How and Why I Shoot With Two Cameras

How and Why I Shoot With Two Cameras

Shooting with two cameras seems to be a growing trend in the wedding industry. When I first started shooting, I saw people doing this and I just didn’t see the point. I figured I could always change lenses, and then I would be good to go. Once I gave it try I completely fell in love. Here is my “how and why” I shoot with two cameras.

What Lens On Each Camera

For the most part, when I shoot with two cameras, I utilize a 35mm and an 85mm lens attached to each camera. These two lenses can accomplish 80 percent of what I need to do on a wedding day. The 35mm is perfect for cramped hotel rooms and hallways, and the 85mm is perfect for more close-up portraits and ceremony images where I can't get close enough.

When the reception comes around and traditional events are over, I will trade out my 85mm lens for my 20mm lens. I’m usually right up in the thick of things so I don’t need a lot of reach. I also like to shoot with lower shutter speeds to create light streaks across my images and I’m not a huge fan of this look when shooting at 85mm.

It can be argued that if I shot with a 24-70mm, then I would only need one camera and one lens, and that’s perfectly acceptable for a lot of people. I shoot weddings with my wife and she prefers the 24-70 and she rocks it. It’s just two different styles of shooting. You could also shoot with a 24-70 on one camera and a 70-200 on the other and cover a greater focal range, but then you are left with greater weight to lug around. The reason I stick with the 35mm and 85mm is because they are both f/1.4 lenses. Since I can get a lot more light through them, I am able to use them in darker situations without having to bump up my ISO. I also do a lot of playing with depth of field, so being able to shoot wide open at f/1.4 is very important to me. Because prime lenses have a simpler construction, they are also generally lighter and cheaper to purchase. By shooting with two cameras, I now get the benefits of shooting with a zoom lens along with the benefits of shooting with fast prime lenses.

Aperture Priority + Auto ISO

In a past article I explained how I have my camera setup and why I prefer aperture priority and auto ISO. To expand on this a little more, another reason I use aperture priority with auto ISO is because I shoot with two cameras. If I’m using camera one outside for a while and then switch to camera two and move inside, I want to be able to quickly grab camera one and start shooting. If I shot both cameras in manual, then I would have to constantly think about what lens I had on and what shutter speed I need to stay above. Also, if I’m shooting with camera one for a long time, I have to constantly remember what my settings are on camera two in case I need to quickly change. Instead of this, I let my camera know not to go under a certain shutter speed for each camera, and I just shoot. I will, however, always shoot in full manual for both cameras when I’m using any type of flash.

Image of the bride taken over the balcony of the groom's bedroom where he was getting ready at the time. Taken with my 85mm camera.

Taken right after the above image with my 85mm camera in the dark-lit bathroom of the groom's bedroom. I didn't have to touch one setting on my camera to move from the above image to this image.

Double Camera Strap

It can get pretty annoying trying to have two cameras hanging from your neck or trying to manage two different sling straps. Because of this, I knew I wanted a strap that was specifically designed to hold two cameras. When searching for “double camera strap,” you are presented with a lot of options and I’m sure they all work very well too. However, in my opinion, none of them look as good as the Moneymaker from Holdfast. I know there are a few cheaper DIY options out there and I even tried to go that route, but it just didn’t look and feel like I wanted it to. So I broke down and got the Moneymaker and I’ll never be looking back. I can wear this strap all day without issue and the cameras are always in a good position for me to shoot. They stay very secured to the straps and I have actually ditched the little black safety clips that come with the strap because the sail clips they use are solid. I enjoy the ability to quickly remove a camera from the strap for various reasons and didn't want to have to deal with the safety clips in order to do this. Receiving a few compliments on the strap at every wedding isn't such a bad thing either.

"Mmmmm... I look good. I mean really good. Hey, everyone! Come and see how good I look!"

Two Identical Cameras

When I first started using two cameras at the same time, I had my DSLR on one strap and my Fuji X100 on the other. When I would switch from one to the other, I constantly had to take a moment and make that mental switch saying “I’m using this camera now, this camera has these buttons and features.” Because of this, I feel it’s important that both cameras are the exact same camera and have the exact same settings. The reason for shooting two cameras is to seamlessly switch from one camera to the other. If you have to make a mental switch as to which camera you are using, and where this camera has that button you need, then you could miss the shot you wanted because you were fumbling around. The same thing happens with your settings, if you have your Fn button mapped to ISO on one camera and the other Fn button is mapped to white balance, then you could make accidental changes that can ruin your shot.

