Best Lenses for wedding photography
Best lenses for wedding photography
A break down of what lenses I use throughout the wedding day.
When it comes to wedding photography, your typical day is a perfect cocktail of photography genres and it's important you are equipped for every eventuality. One of the most important decisions when it comes to your gear arsenal and how you will shoot an event like a wedding is your choice of lenses. Before I run through all the lenses I would recommend for a wedding I have a few bonus top tips when it comes to picking your glass. Please note I am a canon shooter, however, shoot with primarily Sigma lenses which have mounts for both Nikon and Sony.
Try to avoid GAS
Gas or Gear Acquisition Syndrome hits all us photographers at some point or another. How many times have you thought "If I could just get THAT lens my collection would be complete and I could finally get the shot I want." Remember that you can spend thousands on the latest sharpers most boker-ific lens but will it really make you a better photographer? Remember your equipment is a tool and it is up to you and how you master light, composition and moments that dictate the quality of your images and don't always shift responsibility over to your lens.
Have just what you need to cover a wedding and cover your arse.
No one wants to be a lens juggler at a wedding, it can be tempting to bring every lens you could possibly need to a wedding but I found that by doing so you either end up breaking your back under the weight or kicking yourself for leaving that fisheye in your bag when this is the one part of the day you would wanna use it. Try to keep your gear limited to 4 or 5 lenses max to have yourself covered throughout the full range of focal lengths and no more. This amount also covers you should any lens go down. I'm a prime shooter but keep a 24-70 in my bag which essentially gathers dust, however, if every one of my prime lenses broke at the same time I could still cover the wedding and the client probably wouldn't miss out.
Prime VS Zoom
There are two main schools of thought when it comes whether to use primes or zooms and your choice can have a big impact on your signature photography style. Experienced photographers can often spot the difference between the two just by looking at an image. There are fantastic photographers who use zoom lenses and fantastic photographers who stick exclusively to prime. Zooms obviously have the benefit of being to cover a range of focal lengths, however, have a trade-off in sharpness and often aperture ( primes are usually faster)
If you shoot prime, try shooting with two cameras
90% of wedding photography can be covered by two focal lengths which fall into two categories, a medium-wide and a medium-telephoto. You will find you can use these two focal lengths to pretty much cover everything and by having two cameras on the go at the same time you can ensure you get both types of shot covered without wasting any time to change lenses. This is a very popular method with prime shooters and different photographers will have 2 focal lengths they stick to pretty religiously. For me, it's the classic 35/85 combo but others favour a 24/50 combination which also has great results. The key is to try and stick to just 2 lenses, do doing so you will end up thinking in these focal lengths and naturally be moving and composing to get you in the best spot for the shot.
For me, this is my number one most used lens for a wedding by miles! I take a lot of inspiration in the way I shoot from documentary photography, particularly Magnum photographers like Robert Capa and Henri Cartier Bresson. This focal length, as well as the 50mm ( which I also use), is historically known as the documentary photographers choice as it allows for what I believe is a perfect balance of foreground and background elements and works perfectly for storytelling. There aren't many parts of the wedding day where this lens doesn't make sense to me but when I am looking for something a little more aesthetically interesting in my portraits or when I want more room for details and dancing I may switch this out for my 24. The reason I currently don't use the Canon L equivalent as it always looks a little big and obvious for me and I feel that tiny bit more inconspicuous with this guy.
If my 35 was Han Solo ( bear with me) then my 85 would be Chewie! The perfect support and compliment to my 35 and together they can pretty much handle anything. I like to be close to the action whenever I can but of course, during a wedding, you cant always do that and have to make sure to respect the moments. This is when the 85 works perfectly and allows you isolate people and moments from a safe distance. The bokeh and focus speed is great with this lens and it's not too heavy. Its also a bit of a tank, mine has a chip right in the middle which makes no difference at all to the image! There is also the Simga ART version, however, this looks a little too beasty for me.
The only lens I have in my arsenal that isn't Sigma, the Canon 135mm comes out probably the least of my all my lenses, however, I totally love this lens and should probably use it more. I mostly use it when that 85 just isn't quite enough and I can't move myself any closer, this happens most often during church ceremonies and speeches in larger rooms. The focus speed is great and its hit rate is always amazing. I traded in my 70-200 lens and I was really happy I did. I found the 70-200 left me a little too detached from the moment for my style and was just too big!
When the beat drops, this lens comes out. This is my dancefloor lens and that's its main job. I love it for the dancefloor but to make it really work you need to not be afraid to get really close and get in the moment. This lens also works well for interior shots where you just need that extra bit of wide and for environmental portraits.
So when talking about my 105mm I kind of badmouthed this lens, allow me to backpedal a little bit. This lens ( although I no longer own it ) is a superb lens for capturing people during the day. I like to think it as the perfect box ticker lens, you can essentially plant your feet during the reception and get beautiful shots of all the wedding guests without ever having to move. This feature of this lens is both its greatest asset and greatest flaw. What I mean by this is that it has a tennency to make photographers lazy and play it safe, if they can capture a moment from a safe distance then they will do. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this for a lot of couples, but for me, the photos often look detached from the scene instead of being in the moment which is the opposite of what I like to do.
Thank you very much for taking the time to check out my post and I hope you found it helpful. I will be writing another article for wedding and portrait photographers next week and if there's anything you would like any help on please do let me know! I would also love to hear what lenses you guys loved and why.