It’s been almost 3 years since I launched Shotkit so I thought it was about time to submit my own kit. Luckily, I got accepted!! :p
I’ve been a full time wedding photographer for just over a year now, having shot weddings alongside a desk job for a few years prior to that. I shoot mainly in Sydney where I’ve been living for the past 7 years (I’m originally from the UK), with several destination weddings coming up around the world next year. I also do the occasional non-wedding related project, such as this one about the arrival of our second son.
Having access to a seemingly infinite amount of alluring photography gear via my work with this site, you’ll probably be disappointed to hear that my own camera bag isn’t the treasure trove most would expect.
I admit that I do go through the same torturous “wow look at that picture… I need that lens/camera/gadget/photographer’s brain…” as every other gear loving photographer out there, but somehow I’ve managed to resist the temptation to turn my camera bag into an arsenal of unnecessary glass and electronics.
I’ve bought and sold more camera gear than I care to admit, but have finally reached a set up that I’m happy with… for now at least.
Just to make things a little more interesting, I’ve decided to show you exactly how I pack for a destination wedding. 4 days, 2 carry-on bags with 7kg limits? Challenge accepted!
The Camera Bag
I’ve handled a hell of a lot of camera bags in my time. The search for that elusive perfect camera bag is still on, but for the time being, I’m happy with the Think Tank Airport Take Off.
As well as being rugged, on wheels and not too offensive to look at, I also like the way the Take Off allows me to store all my gear at home in a relatively organised state. It features backpack straps, which I use when I travel via my maxi-scooter—a heavily modified Japanese thing I brought over with me when I left Tokyo to come and live here. Suitable for weddings? Definitely not. Fun to ride? Definitely!
There are many great looking, some might say hipster camera bags on the market, and several I’ve personally reviewed on this site. As awesome as they look, you’re usually sacrificing functionality or weight for style. I’ve come to learn that most of the time, a boring-but-functional Think Tank product is best.
Nikon D750 x2 – the picture quality is great, but the main reason I use the Nikon D750 is the flip-out screen. I find myself using it throughout the wedding day, despite the frustratingly slow focal point movement.
The Live View speed sucks too. If mirrorless cameras could match the usability of dSLRs, I’d happily switch just for the sake of having an EVF.
Fuji X100S – not pictured here as I leant it to my wife. I have a love/hate relationship with this bastard of a camera. I love the image quality, in particular the tones which I find even better than my D750. On the other hand, I hate it because the autofocus is utter crap. Trying to shoot anything moving is a very frustrating experience, and has made me contemplate selling it on many occasions.
I never will though. The colours SOOC are just too good – it’s the only camera I’m comfortable to shoot only JPEGs.
Not specific to the Fuji X100s, but I love how this camera forces me to slow down and concentrate on composition/lighting more, since capturing decisive moments is just too hard. I also like the fact that I can’t change the lens – the fewer options the better, and the fixed 23mm f/2 lens on this thing is Fuji’s finest.[Update 2018 – I’ve upgraded to the Fuji X100F, which I think is the best mirrorless camera for travel for my needs at the moment.]
Nikon 35mm f/1.4 – no introduction needed. It’s a solid all-rounder, and shot wide open offers that certain something that’s hard to pin down. I love the natural vignette, and could quite happily shoot an entire wedding with just this lens.
Nikon 85mm f/1.4 – the only reason I own this is because I need something a little longer that can be used in very low light. I use it for about 5% of the wedding day, in the church or at reception during speeches.
It’s not very sharp wide open, but stopping it down is where it becomes really impressive. When you own a fast prime, it’s easy to forget that you can shoot it with smaller apertures. Have a go at underexposing at around f/5 with this lens – it’s incredible sharp, and the contrast is amazing.
Other lenses – I also own a few other lenses but hardly ever use them so didn’t photograph them. The only ones worth mentioning is the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G, a gem of a lightweight lens which I bought for traveling and reviewed here.
Oh and the Nikon 20mm f/2.8D, simply because it’s a small and lightweight wide angle lens for Nikon. I use it very rarely but is invaluable for those odd instances where I can’t stand back far enough to fit everything in with the 35mm.
Nikon SB-700 x 2 – nothing to say about these really. A flash is a flash. On one of them I permanently attach a Magmod grid with a half CTO gel which I use on the dance-floor for a harsh vignetted direct-flash look. The gel takes a bit of the flashy edge off it by warming up the subject.
On the other flash I have a ball bungee attached to strap it to a chair leg or small child, a trigger and a mini stand. I keep it like this in my bag like a light-grenade, ready to deploy whenever I can be bothered.
YongNuo 622 Triggers – just like Sex Panther, these bad boys work 60% of the time, every time! I don’t really care though since I don’t use off-camera flash enough to warrant buying anything better. Maybe when I gain more confidence with OCF I’ll invest in something else.
Neewer CN-160 LED Panel – I keep forgetting to use this for night portraits, but it’s always much easier to pull off than OCF. I love wysiwyg photography – EVFs, continuous light… I think I’m getting lazy.
