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5 Essential Upgrades for the Modern Wedding Photographer

by Chris Gampat on 11/16/2011

Have you ever been to a wedding, looked at the photographer, and thought to yourself, “What the hell is he thinking?” Judge Joe Brown has, and so have some of our readers. Even if you’re forced into shooting the wedding, you should consider a couple of modern upgrades. This post was inspired by my recent trip to a wedding where the photographer used a Nikon D700, 18-200mm lens, and an SB-900 on a flash bracket plus two White Lightning strobes in umbrellas. And the photos? As a former wedding photographer I’m going to come straight out and say that I don’t believe that my friend got her money’s worth.

Here are some major upgrades that won’t break the bank (especially with what you’ll be getting back in monetary return.)

First off, be sure to check out our buddies over at Snapknot, who can help you to get more weddings by appealing to Brides. Plus, check out our checklist of the essential shots that you need.

Out: That stupid diffuser you put on your flash head

This includes all items that even look like this. Why get rid of them? They essentially kill your flash’s batteries. You’re better off using manual flash modes and adjusting accordingly in the long rung. Similarly, the Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible (while it does a good job) has a tremendous amount of light loss and doesn’t totally direct the light in any one direction.

In: ExpoImaging Rogue Flash Bender (Large)

The Rogue Flash Bender is an excellent item to get. It takes the light coming out of your flash and projects it both forward and upward when set up totally flat. This gives off the look of a softbox.

Personally, I’d only recommend the larger version. The others are highly specialized or a total waste.

Out: PC Cords

Cords get in the way of everything and everyone. They’re good in a studio for the most part, but they can also get tangled up very easily.

In: Phottix Odin TTL Radio Triggers / Pocket Wizards for Nikon

I’ve tested and fully approve of the Phottix Odin triggers. For the Canon photographer, there is simply nothing better right now. For the Nikon photographer, many of you are smitten over the Flex and Mini units from Pocket Wizard. The company did a terrific job on the products, and after talking to them more about them at Photo Plus, the delay it took them to get them out was well worth the wait.

Out: Big Heavy Camera Bags

You no longer need oxen to carry around your gear for you. Seriously, I’ve seen some monstrous bags, backpacks, and cases.

In: Think Tank Photo Retrospective 30

This bag is big enough to accommodate to most photographers’ needs. It can hold a hell of a lot of gear and it’s actually very comfortable to have around your chest for long periods of time. There is a very good reason why Think Tank has been recommended and loved by so many photographers.

Out: Multiple Umbrellas

You no longer need lots of umbrellas to light groups. With the creation of radio triggers, you can get creative with your light placement.

In: Westcott Apollo 7 Foot Parabolic Umbrella

A friend of mine recently shot a photo of myself and 7 buddies of mine with one of these things at 11pm at night with us standing around 10 feet away from the Umbrella. It evenly lit all of us and the fact that you don’t get major amounts of directional quality from an umbrella makes it shine even more. Westcott’s 7 foot umbrella is best used on a stand and with either a strobe with powerpack or multiple hot shoe flashes.

Out: Standard Camera Strap

Unless you’ve figured out how to use these effectively (like wrapped around your wrist), standard camera straps won’t do you the best justice in long term use.

In: Black Rapid Straps / Sun Sniper Straps / The Lens Loop

All of these straps essentially do the same thing, but do it in slightly different ways. While most of the world seemingly swears to Black Rapid, I’ve loved the Sun Sniper for a very long time and have a current fancy for the Lens Loop’s design. Granted, none of them are good for when I sweat because it creates a line of sweat down my shirt. In a case like this, I’ll wrap the strap around my wrist.

Bonus Round: The Eye-Fi Pro X2 SD Card with a CF Adapter

Using this little combo, you can shoot and upload straight to your computer at home and not have to worry about waiting to connect the camera or card to the computer. This adapter is recommended as being the best for the Eye-Fi.

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