Top 10 Wedding Photography Gear Trends for 2014
The wedding photography industry is changing in dramatic ways. As more and more photographers take up weddings professionally, more and more companies are targeting wedding photographers with new products, ranging from new camera equipment to new fashion accessories to help photographers separate themselves from the pack. As a photography trend watcher, I’m seeing a shift in tools and fashion used by working professionals. Decades ago, photographers were often using large format or medium format cameras for wedding portraiture. Then came the film SLR and that became a staple in the wedding photography toolbox. Then at the turn of the previous decade, digital SLRs (DSLRs) became the trend as more and more working professionals started choosing digital cameras over film cameras. I also saw rapid growth in the Strobist movement, when push amateurs and professionals alike to choose small strobes over studio light equipment. Professionals like Joe McNally, David Hobby, Zack Arias, Scott Robert Lim, and many others continued to promote the use of small portable flashes to both new and seasoned photographers. Trends are constant. They’re not ‘fads’ that quickly come and go, but indicate gradual yet momentous shifts in how people go about daily life. They reflect changes in what people value, the zeitgeist, as deemed by the social and economic influences of current times . It is now 2014 and many years have passed since the first DSLR was introduced unto the wedding scene. Since that time, much has changed – some of it an evolution, while others a reflection of the past. I could write reams of copy discussing these changes, but for this post, I’m simplifying things by listing what I see as some of the top trends in wedding photography gear as observed over the past year and going forward into the year ahead. I use the term “trend” quite loosely here. I’m not just talking about camera gear, but also computer gear, fashion, and other accessories that appear to be gaining momentum into the wedding photography industry.
Top Gear Trends for Wedding Photographers
There are now a myriad of new a cool mirrorless cameras offered by FujiFilm, Sony, and Olympus that are nipping at the heels of DSLR cameras. Once thought to be cameras for recreation or backup, these mirrorless wonders are becoming main primary tools for wedding photographers. I’m seeing more photographers giving cameras like the Fujifilm X-Pro1 a shot (pun intended) on the big day. These small quality cameras offered at excellent prices don’t just look cool, they offer exceptional image quality close to what you would expect on a DSLR. Especially the FujiFilm line, which offers film emulation modes that are much desired in today’s photography. However, there are limitations. Mirrorless cameras like the Fuji X-Pro1 currently don’t have secondary memory card slots for that extra bit of protection, and some are not weather-sealed (although that’s quickly changing), and they do not have the same robust off camera strobe systems like you see with Canon’s 600EX-RT.
Hybrid shooting: Film + Digital
It’s kinda funny to list film cameras as a trend, since they’ve been around for so long already, but they are making their way back into mainstream wedding photography, albeit in limited numbers. Wedding photographers like Jose Villa, Leo Patrone, Johnny Patience, and several others are current-day evangelists for film photography for weddings. Their film techniques are impressive and their published works are helping to aspire a whole new generation of wedding photographers to take up film again, but not exclusively. I’m seeing more photographers going back to film, but also pairing these systems with digital cameras. So you might see a wedding photographer shooting ceremonies with digital, while using film for portrait sessions. A great combination is the Contax 645 medium format camera or Mamiya 645 AFD for portraits and details, and a Canon 5D MKIII for other parts of the wedding day. I’m also seeing older film SLRs like Canon 1Vs paired with newer Canon DSLRs.
Portable LED lighting
Small strobes are still king when it comes to daytime outdoor lighting, but when evening arrives, there’s nothing better than portable LED lights offered by such brands as Westcott and Lowel. These lights are lightweight, consistent, and can produce amazing results for fast paced wedding photographers who want WYSIWYG lighting. Cameras now have very little grain at high ISOs, so LED lighting will continue to gain ground as an excellent alternative to strobes during receptions, evening shoots, and other indoor lighting applications.
Custom and retro-style camera straps
I remember my first camera strap. It was the one included with my Canon SLR. I also remember quickly taking if off the camera and replacing it with a generic black strap because I didn’t want my camera brand to be visible around my shoulders as I was shooting during the day. This eventually led me to buy straps that appeared more custom, something that reflected my own sense of style. I eventually found a straps from a company call Holdfast, which made a real leather double strap called the Moneymaker. It comes in a number of different colors, it’s strong, very vintage retro (rustic even), and looks amazing to wear. I’m seeing more of these sorts of retro-style straps coming into the market with wedding photographers in mind. Holdfast is one company, there are several vendors on Etsy also offering custom-looking straps, and you can also check out Phat Straps for a large inventory of different colors and designs.
