No two wedding photographers have the same approach. Needless to say, they don’t rely on the same tools either. A photographer’s style and vision usually dictates the tools that he carries in his/her camera bag. However, there are some tools which are universally popular. These make up the essential wedding photography gear-list. You are likely to find them in most wedding photographer’s bag. Ok, without further ado, here they are:

A macro lens

Macro lenses are good for close-up shots. The wedding rings, the little details on the bride’s dress, the bride’s shoes, jewelry, the thank you cards; there is a whole world of shooting possibilities with a macro lens. I would normally have one dedicated full-frame body mounted with a 100mm macro lens at all times. It will also doubles-up as a good portrait lens.

A spare camera, preferably a film one

No body shoots in film these days, right? Wrong. Film still lives and finds a user in a connoisseur. The best thing about film is the distinct look. Sure it’s possible to mimic it in digital using post-processing techniques but it involves a considerable amount of work to achieve it.
Additionally, and beyond the classic film look, a film camera is an insurance for a digital shooter. In the worst possible scenario, you could forget batteries for your DSLRs, you could forget charging them or an EMP could take out everything electronic in the city (ok, I think I got carried away a bit there). In any ways if your digital gear fails you still have an old school equipment that relies on mechanical and not electronic power.

A backup lens

Most wedding photographers carry at least two camera bodies to a wedding. Some extremely careful ones carry even a third. But what about the lens? Do you carry a backup for that? If your main lens is a 24-70mm f/2.8 and you happen to drop it half-way into the wedding and cracking it open, what’s your option from that point on?
As a professional your first priority is your client, not your gear. Don’t think of the spare lens as an unnecessary expense. Rather, consider it as an insurance much like the spare film camera. If you cannot invest in one as yet (budget is a constraint), rent one for the day and pass on the cost to your client.

A silver and a white reflector

There are a hundred different reasons which justifies you invest in a set of these. Reflectors are quintessential light shaping tools and are a must have for all natural light portrait shooters. You could use a silver reflector for directing light to the bride’s face from a distance. You could use a gold reflector to add a warm tone to a blue-hour wedding portrait image. You could use a set of white reflectors to create what is known as clamshell lighting in photography and create a soft flattering illumination. The options are only limited by your imagination.

A set of flash

As a budding wedding photographer you must already own a few of these. Do yourself a favor and pack at least two of these when you leave to shoot a wedding. Because of its flexibility, an external flash is a smart lighting option at a wedding. You can maneuver it freely in any room and from any corner. Wedding venues like churches put several constraints on a wedding photographer. You cannot setup larger lights. Smaller lights with big guide numbers with the ability to zoom the flash head and use it off-camera (an assistant is always handy in such situations) is the only way to go.