Being a wedding photographer is a dream job for many people. But taking photos on someone’s wedding day is also a huge responsibility. You must be prepared to capture once-in-a-lifetime moments and having the wedding right photography gear is a must. Use our wedding photography equipment checklist as a guide to ensure success on every wedding shoot:
Photography Equipment Required for Wedding Photography
- Camera Harness
- Memory Cards
- Light Stands and Lights
- Flash Diffuser
- Lens Cleaning Kits and Lens Hoods
- Lens Filters
- Gear Bags
Building a collection of wedding photography gear can be an investment. But all the photography equipment you buy for weddings is perfect for other types of shooting. You can shoot portraits, landscapes, street photography, and more. As you build your business, having the right photography equipment is a gateway to new opportunities.
Even if you do a lot of studio work, it’s a good idea to have photography equipment for on-location shoots. You may start out with a few of the items on our gear checklist and add more over time. Buying used photography equipment can be an excellent way to get what you need and keep costs in check. Renting photography equipment is another viable option, especially when you are new to the profession and don’t have a big collection of gear.
11 Photography Equipment to Bring When You Shoot On-Location
Keep in mind that you may not need to bring every piece of photography equipment recommended below on every shoot. Consider where and when you’ll be shooting and bring the right photography equipment along. It’s always better to be over-prepared than underprepared, so don’t leave essential photography equipment behind!
Of course, you need a camera to take photographs. But if you’re shooting on location, having a spare camera is always a wise idea. If one camera fails for any reason, you’ll have a back-up. This approach is especially useful if you’re shooting time-sensitive images or photos that can’t be recreated.
For example, if you want to capture an image bathed in the soft light of the golden hour, you have a limited time window to shoot. Even a simple camera mishap could ruin the shot. When shooting at events or pursuing street photography, you may get the chance to snap a photo of a memorable moment that happens only once. If you carry two—or even three—cameras, you won’t risk missing out on these types of critical photography opportunities. And that can help you expand your portfolio while keeping any paying clients happy.
Every photographer needs to have several camera lenses readily available for every shoot. Here are a few that should be on your professional photography equipment list:
Medium Zoom Lens
Medium zoom lenses are good all-around lenses that let you take both wide and close-up shots. Professional photographers use them for many purposes, including wide-angle landscape shots, portraits, and action photography. In fact, many professionals say medium zoom lenses are one of their most important pieces of photography equipment.
Longer lenses are ideal for capturing images at a distance. Depending on the nature of your shoot, you may not be able to close to your subject. But having a telephoto lens lets you get great shots, even when you must keep your distance.
For example, if you’re shooting a special event, sometimes you can’t be up close, or you’ll get in the way. A telephoto lens will let you capture the wide-angle moments. You’ll face similar circumstances when shooting in the great outdoors. Sometimes, you may want to capture shots of wildlife in their natural habitat. However, you can’t get too close, or else you may startle them and cause them to flee. At a concert or sporting event, you may not be able to be close to the central activity. These are many situations when a telephoto lens can be a handy piece of photography equipment when shooting on location.
A prime lens has a fixed focal length. That means that this type of lens doesn’t zoom at all and gives you one angle of view. While these lenses seem to offer less versatility than other types of photography equipment, they do provide some distinct advantages as well.
Notably, prime lenses often have a wider or “faster” maximum aperture. The aperture is the opening in your camera lens that lets in light. With a wider aperture, you can create a shallow depth of field. In those styles of photos, your subject is in sharp focus while the background is blurred out. Your subject—whether a person or an inanimate object—will be clear and distinct against an impressionistic background.
Wide-angle lenses display a wider field of view and are perfect for taking wide shots of landscapes, cityscapes, architecture, or a large group of people. When shooting on location, you can use these lenses to capture the scene and setting. Some professional photographers also use wide-angle lenses for dramatic close-ups at interesting angles.
A macro lens lets you take extremely detailed close-ups. In many shooting situations, you’ll want to capture the littlest details that help tell a complete story. At a formal event, for example, close-ups of floral centerpieces or lacy tablecloths show the hosts’ attention to every detail. You can also shoot architectural or natural details that make a setting truly unique.
Macro lenses tend to be very expensive pieces of photography equipment. You may find it useful to experiment with a 50mm prime lens or to use a macro filter before investing in a macro lens.
3. Camera Harnesses
Shooting on location is often fun and adventurous—but it can also be extremely tiring. Depending on your area of focus, you could be shooting eight to 10 hours with minimal downtime. You may not even be able to take a moment to sit down during a shoot. You need to have your camera at-the-ready to capture those perfect, fleeting shots. It’s easy to find yourself exhausted and sore at the end of a day’s shooting.
