Best wedding photographer New York
Susan Stripling Photography

Best wedding photographer New York

To be the best wedding photographer in New York, one must truly understand every piece of gear he or she brings to a wedding.

What lenses do I use at weddings?  How does each lens I choose affect the images that I take?  Why is knowing this important?

To be the best wedding photographer in New York, I have to know my gear inside and out.  I have to know what each piece does to the final image I am creating.  I need a reason for each gear purchase.

Here is a description of just a small few of the lenses I bring to a wedding day, and why I believe that my knowledge of this gear makes me the best wedding photographer in New York.

Wedding photography gear bag

Before talking about what’s IN the bag I should probably tell you ABOUT the bag! As of 2015, my main bag is the Think Tank Airport Navigator rolling bag. 
I’ve been through many, many rolling bags in my career and the Think Tank bags are built better than the rest - by far. My Think Tank has even been run over by a truck (no, I’m not making this up!) and everything was fine. 

I love the cable lock and zipper lock on the bag for added security. I love how easy it is to configure the interior of the bag. I love how easy it is to maneuver, and how wonderful their customer service is if anything happens to the bag. 
I’ve run down my wheels several times from overuse and they’re great about sending new wheels every time! This bag goes with me to every wedding that I shoot!

Nikon 105mm macro lens for wedding photography

Over the past few years, I have built up a bit of a reputation for taking interesting “ring shots” and part of that is due to stellar gear that helps me make the images I envision come to life. 

I used the 60mm macro happily and with great success for years, but eventually ended up purchasing the 105mm macro for several reasons - one being the sharpness of the Nikon glass and one being the compression of a longer lens. I talk often when educating wedding photographers about my love for long lenses and beautiful lens compression, so why would I not want my detail images to reflect that same sensibility?
The Nano-Crystal Coat on this glass is ridiculously sharp and the lens is solid and quick to focus. Are there cheaper macro lenses on the market? Absolutely. However I truly believe that you get what you pay for in terms of quality and this higher-priced lens is worth the steeper price tag. 

I’d rather wait and be able to afford a truly solid, perfectly built piece of gear that will last me for years and assist me in creating sharp, beautiful images than an easier-to-afford piece that I will come to regret and eventually replace.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4 for wedding photography

When I first began my business, the Canon 85mm f/1.8 was the first lens that I bought that I considered a real “professional” lens. I went on to love that lens for over seven years and was sad to see it go when I changed over to being a Nikon shooter.

One of the first things I had to ask myself when changing systems was whether I wanted an 85mm 1.8 or an 85mm f1.4. The 85mm f1.8 lens was approx. $500 and the f1.4 lens was almost $1,700. (Nikon does make an 85mm f1.4g lens for about $1,100 but I was looking at the g lens at an even steeper price tag). did a $1,200 jump in price justify the f1.4 lens? Why or why not?
The  first question is why a g lens instead of a d lens? The g lenses have a new optical formula providing better bokeh. g lenses are AF-S and most d lenses are not. The g lenses are “gelded," according to Nikon USA. This means that they do not have an aperture ring and you must control the aperture in-camera. While both lenses still convey distance-to-camera information, the g lenses are quicker and faster to focus and more smoothly as well. This is often the subject of great debate on online Facebook groups,  because while many photographers prefer the way the “older” d lenses look, some prefer the look of the g lenses.

When I was making this decision the g won out over the d because I loved the new nano-crystal coat on the g lens. It has reduced the ghosting and also the lens  are that I would often get from shooting in my beloved sunshine. My older model 85mm was a d lens and while I liked it just fine, the second I saw the results from the new coated glass I was totally sold on the newer model of the lens.
Obviously, the extra stop that the f1.4 lens would provide would be a great thing. It could allow me to take more low-light images and also produce a more creamy bokeh than its f1.8 counterpart. But was that, plus the super sharp, smooth glass worth the price increase? To me - yes. I am trying to provide the sharpest, clearest, most beautiful images I can and if there is even a slight increase in the performance of one lens over another I prefer to buy the best I can afford.

