Welcome to my minimalist wedding photography gear checklist. I hope this blog post provides you with useful information as you start venturing into the world of wedding photography. I answer a lot of FAQs below as well as give you an inside look on what’s in my camera bag (and the essentials you’ll need when getting started). Since become a wedding photographer can be a huge upfront investment I recommend renting first from companies like Borrowed Lenses or Lens Rentals (or finding your local business like Boston Photo Rental). Most photographers I know also took out a loan initially when building their wedding photography kit so you can also check out your options locally (I had gone through Sharon Credit Union years ago).
*Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission (which helps me continue to pursue my dreams as a small business owner).
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR ESSENTIALS:
Here is my minimalist wedding gear recommendations for the bare minimum as you get started in the world wedding photography: 1 camera harness, 1 rolling camera suitcase, two full frame dslr camera bodies or mirrorless bodies that have two memory card slots so you can back up one to another, 3 lenses (start with a 50mm lens, then a 35mm lens or 24-70 lens for wide angles, and then select the 85mm lens or 70-200 lens for portraiture) as well as 3 flashes (two for each camera body and one as backup), memory cards, and batteries.
MY PERSONAL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR LIST
MY CAMERA BAGS & HARNESS
Think Tank Airport International V3 Carry On I use this on wedding days and when I’m traveling!
Kamrette Black Lyra Backpack I use this for all my couple sessions when I don’t need to bring lighting gear.
HoldFast Gear Money Maker Bridle Skinny 2 Camera Harness (Chestnut, Small)
MY DSLR CAMERA BODIES
I use the Nikon D4s (replaced my Nikon D750) and the Nikon D810.
I had bought the Sony A7iii and used it for a little over the year, but didn’t love the colors. Currently I’ve been renting and comparing the Canon R5 vs the Sony A7 RV – with the Sony A7 RV being the winner so far. Before becoming a professional photographer I started out with the Canon T3 Rebel so as you can see above I am not a brand loyalist by any means having purchased from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Sigma and Tamron. You are an artist and the camera you use is merely a tool so there is no “best” camera to get- it’s which one you love photographing with! I am a huge advocate for renting gear first before making a purchase. If you want to second shoot for a wedding photographer or you see this as a future career most will just recommend you get a full frame camera (dslr or mirrorless).
MY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY LENSES
Nikon 70-200 f/2.8E FL ED I didn’t buy the Vibration Reduction (VR) but I believe they only make that kind now!
Tamron 35mm 1.4 (I used to own the Nikon 24-70 2.8 -at the time they didn’t have the vibration reduction one), but upgraded to a prime lens) I also tried the Sigma 35mm 1.4 but didn’t think it was sharp enough!
FLASHES & LIGHTING GEAR:
Mag Mod: They changed their package structure so the bundle I bought is a little different from the ones they offer now. I essentially own two sets of the Mag Mod Professional Flash Kit 2. I primarily use the MagGrip 2 and MagGrid 2 which is placed on two of my flashes for off camera flash work during receptions. Occassially I’ll use the MagSphere 2.
Manfrotto Alu Master Air-Cushioned Stand (Black, 12′) I have two of these for off camera flash work, but you definitely don’t need to get the 12′. If I was to do it again I’d get a shorter one!
Flashpoint Zoom Li-ion R2 TTL On-Camera Flash Speedlight for Nikon (V860II-N) I have 4 of these!
Lighting Stand Bag for Wedding Photography- Hensel 44″ Padded Soft Bag – for Light Stands up to 43″ Long
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY STYLING KIT AND ACCESSORIES
I have seen so many wedding photographers use the Chasing Stone Styling Board so I’m pumped to bring them along this wedding season. It’s an easy way to up-level your gorgeous detail photos especially if the getting ready space isn’t the prettiest (I’m looking at you orange hotel carpets). It’s so great to put my mind at ease and know that no matter where I’m photographing the couple will get an amazing looking flat lay design highlighting their precious heirlooms. I chose the Santorini styling board, but definitely see myself purchasing even more in the future!
Polaroid Optics 67mm 4-Piece Filter kit Set for Close-Up Macro Photography; Includes +1, +2, +4 & +10 Diopter Filters & Nylon Carry Case – Compatible w/ All Popular Camera Lens Models Save yourself $1500 and purchase a macro filter over a macro lens!
Ribbon for wedding flat lay designs: Etsy shop owner AnastasiaMarieShop and the wooden spool for the ribbon.
I purchased two ring boxes from these artists on Etsy: FLORENCEBOX and VitaminLove
Since I have a few different camera bodies and each has two memory card slots I have a variety of memory cards on hand in my bag. I’ve got San Disk Extreme Pro 64GB 160 MB/s CF Memory Cards (for my Nikon D4s and D810), so many San Disk Extreme Pro 64 GB170 MB/s Memory cards (for my Nikon D810), and Sony XQD 64GB Memory Cards (for my Nikon D4s). I keep all my 64GB memory cards safe in my Pelican Memory Card Case.
Wolfwise Pop Up Changing Tent My couples think this is the coolest thing I own! This changing tent is perfect for sessions when a couple is changing outfits half way through and there isn’t a public restroom close by or walking back and worth would eat up a chunk of time. It’s light weight and has straps so I just sling it around my shoulder when I know a couple is changing outfits. I’ve brought this everywhere from downtown Boston to a mountain summit in New Hampshire.
