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I would like to know if my current gear is sufficient to start doing wedding photography? I use a Nikon D5100, with an 18–55mm kit lens, 70–200mm Sigma lens, and 50mm f/1.8 lens.

I have taken some images on numerous occasions for friends and family, and I have fell absolutely in love with photography. I would like to start charging for my work done, but I am not sure if I should invest in a different camera first, as I have read on some blogs that you cannot do wedding photography with the D5100.

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    Related: How to become a wedding photographer? – scottbb Oct 17 '17 at 11:09
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    This answer (not about gear but the business aspects) may also be helpful: – Kat Oct 17 '17 at 11:10
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    The D5100 is insanely better than the cameras that pros were using to shoot weddings 10 years ago. – Wayne Werner Oct 17 '17 at 16:03
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    @WayneWerner So are the expectations of many customers... – Michael C Oct 17 '17 at 19:57
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    The answer to the question "Is camera XYZ good enough for wedding photography?" is always "Nope", even if it's a pro camera. You need at least 2 cameras for weddings. And a clear backup plan, and extra sd cards, and extra lenses... – Eric Duminil Oct 19 '17 at 8:43
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The question, the comments, even the first revision of this answer are all focussed on kit. A common problem with photographers. We love to talk about kit. Half of us are chomping at the bit to recommend 15FPS mirrorless systems, battery powered studio strobes, the omnipresent 24-70mm f/2.8, the other half want to tell you how they shot an entire wedding weekend on a dusty smartphone.

But kit isn't your main issue. You are.

A wedding isn't just an event you turn up and snap a few photos of what you see. It's the most expensive party your clients will ever throw. They want lasting and equally lavish proof of their outlay. That means you need to take photos of lots of stuff and people you have no emotional investment in. Shockingly few of those photos are going to organically arrange themselves in front of your lens. This isn't nature or street photography, you have to make these set-piece-shots happen —by force if necessary— within a very limited time.

So first up, you need to know what you need photos of. You might have some ideas but you really can't expect your client to lead here. You need to be able to suggest scenes and posed photos, and family/friend arrangements, and different events during that wedding, as well as knowing-by-heart what happens at that denomination of wedding. Much of this will probably mean being familiar with the venue.

Then you need to be able to order people around. Jovially. They know what your job is so they're pretty compliant but they're also bored, hungry and usually getting tipsy by the time you're talking to them. You need to act fast and decisively, again getting everything you need. This takes confidence and presence. For me, at least, that comes with experience.

You also need to know when to get out the way and let the guests enjoy themselves. It's a balance.

There's also a load business stuff you need to learn. Not just to make a profit, but to avoid bankruptcy... How to charge for post-processing. Insurance. Copyright. How to charge for prints. Boring but important stuff. And you need to be able to communicate these nuances to your client as they may expect copyright or post-processing as part of the day fee. Mistakes here (under-charging or under-insuring or not limiting your personal liability) can mean dire things for long term prospects, even from the first shoot. Especially from the first shoot.

So I'll restate this. Kit isn't the main issue. Even if you had the very best kit money could buy, if you take on a wedding client with no real experience, you will miss something important, your client is going to sue you or at the very least, bomb your online reviews. Either way it's a career ender.

But your kit isn't wedding grade either.

Once you know what you're shooting and how to arrange people, your biggest technical challenge at a wedding is light. Medieval churches and converted barns and crappy British weather and "cosy" candlelit corners all conspire to engulf the guests in shadow and ruin every single last shot with blur or noise. Your kit needs to be able to see in the dark.

A good sensor is where I'd start. You're way behind here. Your DX crop sensor is just 43% the size of an FX sensor (and 25% of a Medium Format). A bigger sensor allows a bigger lens to let in more light. And noise control is a feature that keeps improving but you're already 6 years out of date with lower-end dSLR sensors, and ~10 years behind a pro sensors. Not good enough for natural light indoors.

I'd only use your 50mm f/1.8 lens. The kit lens is too damned slow and 70-200mm range is likely going to be the wrong thing, most of the time. Anything slower than f/2.8 is going to ruin a shot. The prosumer lenses also tend to focus faster and be sharper. And if you have more than one lens, you want more than one body. Changing lenses on a single body is a superb way to miss everything or drop a lens.

A 24-70mm f/2.8 is a popular walk-around for wedding photographer. A decent 85mm or 105mm f/1.8 prime for arranged portraits. This is highly in-demand and expensive kit.

You also need flashes and reflectors. And the experience to deploy them to fix a scene, often with only seconds notice and no time to iterate through a pile of settings like you can at home.

