My wedding photography gear is taped over
On Monday, I published an article describing my wedding photography equipment. Some of you may have noticed the slightly shabby condition of my cameras and lenses, especially accentuated by the prominent use of tape to conceal the brand names and model numbers. I developed this habit when I started travelling because I didn’t want to become an easy target for theft. Whether that’s an effective strategy is a separate topic; the point is, I continued this practice into my work. As a novice wedding photographer in 2012, I turned to occasional gigs with a more established company to balance the profit I wasn’t earning. During an interview with the company’s lead wedding photographer, he told me about an encounter he had with a guest who possessed a more expensive camera. The guest made a flippant remark about the photographer’s compensation in light of his cheaper camera. To avoid such encounters in the future, he committed to buying only “the best” wedding photography gear. (He currently shoots with a Canon 1D X). Professional wedding photographers—and intelligent people in general—know that it’s their skill, not their wedding photography gear, that makes or breaks the pictures. Unfortunately, some wedding photographers feel compelled to buy expensive gear to fulfill clients’ expectations of what amounts to acceptable equipment. Today, I’ll attempt to convince you that your wedding photographer’s gear doesn’t matter.
The Wedding Photography Gear Shouldn’t Affect Your Decision
That assertion, of course, has a reasonable limit; I’m not advocating that there isn’t a difference between photographing weddings on dedicated cameras versus, say, cellphones. There is, and the gulf in quality is huge depending on the circumstances. (Curiously, that “iPhone wedding” is good by the typically safe standards of the industry. A wedding photographer wouldn’t exactly be pushing any equipment to its limit by capturing symmetrically framed
wax figures couples reenacting the same kiss at a handful of token locations.)
The defining quality of proper gear would have to be its flexibility. With that in mind, I propose that any interchangeable lens camera system should qualify. Such systems allow wedding photographers the freedom to select the right lens for the situation without being beholden to the limitations of fixed lens cameras. Fixed lens cameras are limited by their static angle of view or low-quality zoom lenses, slow apertures, limited manual exposure controls and automated image processing. Using the interchangeability of lenses as the minimum threshold feature disqualifies the majority of cameras on the market. Despite that, we’re left with many options to consider as acceptable wedding photography gear, ranging in size from the diminutive Pentax Q all the way to Phase One’s titanic XF line of digital backs.
The remaining cameras each possess unique strengths and weaknesses; however, as mentioned previously, it’s usually the photographer and not the gear that forms the weakest link. Assuming you’ve done your homework and chosen from among wedding photographers with portfolios that match your style and with deliverables that match your expectations of quality and consistency, then the gear your wedding photographer wants to work with is inconsequential. I don’t mean to say that it’s immaterial to the photographer using it; on the contrary, if you were to present a photographer with an entirely novel camera system, their work would suffer until they’ve acclimatized to its functions and ergonomics. It’s inconsequential in the sense that it’s been vetted and approved by the very fact that you like their work.
Asking about their equipment is silly on a different level because it’s not rationally actionable information. For instance, what would you do if your top wedding photographer’s gear fell below your expectations? Surely, you wouldn’t disqualify this person because he/she shoots with Fujifilm instead of Nikon or use Canon instead of Leica. That would border on self-sabotage.
If a wedding photographer’s gear works and allows them to achieve their desired results, the gear doesn’t matter. However, this isn’t to say that all wedding photography gear is created equal. For instance, a photojournalistic wedding photographer who produces excellent work with a compact rangefinder would have an awful time transitioning to a medium format camera. The two systems are designed for different purposes. The medium format is biased towards a ponderous approach—it’s slower, heavier, and as conspicuous as a blaring siren—and a compact rangefinder towards speed and stealth.
Considering all of this, the next time you run into a wedding photographer, either as a potential client during an interview or as a guest at another couple’s weddings, don’t judge their gear. Feel free to ask if you’re curious, but don’t treat it as a hiring condition. They’re using the best equipment they need for the job, regardless of whether it meets or exceeds some arbitrary notions of what’s acceptable.