Does gear matter?
At multiple times throughout the beginning of our careers, we’ve asked ourselves: Does gear matter? This is an age-old question that continues to be debated by amateurs and pros alike. You see it plastered over youtube, twitter, and forums.Within the wedding industry, the gear you use has a profound effect on the finished product you’re going to deliver. We at Elk + Elm believe that for a new photographer, gear doesn’t matter, but for a professional, it does. So here’s what has proven as the best gear for our wedding photography.
What to look for
Okay, so you’ve classified yourself as a professional photographer and people pay you to take photos. When considering what to look for in your kit, it’s important to understand your subjects and how your gear can help you achieve your vision. Weddings are a one-time event for the couple so it’s important that your gear doesn’t hinder your ability to capture moments. This applies not only to lenses but also to your other accessories (tripods, light mods/stands, etc.). Here’s what we have in our kits and why:
Sony A7RIII / A7III
24mm / 35mm Prime
85mm / 135mm Prime
A simple gear list speeds up workflow and makes us as efficient as possible. The great thing about the newer Sony mirrorless line is their ability to go into crop mode and it doubles your effective focal lengths without having to swap lenses! Not having to swap means you’re less likely to miss a shot. However, some might argue that cropping will cut your image quality, but it’s really only cutting your resolution, which is where using the A7RIII (and soon, the A7RIV!) really has its advantages thanks to its 42MP sensor. Even with the smaller 24MP sensor on the A7III, cropped photos still come out very nice. Unless you’re planning on blowing up photos to fit the length of a billboard, you can trade resolution for a better composed, more captivating image.
The 24/28/35 will take care of 90% of the wider, more journalistic shots. If you like to push the boundary with those slightly distorted wide shots, the 24mm might be a better pick since cropping will put you right at an effective length of 35. If you want a more natural-looking frame, the 35mm does an amazing job, not to mention the effective ~50mm when cropped (A 35 and nifty fifty in one lens!) All of these wider lengths (both actual and effective) give a great sense of the environment and are great selections for really incorporating the scene with your subjects.
When you really want to isolate your subjects, its time to shoot longer. The 85 and 135 are PHENOMENAL portrait lenses and thanks to the compression/bokeh, you can really make your subjects stand out. These are great for capturing those intimate moments from a distance, or for getting rid of any busy backgrounds/environments. Additionally, the compression, wider max aperture, and shallower depth of field help you control where you want the audience to look.
The macro is listed pretty much exclusively for shooting the details during prep. You can capture an amazing amount of detail thanks to the short minimum focusing distance. This is great for seeing the texture and colors of jewelry, clothing, and accessories.
The primary is usually the more experienced photographer and will take point for the day. They will be focused on really crafting those artistic images, so the image quality of prime lenses is a must.
Sony A7RIII / A7III
24-70mm 2.8 Zoom
70-200mm 2.8 Zoom
The 2nd shooter’s job is a bit simpler. They are the backup and an additional pair of eyes for the primary. Any images shot by the secondary should facilitate the storytelling, not tell an entirely different story. Shoot the silly candid moments and get the other angles that the primary might not think to get. In some cases, you might be asked to take point while the primary works with other people, so understand how your primary thinks!
For the lenses of choice, we went with the classic pairing of the 24-70 and 70-200. Having the versatility to shoot very wide and up close at any time notice is invaluable for capturing those brief yet emotional moments. Epic dance battle on the dance floor? Got it covered. Bride’s parents having a moment together on the other side of the venue? No problem. Anything and everything can be shot within this focal range. Although people argue that primes have better image quality (we believe so too), that doesn’t mean you can’t get some AMAZING images out of a zoom lens.
Godox AD200 / V860 with Xpro transmitter
Yongnuo 300-III (for constant lighting)
At Elk + Elm, we lean towards a more cinematic and dramatic style and often like to accent our available light with off-camera flash. Being able to fully control a light source allows us to creatively use light and tell the stories of our beautiful couples.
For flashes, we wholeheartedly love the Godox (also branded Flashpoint) system. The V860 can be used on/off camera, while the AD200 packs a whopping 200W/s in a very compact size. All of which can be controlled remotely via another flash in the system or the Xpro transmitter (it even has an LCD screen to see all your settings at a glance).
We like to pair these killer flashes with the MagMod system. If you don’t know what these are, we suggest you check it out. We have never had a flash modifier system that works so quickly and seamlessly like MagMod. Our go-to “light on a stick” setup is to give our assistant a monopod paired with a bracket that holds 2 flashes with MagMods on them. With this setup, both the primary and secondary have their own independent flashes. The MagMods are extremely lightweight and easy to store/carry. Oh, and since they use magnets, they stick to the monopod (or other metal surfaces) for easy access, how awesome!
If you’re looking for a good constant light source, we have gotten great use out of the Yongnuo 600L. They are perfect for creating clean light during indoor ceremonies, where strobes would be distracting. This has the option of a variable color temp and power. Having a constant light source is a great option when you need to be less distracting during a ceremony or to help out any videographers that you might be working with.
For light stands and tripods, pretty much anything will do the job. You definitely won’t need something crazy heavy/sturdy, just go for easy to use and relatively lightweight. Same goes for light stands, although you might want to invest in something sturdier if you shoot with off-camera flash solo. We decided to mention CheetahStands since they fold in/out without having to unscrew a locking bolt. Can you tell we like gear that speeds up our workflow?
We would love to hear more about your photography business and see how we can help. Reach out to us here, we look forward to hearing from you!
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