Wedding photography is a difficult task—after all, a wedding is one of the most important events in a couple’s life, and they’ve chosen you to capture these precious, once-in-a-lifetime moments. Different aspects of a wedding necessitate different types of photography. With this in mind, there is a lens for every occasion, including group shots, portraits, detailed close-ups of the ring and cake, first kisses, first dances, and everything in between.
It’s a good idea to look to other wedding photographers for inspiration as you explore the lenses available to you. Evolving your style, maintaining your skills, and staying current with industry trends are all part of the process of constantly striving to become a better photographer.
When it comes to purchasing the best lens for wedding photography, it’s also important to consider the factors surrounding the specific wedding you’re photographing. For instance, how long will the shoot last? Is the wedding traditional, or is there a theme? Is it a small wedding with 60 guests or a large event with 600? Are you shooting alone or with another person?
All of these factors can influence the type of lenses you should use when photographing a wedding. If the couple hired you for less than four hours (basically just wedding portraits and the ceremony), bringing a bag full of lenses might not be necessary. On the other hand, if you’re shooting for a full day of 12 hours (or more), you’ll want to have more options. Not only is there more time to change lenses, but a longer wedding can also force you to change perspectives and think outside the box—hence the need for more creative lenses. A wedding can last several days in some cultures. This may necessitate the use of a variety of lenses for the dozens of mini-ceremonies that occur throughout the wedding.
Purchasing the best lens for wedding photography is not as simple as going to the nearest camera store and purchasing the most expensive or popular lenses. It takes time and careful consideration to determine which lens will work best for your skill level, the client, and your personal style.
Before we get into choosing lenses for weddings, let’s go over some of the fundamentals of the different types of lenses available.
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Which lenses are the best for wedding and event photography?
- Telephoto lenses with a focal length of 70-200mm and an aperture of f/2.8 are ideal for portraits and creative background blur.
- Standard zooms with focal lengths of 24-70mm f/2.8: The ideal all-purpose lens to keep on your camera at all times.
- 16-35mm f/2.8 wide-angle lenses (or equivalent): Ideal for church, reception, and group shots.
- Macro lens with a focal length of 90-100mm: Close-ups of the ring and table decorations are ideal, and the focal length is also ideal for head and shoulders portraits.
- 35mm f/1.4 or 1.8 lens: The standard focal length for candid shots, with a large aperture to handle low light and produce nice background blur.
Is it better to go full frame or APS-C?
For this roundup, we stayed with full-frame cameras because they are the most popular among wedding and event photographers, who are most likely doing these jobs for a living. There’s no reason you shouldn’t use an APS-C or MFT camera; however, while the quality is fine, you won’t have as many options for constant aperture zoom lenses and wide-aperture primes.
The Best Wedding Photography Lenses
Zoom with a bright, wide-angle lens: The 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
This wide-to-medium zoom lens has a good range of focal lengths and a bright aperture.
The lens is sufficiently wide to capture the entire ceremony in a single shot. Because the telephoto end can be adjusted for closer shots and even portraits, it’s also useful for family portraits.
Some manufacturers have multiple versions of this popular wedding photography lens. The distinction is frequently optical image stabilisation (IS).
That stabilisation aids in shooting in low-light situations. It allows you to lower the ISO, especially at slower shutter speeds. However, stabilisation is not as important in a wide-angle lens as it is in telephoto and macro lenses.
Because of its popularity, third-party manufacturers want in on the action as well. This could help you save money when selecting wedding photography equipment.
The 70-200mm f/2.8 is a bright and versatile telephoto lens.
The 70-200mm lens has a versatile zoom range and sufficient focal length to help the subject stand out from the background.
The 70-200mm lens is ideal for capturing close-ups and details. The lens’s long zoom range also makes it suitable for the portrait section of the day. Its length will aid in the creation of softer backgrounds. All while keeping the aperture a little wider to keep the bride and groom in focus.
However, there is a drawback. The combination of a long focal length and a bright aperture makes this lens a heavy piece of glass. It’s also a pricey addition to your wedding photography arsenal.
The general rule is to keep your shutter speed higher than your focal length. While it is simple to shoot a 50mm at 1/50 in low light, the 1/200 suggested for a 200mm is more difficult. This is where lens stabilisation comes into play.
The image stabilisation is more important as the lens lengthens. If you can only afford stabilisation on one lens, make it the longest in your bag.
To capture the wedding day, many wedding photographers use both a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm lens. These are especially useful during times of the day when the pace of events isn’t conducive to lens swaps.
