Choosing the Right Lens for A Wedding
As a wedding and engagement photographer, choosing the right lens is the key to having beautiful imagery. Over the years, I have purchased lenses and sold them only to purchase new ones to get the arsenal of lenses that I use today finally.
Every professional wedding photographer has their preference of lens to shoot certain aspects of the wedding day. Shooting the bride or groom prep is extremely different than shooting the ceremony. It takes some trial and error with different lenses to know how you like your images to look before you really set in on something you like. This all sets a precedent for your brand. Some photographers figure it out from the get-go and then upgrade that specific focal length with better glass and a lower f-stop.
All photographers begin with simple zoom lenses to learn what each focal length does, and then eventually, some will upgrade to prime lenses.
Most seasoned professionals shoot on prime lenses. They’re accurate to the true focal length and most consistent when it comes to the images’ actual look. I went through a bunch of lenses before I found the best that works for me. I began on Canon bodies and lenses and have since moved to Sony bodies and lenses. choosing the right lens
What Lens Comes First?
Starting, most photographers will begin with the kit lens that the camera comes with. Most of the time, it is an 18-55mm lens and a 70-300mm lens. These are great for learning, but you won’t get very far with the basic lens. These are what we call the “kit lenses” and will come in a bundle with your entry-level DSLRs. They tend to be cheaper when bundled together. choosing the right lens
You’ve been shooting for about 6 months to a year, and you’re ready for your first upgrade but aren’t sure what lens to get next.
Canon makes a 50mm f/1.8 that retails for about $125. This lens is great to learn how a prime lens works and gets your feet wet with what it is like to shoot with a single focal lens. 50 mm is the best lens to get as your first prime because it is exactly what the eye sees, and you can do an entire session on a 50mm lens. choosing the right lens
The Sigma 50mm is a lens I use the most frequently and allows me to get the cleanest shots during my sessions. It allows me to get a great variety in the images but still use the same lens.
35 vs. 85 – What’s Next?
So you’re now ready to expand into more prime lenses, you sell off your mid-range zoom lens and want to know what prime is next. You have the choice of a 35mm or an 85mm lens. If you are more of the main photographer or solo photographer, the 35mm lens should come before the 85mm lens. Both lenses will be needed eventually, but to start, I’d recommend the 35mm. choosing the right lens
85mm is considered a length in the telephoto group, and a 35 is considered a mid-range prime lens. 35 is most commonly used for portraits, families, bridal parties, the prep, and reception, whereas 85 is more for a ceremony and portraits.
When I first switched over to prime lenses, I went with the 35mm first and then the 85mm second. Being the main shooter for a wedding, I mainly use my 35 and 50. I will rock the 35 & 85, and my second will have a 50 and a 135 prime. This way, we each get a different look to the photos but not shooting the same thing. choosing the right lens
The Lowest f-stop Truly Makes a Difference.
Most photographers make the most common mistake by choosing a lens that has an f-stop of f/4 when they could have paid a little more to get the f/2.8 or even f/1.4 over the f/1.8. The reason why most photographers will do that is because of the price point. Companies tend to price lenses with high f/ minimums lower because the glass is cheaper, and the lens isn’t made. choosing the right lens
Always buy a lens that has a lower f-stop. If you are purchasing a 24-70 get the f/2.8 over the f/4. If you are getting a 50 prime get the f/1.4 or f/1.2 over the f/1.8 because it is sharper, and the glass is stronger in the lens. You have to want to invest in your equipment if you want to make it in the industry, and choosing a lens with the right f-stop will be a tool to get you there. choosing the right lens
The best lens for a ceremony is either a 50 f/1.4 or a 24-70 f/2.8 unless you are a second shooter, then I’d say 70-200 f/2.8. There is so much to capture during a ceremony, you don’t want to keep switching between lenses. So get yourself a mid-range prime or a mid-range zoom. This way, you can stay on one lens and still capture the ceremony the way you want to capture it. choosing the right lens
If you are shooting dual cameras, I would pop a 35 f/1.4 and an 85 f/1.4 for primes or a 24-70 f/2.8 and a 70-200 f/2.8 if you rather shoot zoom lenses.
The most common lens a photographer will use for a reception is a 35 prime or a 24-70mm zoom lens. The 24-70 is definitely better over the 35 prime because you have a wide range of focal lengths in one lens. I know photographers, like myself, who will shoot on a 35 prime and then switch to a 24 or 20 prime later in the night when the dance floor gets more crowded. The prime lenses allow you to stay tight or get wide on a group of people dancing. You have to be more conscious of the distortion of the subjects in the images.
I always recommend staying landscape during the reception when on a wider lens. Most of the time, you’re shooting a group of people, and if you are shooting couples dancing, you most likely will switch to a 35mm or 50mm anyway.
Always have a tighter lens on your second body or at your reach so that you can switch quickly during formalities.
I recommend 35 / 50 / 24-70 for entrances, dances, and speeches. 20/24/35/16-35 or 24-70 for cake cutting, dancing, and garder bouquet.
Final Thoughts and Advice
There is no right or wrong lens to choose from, and every photographer has their lens to shoot with. Most professionals will shoot all primes, but other professionals shoot all zooms. I know some of the best photographers who shoot everything on a 24-70 lens and get unbelievable images.
Lenses can get expenses and cost more than the bodies can. Best place to look is Adorama, B&H, and Unique Photo. These three are places I would highly recommend going to get the best price on professional-grade lenses.
Through my years of shooting, I have learned that no matter what lens I have in my hands, as long as the images look good and my final product true to my brand, what lens I shoot on doesn’t make a difference. Follow some of the links I put in the blog to find the best lenses, or feel free to reach out with any comments, questions, or concerns; I’d be happy to help!