Over the years, I’ve learned what I need to bring to a wedding – in addition to a boatload of cameras, lenses, and flashes! My wedding day “in case of” bag has been SO useful at so many weddings. This is something I always leave in the car all the time (it is not too cute!), but I keep a spare small camera bag in case I need to grab a few things to tote with me.
Ok, I should start by saying that this started out as a simple bag (a reusable tote, actually!) and is now a huge Rubbermaid bin. But that is perfect because for most every wedding, it just hangs out in my car and doesn’t get used :) And when I need something, I ask my second shooter to run to the car and grab it from the bin – and then at the end of the day, I just bring the bin in, put it in my office, and get it back out again for the next wedding. You can probably tell from the list below that I really like being prepared. I used to pack a new bag for each wedding, but then I realized it was so valuable to have everything with me – it is such a relief to have what I need right there when I do need it.
Pack away – these are my top 20 must haves in my “In Case Of” wedding photography bag!
- Clear umbrellas for the wedding couple and a huge black umbrella for me.
- I bring at least four clear umbrellas to every single wedding now. I used to only bring these on days that had a chance of rain – until it rained during a wedding that was supposed to be PERFECT weather! Now I bring these every time. I picked up my huge umbrella at Home Depot for $6! It is massive; my second shooter and I can both hang out under it in case we are in pouring rain (which occasionally happens!).
- Rain bags for my camera.
- I use these at a LOT of weddings. If it is raining during portraits, my number one goal is to get the bride and groom (or family or wedding party) under a covered surface – but because most covered surfaces (porches, awnings, etc., are not huge, that often that means I am somewhere out in the rain. In order to keep shooting, I put a rain bag on my camera (and sometimes my second shooter and I huddle under the umbrella together – but if the rain is light, the rain bag is all I need. I just end up with crazy curly hair from the rain by the end of the night!). These rain bags are a lifesaver!
- A miniture tool kit.
- I keep a small tool kit with a variety of small screwdrivers in my box at all times. These small screwdrivers perfectly fit everything from the miniature screws inside of my lenses to normal-size screws. If I ever need to tighten, lose, or open a piece of equipment, I am so glad to have these on me.
- Gatorade and water bottles.
- Give yourself some hydration, because oftentimes it can be hard to take a minute to get a drink (and I have even had a few bartenders refuse to serve me anything – even water – because I am not a guest!). The Gatorade is for those super hot days when I know I am losing electrolytes and I want to make sure I stay focused and on top of my game.
- A snack that does not need to be refrigerated.
- I keep granola bars in my car in case something happens like the kitchen doesn’t feed us because the couple didn’t order enough meals, their isn’t a vegetarian option, or the other vendors ate our plates before we got there (all three have happened before – and eating a granola bar for dinner after skipping lunch and running around all day is ROUGH!). Honestly, I should keep more than just granola bars in the car – just in case!
- Lots of spare batteries.
- I keep non-rechargeable spare AA batteries in my “in case of” box, plus a few extra camera batteries. For the camera batteries that I keep in the car, I bought cheap non-name brand ones. I rarely have to use these (on hot days my camera burns through batteries faster, so during those weddings, I occasionally need to get a spare battery from the car), but I like knowing they are there just in case!
- An extra pair of pants and shoes.
- This sounds silly, but trust me – one day you will be so glad for this one! I keep a pair of leggings and a pair of Tom’s in the car now. I once spent the second half of a wedding soaked and covered in mud, so now in case a major rain and mud catastrophe happens I have a backup (even if I just change into it for the drive home!). I keep leggings instead of dress pants because I know they won’t wrinkle (and although they are more casual than my dress pants, they definitely look – and feel – better than soaking wet pants!).
- A spare softbox/shoot through umbrella for night portraits and a spare flash.
- Again, you never know; the softbox could catch the wind, follow over and get bent and break the flash – so having an extra of each puts me at ease. I shoot with name-brand flashes, but keep a cheap Yonguno flash in my “in case of” box.
- Gaffers tape.
- This black tape is perfect if something falls and breaks and needs to be held together, or to hold back a curtain for pictures, or even to tape on a gel. I don’t use this at most weddings, so it is perfect for the “in case of” box.
