Hi, my name is Van Middleton and I’m a wedding photographer based out of Byron Bay, Australia. I’ve always loved taking photos, so it was a natural progression for me to move into wedding photography. I started out cheap and gradually built my kit bag, portfolio and base rate. Now I’m shooting a good number of weddings where I live, and taking on more and more commissions overseas.
My kit list is long, but most of what I take to weddings stays in my Lowpro Pro Runner 450 AW backpack or (in the case of lightstands and tripod etc) in a duffle bag in my car. 95% of the time, I exist with 2 camera bodies and 2 lenses – my ever-reliable Canon 5D Mark 3’s and my Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and Canon 85mm f/1.2 II, attached to my body with a Spider Pro dual camera system. I have a Domke F-803 in the post. The more weddings I shoot, the less gear I use.
Occasionally I do water shoots, especially when I shoot in Fiji. For this purpose, I use the Aquatech Elite 5D3 system, which can fit my Canon 5D Mark 3 and either my Canon 24mm f/1.4, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 or Canon 85mm f/1.2. I also use a pair of Voit Duckfeet flippers, because drowning isn’t fun.
Below is a list of my gear and my thoughts on each item. I’ve separated my list into my important every-day stuff (first part) and the rest of the gear (reception and night shots) second.
2 x Canon 5D Mark 3 : A workhorse camera body, miles ahead of the Mark 2. Reliable AF system, metering and great low-light capabilities. Beautifully rendered LCD screen. Tough and durable. Has been great for what I’ve needed in the past, but starting to look dated against Nikon’s latest offerings. If the next generation of canon bodies doesn’t improve dynamic range, I’ll be making a move to Nikon.
Canon 85mm f/1.2 II : A truly beautiful lens. Slow to focus and heavy, but good contrast, beautiful bokeh, and tack-sharp even at 1.2. No other lens has the ability to make me smile so often.
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art : A great lens, sharp and fast, easily better than the Canon 35mm in the same class, and much cheaper. Perfect for partnering the 85 1.2.
Spider Pro dual camera system : I used to use those awkward shoulder-strap things, but these belt holsters really are a step up. Comfortable, practical and tough.
Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 Tilt Shift : great lens for changing things up a bit occasionally. Requires some practice & restraint, but in the right situations can help create beautiful images.
Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro: useful for detail shots and other weird and wonderful macro captures. Produces beautiful images.
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 II: Great for rocking dance-floor shots, for shooting in cramped places, and for getting really up-close personal and fun candid images. Not a big fan for other situations.
Canon 135mm f/2.0 : People rave about this lens, but it doesn’t stand up to the 85 1.2 for sheer optics, contrast and bokeh, IMHO. Useful for low-light churches and when you really need extra range. I almost never use it.
Canon extender 2x III : In case I really, really need the extra range. Will turn my 135mm into a slow 270mm. Never used it.
2 x Canon 600 EX-RT speedlights : great flashes, with built-in radio wireless transmission and awesome swivel heads. Tough.
Yongnuo YN-E3-RT trigger and Canon ST-E3-RT trigger : Both great triggers with good range and non-line-of-sight triggering. The Yongnuo wins because it has an AF-beam (slightly wonky) and is much cheaper. Why the Canon ST-E3-RT trigger doesn’t have one is anyone’s guess. Listening Canon?
Manfrotto 128RC tripod : Essential for long exposures, this thing is amazingly tough. I’ve had it for 5 years and have treated it atrociously. Regularly stands in sea-water, gets covered in sand, is dropped and thrown around, yet remains reliably functional. Possibly couldn’t damage it if I tried to. Doubles as a great deterrent when to the car with camera gear and wedding images after a late-night reception in a dodgy neighborhood.
Flash grid : keep that flash beam direct and focused. Good for backlighting when you don’t want spill.
F-Stoppers flash-disc : a good portable modifier for people who don’t use modifiers much. Easy, compact, useful, a bit too expensive.
Remote Switch : long-exposure switch, so you don’t knock the camera while the shutter is open. Useful for long-exposures.
Torch : Because it’s not easy focusing in the dark. Sometimes I do arty outside speedlight shots and the torch comes in hand getting there and getting focus.
Yongnuo YN1410 LED light : sometimes it’s nice to have a continuous light option. Not really enough power for some backlighting options, and the shape is awkward for that sort of work, but can be helpful for adding a bit of fill light and/or for lending to forgetful videographers and photobooth people, or in the event of a flash malfunction.
Canon LP-E6 batteries : Skip the fakes and get the real ones. Much longer battery life. These guys last me a whole 9 hour wedding with power to spare. Carry 2 extras just in case.
Eneloop rechargeable AA batteries. These guys are perfect for speedlights, triggers and LEDs. Maintain base charge range even after a year or two of use.
4 x 32 GB Sandisk Extreme 60 MB/s CF cards. Some people prefer to use smaller CF data cards (i.e., 8GBs) just in case they fail, but this doesn’t make any sense to me. More cards multiplies the chances of a faulty one, and increases the chances of losing and/accidentally formatting one. The canon Mark 3s have dual card slots as well, which I use with SD cards for instant JPEG backup of every shot I take.
2 x 32 GB Sandisk Extreme 45 MB/s SD cards. For dual card slot JPEG backups.
2 x Manfrotto 175F clamps : great little tool for fixing a flash to a wall or light bracket or light stand (or pretty much anything else). Useful at receptions when you need a touch more ambient light – just one or two up high, aimed at the wall or ceiling, and turn down the trigger.
Cheap light stand : useful for putting behind couples for backlit shots and/or for mounting flashes near the walls of a reception when it’s dark and there is nothing to fix a 175F clamp to.
Canon EOS-300 film camera : My camera of choice 15 years ago. Still pull it out every now and then to shoot a bit of film, especially expired black and white stock.