Tools Of The Trade
Must-Have Wedding Photography Tools, Services and Software
One of the big things to always keep in mind when building your brand is that it is made up of so many other companies.
Without them, we would all be a mess.
Here's a list of photography gear, services, and vendors I personally use every day to run my business.
Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you decide to purchase one of the products listed, I'll get a small portion of the sale (at no additional cost to you).
CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT
ShootProof – We use ShootProof to produce all of our clients' beautiful websites and delivery of files. We chose ShootProof over Pixieset and Pass because there are so many more options available in regards to actually selling prints. Custom automation, email marketing campaigns, custom coupon incentivization and pre-registration These features exclusive to Shootproof are absolutely essential to our workflow. Lastly, this is one of the only online file delivery services that integrate directly with prints from our favorite print lab, Miller's! YOU HAVE TO TRY OUT SHOOTPROOF! And bonus, if you have already paid for some other company to handle your file delivery, they will credit your ShootProof account with however much $$ that was. Insane!
HART Presets – I know, call me bias, but the presets that we have developed over the years are so freakin good, I could not imagine editing a shoot without them. This is my complete arsenal of Lightroom presets, these are the only presets we use to create all of our images at Style & Story.
Miller’s Lab – Millers has a couple things that separate from other labs.
- AMAZING customer service and personal touch. Their staff truly cares
- They are ridiculously fast and efficient about getting orders out the door. I don’t know of a faster Print Lab of this quality
- They offer the best canvases on the market
My home is personally FULL of Miller's canvas's and albums.
Use code “SFP25” to get 25% off signature albums when ordering through their free Designer Plus software.
WEBSITE / DESIGN
Your website is the most important aspect of your business. The design, flow, aesthetics, and mobile functionality weigh greatly into your online conversions. Do NOT Take it lightly. Below are some our top resources that I use when I'm putting together a new site or creating marketing materials.
Namecheap – One of the biggest mistakes I see photographers making is that they host their websites on a platform like Wix and then use the subdomain given to them by that platform. You absolutely need to be using your own domain name. Most people use Godaddy, which offers great first time discounts BUT their renewal fees are a lot more expensive. If you plan on using this name for more than a year definitely buy your domain from Namecheap.
Dreamhost – Dreamhost is my recommended host for when you're just getting started. Their 24/7 customer service and tech support is phenomenal + they strike a great balance between performance and affordability. If you use my referral link above you'll get $50 off.
WPX Hosting – This is the hosting company I personally use for my photography website. Dreamhost is great when you're just starting out, but WPX Hosting is the next step up. Site speed is really important to me and WPX hosting is specifically built for WordPress sites — which means they've optimized their servers to make your WordPress site as fast as possible. My favorite feature, besides the speed increases I've seen from switching, is that they completely handle your site migration FOR FREE. They take care of everything! Not only do they move your site for you, they move it fast! 12 hours after I signed up for an account with them I had my site switched over. Highly recommended.
ThemeForest – The best marketplace to search for website themes. Tons of beautiful templates at super affordable prices.
Elegant Themes – If I can't find what I'm looking for on Themeforest then this is my next stop. Elegant themes provides a stunning collection of beautiful templates for one low price.
Imagely – WordPress themes specifically for photographers.
Creative Market – When I'm looking for graphics, fonts, and templates to use in my marketing materials this is my first stop.
99 Designs – We cant all be designers. We also can’t all afford a custom designer when you are just starting out, or on every project. We used 99 designs to help create a logo for one of our side projects and have recommended it since.
Tonic – When you need the job done right for full web design, rebranding and/or logo development, Jen & Jeff at Tonic are the best. These two are a powerhouse at what they do. The best in the biz go to Tonic when the project really matters. If you're serious about your brand, make room in your budget for these two.
*BONUS. Tonic loves you guys. Enter SIXFIGURE at checkout for 15% off any of their designs.