The MoneyMaker – this is the O.G. version which I bought before I met Matt from Holdfast. Since then he’s kindly sent me lots of toys to review, but I’m glad I paid full price for this thing. I get a compliment on it at every wedding, and it does the job of holding two cameras at once without making me look like SWAT enforcement.
That’s it for my camera gear. All I really need is one camera and one lens to shoot a wedding, not because I’m a great photographer, but because I’m actually quite dumb and my pea-sized brain can’t handle too many options…
I’m also a great believer in limiting gear to restrict your options, thus, hopefully enhancing your creativity.
The Carry-On Bag
I’ve put a lot of thought into what to take with me for destination weddings to ensure nothing is ever checked in. There’s something very satisfying about hopping onto my scooter to the airport with 2 bags balanced precariously on the back, knowing that I don’t need to waste my time waiting for checked luggage.
I’ve lost luggage several times on personal trips—once when I was a guest at a wedding in Poland where I had to borrow a hilarious suit 2 sizes too small, and ended up drunk-diving into a fountain… but that’s another story. The point is, I don’t want to risk lost luggage on a paid job.
I also take great pleasure in finding gadgets and gizmos that make my life just that little bit easier—many of them are detailed in this photographer’s gift guide.
The carry-on bag I’ve settled on is the Alchemy 008. I love its understated, lightweight and functional design.
Inside it I keep my clothes as compact as possible using a Muji packing cube. My wedding attire consists of one outfit that I wear to every single wedding, even when I have a triple header. Ministry of Supply shirt and trousers allow me to throw them in the wash at the end of a wedding, hang them up, then have them ready to wear the next day.
I talk a bit more about clothing for photographers in this post, and also give some more tips on attracting clients in More Brides.
The small camo pouch is a Packit freezable sandwich bag, essential for the ridiculously hot Sydney days on which crazy Ozzie brides choose to tie the knot. Above it are Lara Bars, my current favourite way to stave off hunger on the wedding day. A bag of nuts, a foldable water bottle and some greens powder complete my travel nutrition set up!
The grey pouch is a Peak Design Field Pouch which I was sent by the kind folks at PD. It carries my passport, Field Notes, pen, ear plugs and whatever else I want in my seat pocket on the plane.
My 13” Macbook Pro Retina is a nice balance of size/speed, and remains plugged in to a 27” Thunderbolt display whilst at home. I’ll be upgrading to the new MBP and 5K monitor soon.
I edit everything via Lightroom Smart Previews as per this post. When I travel I use the Loop World Adapter plug which has room for USB cables too.
I was sent a WD MyPassport Wireless Pro recently to review. It took me a while to find a use for it, since my workflow doesn’t require anything wireless. I’ve relegated it to a wired Time Machine backup, with the option of streaming the odd movie wirelessly to my iPad whilst traveling. It also replaces my Colorspace UDMA portable HDD as an infield backup solution, albeit a much heavier one.
I have the Velcro tape so I can stick my iPad Mini 4 to the seat in front on a plane, using it as a eye-level display if I want to use my laptop without turning into Quasimodo.
The breath freshener spray makes me feel like I’m a teenager on his first date, but it’s essential at weddings when you’re up close and personal with the clients!
It took me a while to realise using an external SD card reader was quicker than using the inbuilt MacBook one, and this Rocketek USB Card Reader imports two at once via USB 3. I use one 128gb Sandisk Extreme Pro SD card in one slot on the D750 recording RAWs and one 32gb card in the second slot recording JPEGs in case everything goes Pete Tong (…’wrong’, for those who aren’t from the UK!)
I recently invested in a pair of Bose QC35 wireless headphones, which are proving essential for working at home with 2 noisy little ones in the background. They’re expensive but comfortable and excellent quality, plus pair really quickly via Bluetooth to all devices.
I’m still on the look out for the best lightweight tripod, but the one I’m currently using is the Sirui T005KX, which seems to do the job.
Finally, I love my Portable Travel Scales which help me to juggle all this crap between the two bags to keep within the strict carry on limits. If all else fails and I’m caught out, I have been known to hide a couple of heavy items under a seat until after I’ve had my bag weighed at check-in. Whatever it takes, right?!
I don’t like to advocate huge camera gear collections despite the impressive submissions you see here on Shotkit. However, I’m a big believer in new gear refreshing you creatively, often giving you the motivation to get out there and shoot.
Good tools do not a good craftsman make… but they certainly make the job more fun! As for photography and why I do it, someone once said that they take photos to see how things would look as a photo. I guess that sums up my motivation too.
Clicking the shutter and seeing how the present looks frozen in time is still a magical experience for me. I’m just very grateful that people pay me to do it, allowing me to live a life unchained from the shackles of the 9-5 rat race.
Let’s all remain both humble and grateful as professional photographers, remembering each day how lucky we are to earn a living by producing magic out of thin air :-)