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How I Shoot a Wedding – 1 – My Gear

I’m probably not your typical wedding photographer and I only shoot a maximum of ten weddings a year. Wedding photography jobs used to be a substantial part of my paid work when I started out. I found out that I absolutely loved this challenging type of photography (and I still do) but only if I don’t shoot a ton of weddings. Wedding photography doesn’t mix very well with the family agenda if the rest of the family is into a 5 days of school/work + 2 days of weekend rhythm. It’s not just the often 14+ hours days, it’s also that I’m usually in recovery mode, the day after, thus being unavailable for the family for the whole weekend.
A wedding is too important to shoot on experience alone in my opinion. If I shoot a wedding I want to give it my all and tell the story of this day to my very best ability. That means that it requires a lot of energy, an amount of energy that I can’t bring up weekend after weekend. I have some friends that are able to do this for 30 weddings a year and I really admire them for it but I just can’t do it. So that’s another reason why I don’t shoot more than 10 weddings a year. 
The final reason for the limited amount of weddings is that I need to do it my way. I probably turn down more potential wedding clients than I accept. I know that this may sound pretentious and arrogant but it isn’t. I want to do the best job that I possibly can, but that’s something I can only do with the right clients. I don’t care how they look or how expensive their wedding is but there needs to be a connection and a high degree of trust. 

So again, I’m probably not a typical wedding photographer and I don’t consider nor aspire to be an expert in this genre. But as I shot a wedding last weekend I thought I’d share with you how I approach a wedding in a series of blogposts. Let’s start of with the gear.

I shoot weddings from the perspective of a guest who just happens to be a decent photographer. On this occasion I was both a guest and the official photographer since this was the wedding of good friends of ours. I know, I know, many people will tell you not to do this but I don’t mind. I’d rather walk around with a camera than just sitting still during a wedding. 
I pick the equipment that suits my style best. I want cameras that don’t scream “I’m the hired photographer!” but still give me the best possible image quality. Another reason for keeping my bag small and light is simply physical. I don’t shoot my best work when I’m tired or when my back hurts. 

Here’s what’s in my camera bag:

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- business cards
- wallet
- a pen with some gaffer tape rolled onto it
- Fujifilm X100s (the camera that generally sees the most action) with a 64GB Sandisk Extreme card in it.
- 2 spare batteries for the X100s
- 2 spare 32GB Sandisk Extreme cards
- 1 8GB Sandisk EyeFi card (which normally doesn’t get used but you never know)
- Fujifilm X-Pro1 with a 32GB Sandisk Extreme card in it.
- 3 spare batteries for the X-Pro1
- Fujinon 35mm f1.4 (here attached to the camera)
- Fujinon 14mm f2.8
- Fujinon 55-200mm (will probably be moved to my backup bag once the 56mm 1.2 is out)
- aspirine (I once developed a headache at the start of a 15 hour event, not much fun)
- Fujifilm EF-X20 flash (I don’t use it very often but it’s reassuring to know you have some extra light within reach)
- Canon OC3 off-camera flash cord (You didn’t think I was actually going to put that EF-X20 on my camera, did you? Works with TTL on the Fuji’s btw)
- 8 spare AAA batteries for the EF-X20
- lens cloth

During the day I sometimes switch things between my main camera bag and my backup bag depending on the situation. Talking about the backup bag, this is usually over the shoulder of my assistant/wife. And if I’m working alone, it’s always nearby. I often ask a guest to keep an eye on it. I take backups very seriously because I need to know that I can finish the job whatever happens but I rather spend my hard earned money on complimentary gear than on buying everything twice. So I always try to have gear that overlaps in functions and at the same time adds extra functionality. For example the X-M1 might not be as ergonomic and well built as the X-Pro1 but it’s perfectly workable, has the exact same image quality and offers extras like the tilt screen and build-in wifi. So here’s what’s in my backup bag:

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- Fujifilm X-M1: Sometimes the third camera doesn’t even leave the bag although the tilting screen can be a great help if you want to shoot up close and still stay unnoticed. Sometimes my wife comes along as the bag lady. She isn’t a trained photographer but she has a good eye. I don’t count on her making any usable images but she always surprises me with some great bonus shots. So she sometimes uses the third camera too. 
- Fujinon 18-55 (attached to the X-M1 here) I prefer fast primes but sometimes the situation just asks for the flexibility of a zoom.
- Fujinon 23mm f1.4: This is a near production ready prototype that I’ve been testing for Fujifilm. I don’t really plan on using it but I might experiment a bit with it if I have some downtime.
- Fujifilm EF-42 flash (you never know)
- Lumopro LP180 flash (it’s sensitive optical slave function makes it a good quick off-camera flash solution)
- Spare AA batteries
- Optical Slave that I can use on the EF-42 if needed
- gaffer tape
- extra business cards 
- deodorant
- battery chargers
- Led Lenser T7 LED torch: I’m experimenting with it and if I have the time I’ll test out some ideas. 
- spare AAA batteries for the torch

All this fits in two shoulder bags. My camera bag is the ThinTank Retrospective 7 (the greenish one) and the backup bag is an old LowePro bag. 

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For my portrait work I use more or less the same gear strategy, although things might be switched from one bag to the other depending on the requirements of the job. Although it usually doesn’t get used, I also take my small flash kit to weddings. I’ll show you what’s in that bag in the next post. 

Here are all the articles in this series:
part 1 – my gear
part 2 – my lighting bag
part 3 – bridal prep
part 4 – civil ceremony
part 5 – church 
part 6 – formals
part 7 – reception and dinner
part 8 – let’s dance

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