Fuji X-T3 – Our photography & videography workhorse. We moved away from the status quo SLR system last year and have not looked back since. Fuji was stepping up to the plate and innovating when the typical SLR brands were remaining stagnant. We shoot all of our weddings on these babies. The main advantage is speed, auto-focus, ISO capability and ability to be present on the day without lugging around 50 lbs of stuff.
This can get a little confusing because I am shooting on a crop sensor. At times I will compare them to their full frame equivalent from when I used to shoot on Canon.
Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 – This lens wasn't always a favorite of ours, but with the release of the X-T3 the focus speed and accuracy really became something special. It's a beautiful portrait lens that gives the DoF that you long for on a crop sensor.
Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4 – This lens has everyone scratching there heads because its so ridiculously good. This gorgeous peice of glass is only $599. Forget what you think you know about red ring L canon lenses. The speed on the Fuji F1.4 series combines with the amazing I.Q. will leave you satisfied.
Fujinon XF 23mm F1.4 – Just like the 35mm above it, this lens set a new precedent for image quality at the 23mm range. It stays glued to my camera for at least 75% of a wedding day. I would never show up to a shoot without this baby.
Mitakon 35mm F0.95 – This cheap piece of glass is a wild ride. Its fully manually focusing. Please read that again before you buy it. The DoF on it is like nothing I have experienced before. It's wonky, and beautiful, and perfect in its imperfection. It gives a quality that I can only compare to that of a medium format film camera. Not to mention that the color rendering on it simply beautiful.
Fujifilm XF 50-140mm – This is one of our only “large” lenses for the Fuji system. It allows us to have reach and image stabilization in low lit ceremony sites. As great of a lens as this is, we most often use it for Catholic Ceremonies and that's about all.
YONGNUO YN560 IV Speedlight – OFC has been a little bit of trouble to pinpoint the best option for Fuji. The technology is new and improvement ts keep being made. However! Thanks to Yongnuo, they have created a powerful flash that solves all my problems and is dirt cheap. This is hands down the best option currently. Definitely check out the trigger option below as well if you want to fire remotely but don’t have need for a 2nd light.
Yongnuo Flash Trigger – See above.
Godox AD 200 – Studio Strobe output without the studio strobe size …(and cost) We use these babies for creative portraits when we need maximum light output. The rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery is clutch and lasts the full day easily.
Godox Trigger – See abaove, just make sure you get the trigger for your brand of camera.
Magmod – Allows you to quickly add modifiers.
Impact 8ft Lightstand – We call our lighting setup “Light on a stick” This is our stick. Small, light, portable. It simply gets the job done. We take it with us everywhere with a single Yonguo 600 attached to the top with simple flash bracket.
Speed Light Clamp – Sometimes because of tight spaces, our “light on a stick” technique just won’t work. We use this clamp to literally clamp our speed lights on to just about anything! It helps to keep them hidden, out of the way and puts the light exactly where you want it, especially when combined with a Magmod Mag Grid!
Ice Light 2 – While I don't agree that it gives you “window light” per se, this light undeniably rocks. It is a quick tool that is easy to carry with you and bust out when you need it. Beautiful for fill light on details, hair lights, and night time shots.
Cheetah Stand – Love this stand because the legs auto extend and collapse. This is fantastic at a reception when moving around the stand to re-position your light.
Westcott Micro Apollo Softbox – An invaluable tool for lighting details. Has saved the day numerous occasions at receptions as well.
Westcott Rapid Box – Sometimes, the Profoto D1 is just too powerful. This will sometimes happen indoors or often at night when trying to balance for ambient light. The Rapid Box allows you to use a lower powered speedlight with a familiar soft light in these situations.
Promaster Reflector – This comes with me to every shoot I do. You have five options with it, but my favorite and most used sides are the “sunlight” side (NOT gold) and the translucent side.
VIDEO AND AUDIO GEAR
DJI Ronin-M Gimbal Stabilizer V3 – Nothing beats the cinematic quality of good clean steady cam action. We prefer this over the S for three reasons. 1. In the commercial world, size matters. The Ronin M makes your smaller camera look much more impressive. 2. Dual hand grips make for much smoother motion over a single grip. 3. The ability to support larger camera systems AND lenses will come in handy when you least expect it!
