Heading out of town to shoot a wedding and wondering what to bring? The most critical thing to remember when packing for a destination wedding is to be intentional with every item you bring. Before I headed to Hawaii for a shoot, I shared my essential list of photography gear and accessories when it comes to destination weddings.
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Luggage & Bags
When traveling you want to be rest assured that your gear is safe and sound during transit. After all, you are transporting thousands of dollars worth of gear, and one small crack in a lens could cost you more than a secure gear bag.
Pelican Waterproof Case – I put my trust in the durable hands of the Pelican 1610 Studio Case which proves resilient in all weather and terrain conditions, and holds upto 7 lenses and one camera body. To ensure that nothing shifts around mid-flight, I purchased these Trek Pak Dividers to lock in each section of the Pelican and prevent any possible movement within the case itself. It’s worth noting that the Pelican 1510 is a more airport friendly carry-on variant, where the 1610 will typically be required to be checked.
Tumi Backpack – To carry all of my tech gadgets like my MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and Kindle Fire (I know, overkill), I bring along my Tumi Traveling Backpack. Besides being a great storage device, this backpack is great for traveling light if you find yourself with downtime during your stay. For the instances that I do find free time in-between events I choose to either work on past shoots or batch-process images for a same day slideshow/teasers for the clients. When I need to apply advanced post-production techniques to my images, my Walcom Tablet is my go-to tool for both efficiency and quality work.
UNDFIND One Bag – When I am actually on location shooting, lugging around my Pelican isn’t the best solution for easy access to my gear. I prefer to use my UNDFIND One Bag which houses upto 4-5 lenses (depending on which you choose), and makes it effortless to swap lenses on the spot and on the go.
Think Tank Photo Production Manager – This behemoth of a storage device is my body bag for all things lighting related. The Think Tank Photo Production Manager fully stocked to the brim weighs in at around 50 pounds making it perfect for travel check-in baggage. The pockets on the upper half store rechargeable batteries, CTO Gels, and bracket heads.
Now for the main event, which camera bodies do I bring along for a destination wedding? My primary camera is the Canon 5D Mark III and my backup is the Canon 5DS. Prior to the 5DS‘s release I used a Canon 5D Mark II which would still make for an extremely reliable secondary camera for a wedding.
The one grave mistake a photographer can make when packing for a destination wedding is bringing equipment that has no intentional use. Just because you have it doesn’t quite mean that it will serve purpose on your specific trip. These are my must-have lenses in my kit for when I am photographing a destination wedding:
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens For Canon EOS Digital SLR Cameras
Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Lens
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens
What lighting equipment you choose to bring should not be determined by how expensive it is – meaning, your beauty dish, although superior in quality, may not be your best option for travel. Having gear that is compact and produces an equivalent amount of power without reducing quality is the goal. For this, I rely on 4 Phottix Mitros+ Flashes to provide me with the power and light quality I need.
To produce enough light to overpower the sun, I mount three of my off-camera flashes on a Westcott Triple Threat Speedlite Bracket. Setting up three Manfrotto Nano Light stands can be a tedious task and puts gear at a higher risk of being damaged, making the inexpensive Triple Threat Bracket is both a time and money saver.
MagMod Grips, Grids, Gels, & Spheres – Where would I be without these tools? MagMod is ahead of the game when it comes to producing cost-efficient, quality lighting modifiers for strobes. I don’t go on any shoots without having a couple of magnetic grips, grids, CTO Gels, and MagSpheres in my kit.
RapidMounts – I have Tether Tools to thank for this new toy added to my kit: The RapidMount SLX is a portable adhesive flash mount that can be adhered to flat surfaces and used esentially in place of a Light stand. It makes for such a fantastic tool for on-the-go speedlight use.
ND Filters – Dealing with harsh mid-day sun can be the absolute worst, and that’s where my Tiffen ND Filters come in to save the day, especially when using off camera flash.
Wescott Rapidbox Strip – By far, the Wescott Rapidbox Strip is my favorite on-the-go pocket strobe modifier due to its compact storage, easy to assemble structure, and quality of diffusion. Paired with a Benro Monopod, this strip creates some pretty magical diffused light.
I am constantly adopting new gear, trying new things, and evolving my collection of creative tools. There are a few items I carry with me that essentially work as tricks up my sleeve. When I have completed my standard shots, I whip out these special effect toys to create some photo magic. I practically always bring along a Prism and strings of LED lights for quick light modifying effects. Sparklers aren’t a must have, but they do get you spectacular images when you have a not-so-pretty venue to work with.
These are obviously just my preferences and I personally would rather be more prepared than not. That being said, everything I have mentioned has intentional use. Mentally prep and location-scout prior to heading out to your destination wedding so that you pack with purpose. Safe travels & happy shooting!