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I'm going to be the photographer at a relative's wedding (I know, don't do it yada yada). Having never done a wedding before, I've done as much preparation as I can as well as borrowed some additional gear. Here's the list of the gear I have for the wedding:

  • Canon EOS 80D (main camera)
  • Canon EOS 40D (additional/backup camera)
  • Sigma 10-20mm 3.5
  • Sigma 30mm 1.4 ART
  • Pentax-F 50mm 1.7
  • Tamron 70-200mm 2.8

Note that both cameras are APS-C format, so the crop factor of x1.6 has to be taken into consideration. So now I'm wondering in what configuration/combination I should use those. I was thinking about leaving one lens on my second body for the entire time and only switch lenses on my main camera. Some considerations:

  • The 80D has superior resolution, low-light performance and multiple other features that will come in handy, so I want to use that one for the better part of the photos I take.
  • The Tamron is pretty heavy (this is the lens I borrowed so I'm not used to it), I don't think I'll be able to shoot hand-held with that one for an extended period of time. I thought about putting it on the 40D and have it sit on a tripod, but there will be multiple location changes. Also it's kind of a waste using the highest-quality lens on the body with the lower resolution, as the 80D could take better advantage of the lens's sharpness. But maybe that's not that important, I'm not sure. I don't expect I'll be swapping the Tamron off and on often, as its weight renders that difficult to do on the fly.
  • The Pentax is a manual only lens that I use with an adapter on my camera. The need for the adapter increases the lens switching time, so I might not want to switch to/off that lens during important parts of the wedding as I run the risk of missing important shots.
  • The 30mm (50mm FF equiv.) is the most general purpose lens and the one I'm used to the most. However it has the usual focusing problems of Sigma lenses, so I'm not sure I wanna rely on it for the most important shots (yes I have set AF microadjustments, it still fails me some times. No I don't have a Sigma calibration dock).

I guess the core of the problem is that I'm not sure what focal length will be most important for the wedding as I don't have experience with that. The Sigma 10-20mm to get those wide shots in the church? The 70-200mm to catch closeups of the bride and groom during the ceremony? The 30mm so I have a lens that will kind-of work in most situations?

I would be very grateful if someone with wedding experience can give me some insights on this. What combination/configuration (which lens to use on what body) can you suggest, which lens should always be ready to go on one of the bodies, or which combinations should I use?
If you have some advice regarding whether or not to bring a tripod and if I should possibly just leave the second body at home, those would be very welcome as well.

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    Wedding indoors? An external flash if possible would do wonders. – Viv Jul 19 '17 at 20:54
  • @Vivek Yeah, church and then a restaurant. No flash available I'm afraid. – MoritzLost Jul 19 '17 at 20:59
  • You can experiment and master using the pop-up flash through a clear glass. It would disperse the harsh flash light. – Viv Jul 19 '17 at 21:07
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    n=2 but most lens-hire shops can lend you top-end flashes and lighting. 2 days is more than enough to get a handle on the basics. Seriously though, there's nothing like misjudging the light to ruin non-reproducible shots (eg the church). Even f/1.4 won't save you sometimes. – Oli Jul 20 '17 at 8:01
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    @Oli I'm not afraid of using high ISOs, 1600-3200 still look nice if the photo is good. I'd rather have noisier Images than flat, direct flash light in my subject's faces – MoritzLost Jul 20 '17 at 8:04
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The most important focal length for a wedding is the one you need at the time. Weddings cover a lot of different shots from a lot of different distances. Shooting a wedding on prime lenses is possible but tricky and requires a lot of planning of when you can get shots without missing something else, so it will be doubly hard for an amateur/first time wedding shooter.

My personal standard load out is a 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8 on a full frame camera. Dealing with your lens selections and experience level, for the ceremony I'd probably put the 70-200 on the main body and the 30mm on the backup. I'd shoot with both bodies using the main body to get close shots from a distance and use the backup for capturing the wider room shots and such. This will let you avoid lens changes and will also keep you out of the way in case anything goes wrong that you need to fix or adjust.

At the reception, I'd probably switch the 70-200 to the backup body and put the 30mm or maybe even the 10-20mm on the main body for general candid shots. I'd use a mix of the 30 and 50mm lenses in portraits.

