Tell us what your one must-have piece of gear is and why:
Is this a trick question? Is the answer supposed to be "the camera body"? That is pretty darn essential when you think about it...
Assuming it's NOT a trick question, I'd have to say that my answer is based upon the fact that I am an incredibly practical person so I'm going with a 50mm lens.
Although it's been used less and less as I've started using my 35mm more often (and I still enjoy either a 135 or a 70-200 for reception photography) I've always found the 50 to be incredibly versatile and can hold it's own in terms of wedding morning, portraits and even ceremonies - especially if you're in a smaller setting.
My 50mm is ALWAYS in my bag... both of them. I still keep my old 50mm 1.8 from many moons ago. It was the first non-kit lens I ever bought and call it a good luck charm if you will, but it stays in my bag right next to the 1.2!!
Tell us what your one must-have piece of software is and why:
Hands down it's Lightroom!
I'm sure it comes as no surprise to you but again, my answer is based on practicality. Lightroom is such a versatile program that allows you to complete general editing quickly and efficiently. Lightroom 5 has great tools associated with me to help you "dodge and burn" where needed and I've found that I'm using Photoshop even less with the advent of Lightroom 5. You can also add plugins to Lightroom for even more versatility - love Imagenomics for that one!
I've always known that I loved Lightroom, but I must admit - I didn't realize just how MUCH I loved it until I had to write this!
Provide one tip you wish you knew when you were first starting out:
I wish someone would have told me that EVERYONE makes mistakes - and that it's okay!
Finding photographers to follow online is great, but as a starting photographer it can also be very intimidating - they seem to have it all figured out! No one ever wants to talk about their failures, they only want to highlight their successes - and while that's somewhat understandable, it's incredibly scary as a new photographer. You often worry that you're doing the right thing, making the right moves and investing in the right areas of your business. You're often afraid to ask others these questions because you don't want to sound like you don't know what you're doing, but at the same time you can't really find the information on blogs... so where do you turn?
When I'm mentoring new photographers, I always tell them what I wanted to hear when I was starting out. "You're going to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. And it's okay! If you've made a mistake, learn from it and better yourself going forward; that way, you have nothing to regret!"