May 29, 2019

My Essential Wedding Photography Gear List

The questions I get asked most often (second maybe to questions about the amazing wedding experience I offer) is about what kind of gear I use.

Are you a Canon or Nikon user?

What lenses do you have?

Do you use flash?

Well today is your dang lucky day, my friend, because I’m going to be answering your questions — plus, sharing what I think is the single most important question you should be asking your photographer. Hold on to your freaking pants…


I use a Nikon D750 for photo, a Panasonic GH4 for video, and a Nikon Z6 for both. I use Nikon because I started with a Nikon and invested in nice lenses. It would be super expensive for me to purchase my current set up in a new brand. And honestly, I wouldn’t want to. I’ve used Canon and Sony in professional settings and like Nikon just as well, if not more.

Everyone (including the internet) will tell you something different when it comes to which camera brand is “best”. To me, asking a photographer what brand of camera they use is like asking a chef what brand of cookware he uses. It’s mostly personal preference, and no matter what you use (above a certain price point), you’re probably going to end up with more or less the same soufflé.

It’s the same with cameras. In my opinion, once you get into Canon IV vs Nikon D750 vs Sony A7Sii, brand doesn’t really matter. It’s all about preference and how you’re using it. Cameras, after all, are just tools.

For example, I used to shoot exclusively Canon for the studio I worked for and while the images straight out of camera looked different than my Nikon, I could get both the Canon and Nikon images to same place in editing without very much effort. Same soufflé, different recipe.

I could get into the nuances between all the different mainstream camera brands, but I’ll save that for another post. 😉

The most important thing to know about your photographer’s camera is how they use it. It could be a pinhole camera from the times before Christ, but if they know how to use it well and you like their work, it shouldn’t matter.


This matters 1000% more than what camera someone shoots with. While a great lens on a semi-good body can produce surprising results, a crappy lens on a great camera body will always produce a crappy image. On a wedding day, my go to lenses are my Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro, Nikkor 24mm f/1.8, and the Nikkor 18-200 f/3.5-5.6. One of my other favorites lenses (that doesn’t always make an appearance on wedding days) is my Nikkor 85mm f/1.8.

You might be looking at that crazy string of numbers and thinking to yourself, “Tessa, I have no idea what the frick you are talking about at this point.” That’s okay. It would probably take whole other post for me to explain. (And, don’t worry, it’s coming.)

The cut and dry of it is, you typically want a lens with a wide aperture (which determines how much light can get in) and really sharp glass (meaning the glass is clear and produces sharp images).

BUT GET THIS, NO LIE: My sister shot the photo at the top of this post with her crop sensor camera and a kit lens so honestly, it’s all about knowing what you’re doing with composition, emotion, and lighting — not necessarily about what camera you’re using to do it. Photography is a skill and a service, not a product, y’all!


Yep, I use (~gasp~) FLASH!

In some situations, especially on a wedding day, flash is essential to create a great, accurately exposed image. Like a lot of new photographers, I used to shy away from using flash. It made me think of cheap, grungy disposable camera photos wrought with red-eye and bleached out skin tones. Blech! I could never get my images to look professional when I used it.

But that was before I learned the CORRECT way to light using flash — which involves a lot of understanding about what light is flattering to a human face and an awareness of how light likes to move and groove across different surfaces at different strengths and angles. (But, again, that’s another post.)

Nowadays I LOVE flash, and you can see me rocking a couple Yongnuo YN560 Speedlights at weddings and events. These little guys have the most bang for your buck I’ve ever seen, and I probably will end up with 5 or 6 just because they’re cheap and great.

Sometimes I will use just one. Sometimes I will use one on my camera and sync it with another off-camera. And SOMETIMES, I use a transmitter on my camera and fire both off-camera at the same time for maximum illumination cool factor. Occasionally, one of them will be sporting a big white umbrella (similar to this one) to diffuse the light.

I also have a Dracast LED light that sometimes makes appearances for video and studio work.

All my lights are super fun to use and give me a TON of flexibility on a wedding day.


Besides my approximately ten million SD cards and batteries, I also have a few cool accessories for my gear like my Case Logic Backpack that I adore using for destination weddings and travel (and really all the time). I typically tote my things around in that backpack or my hard shell Pelican Case. I keep all of my data and photos stored on external hard drives (which I usually purchase yearly and then keep for basically ever).

The One Question!

Real talk, y’all: if you walk away from this post with only one thing lingering in your brain please let it be this: a camera is only as good at photography as the person using it. Having the most expensive or newest gear doesn’t make someone a great photographer. Experience, great customer service, and a creative eye for what makes images beautiful is what separates your Perfect-Fit-Photographer from some Dude-Who-Owns-a-Bunch-of-Photography-Gear.

If you have questions or concerns, I would encourage you to inquire about a photographer’s gear. It isn’t wrong or rude to ask — you’re the one who will be paying for the services. But be wary that “great gear” doesn’t make a great photographer. And it certainly doesn’t make them YOUR photographer.

If you like how the work looks and want images similar to what is in their portfolio, the most important thing is not to quiz your potential photographer on aperture and lenses but to find out if they are a complement to you and your partner’s style and values.

It’s as simple as asking: “What kinds of couples have been your favorite to work with and why?”

If they describe you and your partner, then congrats! It looks like you just found yourselves a photographer. If the people they describe aren’t your type (or even close), that’s okay too! Photographers are not a one-size-fits-all service and they shouldn’t be. And you deserve to work with someone who also loves working with you!

For bonus points, ask them questions about their business — how long they’ve been in it and why they love it. Ask them what their favorite part of a wedding day is and why. Find out if they like being hands-on or hands-off in the planning process. Get to know THEM and their style.

That’s how you land the perfect wedding photographer.


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