After receiving so many submissions to Shotkit from around the world for the wedding photography genre, I feel like I’m in a good position to show what is currently the best wedding photography gear, and what is arguably the best camera for wedding photography.
Of course, if you have the skill and ability, you can shoot a wedding with whatever camera gear you want.
These wedding photographers have used a vast array of different gear over the years, and have settled on what they consider to be the very best equipment for them.
If you’re just setting out on becoming a wedding photographer, or wish to expand your gear collection, rest assured, every item on this list has been tried and tested by the some of the world’s best wedding photographers.
Whilst not everyone wants to have the same gear as the majority, there is a certain reassurance in purchasing a popular piece of equipment.
Speaking of equipment, if you love looking at photos of camera gear laid out neatly like I do, be sure to check out this video on photography equipment.
I hope that this list will help both professionals and enthusiasts who want to purchase new gear or take a look at the most popular equipment for wedding photography.
Click the links to see more impartial owner reviews and to purchase from a site that helps to keep Shotkit running for free.
Also, remember that the best things that you can invest in other than gear are books! I interviewed over 600 photographers (many of them wedding photographers) and these are the best photography books according to them.[Enter these Wedding Photo Contests for your chance at winning some awesome wedding photography gear!]
The Best Wedding Photography Gear
1. Best Cameras for Wedding Photography
What works for one photographer may not for another, but with this in mind, let’s look at some of the most popular cameras being used for wedding photography this year.
Canon 5D Mark IV
After waiting 4 long years for an update to the game changing Mark III, Canon has turned the tables again with the release of the Canon 5D Mark IV. Whether it’s the best camera for wedding photography or not is still up for debate, but one thing’s for sure – this impressive dSLR has shaken a lot of feathers in the wedding photography industry.
I’m not going to talk about the headline grabbing dual-pixel feature which allows you to fine tune auto-focus on a picture after it’s been taken, because quite frankly, I consider it useless for wedding photography.
However, the other benefits of the updated CMOS sensor are considerable, and have caused many a Nikon wedding photographer to consider switching systems entirely. Several high profile wedding photographers including Sam Hurd have indeed done exactly this.
So what is it that makes the Canon 5D Mark IV such an appealing camera for wedding photographers in 2016? Aside from the vastly improved autofocus when compared to the ageing 5d Mark III, the Canon 5D Mark IV also brings with it improved dynamic range, more mega pixels, better high ISO performance, continuous shooting speed, built-in wifi, a touch-screen and 4k video. It’s also lighter than its predecessor.
Then there are the features that already existed in the pro-body Canon dSLRs that make other brand owners jealous such as logical menu structure, overlaid double exposures and those gorgeous Canon skin tones, all backing up what is already a very attractive camera.
The one feature that really sets the Canon 5D Mark IV apart for many wedding photographers though is the speed of auto focus using the touch screen LCD. Simply by touching the subject’s eye on the rear LCD (for example), the camera quickly grabs focus, or even allows you to take the shot without pressing the shutter button.
As anyone who’s ever attempted to control the focus point using buttons during Live View can ttest, it is a painful experience. The new touch-and-focus/shoot functionality on the Canon 5D Mark IV is reminiscent of mirrorless cameras such as the Olympus OMD-EM-5 Mark II, and is a huge step in the right direction for photographers who rely heavily on Live View to preview exposures before shooting.
It’s unfortunate that Canon didn’t add a tilt-screen LCD to the Canon 5D Mark IV – functionality that’s available with the competing Nikon D750, but arguably not a deal-breaker for Nikon shooters to remain faithful to their system. It should be noted however that the Nikon D750, whilst not offering the same advances in technology as the Mark IV, is currently around half the price.
Whilst the dynamic range improvements over the Mark III are considerable, the Canon 5D Mark IV hasn’t really set any new industry standards with its improved sensor. After a 5 EV push, it’s well ahead of the other Canon pro line dSLRs, but still behind the Nikon D810 and Sony A7R II when comparing extreme highlight/shadow recovery.
However, what really matters is the huge improvement in ISO noise over its predecessor. Finally, Canon shooters are able to underexpose to protect highlights, then boost shadows in post to achieve an image with wide dynamic range – a technique employed by Nikon shooters for several years. This said, ISO performance is still not on par with the Nikon D750, and other cameras in this league.
Despite the high price, there’s no doubt that many Canon wedding photographers will make the investment and upgrade to a couple of Canon 5D Mark IV bodies. The advancements in dynamic range and ISO may not be significant when compared to Nikon/Sony offerings, but when combined with the latest technology and some show-stopping features, the Canon 5D Mark IV is one of the best cameras for wedding photography available in 2016. Here’s a more in-depth review of the Canon 5D Mark IV.
