If you do wedding photography year after year, the physical labor takes a toll on your body. Photographers often carry multiple camera bodies, along with multiple lenses, flashes/studio lights, tripod/monopods and other accessories. Wedding after wedding, we’re carrying fifity to sixty pounds of equipment – plus we’re on our feet all day long!

I remember carrying all my gear and hiking half a mile to a mountain-top ceremony in Muir Beach. It was exhausting, and I knew I couldn’t carry on like this for years. So, for the past few years, I’ve focused on shedding equipment weight and improving efficiency, while delivering the same quality (or better) results.

Here’s what my toolbox looked like in 2010:

Bodies: Nikon D3, 2 Nikon D700, D300, D90

Lenses: 24-70, 70-200, 17-35, 35, 50, 85, 105 Macro, 18-55, 19-35

Flashes: 3 SB-900, SB-800 and SB-600

Accessories: Tripods, monopods and other accessories

As you can see, I had overlapping lenses and camera bodies. Since there’s no such thing as “the perfect lens,” I chose this setup to avoid changing lenses. It saved me time because I could set certain camera functions (ISO, focus type, metering etc.) for each camera body/lens combination in advance. I had a small table setup with these bodies with lenses attached, so all I had to do was grab what I needed for a particular situation and go!

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Downsides to this setup: I can’t always keep an eye on my equipment, it requires time and space to setup and there are too many memory cards to process afterward.

I may have gone too far in my quest to travel light, but I love it. For each wedding this year, I only carry two bodies on site, along with four light lenses, two flashes and a monopod. I still have my tripods, but I don’t use them much during weddings.

Here’s my latest, “light weight” equipment list:

Bodies: D800, D7000

Lenses: 19-35, 35, 50,

Flashes: SB-910 and SB-700

Accessories: Monopod

I eliminated most of the longer focal length lenses, because they were just too heavy and bulky. I’m a true believer in zooming with your feet!

My lenses, and why I chose them:

50 / 1.8:
My 50 is a superb standard lens on my full-frame camera, yet it’s also a great 75mm portrait lens on my D7000. In addition, I use it for macro shots – along with a +4 close-up filter. My 50, plus the close-up filter, save me almost $700, compared to a Nikkor 105 2.8.

35 / 1.8:
It’s a perfect standard lens for my D7000, plus it works as a wide angle on my D800 (DX mode off). The 35 is wide enough for me, and shooting at 1.8 is a big plus. When shooting full-frame, there’s a little vignetting, which I love in my portraits. I also have a close-up filter for this lens, which captures sharp macro shots of rings.

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19-35 / 4-5.6 (Tamron)
This is a great wide angle lens on full-frame bodies. While it’s not a Nikkor 17-35 (or 14-24), it’s also not a $1500+ lens. It’s reasonably priced and suitable for most shooting situations. While distortions are obvious in all wide angles, this lens minimizes distortion and is almost 24 ounces lighter than a Nikkor 14-24.

18-55 VR kit lens:
This lens is surprisingly good! It’s great for group portraits during wedding receptions and also captures various detail shots. With VR and my close-up filter, it makes a good macro lens too.

My Flashes:
The SB-910 is a great flash! Nikon fixed the overheating issue in this model, which is a big improvement over the old SB-900. I love the power this packs. Then, the SB-700 is my “workhorse” flash. It packs good light for almost any shoot, and the recycle time is faster. (I trigger my flashes with Pocket Wizard TT1 and TT5’s.)

My quest to lose “weight” continues:

Going light isn’t for every photographer. Many may say that I don’t have enough gear to cover a wedding or event. All I can say is, check out my blog and website. If I really need additional gear for specific shoots, I can always rent it! And I’m actually more creative now, because the burden (and stress) that comes with carrying lots of equipment is gone. It takes me two minutes or less to setup and break down my gear safely and securely. I don’t feel exhausted after shoots, even after full-day wedding gigs. In fact, I enjoy shooting more now because my energy sustains itself through the end of shoots. I no longer dread waking up the next day with aches and pains. (You guys know what I’m talking about!)

I love the saying, “jack of all trades, master of none.” As photographers, we tend to amass tons of equipment. (Sure, I still daydream about all the latest and fanciest gear!) But if we don’t know how to use our gear efficiently, we can’t truly master our craft. “Losing weight” has helped me renew my energy for shooting, and for conducting my business in front of potential clients without breaking (as much) a sweat!

About Michael Maganis

There’s never a dull moment in my line of work. The best part about my job? It doesn’t feel like a job! I get to dine with my clients, travel to exotic places (some not, I must admit!) and my office happens to be my favorite coffee shop. I’m a happy photographer!

Besides loving what I do, I love to cook. Right now, I’m into “30-minute” meals. After a good meal, I also love taking walks as it helps me meditate. And that’s when I come up with the best ideas. So, if you need ideas, hit me up before my walk and I’ll get back to you!

My favorite things, in no particular order: Half Moon Bay, Monterey, and my dog Grant, my BIG family (42+ in my immediate family), “real” newspapers, watches and scarves.

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