15 essentials that should be in every wedding photographer's camera bag - from tissues to Ziploc bags
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As a hobbyist photographer, transitioning into the world of weddings was terrifying.Not only does it require long, concentrated shooting, it's a fleeting event. You only have one chance to capture everything the bride and groom wants you to.
After my first few weddings, I learned that preparation is everything. Your camera bag makes or breaks the experience, so I'm here to share my camera bag must-haves whenever I go to shoot a wedding.
There are some basic things I'm not going to cover, though. You should always have a nice selection of lenses, a flash, and a backup body, if possible.
1. Batteries, filters, and storage
Shooting a wedding is all about preparation, particularly preparation that doesn't require any input from the bride and groom. While everything here seems like common sense, I showed up at my first few weddings feeling overprepared when I was actually underprepared.
Batteries are first. I'm a Sony shooter, and anyone who shares that burden with me will know that the battery life is absolutely terrible. When I started, I came with six batteries, but after more than one 12-hour day, I found that wasn't enough. Now, I show up with 10 batteries in my bag, even though I've never made it through all of them.That's fairly expensive, though. Ten genuine Sony NP-FW50s will run you around $500. There are plenty of off-brand options that cut the price significantly, though. Take this four-pack of Powerextra batteries that's around half the price of a single battery from Sony, for example.
If you're a Canon or Nikon shooter, you can most assuredly get by with fewer batteries. The important thing here is to be overprepared. If you don't have the money to shell out for a ton of extra batteries, make sure to set up a home base where you can charge batteries throughout the day.
The same rule applies to storage. My rule is to pack three times as much storage as I think I'll need. Of course, you can modify this rule depending on your shooting circumstances. If you're only shooting the ceremony, you can get by with less, and if you're covering the full day, you'll need a little more.
If you have the ability to shoot redundantly, then always opt for it. My particular setup doesn't allow for that, so I try to find a safe place to set my laptop with an external hard-drive and dump images throughout the day.
Lastly, make sure to pack filters. I have UV filters on all of my lens, but I also pack variable NDs and circular polarizers, as well. While it's always a good idea to research the venue before you shoot, you simply won't know about the lighting and weather conditions until the day of the wedding. Having multiple filters at your disposal will allow you to quickly adapt to, say, a high-contrast shot outside.
Filters are expensive, though, so if you want to save a few bones and use what you already have, I suggest packing some stepping rings, too.
You could also pack color-correcting or gradient filters, but I've found those slow me down more than anything else. If you're, for example, shooting at a venue that has an orange cast to the lighting, though, it may be a good idea.
What I use:
- Batteries: Powerextra Battery (4-Pack) and Charger, available at Amazon, $30
- Storage: SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB SDXC UHS-I Memory Card, available at Amazon, $22
- Filters: UV filters, variable NDs, circular polarizers, stepping rings (all available at Amazon, prices vary)
2. A blower and cleaning clothWhile I'm not opposed to the ol' "huff on your lens and wipe it down with your shirt," a dedicated cleaning cloth is something you should pack. Not only will it keep your wedding attire clean, it will ensure that you're not smudging or otherwise damaging the front element of your lens.
A "rocket" blower is also important. If you're unaware, this little tool shoots a small amount of air into the mirror and sensor area of your camera to clean out any dust that may have built up inside. I have mine on hand whenever I'm doing a lens swap, so I can take off the lens I'm changing, clean out any dust, and attach the new one.
While you could wait and clean your camera after the wedding, it's a good idea to routinely clean it during. Nothing's worse than a large speck of dust showing up across 300 shots that you didn't spot in the viewfinder.
What I use:
- Blower: AmazonBasics Air Blower for Cameras and Sensitive Electronics, available at Amazon, $10
- Cleaning cloth: MagicFiber Microfiber Cleaning Cloths (6-Pack), available at Amazon, $9
While in hindsight it seems so obvious, I never thought to pack tissues in my camera bag. Weddings are emotional, and you'll have subjects crying left and right. Having some tissues on hand can ensure that you're always getting the shot you need, even if it's a particularly emotional moment.
