10 Essential Accessories for Any Wedding Photographer
K Madhavan Pillai lists out the small pieces of gear that will transform the way you shoot, whether you are a beginner or a serious practitioner.
Unfortunately, in the minds of most photographers, the emergence of digital photography and image manipulation seem to have replaced the use of lens filters and other accessories. The reality is quite different.
Apart from the obvious necessary accessories like flashguns, there are many small pieces of equipment that can prove invaluable in the field. Not every accessory is meant to directly improve your photography. Some help you improve your efficiency while others may help your process and workflow.
Efficient Media Cards
Speed is critical at weddings. The faster a camera empties its buffer into the media card, the quicker it is ready for the next shot. High capacity media cards also let you shoot for longer durations without worrying about running out of space at a crucial moment.
Power When You Need It
If you need to shoot for long periods of time, your batteries need to hold up. Investing in battery grips, battery packs, high capacity batteries, and quick chargers ensure that you keep clicking.
Does the Weight Bother You?
Photographers typically end up carrying a lot of gear, and subsequently a lot of weight. The more tired you get, the slower you react, and the more moments you end up missing. It a good practice to hone your skills so that you can get good results with limited equipment. It is also mandatory to get good camera straps and comfortable camera bags that allow you instant access.
Accessories have a direct impact on the way you shoot, and on the quality of images you get.
A Shoe by Any Other Name?
To that end, an accessory that slips by most photographers is the shoe. This is not hotshoe on the camera, but the type you slip your feet into. Sneakers and sports shoes may not the best choices for going to weddings in, even though they may be comfortable. Leather shoes with plenty of cushioning at the soles or orthopedic insoles work well too.
Flashguns and Lights
The flashgun is any professional wedding photographer’s quintessential accessory. A small, second flash unit for off camera flash is, more often than not, completely ignored. Similarly, three of four powerful studio flash unit with umbrellas can be magical in some environments.
The world of accessories is fascinating. You can even rig up your own. If you look around, there are many accessories that will help greatly, and most of them are not all that expensive. All it takes is a bit of experimentation to find out which work best for you.
The Extremely Essential, But Not Very Obvious List
1. Neoprene Padded Camera Strap with Media Card Pockets on it: This could very well be the single most important investment you make into getting good pictures. A good neoprene strap can make a huge difference in how tired you feel even after an hour of shooting with a heavy camera and lens. Some straps come with little pockets on them to quickly store fresh or used memory cards. These pockets can considerably speed up your shooting.
2. Camera Harness, Gear Pouches, and Lens Drop-in Pouches: When speed is of the essence, a camera harness with utility pouches and drop-in lens cases allows you to instantly access the gear you need, or change lenses quickly. A harness is flexible and modular, so you can keep adding, removing or changing the position of your pouches depending on what and how much you need to carry. It also distributes the weight evenly and allows a lot of freedom of movement.
3. A Sturdy, Relatively Customisable, Collapsible Flash Bracket: This invaluable accessory is also one of the most underrated. A flash bracket allows you to attach a flash to your camera, and keep it at a distance diagonally above the lens, in both horizontal or vertical framing. This ‘buries’ shadows behind the subjects so that it is not visible in pictures. It also makes images look a lot less flat, improves tonality, and makes the catchlights in the eyes more natural looking.
4. Flashgun Light Diffusers, Softboxes Honeycombs, and other Modifiers: Bouncing the light is not the only flashgun technique available. The accessory you see above is a balloon diffuser for a flashgun. Unlike a flashgun softbox that throws a relatively soft, but even, illumination, a balloon diffuser tends to cause light fall-off for a brighter center with a soft but progressively lower levels of light towards the edges. The quality of light thrown by flashguns improve dramatically with modifiers.
5. On-camera Colour Corrected LED Light Array with a Dimmer: Mounted on the accessory shoe of a camera, LED arrays work on AA batteries and are relatively inexpensive. They provide a reasonably wide coverage of illumination for up to 20 feet (depending on the ISO setting) and can be dimmed to balance with ambient light. Colour corrected LEDs are more expensive. Some come with filters for colour correction or diffusion. LEDs can used for videography and photography.
6. Clamps that Latches on Almost Anything, to Hold Almost Anything: Halogens diffused with umbrellas, studio light units, additional flashguns, an extra GoPro… all of these can be quickly and securely attached to poles, banisters, rods, ledges, slabs, tables, etc., using a photographic clamp. Some come with a handle that needs to be rotated to fasten. Others come as large clips with powerful springs. Most of them can take a regular tripod or a studio light mount.
7. Wireless Radio Transmitters and Slave Receivers for Triggering Lights: These are quintessential accessories for photographers using more than one flash unit off-camera. There are many advantages to using a radio trigger over infrared triggers (which needs line-of-sight to fire the flash units) or even the camera’s own flash commander mode (which uses a preflash, causing a slight lag). This is especially useful if you need to control and fire multiple groups of flash units separately.
8. A Compact and Lightweight Carbon Fibre Monopod: Contrary to popular notion, a good monopod can literally make your images stand out above the crowd. Imagine being able to raise the camera high over the heads of people for a shot, or using it for narrow aperture group portraits or in low light at 1/15sec. Light monopods weigh 500 grams or less, and collapses neatly to fit into your backpack without consuming much space. This alone makes it worthwhile to carry around.
9. Portable, Easy-to-use Backup Storage Devices or HDDs: The photographs you shoot are extremely precious. And a lot can go wrong… from accidental formatting to lost or stolen cards. As a photographer, you must make at least one backup of images for safety, whenever you get some spare time after a session of shooting. To save time, opt for devices like the WD ‘My Passport Wireless’, which has its own battery, SD card slot, Wifi, and USB port.
10. A Compact but Comprehensive Camera Cleaning Kit: Indian weddings can be raucous, dusty, and can have water or grains of rice being liberally sprinkled all over the place. You can get your best shots at times like these, but you also risk your equipment getting dusty or wet. You need the right gear to clean your lenses and cameras so that they don’t fail the next time you shoot. A blower, ‘Lenspen’, and pieces of microfibre cloth are the bare essentials.
This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Better Photography.Tags: K Madhavan Pillai, photographers, wedding, accessories, softboxes, Carbon-fibre monopod, camera strap, Media Cards, Camera Harness, Flash Bracket, Flashgun Light Diffusers, LED Light, Clamps, Wireless Transmitter, Storage Devices, Cleaning Tools