My gear and backup plans for shooting weddings

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

When people wonder why wedding photography seems so expensive, it is easy to imagine that a photographer just turns up with a camera and works for a few hours, and the hourly rate for coverage may seem excessive on this basis.

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 three hour wedding, takes about one hour beforehand.

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 equipment are checked, cleaned and housed in a hard pelican case for transport. I have backups for everything including flash lights, cameras, cards and many batteries. 

I have about 24 X AA batteries which each need to be recharged and placed in my gear bag, in addition to six 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 of batteries at the first dance!

My camera bag contains a selection of the latest version, professional Canon L series or Sigma Art lenses. It includes a Canon 24-70MM II, Canon 70MM-200MM, Sigma Art 35MM and Sigma Art 50MM (4 Lenses as standard). I also bring a Canon 11-24MM, Canon 100MM Macro and Canon 24-105MM as special purpose lenses and backups. In total, these lenses cost just over $15'000.

The reason for using these lenses over cheaper consumer grade models include their water and dust sealing, sharper images, better auto focus and robustness.

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

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

I immediately backup photos to three external hard drives on return. One memory card is saved until photos are delivered. This means there five 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.

When you book your wedding with me, I will be on time (that 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.

So while my hourly rate for coverage may seem dear, for every hour shooting a wedding there are roughly two extra hours spent preparing, processing and delivering the final photos.

Chris Jack