A quality camera harness helps you stay comfortable so that you can always shoot your best. Top-quality camera harnesses are ergonomically designed and fully adjustable to fit the contours of your body. Many pro photographers choose leather harnesses for their mix of durability and style.
Superior harnesses have conversion kits available to let you switch between carrying one or two cameras. This feature is ideal if you have a backup camera or a second photographer supporting you on a shoot. Simply convert your kit to its single-camera style and share the other components with your fellow photography. You likely want to bring your harness conversion kit and replacement parts on location with you so that you can make adjustments on the fly.
Beyond comfort, camera harnesses provide other benefits during on-location shoots. For example, instead of having your camera hang loosely around your neck, a harness straps your camera securely to your body. You won’t have to feel concerned about your camera swinging and hitting something, which can cause serious damage to expensive equipment. Also, harnesses provide stability to help avoid unwanted camera shake in your shots.
If you use more than one camera, you can easily switch between them to capture images quickly without swapping out lenses. You may want to use a telephoto or wide-angle lens on one camera and a zoom lens on the other to be prepared to shoot at a distance or close up. It’s easy to see why a camera harness is a vital piece of photography equipment for every serious photographer.
Tripods can be bulky to carry around, but they’re immensely useful to photographers. With a tripod, you can stabilize your camera and explore a wide range of photographic techniques.
How are tripods helpful? With a tripod, you can use slower shutter speeds (less than 1/25 per second) and avoid camera blur. This approach is especially useful for taking crisp images of stationary objects. You can also use self-timers and remote shutter controls to eliminate blur when using your tripod.
Also, if shooting in low light, you can lower your shutter speed without bumping up your ISO. This technique works best for indoor shooting or stationary objects. It’s less useful for taking people or lifestyle photographers when there is a lot of movement.
In addition, shooting at a slower shutter speed lets you use smaller apertures. With this approach, you can achieve greater depth of field and have more elements in the image in sharp focus.
For a professional photography shoot, having a battery die can spell disaster when on location. If you don’t have a battery for your camera, you can’t take photos. If you can’t take photos, you may miss critical shots or not be able to complete your assignment.
Smart photographers avoid battery-related mishaps by bringing along extras. Bring along at least one spare battery. Two or three spares may be warranted for longer on-location shoots. You may also want to bring your battery chargers to plug in and recharge batteries.
Having extra batteries on hand gives you the opportunity to take more shots—which means you’re more likely to capture more “keeper” images. Be aware, most batteries become weaker over time and allow you to shoot fewer images. Even if your battery doesn’t go completely dead, you may want to swap it out for a fresh one to keep shooting at a reasonable pace. Remember that accessories like speedlights may require batteries as well.
By bringing along spare batteries for your photography equipment, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you can shoot as long as needed without disruption.
6. Memory Cards
A memory card is another of those must-have items for your photography equipment list. Better yet, bring two, three extra memory cards—just to be safe.
Memory cards may not be as interesting or exciting as lenses and lighting, but they’re just as critical. After all, memory cards house all the photos you take. If you run out of memory, you may need to pause and delete unwanted photos—which is a big pain when you’re shooting on location. You might even have to stop shooting and risk disappointing your client. It’s clear why spare memory cards are must-have items of photography equipment.
Although memory cards are small pieces of plastic, you do need to know some basic facts about them to make smart purchases. You may hear memory cards referred to as “SD cards.” Keep in mind that SD cards are slightly older technology and not the best choice for professional photography engagements. Instead, look for SDHC cards—or Secure Digital High Capacity cards—which can store up to 32 gigabytes (GB) of images. Even better, you can opt for SDXC cards, which are Secure Digital Extreme Capacity cards that can provide up to 2 terabytes (2 TB) of storage.
Some camera models require a different type of card—called a compact flash (CF) card. These cards are not in wide use, however. A more common memory card option is called an XQD card—this is the gold standard in the professional photography marketplace. These small, fast memory cards are used in top-of-the-line cameras or in other models with a dual-memory card setup.
When shopping for memory cards, take note of their speed and capacity. The speed of the cards is expressed in megabytes per second (MB/s). You may see one number that represents the read speed of the card, which tells you how fast you can transfer images to your computer. Some memory cards also detail their write speed, which is how long it takes for images to write to your memory card.
Capacity is expressed in gigabytes and relates to how many images you can save to a single card. Some professional photographers buy many memory cards with smaller capacity and swap them out more frequently. Others opt for a single card to contain all the images from a day’s shoot.