Benro A48FDS6 Video Monopod Kit – As cool as gliding and sliding is, our main camera support tool on a wedding day is our Benro Monopod. Learn to master this tool and you will find yourself creating camera movements that no one would over guess took place on a monopod.
Manfrotto Tripod– The trusty tripod. We go with these because they are light, portable, quick, sturdy, and fluid enough for SLR's. The tripod market is vast. You do NOT want a cheap tripod, but with SLR's you also don't need to go into the thousands.
Rode VideoMic Pro Compact Shotgun Microphone – We keep these on top of all of our SLR's to override the crappy in camera audio that you get our of an SLR.
Roland R-26 6-Channel Handheld Recorder – The Roland gives me the ability to record up to 6 channels. I tap into the DJ's board with this device, run wireless mics to it, and capture ambient noise.
Tiffen 77mm/Tiffen 82mm Variable Neutral Density Filter – We use these two variable ND filter sizes to put on the 70-200mm and 24-70mm respectively. They allow us to keep our shutter-speed at the 180 degree rule which maintains that cinematic quality that everyone loves. Without these babies, all of our outdoor footage would look like…well, “video-ee”
Olympus WS-822 Digital Recorder – We use pocket recorders over wireless kits because then we don't have to worry about interference. One of these combined with the right lav mic will give you killer audio.
Tram TR50 Omnidirectional Lav Mic – Speaking of the right lav. This mic captures a nice tonal range, is sensitive enough to pick up the bride (when the mic is on the groom) and can be used with the Olympus Voice Recorder above.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens – This lens and the one below it are not up in the lens section because we use them near exclusively for video production. The versatile nature of the zoom range is really important in a run and gun environment. Video is so much more gear heavy than photo that you rarely have time to switch to primes.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens – This lens covers the wide to mid range for our video production.
Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 – I love this lens especially for Glide Cam because of how light it is and yet how wide it is. Most wide angle lenses are expensive or really heavy. WARNING! it is designed for a crop sensor (APS-C), however it can be mounted to a full frame camera. If mount on a full frame camera it will only “work” at 16mm, otherwise you will see the image circle. I only use it on a full frame camera.
Metabones Adapter for Canon to Sony E-Mount Camera – A simple adapter that allows you to mount your canon lenses on to your Sony camera of choice. This adapter is great because it transfers all IQ, auto focus, aperture etc from lens to camera. Not all adapters do that.
FAVORITE WEDDING DAY GEAR
Think Tank Airport Security Bag – Most secure way of transporting my gear on a wedding day. Bonus, it easily travels when doing destination weddings. You won't find a better built product.
ONA Bowery Bag– We value style. Nothing bugs me more than the solid black photographer look; black cargo pants, black non slip shoes, and a black polo. ONA Bags keep you shooting in style and impress everyone who is watching you. We prefer the small size of the Bowery as it fits the Fuji system well.
Spider Holster – Allows me to securely keep two camera bodies on me during a wedding day to never miss the shot. Keeps the weight off of my back and frees me up to interact with clients.
Spider Hand Strap – One of my favorite hand straps. It works best when you have a battery grip on your camera.
FAVORITE POST WEDDING DAY GEAR
USB 3 Lexar Memory Card Tower – This device saves so much time! We can offload 4 cards at a time at USB 3 speeds. And unlike my other USB dock, it won't break after 3 weeks!
ShuttlePRO v2 – One thing that you will hear from me over and over again is how important our time is. The ShuttlePRO v2 gives us so much time back. Editing is a breeze with this device. I honestly do not know what we did before it!
Adobe CC – If you are not using Lightroom as your main editing application you are doing it wrong. Once again, you will literally recover hours of your life using lightroom.
Synology Disk Station 8-Bay Network Attached Storage – This is what we use for our backup RAID solution at the office. Incredibly reliable, flexible to set up and crazy powerful. Don’t undervalue tour backup solution!
