The title of the blog is a saying used, not just in photography but in many other hobbies, relating to those who are lucky enough to be able to afford all of the best equipment but haven’t yet leant to use most of it!
Although I have been a full-time professional photographer for over 20 years and have taught and mentored many other photographers it usually comes as a surprise to most that I have little interest in cameras and lenses. To me they are just tools of the trade. Rather like a carpenter or plumber, they need decent tools that will withstand the work but it’s not something I would imagine they get excited about.
For many couples planning their wedding and choosing their photographer the camera gear they use isn’t high on the list of questions and photos of big lenses isn’t really going to sell a photographer’s services. But should it be? For those who have little or no knowledge of photography and the equipment we use and how we use it, the following is a beginners guide to what you might need to know.
The most important thing to check, especially for a UK wedding is that the photographer has weather-proof gear. Using consumer (amateur or non-professional) camera gear isn’t going to make a massive amount of difference to the quality of the images, sure an expensive pro camera will retain more detail in the highlights and shadows at the same time (referred to as dynamic range) and will produce bigger files with more detail, less noise and will appear crisper and sharper but to the average person with no real interest in photography the difference isn’t huge. But if it rains on your wedding day and your photographer isn’t using weather sealed cameras and lenses there is a very real risk that they will stop working.
I currently use Canon 5DMKIV’s and have done since their release date in 2016, they were £3500 each at the time and along with Canon’s L lenses are weather sealed. I am on my third and forth bodies as they need replacing after a few years of use due to the shutters having a limited life. For 2021/2022 I am looking at changing them for Canon R5’s.
I have seen many wedding photographers using consumer cameras and lenses and that is fine, until it’s not. My cameras have been drenched in rain and even dropped a couple of times but they just keep on working and that is due to the build quality. A builder wouldn’t use the small drill I have for hanging pictures at home on a building site, it wouldn’t last a day.
It doesn’t matter if your photographer uses Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Pentax or a Leica what matters is that the build quality is up to the job of working all day, sometimes in 30+ degree heat, sometime in 0 degree cold, sometimes in dusty/sandy conditions, sometimes in rain/snow.
So ideally you want a photographer who has professional cameras and lenses and you also need a photographer who has back-up gear.
Accidents happen, and cameras stop working. I have had kids pull my cameras off of tables, dropped them myself and fallen over, smashing my gear in the process.
It doesn’t phase me though as I have back-up gear in my bag. I have 8 lenses covering all the focal lengths I require twice over and a couple of camera bodies. I also have at least 8 camera batteries and more flash batteries than I would ever need. And although the capacity of the memory cards I use could easily fit a whole wedding or two, I have at least 6 spare memory cards as well.
Cards do fail, batteries have a life when they no longer hold charge and flash guns have bulbs that have a lifespan the same as any light. None of this is a problem if your photographer has spares of everything.
One last thing, I think is important is that wedding photographers use cameras with two card slots.
I would never consider buying a camera for work that didn’t accept two memory cards. My current cameras have both a CF card and an SD card. This is vital because they are set to record each photo simultaneously to each card. For every single photo I take the camera saves two copies on two different cards.
The reason why having a dual card camera is important is the risk of memory cards becoming corrupt. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I only use Sandisk Extreme Pro cards, they are very reliable and stable but once in a while (maybe once every two years or so) they do have glitches. Mostly this is when a photo or two are unreadable, but it is possible for a whole card to become corrupt and the photos unreadable. If the media becomes damaged no recovery software will repair it. Recovery software will work if photos are accidently deleted and even formatted (but not when overwritten) but corrupt files will be impossible to repair. Having each photo captured onto two cards makes this highly unlikely. Personally, it’s unheard of that both cards in one camera have failed at the same time. It has never happened to me and I have never heard of it happening to anyone. Nothing is 100% failsafe but having two cards makes it almost impossible to lose photos.