** Wedding photographers : if you’re not sure about the lenses, i highly recommend borrowing or renting them to see what you prefer. i wouldn’t at all ever recommend going into debt to buy a piece of glass so if all you can afford is the f1.8 - by all means, go ahead! It’s a wonderful lens and there are many amazing places you can buy used glass at good rates. I prefer to save and invest in the best glass I can because I want the best tools possible to make beautiful images for my clients.

Nikon 24-70mm lens for wedding photography

When I mentioned my 85mm as being one of the main lenses in my bag - this one is another. This is one of the main workhorses in my arsenal and a lens that I would be hard-pressed to do without. Since I work with two camera bodies by the time the ceremony rolls around, this lens is almost always on one of the bodies, and almost never leaves the body unless it’s to replace it with a lighter lens for the reception dancing.

This is one of the sharpest lenses that I own, partly due to the nano crystal coating on the glass.
My assistant often holds this camera with this lens during the course of the day and it’s also an easy lens for her to manage if she needs to take an image or two for me during that time. 
My assistant is just that, an assistant and not a second shooter, but sometimes she is called on to shoot a frame or two here or there and this is a good lens for her to have in her hands at that point. 
For example, if I’m shooting the first look with a 70-200mm, she’ll have the 24-70mm in her hands. Partly so that she can snap a few frames if she wants to, but mostly to get the weight of that camera off of my back (at fifty weddings a year I want to make sure I stay in fighting shape for all of them!).

What do I use this lens for? In short, everything. I use it for getting ready images, for the processional of a ceremony if the aisle is short (same with the recessional), wide angle shots of the ceremony, reception room shots, cocktail hour grip-and- grins (“Can I get a picture of you guys?”), reception grip-and-grins, wider angles of the first and parent dances, and guests dancing at the reception. It’s not too wide but also not too long and while it’s not really a very unique focal length it’s almost always usable in any situation you’ll encounter.
There are many photographers out there who advocate the use of prime lenses only, saying that zoom lenses will make you lazy. I say that they will only make you lazy if you are lazy. If you stand in one spot and just zoom in and out without any motivation then yes, you’re lazy - but not because your lens made you so! I’m just as active and present in the moment with a zoom lens as I am with a prime lens.

The Nikon 70-200mm for wedding photography

I've saved the best for last - my beloved 70-200mm f2.8. 
My path to this lens was a long one. For many years my 85mm was the longest lens that I had in my bag. I thought the 70-200mm was just the lens you bought or rented when you were going to be stuck in the balcony of a church, unable to get close to your subjects. I thought the 85mm was “long enough.”

Eventually as I learned more about the types of images I wanted to be making, I realized that what I really needed was more compression to create the look that I desired. 

I stepped up from the 85mm to the Canon 135mm and really loved that lens. It had a lovely look at a beautiful focal length and for many months this was my favorite lens. I  finally, after renting a 70-200mm, decided that I wanted even more compression and I bought the Canon 200mm lens which remains my favorite lens of all time. It was sharp, quick, and wicked light.

When I left  Canon and went to the Nikon system, I couldn’t find an equivalent to my adored 200mm. Nikon makes a 200mm f2.0 lens - but at nearly $5,500 it was a cost that I simply couldn’t just justify. I purchased a 70-200mm in 2007 and last year upgraded to the newer 70-200mm f2.8 G lens. Once I purchased the nano coated 24-70mm, I wanted the same look from my longer lens as well and I believe that it was well worth the upgrade cost.
Now why is the 70-200mm my favorite lens? As I mentioned before, I love lens compression. I love the look of a long lens, and have come to realize that to me, “long” means “200mm”.  

This lens is fast, sharp, and a true workhorse. I use it for everything I possibly can : bridal prep if the room is large enough, first looks, processionals and recessionals, the ceremony, family formals, almost all portraits of the bride and groom (together and alone), first dances, toasts, and anything I can at the reception. 
I’m not kidding when I say that I use it for everything. Usually this lens goes on the camera the second the bride is dressed and doesn’t leave that camera body for the rest of the day.

In Summary

As you can see, I know my gear.  I know what lenses I need at what part of the day, and what lenses I reach for when I want to make specific images.  This knowledge of my gear helps make me one of the best wedding photographers in New York!

1/250; f/4.0; ISO 2000; 145.0 mm.

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