My gear and backup plans for shooting weddings

Being a professional photographer and asked to shoot your wedding is a massive privilege and responsibility, and something I take very seriously.

When people wonder initially why wedding photography seems so expensive, it is common to assume that a photographer just turns up with a camera and just takes photos on the day and then send them to you afterwards. How difficult can that be? Uncle Bob could do that!

But there is considerable preparation required to shoot a wedding professionally, mainly because of the need to have backups and contingencies in place for any eventuality. Preparing my gear even for a two hour wedding, takes about two hours in total time over the course of the previous day.

While I might being able to "get away" with having two batteries to shoot a wedding, I have to think about the possibility of battery failure. I need to factor in the unforeseen, like dropping a camera and rendering it useless, or breaking a lens by bumping it into a hard wall.

Before every wedding lenses and each piece of equipment is checked, cleaned and housed in a hard pelican case for transport. I have backups for everything including flash lights, cameras, cards and seven batteries (enough to shoot for 21 hours).

I have about 32 X high performance Eneloop batteries which each need to be recharged and placed in my gear bag, in addition to seven Canon brand camera batteries. There is probably enough battery power to shoot for several days, but that is what you are paying for — reassurance that your photographer will not run out of batteries at the first dance!

My main camera bag contains the latest version, professional Canon L series lenses. I do not use third party brands like Sigma or Tamron (even though they are just as sharp and half the price) because in my experience they are not as reliable in terms of auto focus, and generally have inferior weather sealing.

The main kit includes 2 X Canon L 24-70MM II, 1 X Canon L 70MM-200MM, 1 X Canon L 85MM 1.4 and a 1 X Canon L 100MM Macro II. I also bring a Canon L 11-24MM for special purposes. That is six lenses in total, with redundancy across common focal ranges should any lens fail.

For lighting I use Canon 600 EXRT-II speedlites (2) which I have with me at all times as required, plus I use the MagMod system for modifying light. This means I can capture photos in any lighting conditions, even a completely dark room. I have additional lighting in my car for group shots if required, if time permits.

I only physically carry one camera at a time, so another backup camera can be grabbed in the event of an accident or fall.

I have 2 X Canon 5D Mark IV camera bodies (2019 versions) and also have a bright yellow “emergency case” which contains an additional Canon 5D Mark III, spare battery, AC battery charger and additional spare flash batteries and flash. This is stored either in my car, or near the wedding depending on the situation. This is the bag I would reach for is something catastrophic happened, like my pelican case was stolen and I lost all my gear.

I always shoot to two memory cards simultaneously in raw format, as the best practice for backing up automatically while shooting.

I immediately backup photos to two additional locations on return to my studio on the night of the wedding. Two memory cards are saved in a marked and sealed envelope until photos are delivered. This means there are four backup copies of your photos until they are delivered. After delivery there are three backup copies kept for a period of one year minimum for weddings, in addition to the Dropbox cloud storage of the photos at maximum archive quality, plus the USB drive that gets posted to you, and the high resolution photos stored on the Pixieset servers.

During the time that your photos are being edited which generally takes about three weeks, a copy of the raw files is kept inside my vehicle as well. That means that whenever I leave the house, a copy of your photos is being taken with me just in case my house burns down.

When you book your wedding with me, I will be on time (that normally means a little early) and ready to start shooting before or at the start time booked.

On an eight hour wedding shoot, it would not be uncommon to shoot in excess of 2000 photos. These all have to be imported, backed up, individually culled (photos that are out of focus removed etc.) before individually editing them, with each photo taking several minutes.

Portraits photos then receive further treatment such as subtle teeth whitening, skin softening and pimple/blemish removal. Some photographers using automatic plugins to do this, but there is no substitute for careful, individual editing of each photo and just the right amount of touch ups as required.

When considering the costs and quotes of various wedding photographers, it is similar to judging the size of an iceberg. 80% of the cost of shooting a wedding you will never see, and taking photos on the day makes up only about 20% of the actual time to do it properly and professionally.

Chris Jack