I started taking pictures when film cameras were just called cameras, and I used to dream of being a photojournalist or war photographer.
Well, that kinda happened, minus the bullets and the tear gas and the life-threatening injuries.
I used to think that more is more. I once bought the biggest camera bag I could find with the hope of one day filling it up with stuff. Nowadays I’m finally learning that less is more and I try to carry as little as possible. I can only shoot with one camera and one lens at any given time and I try to remind myself of that.
Oh, where are my manners, I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Vlad Lodoabă, photographer and vibe collector based out of Bucharest, Romania.
I’ve photographed weddings in more than 10 countries on four different continents. The smallest wedding I photographed was less than 40 people, the biggest was more than 800.
Indoors, outdoors, daytime, night-time, amazing lighting, horrendous lighting, no light at all. Short 6-hour weddings or three-day weddings with more than 30 hours of shooting. Working alone or co-ordinating teams of up to 5 photographers.
The permutations are endless, so it’s important for me to be able to deliver in any conditions. I have high ISO and I’m not afraid to use it!
As a photojournalist at heart, I believe in being highly mobile and I believe that, when something amazing happens in front of the camera, any shot is better than the perfect shot.
For many years I worked alone, but I currently work with my wife who is my second shooter, my voice-activated light stand, my biggest supporter and toughest critic.
So let’s have a look in the bag, shall we?
Nikon D750 (x2) – When I first got these cameras, they seemed flimsy in my hands, but they’re lightweight and reliable and I’m happy with the compromise between weight, focus speed and image quality.
A tip I picked up from my press days – I always cover all the branding on my cameras and lenses. I stand out less in crowds that way and it avoids the “Oh, I have a Nikon as well, what settings do you use for those gorgeous pictures?” conversation at weddings.
Besides, they aren’t paying me to be their brand ambassador yet (Nikon, are you reading this? :) ).
Nikon 35mm f/1.8 – My go-to lens for most of the wedding day. I’ve never been a pixel peeper or bokeh fanatic, so the extra weight of the f/1.4 is a nuisance for me. I can always bump up the ISO in low light.
Nikon 85mm f/1.8 – I use this a lot during the ceremony or during speeches. I’m not afraid to get close to my subjects, but sometimes a bit of discretion is needed and appreciated.
Throw me on a deserted island with two bodies, a 35mm and an 85mm; I doubt I’d be able to start a fire or not starve to death, but my photographic needs would be covered.
Nikon 50mm f/1.4 – The nifty fifty is still one of the most versatile lenses out there. While shooting with two bodies, 35mm and 85mm make more sense to me, but I believe this lens should be in any photo kit.
Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 – I bought this lens in 2006, I used in in -30 degree weather, I used it to cover street fighting and shoot sports, did a great deal of photojournalism work with it. It got dropped, bumped, shaken, stirred, dented, abused in unimaginable ways and it still works. Truly a workhorse.
Nikon 16-35mm f/4 – This is the most recent addition to my camera bag. It’s slowly replacing my Nikon 24mm f/1.4; it’s great for wide shots of amazing venues or when the dance floor gets really wild. You know the rule “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”? Well, at 16mm, if I can’t smell the garlic on my subject’s breath, I’m not close enough.
Nikon SB-910 – I’m an available light photographer, so I always want to have some light available.
Godox AD200 – Lots of light in brick form. I use the AD200 for off-camera light during speeches or the reception and occasionally to make my own sun during photo shoots.
Godox XT1 trigger – I chose this particular model because I occasionally need to mix on and off-camera flash and the XT1 allows me to mount an on-camera flash on top of it.
Manfrotto 681b monopod – I use this to mount the AD200 that my wife handles during the reception, because giving your OCF a bit of extra height helps avoid the random shadows from the flash. You need a wife for this set-up, but if you have that covered, the possibilities are endless.
Magmods – Because they’re incredibly easy to use and give me a lot of creative control. I typically use the grids, with the occasional CTO or coloured gel modifier.
If you travel a lot for weddings, like I do, always remember the 4Ps: passport, phone, payment, prescriptions. If you have these covered, you can weather any emergency.
Mosquito spray – It’s us versus them. They have the numbers, but we have the chemistry.
Kindle – Because knowledge is power. Great for making your brain bigger or for killing time in airports. I typically read a few books at the same time, depending on mood. Currently reading Gonzo, the life of Hunter S. Thompson.
Card holder – I use a Tamrac card holder, but any holder that covers all your cards and that can be physically attached to you will do. And because I’m paranoid about my data, I always take all the cards out of my cameras at the end of the night and keep them on my person until I get back to the office to download.
That way, even if my camera bag got stolen, my images would still be safe.
Consultation gloves – I’m a trained emergency first responder and I’ve had a number of incidents at weddings in the past, so I always carry gloves with me. By the way, if you’re not CPR trained, do yourself a favour and learn that. As wedding photographers, we interact with hundreds or thousands of people each year. Statistically speaking, sooner or later, something bad WILL happen and you can actually help.
Energy bars – Because feeding your wedding photographer is nice, but it doesn’t always happen. A few energy bars throughout the day keep me fed, happy and always ready to shoot.
Ear plugs – I use the Alpine MusicSafe Classic because I like to hear myself think even when the party gets wild.
Tarp ball bungee cords – If you want to play with off-camera flash, but don’t have a voice-activated light stand available, or don’t want to set up light stands, you can attach a flash to many things with simple ball bungee cords. Expect some scratches and wear and tear on your flashes if you do this, and less flexibility than with light stands, but for their weight (close to 0), well… they’re worth their weight in gold.
Motorola TLKR T80 walkie-talkies – “Get ready, the bride is coming.” “Bride, groom, go 300ft that way and when I shout at you do something wild!” “That rimlight needs to be higher.” “Honey, did we lock the door before leaving the house?” “Who farted?” Because when you work in a team, communication is crucial.