4TB NAS Hard Drive – I currently prefer 4TB drives only because that is the best deal. Right now. They make larger options, but you will pay more per TB. eventually 6TB will become more cost effective per TB.
Open Hard Drive Docking Station Reader – Affectionately nicknamed “The Toaster.” The Toaster allows you to read and write to any 2.5” or 3.5” open Hard Drive. We us this to backup every shoot to one of the above SATA Hard drives.
POST WEDDING SERVICES
ShootProof – We use ShootProof to produce all of our clients' beautiful websites and delivery of files. We chose ShootProof over Pixieset and Pass because there are so many more options available in regards to actually selling prints. Custom automation, email marketing campaigns, custom coupon incentivization and pre-registration These features exclusive to Shootproof are absolutely essential to our workflow. Lastly, this is one of the only online file delivery services that integrate directly with prints from our favorite print lab, Miller's! YOU HAVE TO TRY OUT SHOOTPROOF! And bonus, if you have already paid for some other company to handle your file delivery, they will credit your ShootProof account with however mmuch $$ that was. Insane!
Freedom Edits – Freedom has done wonders for us. And I have covered the first edited gig for you. Yep thats right, its on me.
Freedom Edits has stood out from the myriad of editing solutions for a few key reasons. (I should note that this is a completely unsolicited recommendation from our own personal experience)
1. We at Style & Story are a little “extra” we require a bit more hand-holding and personal touch. One of the biggest deal breakers that lead us to Freedom Edits was the ability for us to literally Skype with the person who was editing our images. Not just email back and forth with a support rep who would relay the message.
2. Freedom Edits took the time to set up a video call to watch and learn how we edit, what we value, and understand our creative vision. They also took their own creative expertise to ask intentional questions that helped to guide us to a more clear vision towards the look we actually wanted.
3. Plain and Simple. They use our presets.Other editors insisted on not using the exact preset that we created. Not Freedom. Not only did they use our Paint Kit preset but offered a couple unique ideas we had not considered to make it even better. It didn't stop there. They then gave us the new updated preset for us to use on any other work that we chose to edit on our own.
4. Uploading simply takes place on Dropbox. No frustrating system to troubleshoot and submit through.
5. They make creative decisions when invited to. We have received beautiful B&W conversions, creatively cropped images (not just straightening), basic skin brushwork and creative gradients!
6. They really are ridiculously fun humans. Bulk editing is a drag. It is boring, and spending money on it is not fun. But somehow, I seem to enjoy every touch point that I have with Freedom Edits. This makes a huge difference to me.
7. You are not locked into a ridiculous contract.
8. They do a damn good job.
When you message them, just tell em Ben Hartley sent you, and I'm pretty sure they will hook you up with the first wedding edit on the house. Do it. Thank me later.
Photomechanic – The industry standard for culling through your images after a shoot. You won’t find a faster solution out there.
Fundy – The best album design software on the market. Fundy will change your life if you are offering albums. We can now edit a 100 pg album in under 30 minutes. If it takes you longer than that, you are doing something wrong. Additionally, you can now order your album directly from Fundy. To top off a good thing, the people at Fundy are simply the best.
Animoto – Great for easily creating slideshows.
Miller’s Lab – Millers has a couple things that separate from other labs. 1 AMAZING customer service and personal touch. Their staff truly cares. 2. They are ridiculously fast and efficient about getting orders out the door. I don’t know of a faster Print Lab of this quality. 3. They offer the best canvases on the market. My home is personally FULL of Miller's canvas's and albums. Use code “SFP25” to get 25% off signature albums when ordering through their free Designer Plus software.
Moo – There are so many printers online. Who do you use? Let me tell you who we use and believe in. MOO. I have never seen business cards look as good as they do from Moo. We are always having people hesitate because they think that we accidentally gave them two business cards stuck together. Nope. Thats just moo’s Luxe business cards. We use Moo for client print releases that feel like a solid, tangible good, as well as for custom thank you cards.
