Celebrated wedding photographer Jim Garner opens his photo bag and tells us what he brings to the job.

Jim-Garner, wedding-photographer

© Jim Garner

BAG: I exclusively use the BX2 pro shooting bag, which is part of Brenthaven’s newest camera bag line. The design was taken from our BODA line and has now been updated to better serve the active photographer. The design is all about speed and comfort. Designed to rest at your hip and store 3-4 lenses, the BX2 allows for easy and fast accessibility to your lenses without ever turning your back on your subject. With the addition of the waist strap I have been able to do away with all the extra straps that were hindering my range of motion, giving me the upper hand in those crucial bridal moments.

Add-on option: The series has a variety of other bags for holding lenses, laptops etc. My favorite smaller add-on is the lens bag. It clips onto your bag, and with an expandable option it provides extra storage for up to a 70-200.


CAMERA: Canon EOS 1 DX. This full-frame 18.1 Megapixel COMOS sensor and DUal DIGIc 5+ Image Processors has a fast focus, fast trigger and amazing low light capabilities. When I am shooting I don’t want to worry about my gear. I want it to work and work quickly so I can focus on bringing out my subject’s energy; this camera’s quality and reliability allows me to do that. I like to call it the sports car of cameras.


LENSES: There is a right time and place for every quality lenses. For a wedding, I could find a use for six to seven different lenses. However, if I could only have three, I would choose EF 24-70mm 2.8L, 70-200mm 2.8L and 85mm 1.2L. It’s an absolute wedding staple allowing you to capture most any aspect of the day.

The 70-200mm is perfect for capturing details during the ceremony, but more importantly it can be used to create amazing portraits of the couple. The range of the glass allows for compression of the background, making the surroundings appear closer to your couple.

The 85mm is the perfect portrait lens. The incredible low depth of field allows you to choose a small portion of the image to be in focus, while letting the rest beautifully fade away into a soft bokeh.

Add-on option: If you want a greater range, I would also recommend the 16-35mm, 50 mm 1.2, 24mm 1.4 and fish-eye 15 mm.

The 16-35 gives you the option of a wide angle shot and can also be used vertically to slenderize your subject. I would caution against using it for a group shot as the distortion will be unflattering for anyone on the edge of the frame.

The 50mm 1.2  and 24mm 1.4 are lifesavers for low light days due to their wide aperture capabilities. The depth of field created at 1.2 produces a beautiful out-of-focus area (bokeh), creating amazing emotional impact for my subjects.

Finally, it is fun to shake it up with a fish-eye 15mm, which gives a different perspective in any setting.


LIGHTING: The most important light to capture is ambient light, but sometimes we aren’t always given the perfect light with which we need to shoot. In a mixed lighting or low lighting scenario, you need to be ready to capture beautiful images that appear to be shot with beautiful available light. In order to recreate that kind of situation, I add off-camera flash or video light depending on the look that is called for.

If I am looking to recreate window lighting, I use LED ice lights. They are basically light wands that can be easily maneuvered for beautifully soft light.

For a most dramatic look, I use the Lowel GL-1. It has a stronger beam of warm light that I use for a more Hollywood-style portrait or as a rim or hair light. In a low light situation, separating the subject from the background can make all the difference in the impact of the image.

Lastly, I use my Canon 580EX speedlite flash a few ways. It serves a very practical purpose at the reception when getting snaps of guests. If I am in a lower light setting and want to keep the mood I can have an assistant hold it at a 45-degree angle to my subject, giving a Rembrandt lighting look. Another way to use it is to separate your subject from a dark sky by using your flash as a back light. For our off-camera set-up, we use either a Vello Duo TTL Off-Camera Flash Cord for a connected solution or a set of Pocket Wizards and flash sync cord that fits your flash for a wireless set up.

Add-on option: One element that isn’t absolutely essential, but incredibly helpful is a compact power pack. This will allow your flash to recharge faster assuring that an important moment is never lost due to a weak charge. Also, instead of burning through packs of AAs, this alleviates a small financial burden and lightens the load of your gear bag. Anyone who has ever missed an amazing express to a flash that is out of charge will recognize the value of this element.

Jim-Garner, wedding-photographer

© Jim Garner



Check List of Equipment:

  • Bx2 Pro Shooting Bag

  • Canon EOS 1 DX camera body

  • EF 24-70mm 2.8L

  • EF 70-200mm 2.8L

  • 85mm 1.2L

  • 16-35mm

  • 50mm 1.2L

  • 24mm 1.4L

  • 15mm Fisheye

  • Extension Tube EF 12

  • LED Ice Lights

  • Lowel GL-1 (Gun Light)

  • Pocket Wizards w/ sync cords

  • Vello due TTL off camera flash cord

  • Compact Power Pack for flash

  • Canon 580EX Speedlite

*Now that you know what he uses, see how he uses it. Catch Jim Garner live on an upcoming CreativeLive seminar this Thursday, April, 24.