Be sure to remember that light may be a factor when using slower lenses so be mindful of your shutter speed. Also, be mindful of the depth of field when shooting moving shots as really narrow depth of field can be hard to hit well in low light on moving subjects (for walk in and walk out for example).

Also remember that getting the shot is more important than getting the shot with the right lens. Go to the rehearsal, make sure you know where you need to be and when for key shots and don't miss shots because of badly timed lens changes.

Get a monopod if you don't have one already, particularly for when shooting with the 70-200. At those distances, in low light, camera shake will be a very real issue. The tripod isn't really needed for most of the shooting, but can be helpful for portraits if you are doing those.

Make sure you set expectations well in terms of your experience as well. A whole lot can go wrong shooting a wedding. Most of being a wedding photographer isn't about taking great photos (though you need to be able to do that), it's about dealing well with people (which you should presumably be able to do since they are family), being on your toes for changes, knowing weddings inside and out so you know where to be and when (which is experience you won't have outside of maybe a rehearsal) and being able to be out of the way while getting the shots so you are a help to the couple's day rather than an annoying distraction.

  • Oh hi there, nice to see you outside of video.SE °v° Thanks for the advice! I don't have the time to get a monopod, is it much better than a tripod for the ceremony? I don't think I need one for portraits, I always shoot portraits hand-held, I was rather worried about camera shake with the tele lens in possibly bad light .. you would pick the 30mm over the 10-20mm in the church? That's 50mm equiv. fov, isn't that too narrow to include the interior, guests et c? There's no rehearsal that I can attend unfortunately. I made sure to set low expectations, at least I got that covered ^^ – MoritzLost Jul 19 '17 at 21:14
  • Though there's to be a portrait line after the ceremony, maybe I should use a tripod for that. EDIT: Also, I could possibly get a cheap monopod off of Amazon in time for the wedding, think that's a good idea? Is there much of a quality difference between cheap and expensive monopods? – MoritzLost Jul 19 '17 at 21:16
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    @MoritzLost - on the 30mm vs the 10-20, three main reasons. First, the 10-20 is a bit slow. Depending on how well lit the room is, f/3.5, particularly on those bodies, is likely to have some trouble with the lighting. Second, it's a compromise either way. There are some shots that are nice to have something in the 30mm 35mm equivalent range, but 50 is going to have a bit more utility overall for the few shots you won't be able to get wide enough for. Third, I didn't check out the specific 10-20mm lens, but I'd be a bit worried about barrel distortion at that wide of a lens. – AJ Henderson Jul 20 '17 at 1:49
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    As far as the cheap monopod, there are ease of use features on the more expensive ones, but I shoot with a $35 canon one. The biggest thing with the cheap ones is that it may not stay up without having to jamb some tape or something around the legs. You mostly just want it for a third point of contact with the ground to help steady the lens while still maintaining portability, so a cheap one is fine for your needs. – AJ Henderson Jul 20 '17 at 1:50
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    @AJHenderson On an APS-C camera (and an EF-S/ Sigma DC lens) the barrel distortion with the 10-20mm won't be much different than a 16-32mm FF lens. – Michael C Jul 20 '17 at 6:30
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From my experience, during weddings, it's always harder to get further than closer to your subject (small spaces, people in the way, etc.). On FF, I use 35 mm (for the party), 50 mm (for the ceremony) and 85 mm (for staged pictures).

On APS, it would be your 10-20 mm for the party (be careful to edges distortion, though, so mostly use it at 20 mm), the 30 mm for the ceremony and more intimate frames, and the 50 mm for staged pictures of the couple, and closeups with a good bokeh.

Shooting weddings is long and exhausting, I would recommend to keep your gear as minimalist as possible (avoid the bulky 70-200, especially as it's not fast enough after sunset). Also, you don't want to change lenses all the time, especially if you have a drink or two. If you have no experience, I would suggest to avoid compensating with more gear to look more pro, and on the contrary keep it comfortable with the bare minimum and enjoy taking your frames instead. Also changing bodies on the fly can be disturbing if they don't have the same ergonomics and button disposition. I would just keep the second body in a corner as a backup if the first one fails, but not carry it all the time. The less gear you carry, the less distracted you are, the more focused you are on your environment.

