One Critical Piece of Gear You Probably Don’t Have in Your Wedding Kit

One Critical Piece of Gear You Probably Don’t Have in Your Wedding Kit

If you’ve been a wedding photographer for any amount of time, you know that you are going to spend a lot of time in loud wedding receptions, and this is my public service announcement to please protect your freaking ears. All wedding photographers and filmmakers need ear protection as part of their kit for the long hours we spend in front of bands and DJ speakers at volume levels unsafe for our hearing, and so, I rounded up a few options for you to consider below.

First, let me tell you my experience over the hundreds of weddings I've photographed in hopes that it might save a few of you from the mistake of not taking your hearing health seriously. When I started photographing wedding receptions, like every photographer I've ever met, I just ignored the loudness of the music and got on with making photos. For first few years, even though the music could be impossibly loud, I was no worse for the wear, until one night, I wasn't. This kind of thing can happen in an instant. At first, it seems like no big deal, something you think will pass after a few hours, but this night, the ringing didn't stop, and I spent a sleepless night wondering if I had a permanent problem. Truth be told, since then, I've lived with a mild case of Tinnitus, a condition with no cure, meaning I have no escape from a slight constant ringing in my ears. While I don't find it debilitating, I also don't think I hear as well overall now (ask my wife, ha!), especially in loud environments. Super-quiet spaces can be kind of annoying too. Thankfully, it hasn’t gotten any worse over the years thanks to good ear protection, and most of the time, my mind tunes it out. All that being said, please take my advice and mitigate your risk, possibly with one of the four solutions below.

Four Options for Ear Protection


My top choice are earplugs from Eargasm, which you can buy for around $35 USD and are what I use at every event I photograph. These earplugs reduce the sound by around 15dB but don’t block it in a way that keeps you from hearing everything, so you can still talk with people without having to take them out. They come with some adjustable tips for fitting and a metal case for throwing them into your camera bag. One hundred percent, this is my favorite recommendation, and to be honest, they’re so good that I often forget I’m even wearing them. 

It seems like kind of a silly thing, but I love these earplugs so much. They cut down on the sound but don't ruin conversation, and they've managed to make it through a ton of weddings. Highly recommended.

Bulk Disposable

In the low-cost category, you have the foam and gel style earplugs that you can buy in bulk at a superstore. These work great, and you don’t have to keep track of them because they are disposable. However, they cut the sound down in a way that can affect your ability to hear clearly while you’re working. Easy, cheap, and effective but not as convenient if you need to communicate with your clients, second shooter, or the wedding coordinator.

Soundbrenner Minuendo

Moving up the food chain, there are earplugs for made for musicians, like the Soundbrenner Minuendo, at about $160, which take the best parts of the Eargasm earplugs to an even more flexible and advanced level. These earbuds do not have electronics but they do have a switch on the top that allows the user to cut the volume of the environment down anywhere from 7dB to 25dB so you can choose how much volume you’re receiving. Pretty cool if you don’t mind the price tag, and they have the benefit of a small and black form factor that looks a lot like Bluetooth earbuds.

AirPods Pro 2

Lastly, I know of at least a few photographers that are using their AirPods Pro 2 in place of earplugs to cut sound down at events. Apple does not list this as a feature of AirPods, but with active noise cancellation and transparency mode, it does seem like it offers at least some protection. If you already own AirPods Pro 2, I think it would be worth it to try these out and, of course, you have the added benefit of all the other features of the headphones. The downsides to using AirPods in my mind are first, there was no design goal for AirPods to be used as hearing protection in loud environments and second, you have to keep them charged.  I’d argue that something is usually always better than nothing, so if you have some, I'd definitely try them out.

While AirPods have never been designed to be earplugs, with active noise cancellation and transparency mode, the AirPods Pro 2 might be worth a go at your next wedding as a way to cut down the volume of sound you're enduring for a reception. 