But even if you have the very best kit money can buy, you need to know how to use all of it together, in anger, in the location you're at. All while managing your clients' guests and requirements on the day.

If you don't have good enough equipment, or you don't know how to use that £5,000 rental lens, or something lets you down and you miss that shot, it's coming out of your pocket one way or another. Refunds, legal action, a poor review stopping new clients. It pays to avoid mistakes.

In short, it doesn't sound like you're ready for this.

And that's okay. Every wedding photographer was in your shoes at one point.

Just forget about kit for a moment though. You need to learn. The absolute best way you can learn is by volunteering as a dogsbody for an established professional. You might not get paid but it'll be the most useful internship you'll ever take on. Do a summer of weddings and really push them to teach you. Once that's over, reassess your skills.

And as I started with, this photographer will enjoy nothing more than to talk about the kit they're using. They'll probably even sell you some of the older stuff to get you started.

If you absolutely "need to buy something today", keep your D5100 and buy a good flash. There are plenty of knock-offs with the power of a ~SB700... You'll need a remote for off-body because the 5100 isn't a speedlight commander. But anyway learn about light. Indirect light, filtered light. Coloured light. High-speed light. It's a huge subject and thankfully you can practise away from clients.

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    The "crappy British weather" line totally sold it for me. – Pharap Oct 20 '17 at 4:14
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    @oli I really like the whole answer but I would point out that it is a bit US/UK centric. Not every culture is that insane about weddings. – DRF Oct 20 '17 at 15:11
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    @DRF any market where there is scope for a paid wedding photographer has clients this insane about their weddings. Although if your wedding is equatorial at midday, and outdoors, you probably won't struggle as much with light as I do in a barn in the UK in October. – Oli Oct 20 '17 at 20:45
  • This is an Awesome Answer but i wonder if it could be expanded to include Canon Hardware as to make the Answer a little more Generic and more open to All Users. – thebtm Jan 23 '18 at 22:58
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You can do wedding photography with a smartphone. It's not really the gear — it's the skill. But, this is mostly a matter of expectations. Some people will expect expect you to have much higher-end equipment (and to produce the kind of images that put that equipment to the test). Other people will be perfectly fine with what you have.

But, you absolutely no question need a second camera body. Or two extras. You can't show up and discover that your shutter is stuck. Weddings are often high stress and intense — you can literally ruin the day by making the smallest mistake.

For this reason, I highly suggest that you find an experienced wedding photographer who will let you work as an assistant and possibly as a second shooter. Build up experience and practice. (And, ideally, a portfolio.)

I'd also suggest starting with doing paid portraits and possibly other events where the stakes for failure are much lower. I don't say this to be mean, but if you have to ask if your gear is good enough, then you are probably not ready.

Finally, having fallen in love with photography, I suggest considering whether making a job of it is really where you want to go. I know it's an expensive hobby, but in the world today, it's a brutal career.

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    This. There is so much else to worry about when shooting a wedding that the gear can't even remotely be on your mind -- tenfold when shooting alone. The photography aspect of shooting a wedding needs to almost be instinctive given the absolutely crushing workload of logistics, management, planning, etc, that you have to deal with. Definitely not something to casually wander into to "try your hand at". – J... Oct 17 '17 at 12:46
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    In addition to the point about the second camera body in case the first one becomes inoperable, I would also point out that switching lenses in the middle of the action is very difficult. Although I don't shoot weddings, my friends that do generally have one prime lens (the "nifty fifty" is a good choice) for shots that look more like what the human eye sees, and then a zoom/telephoto lens to get other kinds of shots. Without two camera bodies, you have to make a commitment to which lens you want to use at the altar! – Jake Oct 17 '17 at 12:54
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    @mattdm 's last bit is true wisdom. Turning something you're passionate into a career can destroy it. – Calyth Oct 17 '17 at 17:25
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    High end gear can have one other salutary effect: it can quickly establish that you are the photographer. Especially any more, there are lots of people with cameras at almost every wedding. You need to establish (preferably without any conflict) that if there are five people giving directions, you are the one they need to listen to, and high-end equipment can help to establish that. – Jerry Coffin Oct 21 '17 at 18:24
  • @JerryCoffin Yeah, that's a good point. It fits with what I said about expectation, I think. – mattdm Oct 21 '17 at 18:49
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I wonder if you could help me. I would like to know if my current gear is sufficient to start doing wedding photography.

Well this is almost self-answering :

If you have to ask, you're not good enough.

Too cruel? No. Just plain fact.