Who uses it?
I must admit I was a little hesitant to update this list of the best photography gear for wedding photographers with the Sony A7R II. However, when I delved deeper into just what this incredible camera was capable of in the Best Mirrorless Cameras writeup, I felt I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
The Sony Alpha line of cameras is confusing and a little overwhelming. Sony releases update after update, leaving us with a plethora of choices. However, if you’re looking for the best mirrorless camera for wedding photography, ignore everything else – the Sony A7R II is it.
Not only is the Sony A7R II the first ever full frame mirrorless camera on the market, it also has a back-illuminated 42.4 mega pixel CMOS sensor and 5-axis in-body image stabilisation – an incredibly useful feature for those wedding photographers wanting to shoot handheld at the lowest possible ISOs in low light… i.e. all of us!
In practice, the in-body image stabilisation allows you to hand hold the camera at slow shutter speeds and still produce tack-sharp images. It’s good to know that ISO climbs up to 102,400 if you do need it!
Mirrorless cameras are pushing technology further and faster than the ageing dSLR, and nowhere is this more apparent than the high-tech Sony A7R II. 4K movie recording allows you to extract still images in post production at a quality high enough for client delivery – see Emin Kuliyev’s work for examples.
Although most manufacturers’ equivalent 35mm lenses can be used on the Sony A7R II with an adapter, it should be remembered that the lens will need to be manually focused. Until Sony releases a solid selection of Sony lenses for the Sony A7R II, its use for wedding photography may be limited, but nevertheless a viable option for a few diehards.
Who uses it?
The Canon 5d Mark III is by far the most popular camera of the wedding photographers featured on Shotkit, and arguably the best Canon camera for wedding photography available right now. This said, Canon wedding photographers worldwide (as well a a good number of Nikon shooters too) are upgrading to the Canon 5D Mark IV, despite its high price.
The ageing Canon 5d Mark III is a true all rounder – great image quality, high resolution, responsive operation, 6 frame per second continuous shooting, excellent build quality, high resolution LCD monitor, excellent 100% viewfinder, full manual video mode and dual SD and CF card slots.
As an added bonus for fans of multiple exposures, Live View features a handy ‘overlay’ function (to help align 2 or more images) which none of the Nikon camera pro dSLR lineup currently have.
Weaknesses include mixed memory card support which cripples the write speed of the SD card, and a somewhat ageing auto-focus system that lags behind cheaper Canon alternatives such as the Canon 6D. The Canon 5d Mark III also remains expensive, especially when compared to the equivalent Nikon offerings (D810 etc)
Whether the Canon 5d Mark III is the best camera for wedding photography or not, it is by far and away the most popular, representing a great feature set, in a robust, reliable body for Canon shooters.
Who uses it?
If there was ever a camera release that had wedding photographers jumping ship from Canon, the Nikon D750 is it.
Nikon wedding photographers had been holding out for a long time for a true replacement to the legendary Nikon D700. This arrived in the form of the 24.3 mega pixel Nikon D750, complete with a tilt-screen LCD and a sensor that knocked dynamic range out of the park.
Nikon has traditionally had the edge on Canon when it comes to shadow detail, and with the Nikon D750, this was really rubbed into the faces of Canon shooters.
Over 2 years had passed since the release of the most popular camera for wedding photography, the Canon 5D Mark III. With the Nikon D750, Nikon cemented its place back at the top of wedding photography… that is of course until the inevitable release of the Canon 5D Mark IV.
Other awesome features include the game-changing tilting LCD monitor and incredible battery life – there’s seldom a need to change batteries for an entire wedding. The Nikon D750 is also over $500 cheaper than the Canon 5D Mark III.
Unfortunately, Nikon decided to hamper one of the best wedding photography cameras ever produced by limiting the maximum shutter speed to 1/4000th, where other pro-level Nikons support 1/8000th. Shooting wide open on a sunny day is no longer an option.
That said, any Nikon shooter entering the world of wedding photography now has an easy choice of the camera to purchase to start their business off on the right foot. Arguably the best Nikon camera for wedding photography, it’s thankfully also an affordable full frame camera.
Who uses it?
For working pros, to have an extremely robust camera with such long life expectancy (shutter life-cycle of 400,000 – double most pro camera bodies), combined with incredible low ISO performance, first class image quality, every physical control you could ever want, uncompressed 1080p video output and machine gun like frame rate, the asking price for a Nikon D4s is completely justifiable.
Whilst image quality is arguably on par with the latest pro Nikon dSLRs at lower ISOs, features like the faster buffer rate (allowing uninterrupted shooting whilst writing to memory cards), a snappier Live View and great image quality up to high ISOs are enough to make Nikon D4 owners hold on to their prize possession.