“Champagne” Pop that is Leave No Trace friendly in fragile environments: Saratoga Sparkling Spring Water Carbonated, 28 Fl Oz (Pack of 12) or Saratoga Sparkling Spring Water, 12oz Cobalt Blue Glass Bottle (Pack of 6, Total of 72 Fl Oz). So next time you are on the beach or in the mountains skip the champagne and grab the sparking carbonated water!
Seagate Hard Drive 4TB or 5TB – I typically purchase a 4 or 5TB hard drive each year to hold all my photography work in a given year (some of you may need less space and some may need more) Everyone has their own experiences with hard drives. Lots of people love LaCie, but I’ve had two of their drives crash on me so I switched over to Seagate and I’ve never had an issue. Also a really fun money saving hack if you use Adobe Lightroom for editing- if you buy one of their hard drives you get a month or two credit with Adobe Lightroom so you don’t have to buy for your Adobe subscription those months.
HOW DO WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS CARRY THEIR GEAR?
It’s true as wedding photographers we have to carry a lot of gear throughout the day! I love my Think Tank Airport International V3 Carry On rolling suitcase since it holds my two camera bodies, my four lenses, four flashes, my mag grids, batteries, memory cards, etc! This holds all my essential gear on wedding day and then I have my flash stands in my Hensel 44″ Padded Soft Bag which I drop off at the reception area if I can earlier in the day. Lots of times I’ll leave it in a recommended closet or place it behind the dj or band set-up!
DO I NEED AN EXTERNAL FLASH FOR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY?
Yes! As a professional wedding photographer you will always need to know how to use flash any time you are in a low lit situation such as a dark getting ready space, the reception area, or night portraits. If you are starting out I suggest getting 3 flashes- one for each of your camera bodies and then one as a backup. You don’t need to know what’s called “off camera flash” straight out of the gate as a wedding photographer. Many times it will be 100% ok to use an external flash on your camera and bounce the light. If you do decide to learn more off camera flash techniques this is another area where you can eventually increase your prices due to the knowledge of this skill set. When I was first learning flash techniques I took a private lesson at Boston Photography Workshops.
WHY DO WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS HAVE TWO CAMERAS?
Wedding photographers have two cameras for two reasons. The first is we own two cameras in order for one to act as back-up should anything go wrong with your main camera on wedding day. Secondly, having two cameras (typically on a harness set up) allows wedding photographers to quickly take shots on each camera from various vantage points. For example I can quickly take a wide angle photo of a ceremony with a 35mm lens and then quickly grab my other camera with my 70-200 lens to take an extreme close up of the bride or groom’s reaction. If you are looking to be hired by a wedding photography company or second shoot for a wedding photographer they will require you to have two full frame dslr or mirrorless cameras.
DO YOU NEED A MACRO LENS FOR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY?
A macros lens is not needed for wedding photography. That being said if you enjoy macro photography, use it in other aspects of your photography work outside of weddings, and want to add this lens to your wedding kit then by all means go for it and you’ll create some gorgeous ring photo imagery.
If you think the only times you’d use a macro lens would be solely for ring photos and close-up details at weddings and nothing else then I highly recommend saving the $1000-$1500 and instead purchasing a macro filter instead (my bank account thanks Lena Mirisola for that top tip).
Find out the thread size of your best lens in your kit and then use this number as the size for your macro filter purchase. I got a 4 pack of macro filters at 67mm for $23 and primarily use the +4 and +10 filters. Here is an example of a photo using a macro filter below!
HOW DO YOU CARRY TWO CAMERAS AT ONCE?
Most wedding photographers use camera harnesses to securely hold their two cameras throughout the day! I use the Holdfast Gear Money Maker Bridle Skinny 2 Camera Harness and feel this is the most popular harness amongst the wedding photographers I’ve worked with. I know the other two favorites are the Spider Holster or a camera harness from Blackrapid.
BEST CAMERA BAG FOR TRAVEL
My all time favorite camera bag for travel and rolling suitcase for wedding photography is hands down the Think Tank Airport International V3 Carry On. Basically every wedding photographer I worked with when I was starting had this bag and I’ve been in love with it since they day I purchased it. It holds everything I need on a wedding day and saves my back from carrying any extra weight.
I also travel a lot and do a number of destination weddings domestically in the United States and Internationally in Europe. I have never had an issue bringing this on as a carry-on when flying with various airlines which was huge for me. Plus if you get this bag and you travel as well you don’t need to purchase another camera bag since this one is made for flying, is greatly cushioned inside, and has a locking system if needed. This bag has also fit in hotel and hostel lockers abroad!
BEST CAMERA BACKPACK FOR PORTRAIT & ENGAGEMENT SESSIONS
I’m absolutely obsessed with my Kamrette Black Lyra Backpack for engagement sessions and couple sessions. This backpack is perfect for those that won’t need any lighting equipment on them. I use this backpack for photographing engagement sessions whether I’m in the city, on a beach, or in the mountains. It definitely has ample amount of space and I love that it has a few pockets! Inside mine you’ll find the following: Pelican Memory Card Holder, memory cards, extra batteries, lens cloth, my two camera bodies, and 3 lenses (50mm, 85mm, and 35mm).
ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS RESOURCES
If you enjoyed learning about my wedding photography gear and want to learn more about the apps and programs I use in the backend of my business such as website hosts, Tailwind, client management systems like Honeybook, contracts etc. you can find all that information here on my blog post on Photography Business Resources.