How do you select the right memory card capacity for your needs? Start by considering a typical day’s shooting. Understand how many images you capture and their average size. Keep in mind that RAW images—which are best for modifying with editing software—have a very large file size.
Imagine that you shoot 2,000 images on a typical shoot. You’ll want to double that number to ensure you have plenty of space on your memory card. So, assume 4,000 images. Also, expect to shoot RAW and estimate an average of 30 MB for each image. Multiply your number of images and your average image size, to determine that you need 12,000 MB on your memory card. You’ll now need to convert megabytes to gigabytes—so divide 12,000 by 1,000. Now, you know that you need at least 120 GB on your memory card. That means a 128 GB card should work for your needs.
7. Lights and Light Stands
On some shoots, you’ll be lucky enough to have ideal lighting conditions. But you’ll often have to plan to bring along photography lighting equipment. You can’t always control the weather or interior lighting conditions—and you can’t risk missing a shot due to poor lighting. Before any shoot, it’s always a good idea to research or visit the venue to understand what type of lighting equipment you may need.
One of the simplest pieces of lighting gear is a speedlight, which is a flash unit that sits on top of a camera. Most speedlights allow you to change their direction so that you can bounce light off a wall or ceiling instead of pointing the flash directly at your subject. Be sure to bring extra batteries for your speedlight to make sure it stays operational throughout your shoot.
You can also attach your speedlights to a light stand to create new lighting angles. If you’re shooting any type of portraits, a shoot-through-umbrella is also helpful to diffuse light.
Sometimes, you may be able to take advantage of natural light at your shooting location. But you may want to bring a reflector to help bounce light. This approach often works well for portraits, since the reflected light helps to fill in any shadows that may appear on your subject’s face.
If a dark setting is an issue, you may want to bring along studio strobe lights. Typically, these lights are not as easy to transport, but they give you far more power than speedlights. You may not need them on every shoot. But if you know there is rain in the forecast or you’re shooting at night or indoors, you may need a high-powered strobe lighting setup. Checking the weather and researching your venue will let you know if strobe lights are necessary.
8. Flash Diffuser
If you are using an external flash, using a flash diffuser is an excellent idea. When you shoot with a flash, you can get unwanted results—such as washed-out colors or hard shadows. But a flash diffuser helps you overcome these common issues.
A flash diffuser is a simple type of lighting modifier that attaches to your external flash unit. A diffuser helps spread out the light of the flash and make the light softer. You may be familiar with diffusers made of semi-transparent plastic that clips on to the front of flashes. But there are many other sizes and styles of flash diffusers.
Keep in mind that larger diffusers produce softer light. Also, you’ll still likely need to point your flash away from your subject to bounce the light when using a flash diffuser. Experiment with different angles to create the effects that you desire.
9. Lens Cleaning Kits and Lens Hoods
At times, your lenses can get dirty or wet when shooting on location. This situation can definitely happen on long shoots and when you are shooting outdoors. You don’t want a dirty lens preventing you from capturing that perfect photograph, however. That’s why you should always bring lens cleaning wipes along on any shoot. Some shoots are fast-paced, but lens wipes let you clean your lens quickly without unnecessary downtime.
Lens hoods—also known as lens shades—are devices that you attach to your lens to block the sun or other harsh light sources. They also help protect your lens from dirt, grime, and scratches. You may not need a lens hood on your lens on every shoot, but they’re light to carry and easy to keep on hand.
10. Lens Filters
Lens filters are thin pieces of glass that fit over your lens and can enhance the look of your images. You’ll find a broad array of filters available that serve many purposes. Some filters are clear and help protect your lens by safeguarding it against dust and scratches while shooting. Others may adjust or correct colors to improve the tone or contrast of your images. In addition, you can find lens filters that reduce glare or reflections that can mar your photographs.
Here are a few common types of lens filters:
Most often used for shooting outdoors, skylight filters help remove the blue cast that can appear in some outdoor photos. These filters also help protect your lens glass while shooting.
A polarizing filter helps reduce glare and even out colors. You can also use them to reduce reflections on water or glassy surfaces.
Neutral Density and Graduated Neutral Density Filters
Neutral density (ND) filters reduce the amount of light that enters your lens. As a result, you can use slower shutter speeds and wider apertures and create motion blur. You may find ND filters useful when shooting in natural settings or when taking pictures of fast-moving objects or people.
When shooting outdoors, you may also consider a graduated neutral density filter. These filters include darker and clear areas to help create balanced exposures.
You can use color-correcting filters to adjust or enhance colors in photographs. For example, when shooting indoors, you may find that the lighting environment doesn’t match the mood you’re trying to create.