Despite its weight, many Nikon D4 owners prefer the form and design of this camera to other Nikon pro level dSLRs. It’s undeniably one of the most comfortable cameras to hold, with perfect button placement and a grip that feels like it means business.
The Nikon D4 was superseded by the Nikon D4S, and more recently the Nikon D5 as the flagship Nikon DSLR camera, but only time will tell whether owners of the D4 and D4s will see the need to upgrade. You can check out this review of the Nikon D5 too.
If you’re a wedding photographer who needs the very best camera for wedding photography with no compromise, the Nikon single digit series still wears the crown. The ability to fire off unlimited shots at crucial moments, such as the bride and groom under a confetti shower down the aisle, gives the photographer 100% reassurance that their camera won’t let them down.
If you’re a heavy user of Live View (like Sam Hurd), having the fastest Live View response time is also essential.
Who uses it?
A bit of a rogue entry, the retro-styled Nikon Df has polarised opinion amongst wedding photographers since its launch in November 2013.
As well as excellent image quality, the Nikon Df also features many direct-access external controls, a 100% viewfinder and the ability to mount almost all Nikon F-mount lenses ever made.
However, it has to be said that Nikon seems to have deliberately hindered the Df in certain key areas, such as only providing one SD card slot, shutter speed limited at 1/4000th, stunted grip size, and a somewhat plasticky body especially considering its price tag.
The debate amongst wedding photographers about the actual need to shoot simultaneously to 2 memory card continues. The bottom line is, if you’re someone who trusts your SD card, you’ll be happy with the Nikon Df for your wedding photography work.
One thing’s for sure – the Nikon Df is by far the most stylish dSLRon the market today, and a real joy to use for anyone who has used Nikon film cameras in the past. As a small bonus, your camera is guaranteed to be a good conversation starter at your next wedding!
Who uses it?
There’s still only a small handful of wedding photographers using the Fuji X-T1 as their main camera for wedding photography, but this number appears to be steadily growing. There are also many wedding photographers who own the Fuji X-T1, perhaps purchasing with the intention to use it as their main body, but retiring it to backup and/or personal use.
With stellar image quality and Fuji’s signature colours straight out of camera, the Fuji X-T1 can stand toe to toe with any of the full frame cameras mentioned here. That is, however, until the light starts to fall. The APS-C sensor on the Fuji X-T1 is excellent, but would never be able to compete in low light with far larger full frame sensors.
Despite the low light hindrance and auto focus/handling that’s still behind dSLRs, wedding photographers have been tempted by the allure of the compact form, good looks, electronic viewfinder and affordability of the Fuji X-T1.
Fuji is a company that listens to its users, releasing firmware updates that address particular issues, effectively upgrading the camera each year without the need to purchase a new body.
Who uses it?
2. Best Lenses for Wedding Photography
“What’s the best lens for wedding photography” is one of the most common questions I get asked. It’s another one of those questions that does the rounds on wedding photography forums, with everyone chiming in with their number one lens.
In my mind the best lens for wedding photography is the one that is the most versatile, and for me that’s the 35mm focal length with the fastest possible aperture.
Now let’s look at the most popular lenses for wedding photography.
Two words. Incredible bokeh. For those wedding photographers searching for a lens that will obliterate the background into a creamy, dreamlike blur, Canon’s range of f/1.2L lenses is where it’s at, and the Canon 50mm f/1.2L is by far the most popular of them all.
50mm is a classic, versatile focal length, and even shot wide open at f/1.2, this lens has incredible image quality. There simply isn’t another lens in the world that can replicate the look of the Canon 50mm f/1.2L.
At f/1.2L, this lens is less about sharpness and more about that elusive quality that pixel peeping photographers often ignore – an almost ethereal, dreamy, 3 dimensional feel to a photo that can’t be replicated. Just make sure you nail focus, as wide open, this lens is unforgiving.
Stopped down, the Canon 50mm f/1.2L delivers amazingly sharp, vibrant and contrasty files. However, if it’s the sharpest images you’re looking for, you’d probably be better off saving some money and opting for the Canon 50mm f/1.8 instead!
Who uses it?
Despite the release of the Canon 35mm f/1.4L II in 2015, many wedding photographers have kept hold of the original version of this popular lens for several reasons.
Most notably, the first version is lighter, smaller, less plasticky, and much less expensive than the new release. You can compare the huge price difference here.
Canon wedding photographers are spoilt for choice when it comes to lenses, with f/1.4’s being ignored for the f/1.2’s in the lineup. However, this ageing Canon 35mm f/1.4L is still one of the sharpest 35mm lenses available today, with very little distortion and beautiful bokeh.
The Canon 35mm f/1.4L is also one of the few f/1.4 pro lenses that’s available for under a grand. Grab one before the price starts to rise again!