No one should volunteer or, much, much worse, take money to shoot something as important and critical as a wedding who does not know if the gear they have is good enough.

And as there is a major missing piece in your gear for a wedding (or any pro shooting) and you're apparently totally unaware of it, then you quite simply do not know enough about basic photography to take on a wedding.

In fact this glaring hole in your knowledge is so bad that I would not hire you as an assistant!

That hole is called flash.

I use a Nikon D5100 , wth an 18 - 55mm kit lens, I have a 70 - 200mm sigma lens , and a 50mm F1.8 lens.

Not a hint of flash.

For the record I'd (barely) scrape through a wedding with the D5100, the 18-55 the 50mm and a flash. I would not bother without a good flash and the knowledge of how to use it (with a good bounce card or similar). If the expression "dragging the shutter" is not something you can explain to other people, then forget wedding or portrait photography.

I have taken some images on numerous occasions for friends and family, and I have fell absolutely in love with photography. I would like to start charging for my work done, but I am not sure if I should invest in a different camera first, as Have read on some blogs that you cannot do Wedding Photography with the D5100.

It's not about you when you charge for it. It's about your client.

And they can sue you (and they do sue wedding photographers who do good and highly professional jobs, and a judge would murder you).

And in fact I don't care about your feelings, I'm worried for the poor unfortunate clients you con into using your services. You're capable of ruining their happy day.

Any advice regarding the above would be appreciated.

Get a flash and start learning.

My view is that you're good enough to shoot a wedding when the thought of doing your first sends you into a cold sweat !

Weddings are arguably the most difficult type of photography, not just because the shooting is technically difficult sometimes, but because you cannot get a reshoot of anything.

Miss the shot or screw it up and it's gone - forever. And not just for you, but for the client you're working for.

There's a huge amount of people management - can you marshal a hundred people into a set of group photos, get the lighting, focus and angles right and still get them all to smile together? Have you the patience and soft skills to get people who actually won't speak to each other and haven't for years to stand still and smile in a photo? Sometimes at weddings you're a referee, not a photographer.

And do you have spare gear for when something stops working? You need at least two decent bodies and flashes and, well, practically two of everything.

Do you have contacts who can take over if you stop working - what if you get ill on the day?

Whose going to carry all your gear? Help you set it up and tear it down quickly? Move it around quickly?

Ever shot an indoor event, like a business conference? Well you're doing that as well at a wedding (the reception)?

Ever worked non-stop for twelve hours with all that gear? Well you could be on a wedding.

Got a good suit? Because you can't turn up in jeans and a sweat-shirt at a wedding.

Confident enough to walk into a room full of people and pick up the key players id's and relationships and then start dictating to an excited bride where she, her mother, her sisters and her BFF and the hyperactive but chronically shy flower girl should stand and for how long? And do that with the grooms family, a mix, a million cousins and their kids and, yes, sometimes even blooming dogs!

And you have to be confident and organized enough to get all the shots you and the client agree in your written and legally binding contract despite the chaos, the freak weather, the alcohol being consumed, the gaggle of kids, the requests (read demands) of the mothers and good old uncle Bob explaining to you and everyone in earshot that his camera and gear is way better than yours. And there's an uncle Bob at every wedding. You'll find people trying to stand in front of you when you're setting up a shot so they can get it.

Are you, in short, a consummate and patience diplomat?

Weddings are way past the "I've shot some friends and family and I like doing it" stage.

Do some event photography (and you'll need to know flash photography for that) and you'll begin to see the problems. Cut your teeth on those when you're more familiar with flash. Do some formal portraits. Then reconsider engagement shoots and after that thinks about weddings again.

But now? You're not ready to do anything but carry a photographer's gear around and learn what he/she does. Which, BTW, is exactly how many wedding photographers started out - as assistants who after what will seem like an eternity were allowed to be second shooters on non-critical shots and eventually (even longer time) allowed to shoot a wedding as the primary shooter under supervision.

And if this sounds like an angry answer, it is. I've seen one too many wedding photography job screwed up by ill-prepared amateurs without the knowledge to handle them and it's the clients who lose out.

It's not that someday you can't develop into a wedding photographer - I've no idea whether you can or can't. But not everyone can and you certainly cannot present yourself as a competent wedding photographer to potential clients now.

So someday maybe, just not now.

