Nick Sparks is a Denver-based fine art photographer specializing in wedding and portrait work. His visual art background started in graphic design and later transitioned to photography. Nick believes in using photography as a journalistic, storytelling medium to help transport people back to the day their photo was taken.

You can find more of his work on 500px, his website, Instagram, and Facebook.

From the camera bodies and lenses, to the accessories and flashes I use, here’s a breakdown of all the gear I bring to a wedding along with an explanation of why, how, and when I use it.

2x Canon 5D IIs

Canon 5d Mark ii by Nick Sparks on

I choose 5D II’s as my workhorses for wedding days. Since I have been working with the same camera model for five years, I know the limitations of the camera like the back of my hand. I know when to use artificial light. I know when the dynamic range is gong to hit its limitation. I know how the colors will look in camera. I know when the autofocus system’s limitations too.

While I expect to upgrade new Canon bodies when they release Mark IVs, I can rest easy knowing that these cameras will serve me well until then.

Holdfast Money Maker

Holdfast Money Maker by Nick Sparks on

The Holdfast Money Maker completely changed the way I work a wedding. This is the first strap system I have found that doesn’t give me back pain while carrying two cameras. Weddings happen fast, which used to mean I was packing zooms—until I gained the ability to have two prime focal lengths with me at all times.

Canon 35mm f/1.4 L II

Canon 35mm f/1.4 L ii by Nick Sparks on

The 35mm focal length is very important to my wedding day workflow. I use this focal length for environmental portraits, candids, and detail shots. It also gets me out of tricky situations when space is tight.

I shot many weddings with the Mark I version of this lens and I loved its rendering, autofocus accuracy, and colors. When the Canon 35mm f/1.4 II came out, upgrading was the obvious next step.

Day of by Nick Sparks on

Mountain Engagement by Nick Sparks on

Ereielle ii by Nick Sparks on

Although the original version was great, this lens is on another level. It may be the biggest upgrade I have ever made to my photography kit. It pairs even better with my favorite lens: the Canon 85mm 1.2 L II.

The colors and rendition match the characteristics of the 85mm, without having the same fringing issues as the 85mm. It also pulls out more detail, which is great for group shots.

Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II

Canon 85mm f/1.2 L by Nick Sparks on

This is the focal length I use the most, and you should too. 85mm lenses are very flattering and have some of the best bokeh around. I love this lens for bride and groom portraits, candids, and details too.

Mountain Love by Nick Sparks on

Clients love the way they look through this piece of glass and I have yet to find a lens with autofocus that renders better on a wedding day.

Sarah by Nick Sparks on

Brewery Love by Nick Sparks on

While I wouldn’t recommend this lens to a sports photographer, I find the autofocus adequate enough for the events taking place during a wedding. Like my cameras, I do know its limitations, so I may switch this lens out for the Canon 135mm f/2L if I know that I’m about to capture some fast action.

Canon 135mm L f/2

Canon 135mm f/2 L by Nick Sparks on

While I prefer the rendering of the Canon 85mm f/1.2L II, this is my go-to if I need a bit more reach during a ceremony, or if want to give the couple more space in order to capture a more candid shots during the bride and groom portraits.

The autofocus is fast and accurate enough for just about any situation and it is a bokeh monster at f/2.

First Kiss by Nick Sparks on

Crested Butte Couple by Nick Sparks on

Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L Macro

Canon 100mm f/2.8 L IS by Nick Sparks on

Ring shots are expected and they are the sole reason why I own this lens. The 1:1 magnification allows me to capture the smallest details. The image stabilization also comes in handy, because it gives me the ability to capture tack-sharp macro shots at 1/125th of a second.

Autumn Ring Shot by Nick Sparks on

45mm Tilt Shift

Canon 45mm f/2.8 TS-E by Nick Sparks on

Tilt shift lenses allow for the shifting of the focal plane, giving a great artistic effect. While I don’t use this lens the whole day, it’s definitely worth carrying in my bag, especially with its small size.

It forces me to move a bit slower while focusing manually. This lends me time to think about how I’m shooting and results in more thoughtfully composed photos.

Fall Love by Nick Sparks on

Travelers by Nick Sparks on


Canon 600EX-RT by Nick Sparks on

These flashes are great. They are powerful enough to get me out of tricky situations (when high ISO isn’t enough) and have the added convenience of radio transmission built in. I’m glad I’m beyond the days of having bring pocket wizards with me everywhere.

Dancing by Nick Sparks on