As far as wedding lenses go, this is the most important.
Portrait Prime: The apertures on the 85mm and 50mm f/1.8 Prime lenses are brighter than those on the 70-200mm lenses.
Some brands even provide more efficient autofocus and higher-quality images. Most prime lenses are also lighter and less expensive without all of those zoom components.
The 85mm focal length is ideal for portraits, especially on full-frame cameras. A longer focal length is more appealing than a wider angle. However, it still allows you to take portraits in tight quarters.
Although the background separation isn’t quite as good as it is with the 85mm, the 50mm is still a popular portrait lens. A 50mm lens is an excellent choice for wedding photographers on a tight budget. It provides that bright aperture without the high price.
An f/1.8 prime lens’s brighter aperture allows for even smoother backgrounds in portraits. Some brands offer even wider apertures, as low as f/1.4 or f/1.2.
When the f/2.8 aperture isn’t enough to get a nicely lit shot, the wider aperture comes in handy. This lens is useful for ceremonies and other low-light situations throughout the day.
For the Details: Macro Lenses Ring shots and detail photos may only make up a small portion of wedding albums, but they are essential.
A macro lens captures other details, such as flowers or architecture, in addition to ring shots. You can even use them for portraits, such as a close-up of the bride’s lashes and makeup.
Macro lenses are available in a variety of focal lengths and apertures. A longer focal length will provide more separation between the subject and the background. Getting close up shots on a macro level, on the other hand, already provides significant softness. That means an f/1.2 lens isn’t required for a wedding photographer.
If you buy a brighter macro lens, you don’t have to use it only for macro. Many lenses allow you to disable the close-up mode, allowing you to shoot as if you were using a standard lens. Purchasing a bright macro that also functions as a portrait prime can help you stretch your budget.
A macro lens, like a telephoto lens, requires more stabilisation than a wide-angle lens. Any camera shake will be magnified due to the close magnification.
The 35mm Prime is a versatile and bright performer.
Wedding photography is a form of storytelling. And sometimes a wider lens is required to capture the shots that tell the story. A prime 35mm lens is brighter and more portable than a wide telephoto lens.
35mm prime lenses are frequently bright and reasonably priced. These are great for everything from photographing the entire ceremony setup to photographing the entire dance floor.
Is this the absolute best lens?
When I first started shooting weddings, I was told that the 70-200mm 2.8 is THE BEST WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY LENS. According to one website, it is the “ultimate wedding lens.” I simply HAD to have it. I saved and saved, and then I couldn’t wait to use it at my next wedding. I enjoyed it, and there were times when it played a significant role in allowing me to capture something special from a distance (ex: the final I Do & kiss while standing from the back of a large church).
But, surprisingly, I discovered that it wasn’t my favourite wedding lens or even my most used wedding lens after all. What I discovered is that it has a time and place where it is very useful, but that I still gravitated towards my other lenses when the opportunity arose.
I prefer prime lenses and believe that in low light, the 70-200mm isn’t always fast enough. In addition, because the camera is so heavy, I’m concerned about camera shake. When zoomed in, it has an incredible ability to separate the subject from the background, allowing the subject to stand out. It comes in handy when you can’t get as close as you’d like, so even though it’s not my favourite, I wouldn’t be without it. Consider renting the 70-200mm if you only shoot a few weddings a year and don’t want to invest in it. Renting lenses is very affordable!
What is the best wedding photography lens?
The answer I’ll give is simply my opinion based on my experience, but here’s what I’ve discovered: every wedding is different and unique! They all have unique situations that will influence their lens selection. There are numerous factors that will influence your best option.
The bottom line is that when photographing a wedding, you can never have TOO MANY LENSES. I carry two bodies (the D700 and D3S) so that I can have two lenses active at all times and use a wide range of lenses throughout the event. Let’s go over some of the factors you should consider when selecting your lenses.
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How to Select Wedding Photography Lenses
Your lens selection will be heavily influenced by the environments in which you work.
For example, while the bride and bridesmaids are getting ready, the 35mm would be a fun focal length to use, but if you have enough room to back-up, the 50mm on a full-frame camera might be a better choice to avoid lens distortion. If you want the flexibility of being able to zoom in and out, the 24-70mm would be a good choice in this scenario.
What is your second shooter using?
I always use a different camera than my second shooter. They can capture things from unusual angles and perspectives. Discuss it with your second and decide who will shoot with what and when.