If you just have to have the latest and the greates and aren’t botherd about the increase in price/weight, the Canon 35mm f/1.4L II does have slightly better sharpness in the corners, slightly less distortion, and slightly faster focusing than the original. I’d recommend saving your money and getting the first version though.
Who uses it?
On Nikon’s side of the fence, the Nikon 35mm f/1,4G remains the most popular lens in their professional prime lens line up.
35mm is such a versatile focal length – not too wide, not too narrow, and is suited for portraits, landscapes and everything in between. Many wedding photographers could easily shoot an entire wedding with just this lens.
The Nikon 35mm f/1.4G is Nikon’s sharpest 35mm lens ever, and shot at f/1.4 the bokeh is unrivalled. I’d also argue that this is the best lens for wedding photography, in that it is versatile whilst offering excellent image quality.
Unfortunately, the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G is also the most expensive Nikon 35mm in production, and much more than the Canon equivalent. This doesn’t seem to bother most fans of this incredible lens though, especially when you consider many wedding photographers admit to using this lens for over 95% of the wedding.
Need a cheaper alternative that delivers sharper results and weighs about 3x less? Check out this review of the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 ED – one of my favourite lenses.
Who uses it?
With mounts available for Nikon, Canon EOS, Sony, Minolta Maxxum and Pentax, it isn’t any wonder that this ground-breaking lens from Sigma is one of the most popular lenses for wedding photography on Shotkit.
It is also one of the first third party lens to be taken seriously by professional wedding photographers.
The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART has slightly less distortion than the Canon and Nikon 35mm lenses, and even focuses a bit more accurately at f/1.4 than them too. As for sharpness, it’s on par with the Canon and Nikon variants.
Price savings have to be made somewhere though, and in the case of this Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART lens, its the overall build which is less robust than the Canon and Nikon offerings that offer complete weather-sealing.
One thing’s for certain – the outstanding image quality combined with affordability of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART is causing wedding photographers around the world to rethink their brand loyalty.
Who uses it?
Surprise surprise, another Canon f/1.2L lens in the list of most popular wedding photographer lenses!
Since there’s no direct competition on the market for lenses of this speed, Canon’s prime lenses are in a league of their own.
Despite the high cost, heavy weight and painfully slow focusing, wedding photographers the world over have fallen in love with the Canon 85mm f/1.2L‘s unique rendition of out of focus areas, tank-like build, tack sharpness and excellent contrast.
The ability to reduce any background to a gorgeous, creamy haze allows wedding photographers to worry less about uninteresting backgrounds and concentrate instead on the subject and the light. That’s why many refer to the Canon 85mm f/1.2L as ‘magical’, for its ability to turn bland into WOW!
Who uses it?
Tilt Shift lenses have witnessed a surge in popularity in the wedding photography industry in recent years. The ability to throw selective areas out of focus to draw attention and create a dreamlike effect has somewhat answered the wedding photographer’s need to differentiate their work from their peers.
That said, tilt-shift lenses are difficult to use, and even more difficult to master, which is why there seems to be a lot of sub-standard tilt-shift wedding photography work out there. I’d also argue that the tilt-shift look is more appealing to other photographers than to brides… unless they are photographers themselves!
Having said this, if you’re ready to experiment with tilt-shift portraiture, the Canon 45mm f/2.8 TS-E is the perfect lens to start out. The 45mm focal length is surprisingly versatile, ideal for both portraits and for shifting the perspective in architecture photography (its original use).
It’s also a great value tilt-shift lens, at almost $800 cheaper than the Nikon equivalent! Considering the complicated mechanics necessary to get a lens with such delicate moving elements to remain razor sharp, and the impressively robust build quality, the Canon 45mm f/2.8 TS-E is a great buy in the world of tilting and shifting focus.
Who uses it?
Nikon 24mm f/1.4G
The incredible Nikon 24mm f/1.4G has stellar performance at all apertures, and wide open at f/1.4, delivers a sharpness that is unrivalled by any other current Nikon f/1.4 lens. It is arguably the best wide angle lens in the world.
For fans of the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G, this lens is arguably the best lens for wedding photography, capturing the vastness of landscapes in environmental portraiture. As a wide-angle lens used up close to the subject (like on the dance floor during a wedding reception), the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G also has the unique ability to pull the viewer into the scene, whilst throwing the background out of focus.
Being wide angle, it is forgiving when hand held at slow shutter speeds, meaning you can shoot the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G at one-stop slower for similar sharpness as you’d get from the Nikon 50mm f/1.4, for example.
The Nikon 24mm f/1.4G is bright, sharp and contrasty at every aperture edge to edge, with minimum distortion and coma.