Bonus Tip

Apple Watch users, your watch comes with the Noise app that will warn you when you’re in areas where the sound could damage your hearing. Just make sure you allow environmental sound measurements, and you’ll have some warnings when you’re in unsafe environments. Next time you're working a reception, check the numbers. If your gigs are like mine, they can easily top 100 dBs, which is way beyond what is healthy for your ears.

That’s it, just a PSA from me to you that I really hope you’ll take to heart if you’re a wedding filmmaker or photographer working those long weekend nights in front of the band. Remember, your ears are a one and done. If you damage them, that’s it. They won’t repair themselves .This is an easy fix and cheap insurance for your future.

Last note: I hope it's obvious, but I'm not an expert on ear protection, Tinnitus, or sound, so if you have real questions about this stuff, consult your physician.

Joseph Ellis's picture

Joseph has been a professional wedding and portrait photographer for the last 21 years and before that he was a newspaper photojournalist. His studio is located in Dallas, Texas which he runs with his wife Stephanie.

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Thanks for the wise reminder. I never shoot weddings but have found myself in many loud photo assignment environments. Dont have fancy earplugs ? I've carefully used parts of tissues, napkins, paper towel etc to reduce noise. Often getting an ideal angle at a music event means being close to large speakers.
Be smart, think long term and protect yourself.

As an event photographer my go-tos are the V-MODA Faders. At only ~20 Bucks they are super affordable and so much better than anything without a cord connecting them. You can just pull them out and leave them hanging around your neck and quickly put them back in. Don't underestimate the time saved. You can still talk to people with them in and you quickly forgot you are even wearing them. Which is my only little negative point, because when people ask me for a selfie, I always forget to take them out. So they are in 90% of my selfies. They are my tried and tested companion for hundreds of club events, concerts and weddings and I couldn't go without them. They are my second favorite photo accessory, right after my spider holsters.

I don't shoot loud events, but I do go to a few concerts each year. I went to a local audiologist and had them 3d scan my ears and make custom earplugs. Currently using -12dB filters, but could swap for -15 if I wanted.

Was cheap, too. Under $200NZ.

PPE is essential.

I'm a part-time musician (much more than I am a photographer) and I've done my fair share of wedding gigs too, so I'm well-versed in hearing protection and I'm been through a number of earplug solutions over the years from cheap "off the shelf" solutions to custom moulds.

My favourites at the moment are the Earasers and my Apple AirPod Pro 2 earbuds.

The Earasers are a great budget solution that doesn't make everything sound muffled. I personally find them clearer than the Eargasm solution, and they stay put better. The key to their sound profile is they only attenuate the most 'damaging' frequencies, rather than attempting to reduce everything evenly as other musicians' plugs do. As such, speech is still clear, but those loud cymbal crashes get heavily reduced.

I finally succumbed at invested in a set of Airpod Pro's recently. I've been wanting to for ages and finally bit the bullet. One of the reasons behind my decision is the transparency mode that the article mentions. This mode allows environmental noise through crystal clear, even if you're not playing music, similar to if you're not wearing them at all. However, crucially, it features a peak limiter at 85db that stops loud noises in their tracks and reduces them to a comfortable level. When the new slew of apple software updates come later this year, it'll bring a new feature that allows you to turn on noise cancellation instead to heavily reduce environmental noise but identify important sounds such as speech, which could be useful to photographers on the wedding circuit.

PS. FWIW, when my band plays weddings, we set the volume to reach the back of the dance floor. We're well aware that weddings are family events and people want to chat and catch-up as well as have a boogie. Unfortunately, many bands forget this and think they have to reach the far corners of the room.

I would never do this type of photography, but as a guest, I hate the loud music. Do I escape the fun to go watch the uninvited kids playing somewhere in the back of the venue? Yes, because I like being able to hear, and no one else is making sure that they aren't destroying everything.

I can get a container of 200 pairs of 3M Foam Ear Plugs (NRR 33dB) for $27.99. They're wonderful for attenuating continuous loud noise (when I'm running a mower or chainsaw) as well as loud spikes (when I'm shooting my favorite pistols). They're also wonderful for telling the MOB (Mother of the Bride) that "I can't hear you!"