- Extra light clamps.
- I use Justin clamps from Manfrotto (and yes, I may have bought them because my husband’s name is Justin!). In case something goes wrong, I always keep a third one in my bin.
- Advil, Excedrin, and Tums.
- An injured hand, a twisted ankle, a tension headache, or a stomach ache – I want to make sure I have a remedy in case something goes wrong! During one wedding I got SO sick from dinner; I was so thankful that my second shooter, Kelsey, had Tums with her. I don’t think I could have survived the rest of the wedding without it! Now I make sure to keep medications on hand just in case.
- Spare contacts, lip balm, my old glasses, hand wipes, tampons, a few bandaids, a lint roller, sunscreen, an eye liner, and foundation.
- I wear contacts to all weddings, so I always keep spare contacts because I have had a contact tear before – and trust me – I needed to get that contact out! I also bring my old glasses in case my eyes become irritated and I can’t put in a new contact. I’ve had my makeup get rained off, sweated off, wiped off, etc., so I keep a few spare items with me to touch up if I have time. As a cat and dog parent, I always like to have a lint roller on me, just in case. Plus, so many of my couples have pets, so while I get to cuddle with their pets during getting ready pictures, I want to make sure to get all of the pet hair off before the ceremony. I keep sunscreen on me because I am so fair – I can burn during a wedding ceremony! The rest are “just in case” items that can be totally invaluable!
- Gels for flashes and a few sizes of spare lens filters.
- Sometimes the light in a reception is either too warm (such as in a barn) or too cool (fluorescent lights). To fix that, I always keep gels with me. The spare lens filters I bring are those low-cost ones the B&H or Adorama ship for free with a package. If a filter breaks, I want to make sure I have a backup.
- A tiny portable fan.
- For those extra hot weddings days to help everyone cool down! I’ll grab this out of the “in case of” bin and throw it into my camera bag if it is a really hot day (and because it is so small, it doesn’t take up much space at all).
- An ultra wideangle lens.
- I have only ever had to get this out at one wedding, but I want to always know I have a really wide angle lens in case I am in a really tight space and need it. For example, at one wedding, group portraits had to be moved indoors due to rain. The only available space was a very tight entryway, but thankfully I had my wide angle lens. Even my 24-70 wouldn’t have worked in this space, so I was so glad I had this backup!
- Two spare flashes.
- Ok, this totally shows how neurotic I can be about having backups, but in addition to the six flashes I bring to every wedding, I keep two spare flashes in my bin. I bought these on Amazon and at only about $120, they were much less expensive than my normal flashes. In case something goes wrong, I always know I have two spares in the car.
- My wrist brace.
- Cameras are heavy, and I have pretty small wrists. I also suffer from carpal tunnel. Sometimes, I will develop pain in my wrists, either after too many hours of shooting or too-frequent weddings. I always keep my wrist brace in the bin just in case.
- A light jacket.
- I get cold easily, so I always make sure to have a light jacket if I am shooting in spring or fall (those summer wedding rarely get cold enough for a jacket!). Sometimes the bride even ends up wearing my jacket!
- A camera battery charger.
- Even if you’ve packed more than enough batteries, it is a good idea to bring a camera battery charger. Your camera battery is unique and it would be close to impossible to find a spare battery at most venues. Having a charger just in case could end up being a life saver at some point!
- Finally, a cell phone charger.
- Even better, a cell phone charger that you can also plug into your car. You don’t want to find yourself without a cell phone during the wedding or after (especially when you are trying to find your way home!).
My “in case of” bag grew over the years as I realized what I needed – and it is probably pretty easy to see why this is a bin now :) I hope this helps with packing your emergency kit, and I would love to hear what “in case of” items you bring on a wedding day!
Here is bride Amy wearing my emergency jacket – and Amy and Clarke are using our huge black umbrella that helps keep me and Kelsey dry during portraits!
We bring a set of these clear umbrellas to every wedding – even when the forecast doesn’t call for rain. At Kimmye and Matt’s wedding, the forecast called for clear, sunny skies all day – but it rained! I was so glad we had the clear umbrellas in our emergency bag.