When shooting a happy event in a dark space, dim indoor lighting may cause a scene to appear gloomy. A warming color correcting filter can make the scene more vibrant. By contrast, if the indoor lighting is too harsh or vivid and the mood of your shoot is more subdued, you can use a cooling filter. Color-correcting filters can also bring out specific colors in your setting.
If you want to take close-up shots without a macro lens, close-up filters are an excellent solution. These filters are similar to magnifying glasses that help regular lenses focus on smaller subjects. They can be a great solution if you don’t do macro photography regularly and aren’t ready to invest in an expensive macro lens.
11. Gear Bags
Gear bags are must-have items to keep your valuable camera equipment safe during transport. There are many styles of gear bags available, so consider your shooting needs and personal style before making your selection. You can find rugged backpacks for outdoor shooting adventures and sleek, stylish cases that make a professional first impression.
If you are bringing multiple types of gear to a shoot, you may need more than one gear bag. And if you’re traveling light with minimal equipment, your camera harness may be all that you need.
This classic camera bag style fits on one shoulder. They’re easy to carry and use, but they may put a lot of weight on one shoulder. If you’re carrying your gear for a long time, you may not find a shoulder bag to be the most comfortable option.
Camera gear backpacks feature two straps and distribute weight across your shoulders. These bags are great for anyone who may need to carry gear for a long time, or across a long distance. But there is a downside to backpacks. Your gear is less accessible since you’ll need to take the backpack off to take anything out of it.
A kind of shoulder bag and backpack hybrid, sling bags are designed for carrying on your back. However, they swing around to the front to give you access to your gear.
A favorite bag style of urban commuters, messenger bags feature a cross-body style. You place the strap on one shoulder and allow the bag to rest on your opposite hip. This style of bag may accommodate both camera gear and a laptop for any on-location editing.
Designed for travel, these bags feature a rolling base and extendable handle. These bags can be an exceptional choice for anyone who needs to carry heavy photography equipment. But they work best on flat surfaces—such as sidewalks or floors in buildings. If you’re shooting in a natural setting, roller bags may not traverse well over uneven terrain.
Also, if you travel to shooting sites, roller bags can be very useful. Many fit airline cabin baggage requirements, so you can carry them on to flights with ease.
If you shoot in any harsh or demanding environments, hard cases may be ideal for you. They are extremely durable and rugged can protect your expensive gear from damage due to rough handling or impact.
Bring the Right Equipment with You to Every Wedding Shoot
Weddings are one of the most memorable and joyful days for celebrants. Shooting weddings can be a very lucrative focus for a photography business. But you need the right wedding photography equipment to be successful. The right camera gear can help you capture high-quality images that will be cherished for years to come.
Many professional photographers bring at least two cameras on every wedding shoot. Having multiple cameras gives them the flexibility to capture wide and close-up shots without having to swap out lenses. And it’s always a good idea to have a backup camera in case one fails. During a long wedding shoot, you need to be comfortable to stay focused and professional. A top-quality camera harness can keep your camera secure while giving you the freedom to move and shoot from different angles.
Multiple lenses ensure that you can capture everything from extreme close-ups that show details of beadwork on gowns or the ornate elegance of a custom wedding cake. You also need telephoto lenses to shoot at a distance, and wider-angle lenses to capture scenery and wedding venues. Often, you’ll need to bring along lighting equipment for perfect portraits of the happy couple and their wedding party. Lighting can also help you take an exceptional photograph in dim settings, such as dark corners of churches or under the night sky.
Always bring along extra batteries and memory cards. A dead battery or maxed-out memory card can bring your wedding shoot to an untimely end. Often, a professional photographer will bring several of each to play it safe.
Also, keep a close watch on current trends to make sure you have the right photography equipment on hand. Some contemporary weddings feature photobooths, where guests can have photos taken. If the couple wants their own photo booth, you may need a laptop, backdrops, props, editing software like Adobe Photoshop, and studio lighting. You won’t need all this photography equipment for every wedding, but it's good to have it available if you do.
Today, many couples want to express their personalities through their wedding. As a wedding photographer, you can find yourself shooting in all kinds of settings. Some couples prefer formal religious ceremonies followed by fully catered receptions at high-end venues. Others may get married in the woods or a field and have a casual buffet barbeque. You may shoot in the warmth of spring and summer, on crisp autumn days, or bundled up on snowy nights. To excel in wedding photography, you need to be flexible and capable of adapting to any situation or environment.
The right wedding photography equipment can boost your confidence and skills. You can relax in knowing that you have the best photography gear for the job and focus on capturing beautiful and meaningful images. Preparation is the key to success. Use our photography equipment list as a guide and get ready to make your mark in the exciting world of wedding photography.