Also bring a lot of small SD cards and change them often, instead of having one or two big memory cards. They tend to get corrupted (always happens at the worst possible time), so if one fails you, it's better to lose 16 GB than 64 GB. If your body has a dual SD slot, use it in duplication mode so you always have another backup copy.

I endorse AJ Henderson's answer as well. His advice looks very valuable to me. Being polite, confident, nice and thanking the guests for taking the pose is the key to get good pictures. Smile, look open and interact with people. The lenses are not a big deal after all.

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A lot depends on the size of the church and where you are allowed to shoot from. Shooting from the back of a large, dim liturgical type church (Catholic, Lutheran, etc.) is much different than shooting in a more contemporary style evangelical church that tends to be better lit (sometimes with very good theatrical type lighting) and also typically allows the photographer more access to various parts of the sanctuary. The same applies to the location for posed portraits and the size/lighting of the restaurant for the reception.

Ceremony

If it were me, I'd put the 70-200mm on the 80D and the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 on the 40D. I shot with a 70-200/2.8 on a 50D and the same 17-50mm Tamron lens on a Rebel XTi for a couple of years back in 2010-2011 and got some good results in lighting conditions very similar to an indoor wedding. If you're worried about the weight of the 70-200 then use a monopod. If they still stock them in store, the one you can get at Walmart for about $20 will work, but you can get a lot better one for a little bit more. Best Buy sells one very similar to the Walmart variety but I haven't been in a Best Buy store in years. This one shows available for pickup today (but not on display) in about half their stores within a 100 mile radius of my location.

Posed Portraits

Again, it all depends on the location. Space and lighting can both be highly variable. The tripod, and a wired release if you have one, will give you some extra insurance, especially with group shots when you may only have one out of half a dozen frames where everyone has their eyes open and is looking at the camera. Don't let that frame be the one that got blurred due to camera motion! Use either the 10-20mm or the 17-50mm if you have enough room. Don't forget to stop down a little to be sure the entire group is in focus and don't be afraid to push the ISO up a bit if you need to. The 80D does very good at high ISO in low light (the 40D not so much). If you are only taking portraits of the bride and groom, just shoot it the way you would any couples portrait session.

Reception

Lighting and space are again key here. Restaurants can vary from very tight and poorly lit areas to open and brightly lit from sunlight shining through large windows. For most of the party I'd stick the Tamron 17-50mm on the 80D and leave everything else locked out of sight in the trunk of your car. If the restaurant is too dark to shoot with the f/2.8 zoom, then your only option is the Pentax 50mm f/1.7, but that only gains you a little more than 1 stop and you're going to be manually focussing an APS-C digital camera in the dark? Shoot some without flash, but also shoot some with the 17-50mm and the camera's built in flash in TTL mode with about -1 stop flash exposure compensation just in case.

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  • Thanks for your answer! I'm going with the combination you suggested. Do you think I'm likely to be in situations where I'll be happy to have the 10-20mm over the 17-50mm (i.e. situations where I actually do need to wider FOV)? I was gonna leave the 10-20mm at home since it fills mostly the same niche as the 17-50mm and the latter is a bit more versatile. Or would you suggest leaving either the 30mm or 50mm and taking the 10-20mm in addition to the 17-50mm instead? Also thanks for the links, I'll be sure to read that before I depart tomorrow! – MoritzLost Jul 20 '17 at 22:18
  • Not knowing the particulars of the venues, I'd advise you to take all of them. You can leave the ones you think you won't need in a secure place. You never know when you might need something, and for a shoot as critical as a wedding there are no do overs. It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. That goes for extra batteries, memory cards, etc. as well. Stuff occasionally fails. Have your backups close enough that you can get to them if needed. – Michael C Jul 20 '17 at 23:52
  • Particularly if the restaurant is tight quarters, you're going to need the 10-20mm, probably with flash. 10mm is a lot wider than 17mm. A lot, even on APS-C which equates to 16mm vs. 27mm on FF. – Michael C Jul 20 '17 at 23:54
  • I can't take more than 4 lenses unfortunately. I guess I'll swap out the 30mm for the 10-20 then – MoritzLost Jul 21 '17 at 11:36
  • Why are you limited to only four lenses? Depending on the shooting conditions you might also need the 30mm f/1.4. I'd leave the 50mm before I left the 30mm. (But I'd take them all) – Michael C Jul 21 '17 at 11:43

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