Dropbox – We use dropbox in conjunction with Copy to share our files across our computers and devices. It is the most integrated and user friends online cloud storage. Sign up for free and get 2 gigs to start. If you use my link, we both get a bonus 500 MB of bonus space!
One Password – I have too many logins to remember. I used to always use the same username and password, however once one became compromised, they all were. I would also always find myself in a situation where the rules for my password didn't line up. “8 characters or more, 1 capital, 2 numbers, case sensitive” One Password keeps everything encrypted, auto generates passwords, and allows me to only remember one master key.
Boomerang for Gmail – Single handedly one of the most powerful tools for gmail. We run all of our CRM and lead tracking with Boomerang. It is a dream come true. There are a ton of ways to use this software. I go into full detail during mentoring sessions on how it saves us hundreds of man hours and a ton of stress.
Tave – If you run a photography business, you need this. Tave handles online booking, invoicing, questionnaires, expense tracking, workflows and more. I used ShootQ for years and then I tried Tave and never went back. Use coupon code “SIXFIGUREPHOTOGRAPHY” to get 20% off your first year + an extra month added to your free trial if you use my referral link.
Freshbooks – Small business accounting software that makes billing easy + painless
Gusto – Fully integrated online HR services: payroll, benefits and everything else.
BOOKS / LEARNING
Advanced Lightroom Editing For Photographers – Spend more time focusing on what will make your business successful and less time editing. I take you behind the scenes of my full editing workflow and show you exactly how to create jaw-dropping images as well as dramatically decrease your editing time. This course will cut hours (if not days) off your editing.
Picture Perfect Posing by Roberto Valenzuela – A much needed approach to posing that is much different that any other material we have found. This is a must no matter if your a skilled veteran, or a brand new photographer.
Linchpin by Seth Godin – An inspiring read on what our industry needs more of. Align yourself to the realities of this book and you will win.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – If you get any book on my list, let it be this one. As a matter of fact, this book should be mandatory to be read in every high-school AND college. It is not just for business majors. This book is for anyone who wants to be a better person.
The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber – A necessary classic that any new business owner should read BEFORE going into business. This book will light a fire under you and give you a clear direction for your company.
Influence by Robert Cialdini – This is literally the MOST influential book I have ever read. This book has had an enormous impact on my life and business. Buy it immediately.
Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson – A super fast read. 15 minutes top. This short parable will help you deal with the changes that your business will inevitable encounter.
#AskGaryVee by Gary Vaynerchuck – **NOTE get the audio version of this book, it is way better and actually different then the physical book. Hold on, because your about to get inspired, offended, excited, and laugh a ton. This is not your typical book format.
Creative Live – One of the biggest names in the education industry. Creative Live is bringing amazing content to every home…the best part is, if you have the time and catch the shows during the live broadcast it is free to watch. If you love what you see, or miss a showing, the classes are crazy affordable for the knowledge that you receive. Do yourself a favor and spend 99 bucks on one of these courses.
TheBlueprint – Get $300 off Abbey Kyhl's jam-packed comprehensive course on coming up with a business plan, implementing marketing strategies and helping get everything in your business set up.
Photobooth Supply Co. – Our Photography Company has positioned ourselves to be high end wedding photographers. We have wanted to start offering photo booths to our couples for a long time, but had not been able to find a photo booth that fit our clientele. We finally stumbled upon Brandon and Photobooth Supply Co. and were amazed to find a booth that:
1. Had a stylish, minimal design that our discerning brides would appreciate
2. Took amazing quality images that we could be proud to offer our couples, staying true to our high end brand
3. Was easy to set up, teardown,, and transport
To top it all off, Brandon has been a wizard at making sure we had everything we need, and not just at the beginning.
It’s been 18+ months now, and he still helps us out along the way with any questions, concerns, ideas, troubleshooting or tips. When we bought our photobooth from Brandon, we bought more than just a device. In many ways, we bought a turn-key system for running our own photo booth company. We are already gearing up to purchase another.