My favourite lens for wedding photography is the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S VR II lens. This lens enables me to shoot from a reasonable distance and get great photojournalistic style shots with fantastic bokeh, perfect for my signature style of photography. Coupled with my full frame Nikon D3S it provides a very useful range of focal lengths. The 70mm end is wide enough for instances when my subject moves a little too close, forcing me to use a shorter focal length. There are times though when I wish the 200mm focal length was a little longer. The downside of this lens is that it’s reasonably heavy, and I usually end up with sore arm and shoulder muscles carrying around 6kg of gear for 10 hours at a wedding.
My next choice of lens to carry at a wedding (provided you are a Nikon shooter) is the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G super wide angle lens. This lens lets me create unusual perspectives that emphasize the foreground by making it larger and de-emphasizes the background. Not forgetting the ability to cover an amazing amount of the scene in tight spaces, which is usually the reason why most people buy a super wide angle lens.
A worthy alternative to this lens is the Nikon 16-35mm f/4G AF-S VR lens, which accepts a UV filter on its front end, which will help to protect the lens. It also has VR (vibration reduction) which is useful when shooting at lower shutter speeds.
I also have a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens, which I usually use for commercial photography assignments. This is also another razor-sharp lens, which together with the 14-24mm and 70-200mm makes an unbeatable trio, all you will need for world-class technical quality.
My main lenses (14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm) are the sharpest three lenses Nikon has ever made. I would always buy a Nikon lens, unless there is an even better lens. For me, this is the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens, which beats even Nikon’s own 50mm f/1.4G AF-S lens. The 50mm lens is perfect at Chinese tea ceremonies where space is often tight, yet the large aperture enables great separation of the subject from its background.
My choice of the Nikon D3S full frame camera body is purely because of its awesome high-ISO capability and its professional-grade autofocus performance. This body enables me to even use AF-S (instead of AF-C) with moving objects with a very high rate of in-focus images.
Apart from lenses, you will also need speedlights that will complement available light. Multiple speedlights will add a unique dimension to your photography. The Nikon SB-910 Speedlight and Nikon SB-700 Speedlight are both CLS (Creative Lighting System) compatible speedlights that can be used individually (eg. for weddings) or as part of a group of speedlights (eg. for portrait lighting).
A spacious bag with rollers is my choice of camera bag when I need to bring lots of gear. I used to lug about 15kg of gear on my photo backpack until my shoulders complained. I eventually got the Think Tank Airport International, which is sized appropriately for international carry-on. This means that most airlines will allow you to hand carry the bag into the plane. Having said that, I wonder how many photographers actually load it to its full capacity, because the weight limit for carry-on luggage rarely allows you to fully load the bag. I was stopped once at Melbourne airport on the way back home from a wedding shoot, as my Think Tank weighed about 17kg, which was way over the limit.
Apart from being purpose-built for carrying camera bodies, lenses and miscellaneous photo gear, the Think Tank Airport International has an outer sleeve that is perfect for a notebook computer. This makes it easy to access, great for doing some work while waiting for your flight. It also has a built-in security cable with combination lock, so that you can secure the bag when you check in to a hotel. These little design details make your photography experience a whole lot more enjoyable when on the move.
Just starting out?
If you have a smaller budget, here is a kit that can be used in a similar fashion as my selection above.
Nikon D5100 Digital SLR Camera (body only)
This power-packed little DSLR benefits from having 1080p video, which would be very useful for the growing popularity of photographers who wish to shoot both HD video and still photography at a wedding.
Nikon D7000 DSLR Camera (body only)
The D7000 is essentially a big brother to the D5100, slightly better in several areas. Check out this great ebook guide on how to use the Nikon D7000.
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S lens (the newer AF-S lens with built-in AF motor is needed because the D3100 does not have a focus screw drive). A 35mm lens on a crop-factor DSLR (eg. D3100 and D7000) approximates the field of view of a 50mm lens on a full frame DSLR (eg. D3S and D700).
The bare minimum
If you have an even smaller budget, here’s a suggested starting point for beginners:
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