Furthermore, it builds rapport with the wedding party. Especially when starting out, it's hard to be taken seriously as a wedding photographer. While a small gesture, handing out tissues whenever you need to shows that you're professional and prepared. I usually pack the travel-sized Kleenex packs, which are under $1 a piece.
What I use:
4. Plastic bags, grips, and ties
Outdoor weddings are a nightmare. It doesn't matter how many times you check the weather, the conditions can always change. Even with the impressive weather sealing that professional cameras and lenses have, it's a good idea to pack some old-fashioned Ziplocs to be safe.
While I primarily use the bags to cover my camera when it starts raining outdoors, I've had to use them in other situations, too. Sometimes, for example, there's a particularly rowdy reception, with wedding guests tossing booze around as they dance. You'll be happy to have them there.
In addition to plastic bags, I always pack some cable ties and spring clamps. Like the Ziplocs, these items are situational, but they're a good idea to bring along. Whether it's for rigging a flash you're going to trigger remotely or clamping up something for a backdrop, I always bring cable ties and clamps with me.
What I use:
- Ziploc bags: Ziploc Gallon Slider Storage Bags (96-Pack), available at Amazon, $15
- Cable ties: TR Industrial Multi-Purpose Cable Ties (100-Pack), available at Amazon, $7
- Spring clamps: WORKPRO 16-Piece Spring Clamp Set, available at Amazon, $15
5. Snacks, mints, water, and deodorantCLIF
You'll be offered food when you shoot a wedding. I've never had a client that hasn't offered it to me. However, if you're like me and want to focus on shooting and not on eating, it's a good idea to pack some snacks to eat throughout the day.
I'm partial to Clif Bars - white chocolate macadamia Clif Bars, in particular - but any food packed with good fats will do the trick. Trail mix and protein bars are good options. Try to avoid anything that's loaded with sugar without a good mix of healthy fats. Trail mix and protein bars have their fair share of sugar, but that inevitable crash is offset by the fat.
That rule applies to what you're drinking, too. Don't pack energy drinks or soda because, once again, you'll eventually crash. I only drink water when I'm shooting so I can make sure I'm hydrated and alert throughout the day. I use a water bottle with a ring-like top so I can easily attach it to my camera bag.
For me, that's particularly important because I sweat like a dog. It isn't cute, but you're going to be running around all day long, and during the Summer when weddings are at their peak, that means you'll probably be sweating. I always pack deodorant and, sometimes, cologne so I don't stink up the joint.
Similarly, I don't want my breath to stink when I'm giving direction for shots. Mints are always a good idea, especially as it gets late in the day and you're doing staged photos. I'll usually pop a few in throughout the day to help me focus, too.
What I use:
- Snacks: CLIF BAR White Chocolate Macadamia Nut (12-Pack), available at Amazon, $11
- Water bottle with ring-like top: Simple Modern Ascent Water Bottle (32 oz.), available at Amazon, $22
- Mints: Mentos NOWMint Tin (12-Pack), available at Amazon, $17
6. A schedule
While not always possible, I try to make a schedule when I'm shooting for a full day. Usually, I'll meet with the bride and groom and walk through the day with them prior to the ceremony. This gives me an opportunity to know where I'm supposed to be and when I'm supposed to be there.
In the past, that schedule has been stored on my phone, but after a few dead batteries, I started bringing a physical copy. It's a small thing you can do to make sure you're fully covering the day without people pulling you in every direction. Furthermore, you'll often have family members and friends ask for photos, and having a schedule informs whether you can take the time to do that or not.
7. Business cards
Last, but certainly not least, you'll want to have a hefty stack of business cards on hand. Business cards are a mostly archaic form of sharing information, but they're very useful for fast moving environments, such as a wedding.In addition to giving your information to a bridesmaid or groomsman who's looking to get hitched, you'll often find, for example, extended family who has a newborn. If you have a website, you can also print a QR code on the card so those potential clients can look through your portfolio.
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