THE DAYS WHEN you might have looked on wedding photography as a slightly cliched and repetitive business, full of traditional poses and wooden group shots, are thankfully long gone, and now the field is attracting young and inventive professionals who are relishing the chance to shake up the format and to push the boundaries. People like South Wales-based Zelda Rhiannon, for example, who is shooting weddings because she finds it exciting and fun and she loves being around a crowd that’s enjoying getting together for a major celebration.

“Originally I was just taking pictures of my own kids and I never felt confident enough to imagine I could turn up at a wedding and be the official photographer,” she recalls. “That changed when I was a ruunerup in a competition and met photographer and trainer Kate Hopewell-Smith at The Photo Show and she convinced me that I had it in me to do this. After being mentored by her and signing up for her six-month foundation training programme I plucked up the courage to dive in and found out that I loved it! The rest is history really and I’ve never looked back.”

That was four years ago and one of the first decisions Zelda had to make was what kit to take with her to cover off a typical wedding day. She started out with DSLRs in the form of two Nikon D750s, and this type of camera is still the traditional weapon of choice for many of those in the wedding photography business. The reason is simple: they are feature-packed, relatively small and portable compared to the cumbersome medium format models of yesteryear and, of course, you can fit a variety of lenses for ultimate flexibility.

ABOVE: Zelda shoots her weddings these days using a pair of mirrorless Sony a7 IIIs, one fitted with a zoom and the other an 85mm prime portrait lens.

Brand new prices for the more sophisticated models can be high – commonly over £2000 body only – which can act as a huge barrier to those looking to enter the business for the first time, especially if a back-up body is in the equation, which ideally it should be. However, by sourcing kit from a reputable second hand specialist such as MPB, which checks, grades and photographs every single item it sells and also adds a six month warranty for peace of mind, you can cut not just the cost of starting out but you can also eliminate the risk that might be associated with buying kit from an online auction site.

The brand new price for a Nikon D750 – recently usurped by the D780 – is currently £1299, while second hand prices on the MPB website at the time of going to press were around £799 for a model in excellent condition with a relatively low shutter count. If you were looking for a well-used version with more miles on the clock, perhaps to get you started or to use as that back-up we previously mentioned, it was possible to dive in for just £539, well under half the price of new and still with a guarantee.

In terms of lenses, Zelda was working with a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm, giving her the widest possible range of options at a wedding and she worked with one lens permanently attached to each body for ultimate speed of use. Lenses are one of the best value options to acquire second hand since they can give years of service if well looked after and yet you’ll still save a considerable amount by not buying new. Just as with the camera bodies, all lenses are thoroughly checked out by MPB before being offered for sale, so everything will be fully functioning and there will be no danger of anything like mould growing on the internal optics, which can effectively be the end game for glass.

Of course there are alternatives to the Nikon D750 that are equally favoured by wedding photographers, one of the chief rivals being the full frame Canon EOS 5D Mark III. One in excellent condition was available on the MPB website at £929 as we went to press, with others in good condition fetching £844, so again a keenly priced piece of professional kit that would serve well in a wedding situation.

Moving to Mirrorless

After meeting and training with Kate, Zelda decided, after a huge amount of soul searching, to move on from her Nikon kit and over to Sony mirrorless models. Kate is a Sony ambassador and a great advocate for the brand and Zelda could see the advantage of moving to a lighter and even more compact model, and she very much appreciated the idea that ‘what you see is what you get.’

“I invested in a pair of Sony a7 Mark IIIs,” she says, “since I wanted to have a back-up with me and it meant that everything was in the same place on both bodies. I wear a Spyder holster, and this means that both cameras are close to hand, and one is fitted with a 24-70mm f/2.8 while the other is usually paired with an 85mm f/1.8 prime. The zoom covers me for a range of shots throughout the day, while the long lens is a beautiful portrait optic that I use all the time, with a lovely wide aperture that enables me to capture gorgeous bokeh in my shots.”

“I also have a 70-200mm GM f/2.8 that’s used for odd occasions on the day when I might shoot longer range images and a 30mm f/3.5 macro that I use right at the start of the day for close ups of such things as the wedding rings. I find this line up of optics covers off pretty much everything I need on the day and it’s good not to have too much kit to be carrying around. “Moving over from a DSLR to a mirrorless model was quite a big step for me because I was changing system at the same time and had to get used to the obvious differences, but I soon got used to things. I love the way I can see exactly what I’m getting on the LCD screen, down to changes in the density of the image if I change my aperture, and it’s just such an intuitive way to work. I would, however, say that I adored my Nikon kit, so a DSLR would still be an excellent option for someone just starting out.”

The good news is that second hand specialists such as MPB offer the full range of products, including many models that are still current and very much cutting edge, and there’s a good assortment of mirrorless choices sitting there waiting for a new owner, including the same a7 Mark III model that Zelda uses for a very reasonable £1419, as opposed to a brand new price of £1678. Once again the six month guarantee comes as standard and you can rest assured that you’ll be acquiring a quality used piece of kit that’s in great condition and won’t let you down.

Zelda herself has been an MPB customer in the past and wouldn’t hesitate to use the company for times when she’s looking to trade up or swap in under-used kit. “It’s a great outlet,” she says, “and it’s brilliant to have a facility such as this for moving on and acquiring pro-spec equipment.”

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