For wedding photographers who like to get up close to the action, or who want to achieve a wide angle and subject separation even in low light, the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G is the perfect lens.
(For a more affordable option that is quickly gaining popularity, check out this Sigma 24mm f/1.4 review.)
Who uses it?
While Canon’s lenses have the ability to oliterate the background with the razor fine depth of field of their f/1.2 lens offerings, Nikon have lenses that are able to emulate a look that is close to 3D. The Nikon 85mm f/1,4G is one of these incredible lenses.
According to Ken Rockwell, “The Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF-S G is simply astonishing. It is the first lens I have ever used in over 40 years of photography that excels at both the scientific aspects and the artistic aspects of defocus, all at the same time.”
Well, Ken’s not a wedding photographer but I dare say he does know a thing or two about lenses!
Images shot at f/1.4 with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G make the subject pop out of the screen whilst the background melts away into creamy smooth bokeh.
If you’re a fan of placing elements in the foreground to create layers, you’ll find yourself having to stop down since foreground elements are all but obliterated at f/1.4 at this focal length!
85mm is a flattering focal length for wedding portraits, and the large aperture of the Nikon 85mm f/1,4G makes it ideal for shooting the ceremony and reception speeches from the sidelines. A must have for Nikon wedding photographers, and commonly used on a second body combined with the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G.
Who uses it?
For many Canon prime lens shooters, the Canon 135mm f/2L has gained an almost legendary status.
Whilst not being the most versatile of focal lengths for wedding photographers, for those times where you can back up for a portrait, or need to stand back and out of the way in the church for example, the Canon 135mm f/2L is is an unrivalled lens.
Nikon simply doesn’t offer lenses like this (the Nikon 135mm f/2 DC is an outstanding lens, but doesn’t come close to Canon’s 135), which is why so many wedding photographers opt for Canon.
The Canon 135mm f/2L has a reputation for its insane sharpness, possibly the sharpest L lens in the Canon lineup. The build quality is top notch, the focus speed is fast, the bokeh is creamy and gorgeous, and surprisingly for an L series lens, the Canon 135mm f/2L is small, light and actually quite affordable too.
If you need a long lens for wedding photography and don’t want to weigh yourself down with a heavy zoom lens, the Canon 135mm f/2L represents a wide purchasing decision – excellent image quality in a compact unit, at a reasonable price.
Who uses it?
Whether using the first (2002) or the second (2012) version, all wedding photographers agree – the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L is a workhorse of a lens that never fails to deliver.
Built like a tank with fast ultra-sonic motor powered autofocus, the optics in the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L are almost flawless.
If you’re looking for a wide angle lens for Canon which can also be used at 70mm as a flattering portrait lens, the 24-70mm focal range is perfect.
The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L produces tack sharp images with very little distortion, and the bokeh at f/2.8 especially when shot at 70mm is beautifully rendered.
The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L does struggle a little with softer focus when used for close-up photography, but aside from this, the price and the sheer weight of the lens, there really isn’t much else to complain about.
The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L remains a popular choice for both prime lens and zoom lens wedding photographers, allowing them to take advantage of a very useful range of focal lengths in a single lens. 24mm is ideal for a wide-angled interior shot of the church, then one twist of the lens and 70mm can deliver a flattering portrait of the bride walking up the aisle.
Recently on Shotkit, many (predominantly prime lens shooting) wedding photographers have described using the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L on the dance floor, allowing super fast autofocus at a range of useful focal lengths, ideal for catching fast and crazy dance moves!
Who uses it?
With all the delicious bokeh and super fast speeds available to prime lens shooters, it’s easy for wedding photographers to forget about the incredible zooms available to them.
The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 is one of the most popular zoom lenses used by wedding photographers on Shotkit.
Razor sharp all the way from wide angle all the way up to medium tele-photo, the focus speed on the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 is nothing short of incredible for a lens of this size.
If you’re a Nikon zoom shooting wedding photographer, chances are you’ll have the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 firmly attached to one body, able to shoot an entire wedding with this one lens with ease.
Aside from the distortion at 24mm and the size/weight of the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, there really isn’t anything to complain about.
Even for the prime lens wedding photographers out there, this Nikon zoom is a popular addition to the camera bag, offering a near-perfect variety of focal lengths for weddings in one robust package. Pro level zoom lenses such as the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 also hold their value well, meaning purchasing then later selling this lens is often more popular (and cost-effective) than renting.
I can’t guarantee that you’ll ever end up selling it though..,
Who uses it?
Look at the photographers at any major sporting event and you’ll see this legendary black and white lens on every camera. The reason is simple – the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II is the fastest focusing, sharpest zoom lens available today.
