Documentary Wedding Photographer's kit for all seasons - F2 Freelance Photographer magazine

A little interview I gave for F2 Freelance Photographer magazine late last year about my photographic set up, what it details and why. I'll be writing an in-depth article on this very subject very shortly, so keep posted. In the meantime, here is my interview...

Allister Freeman advises a two camera setup. Freeman has been a wedding photographer for 12 years. Although he is based in Devizes in Wiltshire, most of his work tends to happen in London. Once again the Canon EOS 5D MkIII is his camera body of choice. “My set up is very simple, in that I’m shooting mostly with available light,” he says. “I also shoot mostly prime. So one camera will have a 35mm f/1.4 lens attached, and the other an 85mm f/1.4. My only back up lens is a 16-35mm f/2.8.”

Freeman favours the use of two Canon Speedlights. “They’re used on the rare occasion I have to freeze movement dur- ing the dancing”, he says. “I use them very delicately and only ‘splash’ the flash, so I’m essentially still using high ISOs to take in the ambience. I’m very much trying to keep the shots looking naturalistic: the flash really is just to freeze the couple within the frame.”

Freeman’s use of prime lenses is, he says, down to the fact that they focus his mind. “I want to create frames that have stories within them”, he reasons. “Shooting with prime lenses makes it less about the kit, and more about actually seeing what’s going on. “After a few years – or even a few months – of shooting with primes, you can actually ‘see’ at the specific focal lengths without having to pick your camera up. You just know which lens you need for which particular shot, so I find it more natural. “That said, I like to use the 16-35mm for Asian weddings because, without having a facility for shooting very wide angle, they tend to be so busy that you would simply lose important elements in the frame. But I still tend to use the zoom in a very fixed way, in that I will set it beforehand to a specific focal length, so that it fits the style of the rest of my work.”

Although he shoots throughout the year, the contents of Freeman’s kit bag remains consistent. “In the first few years of shooting, you have that ‘gear lust’”, he says, “but once you’ve got over that, it’s a case of finding the most efficient tool and sticking with it. “I change my kit every three years. As I’m on the road, it’s treated in quite a rough manner; I’m often dropping it or kicking it accidentally “especially with London weddings where you’re running around and getting on and off public transport, so they get knocked around. I tape my bodies up with black gaffa, which sounds awful, but after the three years I remove the tape, get a bottle of white spirit, clean them up, and my re-sale value is great, because I’ve reduced the amount of damage and scratches they might have suffered. Hiding the logo of the cameras with black gaffa also stops keen amateurs asking too many questions at wedding, it sounds mean but so many potential images can be missed because of a chatty uncle!

“I shoot full frame, because I like my prime lenses and the detail I can achieve. If a good crop camera was to come along that suited my needs, I would consider having it, but at the time that I bought it, the EOS 5D Mk III was – and still is, really the only camera that suited my requirements, which is a small, high end DSLR with decent megapixels. It’s the right tool for my line of work.”

Freeman also recommends 128GB memory cards, which are a recent addition to his arsenal. “You’ve got dual SD and CF card slots on the camera bodies”, he says. "Having a 128GB card has essentially enabled me to use CompactFlash as a built-in hard drive, so that’s given me a bit more security and peace of mind. “My oldest investment is my trusty Peli 1510 case, which holds all my kit and gets used for international weddings. I shot an Austrian wedding last weekend, and to know my kit was completely safe was invaluable.

“Although it’s not everything, equipment helps give you a signature look: mine is that I shoot in very low light, so having the EOS 5D Mk III has allowed my style to evolve further, and means I’m able to produce a professional quality image from a very tough environment. “We actually printed a ISO 25000 file next to an ISO 6400 in an album, and you couldn’t tell the difference. And that's amazing, especially as 95% of my work is just available light.”