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    This makes one wonder why anybody would want to shoot weddings. – user29608 Oct 17 '17 at 23:34
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    @Mark I see now where you're coming from, but w.r.t the OP's question we need to differentiate between someone experienced might be able to do without flash by choice or necessity and not knowing about flash as a normal tool for a wedding photog. These are different things. I have deliberately shot in low light with nothing more that a good old 50mm f1.4 and cranking ISO (a lot) to good effect. – StephenG Oct 18 '17 at 12:19
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    There is good information in this answer. The tone is lousy. – user50888 Oct 18 '17 at 16:18
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    They're not all bad, but nothing I said hasn't happened and, frankly, if you think my email was too miserable for you you'd hate wedding photography. Keep in mind that like any job, wedding photography for a living is mostly hard graft, not something you're there to enjoy. And much of your time is going to be managing and marketing a business, not photography. And after you've taken all your shots, budget for many hours of post processing. Don't confuse a hobby you enjoy with doing a business for a living. – StephenG Oct 20 '17 at 8:32
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    I can only really speak for the UK (other jurisdictions may differ) but I'm pretty sure a judge is unlikely to murder you. – Bob says reinstate Monica Oct 20 '17 at 12:43
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From a business perspective:

If you want to start charging for your work, finding someone who will pay is the first step. Buying or renting the gear you need for paying work comes after the contract is signed and the retainer check clears. Often, 'It takes money to make money.' It always takes someone paying money to make money. Buying gear is not making money.

Rent Versus Buy

Renting gear requires less cash in hand and allows for more flexibility in selecting the right gear for each job. Renting gear better distributes equipment costs in accord with the scale and types of work the business does. Distributing costs provides more predictable cash flow, and predictable cash flow is a wonderful wonderful thing for a small business. It helps pricing work to cover costs. Not to mention gear rental can be a line item in your contract that is marked up for overhead and profit.

Renting also means that the business has fewer hard assets should an event go badly or, more likely with weddings, a client turn out to be exceptionally litigious. A thriving photographer can even own two companies: one which shoots and rents gear from a second company that generates profits by renting gear to the event photography company while protecting the hard assets.

Advice

Starting a business should start with finding clients not shopping for furniture and electronic toys or designing business cards and a website. Those are all pretend work compared to finding people that will pay. The pretend work feels like progress and because it is typically easier than finding people who will pay (and getting them to pay and doing the work), people will often devote a substantial amount of time to those things rather than the hard work of the actual work.

For example passing out business cards is easier than building relationships. Building relationships requires getting the other person's information and figuring out what they might need and when they might need it and making followup calls for months or years to turn the lead into a job...and then another job by turning the client into a repeat client.

All of that depends on making yourself the right photographer and the client really doesn't care about which camera or lens or software you use. The client mostly cares about the experience before, during, and after the session when the photographs are in hand.

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    That is a very good answer, and it may be good to have it also on (some of) the linked questions in the comments on the OP's post ? – Olivier Dulac Oct 17 '17 at 14:49
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One thing to consider if you are to charge for your photography: how reliable is your equipment?

If you're just a friend taking pictures and your camera breaks, or your SD card gets corrupted, your friends will be supportive and tell you it's really bad luck. If you're the pro and the same thing happens to you, then you are in trouble.

I had a D5100 and took great wedding pictures for friends (all taken with a kit 18-105 mm because I didn't have room for more in my luggage!). Honestly, I don't think the pro photographer who was there the same day took much better pictures than mine.

But still, I wouldn't consider getting paid without a backup camera, and as much as possible the main camera having two SD card slots and programmed to keep a copy of each pictures on both.

And as @mattdm already said, you also need to be reliable, not just your camera.

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    +1 for mentioning backup gear. If someone is expecting you to document a "once in a lifetime" event, broken gear is not an excuse. Any piece of equipment can break for an unknown, unforeseen reason at any time. It might be rare, but you need to be prepared. – JPhi1618 Oct 17 '17 at 18:57
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I would agree with Matt: its about skill, not equipment. Also, you need two bodies so if you drop one body in the fountain you can keep going.

As far as the D5100 is concerned, I would say "no" because it does not have a dual card slot. If something happens to the card and you lose all the shots, you have a serious problem, and you just ruined some bride's life. You need to have a camera with two slots, like the D7200.

Don't worry too much about lens; a good wedding photographer uses their feet to frame the shot, not the lens. Your lens selection looks reasonable, though obviously the image quality will not be the same as professional lenses. Most wedding photographers will go on about how they get candid shots with a 200mm, but the secret to being the best is to be able to get good shots by getting close in. Don't be a wallflower photographer, get in close. Yes, even at the vows, get in there.

