2 'noct' from the 1970s. This lens is now new to me in 2020 and fills the gap between my 35mm and 105mm. I haven't shot weddings with it yet, but because of private use, I can already see why this lens is being praised. It really gives a unique look to the photo because of the blurred background and the way in which sharp blends into a blur.
And if we are talking about unique lenses, the Nikkor 105 f / 1.4 was the first of its kind. Never before had a 105mm f / 1.4 been made for full-frame cameras when this lens came out. In the meantime, Sigma has developed a similar lens, but if your wrists are dear to you, I recommend going for the Nikon version (The Sigma has its own tripod mount, that says enough). Anyway, another unique lens due to the fact that it (now together with Sigma) is the only one of its kind. In addition, it is also extremely good technically and the photos are extremely sharp. Yet it is a lens that you have to learn to deal with, it is still very large and due to the large pieces of glass that it contains, autofocus is not very fast. 105mm is also a focal length that you will have to get used to.
So why these 4 lenses in the end? The answer is simple:
They are unique.
They are not the usual lenses that everyone thinks of when you talk about wedding photography and that is exactly why I do use them. When I talk about my unique style, these lenses are certainly part of it. It may not be the only factor that distinguishes a photographer, but it is one that matters. I also like primes in general because they force you to move around and think about your shot, which in turn also adds to my photographic style.
I do not necessarily recommend these lenses for everybody who reads this, but rather advise you to do your own research. Experiment and see what best suits your style. And if that is a more common lens, then that's just fine. There are many more aspects in which you can distinguish yourself as a photographer.
Strobes and accessoires
Strobes are crucial to be able to take good photos in all circumstances, but they can also be used for creative purposes. As a wedding photographer you are paid to capture the moments in the best possible way and to tell the story of the wedding day. Sometimes present light is really sufficient, but what if it is not? As a photographer, do you settle for bad photos? The answer is no and that is why you will also have to invest in strobes and the time to learn the technique to use them properly.
During the party I always use strobes. With the radio trigger on my camera, I can then fire them externally to make sure I get well-lit photos on the dance floor. But, of course, they can also be used creatively during a portrait shoot and I often even use them during preparations because living rooms in the early morning are simply not beautifully lit.
I chose Yongnuo flash units, they do their job well and are not expensive. And because they are not expensive, I don't mind being a bit more casual with them. For example, I think it's fine to put them on a tripod in the shower, something I not even consider with a flash of 1000, - euro. However, there are plenty of options for flashes and you can hardly go wrong with anything. In addition, I also use the necessary modifiers from Magmod to shape and use the light to my advantage.
And of course the necessary tripods, clamps and a leather strap to which both cameras are attached so that I am always ready to capture unexpected moments that so often occur at weddings.
This is the end of the blog post.
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