Today’s post is for any photographer newbies who may be reading! Just a short and sweet post about the equipment I started out with, the equipment I have now, and a few fancy photos to compare some settings! Many of these photos are from my early days, so no judging allowed!
I started photographing professionally in 2011, just after earning my degree from OU’s College of Architecture in Interior Design. That figures. During my senior year of college, I was really leaning toward starting a wedding photography business, but wasn’t allowed to take any photography classes with my major (Boo!). So, I read books. I read blogs. I read my CAMERA MANUALS, and I shot a LOT of free and almost-free sessions. I believe I bought my first “real” camera in February of 2011: A Nikon D7000, with an 18-200 mm lens. That was (and still is) a PERFECT starter camera and lens. After a couple months of saving up, I bought a 35mm f/4 lens and a Nikon SB800 flash. I shot several weddings with this combo and it worked great! Below are a couple of examples.
As soon as I was booking weddings consistently, I upgraded my LENSES to full-frame lenses. I knew I couldn’t afford to upgrade both my camera and lenses at the same time, so I had to take it one step at a time. Remember, it’s much easier to use a full frame lens on a DX camera than to use a DX lens on a full frame camera! It’s OK to invest in your business, but as an avid Dave Ramsey follower, I don’t spend money until I have it.
First, I sold my 35mm and replaced it with the amazing 50mm f/1.4. This does so great in dim lighting (which I encounter quite a bit at weddings), and is so small and lightweight!
Next, I added the 16-35mm VR. Wide lenses will never be my favorite, but you gotta have em! Distortion can be an issue with wide lenses, so you really need to make sure you understand how to use them properly. For example, don’t push them to their limits and leave some crop space.
After the 16-35 was in my bag, I added the 70-200mm f/2.8 gargantuan lens. I love the bokeh ability with this lens, and hate the heaviness. I use it probably 2-3 times per wedding, but again, it’s a must during ceremonies when I’m trying to be ninja and unseen, and I’ve even played with it for ring shots.
After I had these 3 full frame lenses, I sold my D7000 camera and bought two D610’s. While I love the 610, I quickly upgraded one to the D750, which focuses much better in low light (receptions), though I’m not a hug fan of the moveable screen on the back (I’m being picky). Almost immediately after purchasing the full frame cameras, I was so excited to add the 85mm f/1.4 and the 105mm f/2.8 to my bag!
I call the 85mm lens my “butter lens.” The sweet, sweet bokeh that this lens gives me is unmatched. It turns the backdrop into butter at about 1.8, and I rarely use it below an aperture of 2 (“below” meaning above, if you understand the crazy jargon that is aperture).
While I don’t use every lens on every bridal or engagement session, I DO use them all during any given wedding day. I also have back-ups of several items (you HAVE to have back ups as soon as you can afford them!) just in case. Below are examples of some of my favorite shots with these lenses.
A few other “fun” pieces I shoot with:
The HoldFast Money Maker harness from holdfastgear.com. I finally took the plunge last month and splurged as a reward when I booked up my year of weddings. And I LOVE this harness! It’s not only functional, but truly a piece of art!
Rain Covers. I’ve only had to use mine once, and I hate it and love it. I love it because it protects my thousands of dollars spent on equipment, and I hate it because it is such a pain! One day all of these cameras and lenses will be waterproof, right?
FStoppers Flash Disc. SO. Good. Probably my favorite flash attachment I’ve had, and I use it often. You can purchase it on Amazon or on fstoppers.com.
I should say, I could get away with shooting on one camera with my 16-35mm and 50mm, but that’s assuming no equipment error and…I’d feel pretty limited! The advice I’ve always followed is: Upgrade your equipment once you feel like your current equipment is limiting you, and not before. I was pretty proud of those first images I took with my D7000 and 18-200mm, and I still am. While I’d like to think I’m a better photographer now, those images are still someone’s WEDDING PHOTOS, which is a pretty huge deal, so even if I see things in them now that I’d do differently, the fact is that I didn’t know better at the time…and I still had happy clients. Do not shoot a wedding or any other equally important event until you know you can handle it, but also don’t wait until you’ve spent over $10,000 in equipment. You don’t need the best of the best to provide amazing photos and memories for brides. You do, however, need to understand your equipment and how to react to all different kinds of lighting. And you DO need to be honest about your experience so that your brides don’t have unrealistic expectations.
Please, please, please don’t be afraid to comment here or reach out to me with questions. I’ll also be hosting a workshop for pro’s and emerging pro’s later this year, so email me at email@example.com if you’d like to be on the contact list for that! It will be FULL of more detailed information, fun memories, good food…and you’ll get the chance to ask questions of me, as well as another pro who shoots Canon! More on that still to come…
With joy, Lizard.