Wedding photographers love this lens too, for its ability to allow you to hang right back away from the action whilst still capturing tack sharp, contrasty and beautifully rendered images even in low light.
Canon’s Image Stabilisation allows you to benefit from the equivalent of an extra 4 stops of light. In practice this means that you can hand hold the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II at slower shutter speeds than normally possible – perfect for use at dimly lit wedding venues.
As a portrait lens, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II gives flattering results all the way through its focal range. If you have the space, shooting a bride’s portraits at 200mm will make her look the best she can.
Although the previous iteration of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS still turns up in the bags of many wedding photographers, the second version allows for slightly closer focusing which was reason enough to upgrade for many.
If you’re a wedding photographer who frequently shoots in spacious churches that don’t allow close proximity to the couple, you’ll need a long zoom lens like the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS in your camera bag.
Popular with both the Nikon zoom lens shooting wedding photographers and the prime lens shooters, the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II is the best pro grade Nikon mid-range zoom money can buy.
Lenses don’t come much tougher than pro-line zooms and the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 is no exception. This is one lens that will last your entire wedding photography career and not skip a beat. Then you can sell it on and lose less than 20% of the original outlay on the second hand market.
The VR combined with an aperture of f/2.8 is ideal for shooting from the back of dimply-lit churches and during wedding speeches.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II is on one body of every Nikon sports shooter, and also appears in many wedding photographers’ camera bags on Shotkit. Used at 200mm it makes an incredibly flattering portrait lens for the bridal shots, and if you have room, 70mm makes a distortion-free family group shot too.
It’s when you want to keep your distance from the wedding action that this Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II really sings. Feeling lazy near the end of a wedding? Just hang back and take a few long range snaps from the comfort of your set until you have the energy to return to the heat of the action!
Just remember that a photo taken from range with a zoom has a completely different look to one taken close up. Your viewer is either ‘in the picture’, or he isn’t.
Who uses it?
Nikon wedding photographers who are fans of the dreamy tilt-shift look have chosen the Nikon 45mm f/2.8 PC-E as their weapon of choice. If you’re unsure of what exactly the purpose of a tilt-shift lens is, read this.
Equally at home as a razor sharp portrait lens (albeit a manual focus one), the Nikon 45mm tilt-shift is built like a tank, with a hefty weight and solid feeling controls.
The out of focus areas blend seamlessly into the focus areas when the Nikon 45mm f/2.8 PC-E is tilted or shifted, allowing wedding photographers to achieve looks that are impossible to recreate with other lenses. Just don’t overdo this look, and remember, practice, practice, practice before using this lens at a real wedding!
Tilt-shifts are tough to get the hang of, but if you can master them, they can separate your work from all the other wedding photographers out there.
Unfortunately Canon wins in the pricing of their tilt-shift lens offerings, but if you’re a Nikon shooter who wants to experiment with focus shifting, the Nikon 45mm f/2.8 PC-E remains a great choice.
Who uses it?
The Nikon 58mm f/1.4G is another lens that has slowly but steadily gained popularity on Shotkit since its release over a year ago.
Make no mistake – the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G is an overpriced lens. Its plasticky feel, unremarkable sharpness and understated build quality has prevented many wedding photographers from taking the plunge and investing in what many have written off as an anomaly in the Nikon lineup.
However, several top wedding photographers swear by the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G and its incredible ability to render a 3D-esque image, with dreamlike bokeh that surpasses even Canon’s f/1.2 offerings.
58mm may be an unusual focal distance for many, but the decision makes sense when one considers the popularity of the lesser-known Nikon 58mm f/1.2 which was released in 1977. Incidentally, this manual focus lens costs over $3,000… if you’re able to find it.
It seems that with the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G, if you need your final image to be different from your competitors, its lenses with character like this one that will help take you one step closer to achieving the sublime.
For those who use the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G professionally everyday, no price tag is too high for this mysterious lens.
Who uses it?
3. Best Lighting for Wedding Photography
This big, fast and powerful flash holds a trump card up its sleeve, making it by far the most popular flash for wedding photographers. (UPDATE – The Canon 600EX II-RT is now available.)
With the Canon 600EX-RT, Canon beat its competitors once again, by producing the first camera-maker flash with a built in radio trigger system. No longer do wedding photographers who wish to take advantage of off camera flash, need to use a 3rd party wireless trigger – it’s all in the one unit.
The only catch of course is that you’ll need two (or more) Canon 600EX-RT ‘s if you want to use the radio trigger to fire the other flash off remotely.
However, seeing as an wedding photographer worth his salt will usually have more than one flash even its just as a backup, the awesome Canon 600EX-RT ‘s are a no-brainer.
As with most flash units at this price, the Canon 600EX-RT recycles quickly and quietly, allowing continuous flash use both on and off-camera.
