equipment needed to photograph weddings professionally
I started my business with cash, and I've never gone into debt while growing my business. I know there are other philosophies out there, but when it came to starting my wedding photography business, I wanted to build it within my means, even if that meant I didn't get the next piece of gear I thought I needed RIGHT NOW.

But I remember the urgency I felt and how I believed that if I could just get that camera I had my eye on, then I would instantly have better photos to show in my portfolio. And in the first year or two of my business, I put every penny I earned toward purchasing the equipment I longed for.

Photographers often think we need every new lens and piece of gear that comes out to do the job. But the truth is, we don't. If we're smart about our purchases, we can keep things simple. Today my bag holds all the gear I could possibly want to shoot weddings as a hybrid photographer, but I still try to keep things simple. And in the spirit of keeping things simple, today I'm going to share the four pieces of gear that I would purchase if I were just starting to photograph weddings today.

This wedding starter kit costs LESS than $5,000, and I've worked with my friends over at B&H Photo to throw in some extras and bundle it all up for some savings. Hang in there until the end of this post and I'll give you all the details on that!

If I were starting out today and wanted to create the most simple set of gear to shoot weddings well, these are the 4 pieces I would purchase:
equipment needed to photograph weddings professionally -- Canon 6D Camera body
1. Canon 6D DSLR Camera (Body Only)

Truth be told, I've never owned this camera. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III. But if you're starting out, you don't necessarily NEED the most expensive camera that Canon has to offer. You might think that putting all your money into your camera and getting the best one you can afford is the way to go. But it's important to remember that lenses can be just as expensive as your camera, if not more. And lenses are actually a better investment over time than your camera body. Cameras are like computers -- they get updated so quickly that as soon as you buy one, the new model is out and yours is outdated. But good lenses will last you a lifetime. So I always recommend that people put the bulk of their money into purchasing good lenses rather than a top-of-the-line camera.

The important thing to look for in a camera, in my opinion, is a full-frame sensor. All Canon DSLR cameras above a certain price point are going to do a decent job, but your sensor impacts how your attached lenses perform. If you have a digital crop sensor like you find in the Canon Rebel models, your lenses will crop in more on your subject (giving you the effect of zooming in) than the same lenses would on a full-frame sensor camera. And when you're in a tight space, like you often are in getting ready rooms, this isn't a good thing. You want to be able to get the full spectrum and width of the focal length of each lens you attach to your camera. There are other benefits to full-frame sensors as well. Cameras with full-frame sensors perform better at higher ISOs and they also allow for more shallow depth of field. So my recommendation is to find the least expensive Canon DSLR with a full-frame sensor and buy it. Right now, that's the Canon 6D.

DO NOT purchase the kit lenses that are often bundled with the Canon 6D. They are not quality lenses and will not be a good investment. Instead, purchase the next two pieces of gear on my wedding starter list.
equipment needed to photograph weddings professionally -- Canon 50mm 1.4 lens
2. Canon 50mm 1.4 Lens

This used to be my favorite lens before I upgraded to the 50mm 1.2. It is hands down, the best bang for your buck when it comes to lenses -- the perfect lens for someone just looking to get into photography. I love lenses with low aperture ranges that allow for me to shoot in low-light situations and create very shallow depth-of-field. The lower the aperture, in my opinion, the better the lens. And that statement typically rings true when it comes to determining lens quality as well. In addition, the 50mm focal length is so versatile -- I use it during every part of the wedding day from getting ready, to portraits, to the ceremony and the reception. I use my 50mm lens more than any other lens in my bag. So this one is a must-have!
equipment needed to photograph weddings professionally -- Canon 70-200 2.8 IS Lens
3. Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS Lens

In my opinion, if you're a wedding photographer, the Canon 70-200 2.8 IS is a must-have lens. I use it for only around 15% of my images at any given wedding, but they are important ones. The reason I think this lens is so vital to have when shooting a wedding is that it allows you to capture the ceremony without having to be right up in the action. You can stand at a distance that allows you to be unobtrusive while still capturing the emotion and facial expressions that you want to preserve from this once-in-a-lifetime event.

The "IS" stands for "Image Stabilized" which is a feature that helps limit the effect of camera shake in telephoto lenses when they are hand-held at low shutter speeds. You can buy this lens for less without this feature, but I wouldn't recommend it. When you buy lenses you want to buy the best because they are investments that will stick with you through the course of your entire career (barring any mishaps). If you try to save by purchasing the 70-200 without the IS, you will not be able to use the lens hand held much below 1/200 sec when fully zoomed in without your images being blurry. When shooting weddings, you really need to be able to use this lens in low-light situations so don't waste your money on the lens without this feature.

I often use this lens during three of the four parts of a wedding day -- portraits, ceremony and reception. The only time of the day that I don't typically use it is preparation because we are in such confined spaces. The three things I love most about this lens are that it allows me to capture genuine emotion, to compose freely from a distance and to spy on people.

I love spying on people! Taking their photos without them knowing I am doing so is awesome. If you have to be close to the subject to get a good composition, they will often stop what they are doing and look at the camera. That ruins any possibility of capturing the moment or that person in a natural state.
equipment needed to photograph weddings professionally -- Canon 600 EX-RT flash unit
4. Canon 600EX-RT Flash

When shooting weddings, you're going to need at the very least, a basic flash. Now, this flash is top-of-the-line, but there's a reason I recommend it in your starter kit. It's a good investment because it will last you years and years. And you are likely going to want to start shooting with off-camera flash within a year or two, so investing in this flash that has radio transmission built in is a smart move. It will allow you to very easily add a second flash when the time is right, and they will be able to communicate with one another without requiring you to purchase any additional equipment. Any other flash is a waste of money, in my opinion, and you'll want to replace it sooner than later. So spring for the best right up front when it comes to a flash!

Click here to read a more comprehensive review I wrote on the Canon 600EX-RT.

And if you're wanting to learn more about shooting with flash, click here to watch a free video series I created with six hacks for creating reception images you love!

So that is the simple-but-smart-at-the-same-time 4-piece kit I would recommend to new wedding photographers who are just starting out. And like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I've teamed up with B&H Photo to offer this kit and they have thrown in a FREE 128GB Lexar SD Card and SD card holder to sweeten the deal!!
free sd card
Click here to view your savings and my entire starter kit on B&H's website. You CAN keep it simple and get started with shooting weddings WELL for under $5,000 in gear!
equipment needed to photograph weddings professionally
If it's a stretch for you to purchase this kit all in one fell swoop, my recommendation would be to purchase everything but the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS Lens and instead rent it until you are able to afford it. I highly recommend BorrowLenses for online camera gear rentals -- they are amazing!

If you found this post helpful, and are interested in learning more about shooting receptions with flash, click here to opt-in for my free video series -- 6 Hacks to Eliminate Boring Low-Light Photos and Get You Creating Reception Images you LOVE! In it I share my best 6 tips for shooting with flash. If you are intimidated by flash and wanting to conquer it once and for all, this is a great place to start!
learn flash for wedding receptions
The four pieces of gear that I would purchase if I were just starting to photograph weddings today. Starter kit under $5,000 and bundled with savings and a free SD card!
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