While many equipment choices a wedding photographer makes come down to style and preference, the choice of how many cameras to bring to a wedding does not. To keep the story short and sweet, the right answer is not “one.” In fact, it turns out “one” would be as wrong as “zero.” Why, you ask?
Equipment malfunctions and outright failures happen a lot more frequently than you would think. This is especially true of heavily used equipment. Think of all the wear and tear on a camera when it is used under very demanding conditions, weekend after weekend. A wedding photographer will keep her gear fresh and calibrated through new purchases when the business merits it, or by having her camera(s) serviced regularly. Still, failures happen.
When a failure happens, “one” turns into “zero” – real fast, as in “zero” camera in the middle of the wedding ceremony, “zero” camera half way through shooting the formals, and “zero” camera right before cutting the cake during the reception. Equipment failures and malfunctions at the worst possible time are one of the wedding photographer’s biggest nightmare scenarios. Even with backup gear in hand, the disruption can prove unsettling, but it will be far more than unsettling if the wedding photographer looks in his bag and sees… “zero.”
You wouldn’t hire a wedding photographer that tells you, “oh, no, I don’t have a camera, but no worries, I can shoot your entire wedding, no prob,” would you? Why then would you hire a wedding photographer that says he brings “one” camera to a wedding, when as we’ve seen, that is in many situations the same as “zero”?
Personally, if I am shooting as a second photographer, I bring two bodies. I will shoot them side-by-side throughout the wedding day, each dedicated to a specific lens so I don’t have to waste time swapping lenses at inopportune times. If I am shooting as the primary wedding photographer, I will bring two camera bodies to shoot, and a third body as pure backup. In fact, you will find a lot of “two of everything” in my camera bag: at least two flashes, radio controls, lots of batteries, lots of memory cards, and lenses that can swap with one another in a pinch. Redundancy is mandatory during a wedding.
As you interview photographers, before you talk about albums and photo discs, make sure he or she is bringing at least two capable cameras to photograph your big day. The wedding photographer is shooting many weddings, but you only have one chance to have him or her capture all your once in a lifetime moments. Make sure something as mundane as equipment failure doesn’t cause you to have an incomplete record of such a wonderful occasion.
Notice I said, “at least two capable cameras.” In the next installment, we will explore what that means. Come back, and make sure to post comments and questions you would like addressed here. See you next time.
The next installment in this series is now available here.
Eduardo Suastegui is a fine art, portrait event and wedding photographer serving the Downey, Whittier, Los Angeles area.