Two Cameras at the Exact Same Time

On some occasions I will shoot both cameras at the exact same time. This takes some getting used to and practice.  I have not fully mastered this yet, but figured I would share it anyway. I basically hold a camera in my left hand and a camera in my right hand. The camera in my right hand gets braced against my left shoulder. The camera in my left hand gets braced against my right hand. The strap for the camera in my left hand gets a little tight in this position and I can use this tension to stabilize everything. Then, utilizing live view I get both cameras lined up and I’m ready to shoot.

The reason I started playing around with this is for the first kiss. I like to get multiple focal lengths of this occasion, if I can, but most of the time it happens so fast that switching cameras is impossible. Therefore, using both cameras at the same time I can get two focal lengths of the same moment.

First kiss at 35mm

Exact same moment as above, but at 85mm.

What are your thoughts? Does this make you want to shoot with two cameras or stick with just one? Does anyone have a different technique to using two cameras at the same time? What lenses do you use when shooting two cameras? What strap do you prefer?

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Jason Vinson's picture

Jason Vinson is a wedding and portrait photographer for Vinson Images based out of Bentonville, Arkansas. Ranked one of the Top 100 Wedding photographers in the World, he has a passion for educating and sharing his craft.

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A comment on the comments. I'm impressed there hasn't been friction between full-manual shooters and photographers who use other modes. I utilize both Manual and Aperture Priority at weddings depending on what I'm shooting.

I was fortunate to be able to participate in Cliff Mautner's May workshop. In terms of what mode to use and how best to expose, his answer to the question of how he exposes was: "Correctly!" :) (He also utilizes Manual and Ap Priority depending on the subject matter and light).

totally agree. If I'm going to be in the same location or shooting the same light for a while then ill absolutely switch to M. I think a lot of people coming up make themselves shoot M even when its not the best way because they feel like it's amateurish to be in A.

And yes, I'm impressed with the lack of friction in here! It's nice seeing everyone get along! lol

Very nice setup. I would love to have those focal lengths once I go full-frame. My current setup are 18-50mm Sigma on my Canon 1100D & the 85mm on my 1D II N. I use Quickstrap for the big boy 1D & leave it on the right hand side, while the 1100D is modified with 1 handstrap (the original neckstrap is moved to the left side of the camera).
For shooting 2 cameras at the same time, wouldn't you be fine cropping the image at 35mm? I mean your D750 will be capable with the cropped photo (even for printing quality).

Ya probably... but then you lose the compression of the 85mm and you would be pretty limited on print size.

I agree and do almost the same thing that thou doest, except as shooting two cameras at once and straps. I tried the Holfast and some more until I decided on the XbeltPro, comfortable double strap not decompensates by weight and better distributes the weight of the cameras.

Okay, that "Two Cameras at the Exact Same Time" seemed a bit weird, but with two different focal lengths, it makes sense, or in my case: two different films, B&W and color and maybe different focal lengths. But I'd be interested in how one judges the composition.

I've shot with two cameras at a practice round of The Masters golf tournament. I used the Optech shoulder harness to carry both cameras from each side of the shoulder instead of both hanging from the neck. I had the Canon 5D Mk III with the EF 100-400 f4.5-5.6L II on the left and the Canon F-1N with the FD 28mm f2.8 hanging on the right. I removed the battery grip from the 5D and the motor drive from the F-1N to save some weight. That shoulder harness was a "back saver" and a "neck saver". I didn't feel like I needed a chiropractor the next day.

ya with the D750 and live view its not to hard to get the composition dialed in at least half way decent. If you tried it with film camera or something without live view then it would be a little harder. If i was doing it I would have to get the longer focal length dialed in and then use that to get an educated guess for my wider length,,, would be tough though. especially since every shot of film costs you more then digital.

Jason, thanks for the technique tip. I haven't used live view on my 5D.

Don't ever ever put the trust of your bread and butter (cameras+lenses) to one sole clip, no matter how strong you think it is. As an owner of a Blackrapid, i was within a few millimeters of my 5d3 falling onto cement because the mounting clip unscrewed loose. Luckily i caught it in time. As a new owner of a Moneymaker myself, their mounting clips are very thin compared to the beefy Blackrapid ones. Hope you have your clip secured with Loctite (the blue one is the preferred thread locker).

You also really need to consider using a secondary backup strap as a fail safe for each camera- i use the OP/TECH USA System Connector Uni-Loop which is also beefier and much more low profile as those long backup straps provided on the Moneymakers. At under 8 bucks, per, it's some solid piece of mind.

