Wedding photography is expensive, y’all. The equipment required is no joke! And because of the importance of the product you’re giving your clients, having quality stuff matters. But quality doesn’t have to mean the most expensive items on the market. There are plenty of ways to save money as a new wedding photographer that don’t require compromising the quality of your craft. I’m sharing a few workarounds and hacks I’ve learned as I’ve built my equipment collection over the years, and also sharing the items I think are completely worth the splurge.
For detail shots:
Splurge | 100mm f/2.8 macro lens: $800
Save | Macro filters: $15
I’m forever indebted to my friend Audrey for introducing me to macro filters. They take some experimenting and a little patience to get used to and if you like ultra-tight detail shots, these might not be for you. But I prefer wider detail shots anyway, so for under 20 bucks it sure beats dropping $800 on a lens I wouldn’t use a whole lot otherwise!
Splurge | Set of 6 Heirloom Bindery styling boards: $345
Save | 16x20 burlap neutral packs + canvases from Hobby Lobby: $10
I discovered this hack by accident on a Hobby Lobby trip one day. I came across this stack of burlap swatches, and thought for 10 bucks they’d be worth trying out for styling details. I’ve taken them to every wedding ever since! This stack comes with 6 different colors of fabric, and the backs of each piece are a nice matte solid, so really you get 12 backgrounds to work with. Between this, a plain white artist’s canvas, and cool flooring I can usually find at most venues, I’m usually set for detail photos. I do want to invest in a Heirloom Bindery set someday, though. So dreamy!
I love a pretty ring box as much as the next girl, and I really love the signature look of The Mrs. Box. I think they look beautiful with a metallic monogram (and make an awesome gift for a bride-to-be). But I keep some less expensive options on hand and they’ve never steered me wrong!
Let there be light:
Splurge: Canon Speedlight 600EX-RT flash: $550
Save: Yongnuo YN560 IV flash: $65
I mean, this one’s a no-brainer. I’ve dropped (and broken) more flashes than I care to count (okay, only two, but still - too many). I cannot imagine if those had cost more than $500 bucks to replace. YIKES. Yongnuo is completely compatible with my Canon gear, has a really decent battery life, and performs just as well as I’ve seen Speedlights perform.
Another plus? Yongnuo flashes come with built-in transmitters and are so easy to use for off-camera flash, it’s stupid. No messing with attaching transmitters or extra tiny pieces - if you have multiple Yongnuo flashes, you simply set them to the same channel, set one as the master and the others as slaves, and boom. Your reception lighting is ready to go. I love these babies!
Splurge | Mag Mod starter kit: $100
Save | Amazon flash diffuser: $8
Flash diffusers are great for working in dark or weirdly-colored reception venues, but this piece of equipment is so simple, it’s not necessary to use a name brand. Mag Mod has some great stuff, but if you’re just wanting to get the effect of a softer, more natural-looking flash, the $8 generic version will do just fine.
A final note on splurging vs. saving
When I first started shooting weddings, I bought two camera bodies (one as a backup), a 50mm 1.2 + a 35mm 1.4, and I had an equipment wish list a mile long. A 24-70, a 100mm, a 70-200, an 85mm, on and on. Do you know what I have on my camera 97% of the time? My 35mm. Always have. It’s my workhorse. I’ve rented a 70-200 one time and it ended up staying in my bag. I’ve rented a 24-70 a handful of times and realized my 35 and 50 could handle the majority of those shots instead. My point is you don’t have to buy every lens under the sun to be able to shoot weddings successfully. You need to be smart about which lenses you invest in and rent the rest as needed.
Of course, if you’re renting a certain lens every weekend, it probably makes sense to go ahead and purchase it. But I’m always a proponent of trying lenses out (BorrowLenses makes it SO easy) and figuring out which ones you really love and really need before you take the plunge.
Photo gear worth the splurge
Thinktank suitcase | There are a ton of great camera bags and backpacks on the market, but if you’re looking for something that rolls and works well for traveling, it doesn’t get better than this carry-on. I keep my camera gear in here at all times.
ShootSac | When I shoot weddings (and sometimes for other types of sessions), my camera strap goes across one shoulder and my ShootSac goes across the other. I keep lenses in here so I’m ready to swap out at a moment’s notice, my phone so I can check the timeline, a flash - really anything. It holds so much and doesn’t rub or hurt. I love this thing!
Memory cards | This is something I never skimp on - I can’t afford to have slow or faulty memory cards. I’ve always used the SanDisk brand and always been pleased with them. Get cards that read at least 95 mb/s and have a number 3 and a number 10 - that’s the best you can get. This super helpful article explains what the numbers on memory cards mean.
Silk ribbons - I’ve found it’s worth spending several dollars for a spool of beautiful ribbon you can use over and over again for detail shots. Ribbons from craft stores just don’t lay near as nicely or give the same effect. Over time, I’ve put together a detail kit with several ribbons, stamps and ring holders that I carry with me in my camera case. The detail shot below (stationery by Prim Paper Co.) was taken on the burlap neutral stack from Hobby Lobby I mentioned toward the top of this post!
Photo Mechanic | Legitimately some of the best money I’ve spent, for my business and for my sanity. Photo Mechanic is a software that allows you to cull photos at RAPID speed. You don’t have to download every Raw image file to your computer and wait for each one to load in Lightroom or Bridge - those files are humongous and that process used to take hours. With Photo Mechanic, I stick my card in, the photos pop up in full clarity at lightning speed, I mark the ones I want to keep with a keyboard shortcut and I only download the winners to my hard drive. Saves a ton of computer memory and a ton of time. And the licenses can be shared, so you can split this expense between 2 or 3 other photographers!
I didn’t list the big ones in this post like camera bodies, lenses and Lightroom. I think those are a given for splurging (although Lightroom’s pretty dang cheap in the scheme of things). Other than those things though, every photographer is different in the way they work and how they build the tangible parts of their business. These are just what I’ve found works best for me - I’m always learning and finding new things to try! If you have any questions about anything I talked about, get in touch!