Second Shooting a Wedding: What I Use When Gear Is Unlimited

Published July 17, 2015

I get asked quite often what gear I recommend for shooting weddings. Almost always, recommend the same old tried and true things: high end bodies with good low light performance, f/2.8 zooms, and if you’re feeling frisky, fast aperture primes. But no one ever asks me about their second shooters. I gave up primary shooting weddings a while back, mostly because I don’t like the extra work and the extra responsibility. I do like shooting weddings, and I like having extra money, though. I’ve been fortunate enough to hook up with a great local wedding photographer, Josh Malahy with, and I’ve been second shooting for him for about three wedding seasons now. When I interviewed with him I asked if he had any gear requirements or expectations from me, and he said, “I have two rules. One, wear a suit. And two, don’t shoot too much.” He likes my shooting style and gives me carte blanche to shoot with whatever I want, however I want, and I run with it.

My current go to setup is a Nikon D750 with 35mm and 85mm f/1.8 primes. For the most part, this covers me for just about everything. Often I’ll bring along a 58mm f/1.4 because I just love the way it renders, and the amazing 200mm f/2, because nothing else looks like a 200mm f/2.

D750, 85mm f/1.8

D750, 200mm f/2


I used to love bringing the Leica Monochrom, but I’ve moved on to the Sony a7S with Leica adapter because I find it more versatile. My favorite lenses are the 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron, 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron, 21mm f/1.4 Summilux, and Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon. All of these work beautifully on the a7S, and thankfully I work here at LensRentals and don’t have to get a second mortgage to buy these lenses.


Sony a7S, Leica 21mm f/1.4


Sony a7S, Leica 21mm f/1.4


The built in wifi on both the D750 and a7S lets me transfer images instantly to my phone, so I can send them to friends or Instagram right after I shoot them. Posting instantly to Instagram has been a good form of advertisement, and the bride in that last one is a good friend of mine and was glad to have the instant keepsake.

Speaking of instant, I also like to bring along one of my instant film cameras. I regularly shoot with either a Mamiya Universal or a Graflex SLR. Unfortunately for you, dear reader, we don’t rent these. But they’re relatively cheap and easy to find on the used market. And the clients always love the results.


Mamiya Universal, 100mm f/2.8, Fuji FP-100C


Graflex Series D, Plaubel Anticomar 6" f/2.9, Fuji FP-100C


Josh himself is an avid film fan and often incorporates film work into the weddings we do. He’ll bring along his Rolleiflex and Leica bodies alongside his Fuji X-T1 and X100S, switching between them seamlessly. The romance of film is still alive and well, and people love seeing those old cameras in use. And because Josh uses Fuji digital for most of the wedding coverage, wedding guests often think I’m the primary shooter with my bigger Nikons, allowing him to go unnoticed and get shots that might not be possible otherwise. We’ve developed a really great working relationship where he gets all the really important stuff like formal portraits, first looks, details, etc., and I back him up with extras of those things as well as candids and fun stuff he’s not always able to get. It’s the perfect setup for both of us, especially when I remember to pack a flask of good whiskey. The mother of the bride is usually appreciative of that flask, too.

Bottom line, if you’re second shooting, take it as an opportunity to stretch your legs and try something new. Bring something you’re comfortable with that will get the job done right, but don’t be afraid to bring along something fun and interesting. That way when you’re ready to start shooting your own weddings, you’ll have a large repertoire to pick from. We have lots of toys to choose from, so try something new this season! Here’s some fun suggestions for you:

Nikon 85mm f/2.8D PC-E or Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8

Lomography x Zenit Petzval for Nikon or Canon

Lensbaby Composer Pro with Edge 80 Optic for Nikon or Canon


Author: Joey Miller

I’m Joey. I love cameras, especially old film cameras, and I can’t remember the last day I didn’t take a photo. Digital cameras are great, and they keep me employed, but I also still like processing my own film. I’m stuck somewhere in the middle. I shoot every single day, no matter what.

Posted in Equipment
  • Jordan Urie

    John: There are quite a few wedding photographers out there that use Fuji’s cameras. In competent hands, APS-C sensors can deliver beautiful photos.

  • Nqina Dlamini

    In my next life, I will be born in the USA on the town where Lensrental is located. The next step in my cunning plan would be to get a job at Lensrental…..
    Thanks for the article Mr Miller.

  • Joey Miller


    I modified the original sheet film holder mount to accept a modified Polaroid 405 holder. I have 5 of those cameras, so permanently modifying one for Polaroid use was perfectly acceptable to me. I basically widened the original mount and removed the channel groove on the film holder. It’s not ideal, but it works just fine.

    And unfortunately there are no small or cheap options for shooting 3×4 instant film that will give you more control than the old Land cameras. I wouldn’t say the Universal is much more unwieldy than the RB67. I’ve owned both and find them to be about equally large and cumbersome. I have the 100mm f/2.8 lens for my Universal, and there’s nothing like it.

  • Joey Miller


    I just give him the memory cards at the end of the night. We have another person who does all the editing.

  • David

    While not exactly on point for a hardware site, I’d be interested to know how he deals with the influx of pictures at the end of the event. Do you process and sort your own or do you just give him everything?

  • Aaron

    That Graflex, I just did a bit of research, there isn’t a native adapter for the Polaroid holder, is there? Doesn’t seem to be, so I’m assuming you had it modified to hold that? How?

    I use a Polaroid Automatic (430 I think) for my type-100 shooting, and love it. While I also have the Mamiya RB67, I’ve stopped using it for instant film because it doesn’t cover the full film size 🙁 I looked at the Universal, but decided the Automatic is just easier to carry and handle compared to the Universal. Plus, a lot cheaper 😉 Do you know any alternatives that might still give me good results from good glass without being massively large? Or crazy expensive?

  • I see the primary wedding photographer uses APS-C cameras. Interesting.

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