I'm constantly taking my cameras off the strap and then putting them back on again. I would go nuts if i had to remove a safety strap and the sail clips every time and then redo everything to get it back on. I use the black Rapid tripod mount for the camera that always has a tripod plate on it and then the Holdfast mount on the other. neither of them have ever even came loose by half a turn but I still double check them before every shoot. In my opinion the tripod based mounts are much more secure and rugged then the string cloth that's used in the factory camera strap so no matter what, I'm better off then stock.

Great article!

Great article.
The same setup I am currently using for my wedding work.
Prior to the last wedding I used 5d MK III and 1DS MK II but last wedding I changed to two 5D MKIII and it is muuuuuch easier. Same two cameras rocks.

The only thing I´m not sure is the lens combo, a little bit of luxury problem. I do have the 24L, 50L, 85L, 100mmL and 135mm L and now the 35mm Sigma A.
I prefered the 35mm/85mm but now I use 24mm and 50mm.

Can´t decide what is better.

Beside the 24 - 85mm two lens combo I use the 100mm Macro for Details/Ringshots.

Ya I had the same issue when I shot with Sony so when i switched to Nikon i cleaned house and only got the lenses I for knew knew I needed. It has made it easier for me no having so much to choose from. I have my 35 and 85 combo for most the day. The 105 macro for derails and the 20mm for super wide portraits and dancing. That's it. I will probably end up getting a 50mm just because i like that focal length the most, but would only use it for personal work when I'm walking around with a single camera and lens.

Hm.. I´ll give the 35/85mm a try again.

I think I will try the 16-35mm | 35mm | 85mm | 100mm Makro combination with two bodies.

To be candid I have been shooting with 2 to 3 camera bodies on me at all times since 1986. Because of the same reason. I have a lot of other pro friends who have been doing this for a living since that time, also do the same thing. We would have a wide angle one side, normal around our necks and tele on the other side.
It might be 24 mil, 50 mil and 85mil or 20, 35 and 105. worked well for us then, works well these days as also. Even if using zooms, wide angle zoom on one side, tele-zoom on the other side. Would never even consider not having at least 2 cameras on at once. Have had too many incidents over the years not to be prepared. Have had shutters quit on film cameras and gotten error messages on 1D MKIV's even, not to a have a back up on at a wedding. Rarely do we ever get do-overs at a wedding. I would find it un professional not to be wearing 2 cameras. will use aperture priority sometimes but I have never trusted using the Auto ISO at the same time, especially if bouncing back and forth using on or off camera flash. It just gives your camera more opportunity to driving the boat and I don't trust any cameras to think for me. I shoot only raw as well so I have room for pulling in images if I get them wrong, But I always have more keepers when I am in full control. Mostly manual, I pre check the lighting when possible and keep the settings in my head and rarely get caught out when suddenly hitting strong back light or deep shadow. Some lighting at certain venues are the same so they are a piece a cake. I think as wedding photographers we have got to be as prepared and professional as we can. That to me is having plenty of gear and really, really close.

I was considering the DIY option myself, just to save about 1/2 the price. But after reading about your DIY experience with it, I may have to take the plunge and spend the extra cash… Just curious, did your DIY money maker attempt not work out or were you just not satisfied with the fit/finish??

one question for the two camera users. Do you use on camera flash or flash triggers ?

combination of the two. When I use them though, I just switch the trigger of flash from camera to camera. Thinking about buying another trigger (since they are pretty cheap) so I don't have to do this with those, but its worked fine thus far.

The problem with changing the trigger with flash can be really time consuming when you want to be more responsive. (raise camera, frame fast and shoot)

It looks Jason that not all triggers can control the same set of flashes. For example I am trying some nissin flashes. The triggers need to be first associated with the trigger and thus I can not use two triggers to control them.
Lets us know when you will have two triggers that can control same set of flashes.


Hey Jason Vinson, great article here. I actually read this article a long time ago... Last wedding i decided to try this technique which im quite happy with the results!
I shoot with 2 sony A7S and i used the Sony Distagon 35mm 1.4 and the Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8 (my first wedding using this lens as it was on pre-order for over 6months!). I have been using the moneymakers for a couple years and i love it!
Im a big fan of your work, and just wanted to take the time to share my first try result in appreciation for the time you took to share your knowledge!
Keep up the great work

I shoot with 2 bodies because I mainly shoot primes, and having an extra body gives me 4 diff prime "looks" without adding 2 extra lenses, for cheap (same price). I shoot with d7100 and d610, so don't really need the "same body"... The controls are basically identical. I shoot with a 24 1.4 and 85 1.4, which gives looks of a 35 f2 and a ~135 f2 also on DX.

I have an hard time to be in focus with one camara and you do it with two at the same time!!! Besides the great pictures, you are most possibly the coolest wedding photographer out there.

Great Read! Definitely leaning towards the two camera set up!