Who uses it?
Nikon flash users could argue that whilst Canon may have been the first to the post at creating a flash with a built in radio trigger system, the Nikon flashes always had the Nikon Creative Lighting System – namely, the ability amongst other things to trigger remote flashes using the camera’s built in flash.
The upside, only one flash is necessary; the downside, it’s infra-red, not radio, which means line-of-sight only. Be that as it may, the Nikon SB-910 is still the biggest, fastest, brightest and most feature-rich flash that Nikon produces.
The super-fast recycle time of 2 seconds even at full power on the Nikon SB-910 is especially useful for wedding photographers wishing to over-power the sun for some dramatic outdoor portraiture.
Some wedding photographers who favour reducing the ambient in the dramatic daytime + flash look, use 2 Nikon Sb-910 units in unison, each set at 1/2 power, allowing the equivalent light intensity of full power, but with a faster recycle time.
The Nikon SB-910 also features a huge zoom range from 17mm to 200mm, making it especially versatile for the zoom lens shooter who needs a narrower beam of light.
Who uses it?
The world of flash triggers doesn’t need to start and end with Pocket Wizard. For those on a budget, or perhaps those who don’t use off-camera flash enough to justify spending too much, the Yongnuo YN-622 remotes/triggers are a great piece of kit.
Simple to use, well built and effective even over long range, the Yongnuo YN-622 flash remotes/triggers are in the camera bags of many top wedding photographers.
The transceiver features a well-lit LED panel, allowing the photographer to control several flashes at once, adjusting between TTL and manual settings from a distance.
The Yongnuo YN-622 transceiver also features a a red laser focusing system, similar to those found on flash units. This can come in handy as a focus assist beam in low light even when a flash is not in use, and is indeed a popular option for wedding photographers needing to focus quickly in dimly lit venues which don’t allow flash.
Who uses it?
The popularity of the Lowell GL-1 Power LED took some time to develop. Upon its release, naysayers complained of an overpriced flash light that resembled a power drill!
This may still be the case, but the fact is, the Lowell GL-1 has become a popular and indispensable part of many top wedding photographers’ gear.
Despite poor battery life and a rather cumbersome, heavy design, the Lowell GL-1 is simple and fast to use, and has a beautiful quality of light that can be directed with unrivalled accuracy.
The what-you-see-is-what-you-get nature of constant lighting is slowly but surely winning fans amongst the wedding photography industry, allowing photographers to get the shot far quicker than with flash.
The Lowell GL-1 is used as a simple portrait light during bridal photos, to bring the subject forward, by allowing the photographer to underexpose the ambient light. It is also used during wedding receptions, with the GL-1 attached to a light stand or tripod, shining warm light on speech makers.
The Lowell GL-1 is also a popular way to light the first dance due to its point-and-shoot functionality.
If you intend to use the Lowell GL-1 while travelling, I’d also recommend the rapid charger. And if you’re struggling to fit it all in your carry on luggage, check out these travel tips for photographers for some sneaky shortcuts!
Who uses it?
Not everything to do with wedding photography camera gear has to be expensive! With cut-price Asian brands such as Yongnuo producing reasonable quality products for a fraction of the cost of the big name brands, many wedding photographers find the temptation hard to resist.
Used often by wedding photographers to light rings, bouquets and other small details, others prefer to use video lights for after-dark light painting.
The Yongnuo YN-160 is an affordable introduction to the world of portable video lighting for photography. Featuring the ability to fix the light on top of your camera (not recommended), onto your light stand (better), or simply hand held (best), this lightweight and simple constant LED light will be your first choice when you need to light something quickly.
One thing to bear in mind is that these small, battery powered constant light sources give out a lot less light intensity than flashes. However, as long as you’re not trying to over power daylight, you should find them a very useful and affordable addition to your camera bag.
Who uses it?
Providing soft, wrap-around light similar to window-light, the Westcott Ice Light is a popular way to give the bride some flattering illumination during bridal portraits. It can also be used to light details such as rings, although unless you invest in the barn doors, you should expect a fair bit of light spill.
If you like the idea of carrying a light saber of instant window-light in your camera bag, I’d recommend opting for the latest incarnation, the Westcott Ice Light 2, which increases output by 50% and adds other features such as bluetooth and removeable battery.
The beauty of the design of the Westcott Ice Light is that an assistant is not always necessary – it’s easy to grip and move the wand of light with one hand, whilst shooting with the other. It’s not ideal by any means, but definitely an option for those who prefer to work alone.
Who uses it?
4. Best Bags & Straps for Wedding Photography
Whilst almost all of the Think Tank range of rolling camera bags have legions of wedding photographer fans, the Think Tank Airport Takeoff stands out as being one of the most popular bags for wedding photography.