What kind of available light do you have?
Choose a fast lens if you’re shooting in low light (lower aperture number)
If the wedding is being held in a church, the rules of the church will govern your lens selection.
Some churches insist that you stay no closer than the last row of guests (obviously in that scenario, a long lens is best). Some churches are more accommodating in terms of allowing you to move around and get closer. Outdoor weddings have fewer rules and are therefore more enjoyable!
Now that we’ve established that there are numerous factors to consider when selecting a lens, I’ll give you a quick rundown of a typical wedding for me. As previously stated, I use two bodies and frequently switch lenses.
The Best Wedding Photography Cameras
Any serious photographer will tell you that the camera body is far less important than the lens. However, it is still useful to know which cameras are best for wedding photography in particular, because shutter speed and ISO requirements are critical when shooting in potentially low-light and fast-moving environments.
While this list is not exhaustive, it is a good starting point for anyone interested in learning about the best full-frame cameras to use for their next wedding photography shoot. You’re hesitant to spend a lot of money on a camera or lens you’ve never used before. To see if it’s right for you, try renting it from our friends at BorrowLenses first.
Canon EOS 6D
A low-cost option capable of producing high-quality images in low light. While it can keep up with the 5D Mark III in this regard, it lacks the 5D Mark III’s AF, which can be a problem for wedding photographers.
Nikon D7200 A high-performance, low-cost option for Nikon users. Despite the fact that it has a DX (crop) sensor, the good frame rate and ISO range make it a good choice for a beginner or intermediate wedding photographer.
5D Mark III Canon
Excellent low-light performance, a strong AutoFocus, and the ability to be weather-sealed combine to make this camera a wedding photographer’s dream. While the price is higher than that of the 6D, the bang for the buck is substantial.
The Nikon D750
This extremely versatile and powerful camera body outperforms the D7200 in terms of megapixels, frame rate, and ISO. Its price remains reasonable while providing the photographer with pro-level functionality.
Nikon D810 camera
The best Nikon camera for wedding photography at the professional level. With the hefty price tag comes 36 megapixels, an insane ISO range, and overall solid performance. The only thing you lose is frame rate when compared to the D750.
Canon EOS 5DSR
With its insanely high 50 megapixel CMOS sensor, this Canon broke new ground. To be clear, the vast majority of wedding photographers do not require this level of resolving power. With the right lens, this camera can produce some truly stunning results.
Prime Lenses for Wedding Photography
A prime lens can go a long way, especially when it comes to wedding photography. Many wedding photographers only use prime lenses at weddings, but a professional photographer will bring a prime, zoom, and macro lens with them.
Because of their speed and light weight, prime lenses are prefered over other types of lenses. The glass can produce much sharper images with a fixed focus. They care about speed and quality, and having the best prime lens for shooting weddings is considered the industry standard.
Zoom Lenses for Wedding Photography
Zoom lenses have come a long way; it’s safe to say that all wedding photographers, especially those who are new to the wedding photography scene, should have at least one in their bag for the big day. The right zoom lens for wedding photography allows you to experiment with different focal lengths, allowing you to record the action without becoming a part of it—while also experimenting with perspectives you might not have seen otherwise.
Micro Lenses for Wedding Photography
During weddings, most professional wedding photographers bring a macro lens with them. Why? The macro lens is capable of capturing detailed close-up shots that other types of lenses cannot. Macro lenses allow you to capture shots that look like they belong in a wedding magazine, whether it’s the wedding ring, decor details, or beading on a dress.
Though macro lenses can be very useful, they are usually the most expensive, and for beginning wedding photographers, using a 50mm prime lens for detail shots is not a bad idea. That being said, once you’ve gained some solid experience, don’t hesitate to contact us for advice on the best macro lens for wedding photography.
Keep in mind that the lens you choose is also determined by the type of camera you use. Remember that a 50mm lens will look different on a crop sensor than it will on a full-frame camera. For the time being, we’ll assume you’re mostly shooting with a full-frame camera.
It is critical to select the best lens for wedding photography. You’ll need it to document the entire day.
The 24-70mm and 70-200mm bright zooms are the most popular lenses in this category. Consider the 85mm, 50mm, 35mm, and macro lenses for primes.
The best wedding lenses are also bright, sharp, and versatile.
Choose a lens that is appropriate for your camera body, wedding photography style, and budget. That way, you can cover the wedding day in a variety of settings, from cramped rooms to wide-open fields, with the best results.