Incognito camera bags
Another cool trend is toward what I call, incognito camera bags. These are bags that don’t look like camera bags at all. They can look like purses, duffel bags, briefcases, old backpacks, or whatever. The idea seems to be that many wedding photographers don’t want to stand out at events. They also don’t want their gear to stand out in fear that it might attract unwanted attention to their precious goods. Companies like Holdfast offer cool looking bags that don’t look anything like camera bags. You can also check out Ona bags for a collection of very stylish bags, as well as Epiphanie Bags, Kelly Moore, Jill-e Designs, Shootsac, vendors on Etsy, and others.
Cloud-based photo galleries
CDs, DVDs, and even USBs are still widely used as media for wedding photos, but change is coming. An increasing number of wedding photographers are beginning to provide their digital images to client exclusively as digital downloads from online providers like Zenfolio, ShootProof, and SmugMug. Branding and personalization are important reasons why photographers provide tangible media on USB devices all well packaged and delivered to clients, but there are compelling reasons to offer download-only options as well. For one, having these downloadable high-res photos in an online gallery makes it easy for clients to retrieve their images from anywhere. This anywhere-accessibility of gallery websites offers photographers an opportunity to stay in contact with their clients through the gallery website. If you give a client a USB photo stick with nice packaging, that’s great, but there’s a high chance they may never visit your site again. Give them a link to an online gallery with downloadable photos, and they are more likely to visit your gallery over the next year or more to retrieve images that may have misplaced or simply want to access when away from home. What a great opportunity to inform clients of new promotions, products, and other services on an ongoing basis.
Like film, photo booths have been around for ages. Over the past several years, they’ve been making their way into weddings like crazy. It seems like every client wants a photo booth, so more wedding photographers are adding these booths to their list of services. Many photographers are buying pre-built booths that come with everything ready to go, but an increasing number of building their own. It won’t be long before every wedding photographer owns a booth.
Film emulation filters and presets
Like the trend back to film, film presets are popular thanks to the ironic desire for photographers to stand out from the crowd. Photographers who desire a ‘unique’ look to their images are picking up presets from brands such a VSCO, Alien Skin, Redleaf, Mastin Labs, Replichrome by Totally Rad, and others. Sometimes these presets are applied out of the box, but many more photographers are using these filters and presets as a starting point to creating their own unique looks. These tools are gain steam thanks to products like Adobe Lightroom, in which a single preset can be applied to dozens (if not hundreds) of wedding photos in a few seconds. Tools like Alien Skin take a bit longer, but it offers one of the best and customizable film emulation engines currently in the market. Photographers like Jonas Peterson are now known for their application of Alien Skin in producing beautiful wedding photographs.
I’ve written about retro camera straps above, but this point is a little different. We’re at a point in time when it is ultra hip to have a retro fashion vibe about you. We see retro fashion appearing all around us, and wedding photographers are no exception. Camera straps are one thing, but there’s a trend towards retro gear in a way that’s not just merely a fad, but an ode to simpler times and eco-conservatism. Retro can mean going out to buy the latest vintage retail fashion, but it can also mean recycling clothes that appeared destined for the furnace just a decade ago. It can also refer to the fact that camera manufacturers are bringing back old camera designs like the Fuji X100s, the Olympus OMD, and the Nikon DF – If you’re a wedding photographer with one of these cameras, you also have the dress the part with vintage-style hipster fashion and working-class fashion inspiration from mid-century. Finally, it can also refer to a movement back to natural materials such as real leather, canvas, and cotton, as well as one-of-a-kind handmade retro-inspired craft items that are ever so popular on Etsy.
Digital contracts, client management, and payment transactions
Say goodbye to the days where contracts were all done on paper, and your client management system as a folder and a filing cabinet. Say hello to full on digital accounts and contracts, wedding bookings done completely online, and portable ‘cash registers’. Companies like ShootQ, Tave, PayPal, BitPay, and Square now offer wedding photographers the tools to manage clients and money completely in the digital realm. Who needs paper when you can send clients quotes and contracts through email, and have them pay you via a digital transaction at a low cost. All a photographer needs is a subscription to a studio management system like Tave and an account and card swiper from Square to have everything one needs to run an on-location business. With these tools, photographers can access information about their client orders from anywhere and accept money in an instant. It’s no wonder that such services are catching on in a big way.
Wedding photography trends are like any other, they’re influenced by social and economic factors, as well as technical innovations that offer the benefit of making our lives easier at a reasonable cost. These 10 trends didn’t all start this year, but they’re gaining steam in a big way as we march into 2014 and beyond. What other gear trends are you seeing out there? I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.
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