This versatile and hard-wearing rolling dslr camera bag allows wedding photographers to carry all their gear in a carry-on sized case. Whether the weight allowance of your airline will allow it in the overhead compartments is another story, but size-wise, the dimensions of the Think Tank Aiport Takeoff allow it to be used as carry on for all the main airlines.
The Think Tank Airport Takeoff conceals a secret feature that blows every other rolling camera bag out the water – backpack straps. These allow this rolling camera bag to be carried comfortably on your back, invaluable for locations which are unsuitable for small wheels (grass, gravel etc.)
When not in use, the backpack straps tuck away neatly in the rear of the Airport Takeoff. Great idea, perfectly executed. No wonder the Think Tank Airport Takeoff is often considered the best camera bag for wedding photography.
Who uses it?
I’m probably a little biased since I own this bag and have loved using it for the past 3 years (my review of the Think Tank Restrospective 30), but I truly believe it’s the best in its class, and the best camera bag for a wedding photographer.
You can carry 2 pro dslr bodies with their lenses attached, and a few other small lenses, plus a couple of flashes and more in this spacious shoulder bag.
The build quality is excellent as you’d expect from a Think Tank product, and everything on the Think Tank Retrospective series of messenger bags is functional and very well thought out.
My favourite features on the Think Tank Retrospective 30 are the big, strong and comfortable shoulder strap and the ‘stealth’ styling, with virtually no branding whatsoever. The velcro silencers also come in handy during church services, allowing you to open and close the bag with minimal noise.
The Think Tank Retrospective series is a firm favourite both with men and women wedding photographers (more womens camera bags here), with the ’30’ the most popular of all.
The Holdfast Money Maker is a great looking, durable and well balanced dual-camera carrying strap that just gets better and better looking with age.
Made with high quality materials and built to last in the USA, the Holdfast Money Maker can be seen on the shoulders of many of the world’s best wedding photographer, and for good reason – not only does it look great, but it’s highly functional as well.
For wedding photographers who want to look good carrying two bodies at the same time and don’t want to end the day with too many aches and pains, look not further than the Holdfast Money Maker. You’re guaranteed to get at least one compliment at every wedding you use this thing!
Who uses it?
5. Best Computers/Software for Wedding Photography
It should come as no surprise that Mac is the most popular computing platform for wedding photographers. The aesthetically pleasing design, robustness and the ‘it just works’ ethos of Mac computing seems to suit our tastes perfectly.
In the Macbook Air line up, the 11″ version is most popular. It seems that if a wedding photographer wants a lightweight computer, they may as well get the most lightweight version.
With the Macbook Pro, the mid-sized 15″ version seems to give the most bang-for-the-buck. Whilst arguably quite over-priced when compared to similar PC offerings, 15″ allows for higher spec than the 13″ version, whilst giving adequate screen real-estate.
Owners of the Macbook Pro tend to offset the cost by using it as their main computer, often pairing it with an external monitor such as the (somewhat ageing) Apple Thunderbolt 27″ monitor.
Wedding photographers seem to have a love/hate relationship with the Macbook Retina. Some have labeled it under-powered and over-priced, whilst others (notably Sam Hurd) swear by it, and conduct the majority of their wedding photography editing/delivery using it.
As for internal spec, it makes sense to upgrade to the most RAM possible, and save some money on a mid-sized solid state drive (SSD), off-loading large files to an external drive when not in use.
Other popular Mac computing platforms include the iMac 27″, with wedding photographers in mixed opinions over the benefit of upgrading to the more expensive iMac 27″ Retina. Whilst the display is no doubt mind-blowing, some functionality is actually slower due to the constraints at rendering in such high resolution.
Who uses it?
The most popular way for wedding photographers to edit and catalog their photos is Adobe Lightroom 6. Some choose to subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud to take advantage of the entire suite of Adobe products, whilst others purchased Lightroom 6 outright (like myself).
Wedding photographers are split amongst their usage of Lightroom 6 for the culling process, with many opting for the popular Photo Mechanic software. By taking advantage of Lightroom’s smart previews, Lightroom is arguably just as fast as Photo Mechanic, but many still prefer to cull in a separate software and import only the ‘keepers’ to Lightroom for editing..
Who uses it?
This post was compiled using Shotkit submissions of both photographers published on Shotkit and those who were not published.
I believe it represents an invaluable insight on the camera gear used by wedding photographers around the world, and arguably the best camera gear for wedding photography available in 2016.
If you found it useful, I’d be grateful if you would share it amongst your wedding photographer friends so everyone can benefit.
Please also consider making your next wedding photography gear purchase through one of the affiliate links in this post to help support Shotkit and the writing of in depth articles such as this.