If I was shooting a wedding with a D5100, I would use a AI-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.2. Run-of-the-mill photographers use bags full of zooms. Top drawer photographers go in with two bodies and two primes and thats it. (Note that the AI-S is a manual lens with no metered shutter control on a modern camera. The best automatic option is probably the NIKKOR AF-S FX 50mm f/1.4G which is also cheaper than than the 1.2. It is AF and has automatic shutter/aperture control, but you lose half a stop of light and the image quality is not quite as good.)

For a secondary lens, especially for DX, it is tricky to find a good wide angle. One option is the Sigma 20mm f1.4 Art. That would be a good setup, two bodies, one with the 50mm Nikkor and the other with the 20mm Sigma.

Comment on 50mm versus 80mm

Notice that in my lens selection I picked a 75mm equivalent lens. Most professional wedding photographers will not do this and generally use 50mm because they find it more "versatile" and have a hard time working with an 80mm (or 75mm). In my view this is a serious mistake because what they don't realize is that a 50 will generate distortion on a head shot. 80 is the widest you can go and get a flat headshot. The distortion is slight, but if you directly compare headshots taken with 50s and 80s you can clearly see it. I call it "puffy lip syndrome" when people take profiles and headshots with 50s. At a wedding 90% of your shots should be close in shots of people's faces, ideally next to somebody else's face. Albums that are full of "setting" shots, group shots and dance shots suck. You want faces, faces and more faces and you want them to fill the shot. You want faces smiling, faces kissing, faces hugging, lots of faces. That's why you want an 80mm equivalent--because it will give you the brightest, highest-quality face shots.

  • the 50mm f/1.2 AI-s lens is unsupported by the D5100 due to the lack of an AI tab for aperture reading and metering. only the D300/D300S, D7000, D7100, and D7200 have the AI tab in the Nikon DX series. – meklarian Oct 19 '17 at 5:23
  • @meklarian Yes, its a manual lens. If you want an automatic lens there is the AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G which is nearly as good. I updated my answer to comment on that. – Clickety Ricket Oct 19 '17 at 11:03
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An additional topic, which in my view hasn't been discussed sufficiently in the answers posted so far: For a wedding photography gig, no matter how high the quality and reliability of your standard equipment, you must have have backups for every single serious piece of equipment. Even a very reliable camera body can occasionally malfunction; lenses can get dropped; cables and memory cards can get damaged; etc. The middle of a wedding event is not the moment to have to announce to the bride and groom, "Sorry, a clumsy guest just bumped into me and made me drop my camera, which fell on the cement floor and is now out of commission. Sorry, no more pics for the rest of the event." Simply unthinkable! That's why any reputable wedding photographer must have lots of backup equipment. In all likelihood, of course, in 19 out of 20 wedding events the backup won't ever get used. But that's not an argument against having backup equipment.

Thus, you simply must arrive at the job site with (at least!) two camera bodies, two of each lens, two flash units, two sets of battery packs for the flash unit, two sets of all cables, etc etc. Unless you do wedding photography more or less full-time, you don't have to purchase the backup stuff; it's perfectly OK to rent the backup equipment from a reputable camera store. Naturally, you'll also need to keep track of the equipment rental expenses as well as of your time involved in arranging the rental contracts, picking up the rental equipment before the event, and returning the rental equipment at the end of the event.

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To be on point and answer your question. Yes you can do wedding photography with a D5100. I have done it with a Canon T5 which is a super cheap budget camera but in post process editing, you can make any photo look amazing. Lighting is very important, you might want to research into the locations and whether you will need to bring some light. Most of the photographers I worked with just mount a front facing LED to illuminate the subject.

On a side note. I've never been at a wedding where there wasn't someone video recording. I believe videos are very important since the usually makeup most of the final product and the photos are usually the highlights or fillers. So if your going to do wedding photography solo, try to find a video buddy to help you out.

  • -1 for "in post process editing, you can make any photo look amazing". – user29608 Oct 24 '17 at 5:37
  • @fkraiem I guess you never took an image to the software. Try it someday, I really recommend it. – Athanasios Karagiannis Oct 24 '17 at 15:17
  • I've never seen anyone put their wedding video on their wall. – Robin Nov 7 '17 at 20:41
  • @Robin Unless they have those fancy frames with a screen capable of playing videos, then no. It is physically impossible to put a video file on any wall. Our clients almost always choose a package with a main edit and highlights video. This is then sent to them after the edit is complete. Now I understand your concern. You didn't appreciate the side note about a video being recommended. While the OP asked explicitly only about photography, it doesn't hurt to recommend other forms of moment capturing. To be honest, I should start putting the silly off topic comments on my wall for memory. – Athanasios Karagiannis Nov 8 '17 at 16:01

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