Monday, June 9, 2008

001 - Camera Equipment

So... what kind of camera equipment does a photographer need to capture a wedding? Well, it depends on where it all takes place and your budget and if you are a professional or not.

Of course even the best equipment in the world won't help you if you don't know your equpment very well... and more importantly, have the basics of photography down solidly. There are many ways one can learn the basics... read a book, take a class and practice, practice, practice make a good start.

As far as how we could optimize our chances of getting nice shots, let's make a few assumptions... that the event takes place in the following five locations:

- Inside the house... pre-wedding
- On the way to the ceremony... pre-wedding
- The ceremony in a church location
- The formals area
- The reception

What equipment will come in handy in any given scenario? Here are my general thoughts:

Inside the House:
We are looking at a lower light envirnment, so fast lenses and/or flash are helpful tools. Some of the most dramatic shots I can see as those being taken with nothing more than ambient light. For that, a lens that does between F/1.4 to F/1.8 would be of great help. A couple of remote flashes would also be of assistance.

On the way to the ceremony... pre-wedding:
We are looking at moving in/around the car, outdoors. I would use deeper DOF (depth of field), outside around the car, and with the couple in the car, wireless flash (strategically placed inside the car) to light the couple up. Moving car pics? A lens with vibration reduction or image stabilization is a great help.

The ceremony in a church location:

Very low lightagain... flash may not always be an option. Very fast lenses rule here! Use the flash before the B&G get to the altar or when they are walking out after the ceremony, when you can to add to the ambient, but it cannot look like a flash was used in the final product (your choice... I prefer NOT to use a flash anywhere in the church if I can help it). No matter what choices you want to make, don't even think about using a flash until you have cleared it with the powers that be, and in a church, that would be the priest or paster who is head of teh establishment in his domain. Ask them when and where you may or may not use the flash and how many flashes and/or photos are your maximum numbers permitted.

The formals Area:

Depends on where you will take these. If outside (statistically done more times outside than inside), you can use a wider angle as easily as the Nikon wedding photographer's best friend, the 70-200 F/2.8. A lens that is wonderfully sharp and fast. Of course one could try out a few nice wide angle shots and get something unique. Portrait shots done using flash and high-speed sync are wonderful here if the sun is very strong and you need to overpower it for a shallow DOF.

The reception:
Near anything goes! If you need to use the flash here, normally you can. I'd even do things like set up an area with a portraiture section (backdrop and all) under some circumstances. Guests will walk up, get a portrait taken with themselves or their partner. Now, at the reception, people drink, get tipsy and then start tripping over all your precisely placed light stands. Though I am not the greatest fan of it, for mobility and ease of use, an on-camera flash can be helpful. If practiced, a hand-held flash could improve results some.

So, what equipment do I own?

- Nikon D700 w/MB-D10 battery grip, 2 EN-EL3 and 1 EN-EL4 batteries
- Nikon D200 w/MB-D200 battery grip. 2 EN-EL3 batteries
- Nikon E8800 (point and shoot) and 2 batteries
- Nikon F2A (film)

- Nikkor 70-200mm EF ID F/2.8
- Nikkor 24-70mm EF ID F/2.8
- Nikkor 14-24mm EF ID F/2.8 (coming before April 2010)
- Nikkor 85mm F/1.4
- Nikkor 18-200mm VR F/3.5-5.6
- Nikkor 50mm F/1.8 prime
- Sigma 105mm F/2.8 prime
- Sigma 30mm F/1.4 prime
- Sigma 18-50mm F/2.8
- Sigma 10-20mm Ultra Wide Angle
- Sigma 15mm F/2.8 Fisheye
- Sigma 20mm F/1.8 prime
- Sigma 50mm F/1.4 prime

- One Photogenic 2500DR (1,000W/s) studio head and accessories
- One Metz C-45 flash
- One Vivitar 285HV flash
- One Nikon SB-800 flash
- One Nikon SB-80DX flash
- Two Nikon SB-600 flashes
- Two 120v studio strobes
- light stands "en masse" 6-13 feet.
- Two 42" umbrellas (silver bounce style)
- Four 45" umbrellas (white bounce/shoot through style)
- 28" Apollo softbox
- 50" Apollo softbox

- Three different styles/kinds of tripods and two monopods.
- Four SanDisk Extreme IV 8GB CF cards
- Twenty-four Energizer 2650mah rechargeable batteries for flashes and remote triggers
- 5 Energizer 2 hour battery chargers
- One Alien Bee Vagabond II battery pack with home and car chargers.
- Laptop with external 2 Terrabyte hard drive and CF card reader (I off load my pics from the cards often)
- Various sizes of custom made foamcore bounce cards (3" to 11" in height)
- Cactus V2s, 9 receivers and 3 transmitters (modified for reliable functionality over 350 ft)
- 5 Pocket Wizard Plus II
- crap load of misc stuff ranging from plastic bags, plastic ties, rubber bands, gaffer and electrical tape, sensor cleaner swabs, and on and on...

This is pretty much enough to do a wedding at any level from a primary, second or a beginner just wanting to have some fun at a family or friend's event. Just as a thought, if you are into the professional thing, pretty much multiply everything by 2 (or even 3). One should have a backup of EVERYTHING that could break, jam or stop working unexpectedly.

Next: Pre-Wedding At the House