Having the best lenses for wedding photography will help you capture those special moments, no matter where they occur.
Lenses come in all shapes and sizes. They also vary in cost. In this article, we have collected some of the most recommended lenses for wedding photography.
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Does the Choice of Lens Really Matter?
The best lens differs from photographer to photographer. It’s based on shooting style and the brand of the camera body. Some wedding photographers favour bright primes with two bodies for fast access. Others prefer the ease and range of a zoom lens.
Owning more wedding lenses allows you to capture the moment in a cramped, dim reception venue, as well as in a wide-open, brightly lit park. But there are a few features and focal lengths that are standard for the pro wedding photographer.
The following list includes everything. From lenses for multiple camera bodies (such as Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Fujifilm) to third-party lenses that are available in multiple mounts.
NB: I’m a Nikon shooter. I haven’t had experience with every lens on this list. This list comes from specifications and user reviews around the web.
1. Bright, Wide-Angle Zoom: The 24-70mm f/2.8
This wide to medium zoom lens covers a solid range of focal lengths and still packs in a bright aperture.
The lens is wide enough to capture the entire ceremony in one shot. You can adjust the telephoto end for closer shots and even portraits, so it also comes in handy for those family formals.
As a popular wedding photography lens, some manufacturers have multiple versions of it. The difference is often optical image stabilisation (IS).
That stabilisation helps shoot those dimly lit spaces. Especially at slower shutter speeds, allowing you to drop the ISO down. But stabilisation isn’t as essential in a wide-angle lens as it is for telephoto and macro.
Due to its popularity, third-party manufacturers get in on the action too. This could help you save some cash when choosing gear for wedding photography.
Best 24-70mm f/2.8 Wedding Photography Lenses:
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 ED. This Nikon zoom lens is fast, sharp, and performs well in low light.
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 II USM. Canon’s versatile telephoto is sharp with solid bokeh.
- Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM. Owners of this Sony praise the bokeh and sharpness and even the performance for video.
- Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art (Several mounts available). This Sigma offers a similar range and bright aperture for a significantly lower price. Sigma’s Art line is known for high-end quality.
- Fujifilm Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR. This Fujifilm is a bit wider than the 24-70mm standard. But it maintains the essential aperture for many low light scenarios. And it offers a sharpness that a wedding photographer can applaud.
2. Bright, Versatile Telephoto: The 70-200mm f/2.8
The 70-200mm offers a versatile zoom range and enough focal length to help the subject pop from the background.
The 70-200mm is great for capturing details and close-ups. The long zoom range also makes the lens an option for the portrait section of the day. Its length will help create softer backgrounds. All this while having the aperture a bit wider to keep both the bride and groom in focus.
There’s a downside though. The long focal length and bright aperture mix make this lens a heavy piece of glass. It’s also an expensive addition to your wedding photography kit.
The general rule is to keep your shutter speed above the focal length. While it’s easy to shoot a 50mm at 1/50 in limited light, the 1/200 suggested for a 200mm is harder to do. This is where that lens stabilisation comes in.
The longer the lens, the more important image stabilisation is. If you can only afford to get stabilisation on one lens, get it on the longest one in your bag.
Many wedding photographers use both a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm to capture the wedding day. These work particularly well during parts of the day where the pace of events isn’t ideal for lens swaps.
As far as wedding lenses go, this is the most necessary addition.
Best 70-200mm Lenses for Wedding Photography:
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR. While expensive, Nikon fans note this lens’ sharpness, speed, and colours. It also includes image stabilisation.
- Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM. Canon photographers rave about this telephoto’s mix of sharpness and bokeh with the telephoto zoom range.
- Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS. This lens is designed with high-end optics and is noted for sharpness, bokeh, Eye AF and stabilisation. Like many others covering the same range, it is heavy and pricey.
- Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 (multiple mounts). Going with a third-party brand drops the price of a workhorse lens significantly. Fans of it note the sharpness and stabilisation.
- Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM (multiple mounts). Sigma’s second-generation 70-200mm. It’s known for a three to four-stop stabilisation system, sharpness, and speed.
3. Portrait Prime: The 85mm and 50mm f/1.8
Prime lenses offer a brighter aperture than the 70-200mm ones. In some brands, they even offer more efficient autofocus and higher quality shots. Without all those zoom components, most prime lenses are also lighter and cheaper.
The 85mm is an excellent focal length for portraits, particularly on full-frame cameras. The focal length is more flattering than a wider angle. But it still allows you to take portraits in venues with limited space.
Although the background separation isn’t quite as nice as that 85mm, the 50mm is also a popular choice for portraits. For wedding photographers who need to make the budget, a 50mm lens is an excellent option. It offers that bright aperture without the big price tag.
The brighter aperture of an f/1.8 prime will allow for even smoother backgrounds in portraits. Some brands go even wider, down to f/1.4 or f/1.2.
The wider aperture is also excellent for limited light when that f/2.8 isn’t enough to get a nicely lit shot. This lens is helpful during ceremonies and other low light portions of the day.
Best 85mm Lenses for Wedding Photography:
- Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art (multiple mounts). Sigma’s Art series is quickly gaining a following, which is due to the high-end optics. It is ultra-bright and the autofocus also performs well.
- Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G. Bright and affordable, this is Nikon’s best portrait lens for a wedding photographer with a lower budget.
- Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM. As a portrait favourite, this Canon lens gets bokeh and sharp subjects for not a lot of cash.
- Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. A popular option for Sony shooters, it is noted for the sharpness and the compact size.
- Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R. Equivalent to an 85mm on a full-frame body. This Fujifilm uses a crazy bright f/1.2 for nice background bokeh.
Best 50mm Wedding Photography Lenses:
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. With a super bright f/1.4, this Canon has a lot to love about it. For a super low budget, try Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM.
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G. This is a nice portrait lens that performs well in low light without breaking the bank. The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G is also excellent. But it sits at about twice the price in exchange for that lower aperture.
- Sony FE 50mm f/1.8. Affordable and bright, this Sony is a good portrait option.
4. For the Details: The Macro Lenses
Ring shots and detail photos may only make up some of the wedding albums, but they are important.
Macro lenses come in all different focal lengths and apertures. A longer focal length will offer more separation for the background. But getting close up shots on a macro level already provides significant softness. That means an f/1.2 isn’t necessary for a wedding photographer.
If you do pick up a brighter macro lens, you don’t have to use it for just macro. Many lenses allow you to switch off the close-up mode, which results in shooting like a normal lens. Buying a bright macro that doubles as a portrait prime can help stretch the budget.
Like with a telephoto, stabilisation is more important on a macro than a wide-angle. The close magnification will exaggerate any camera shake.
Best Macro Lenses for Wedding Photography:
- Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR Micro. It has a life-sized 1:1 magnification and stabilisation. This lens is a popular choice for Nikon shooters.
- Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. Bright, long and stabilised, this Canon lens has an excellent reputation. (On a budget? Consider the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM)
- Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro (multiple mounts). This Sigma macro offers stabilisation and a 1:1 ratio. Some wedding photographers suggest that the autofocus is a bit slower than the equivalent from big brands.
- Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro (multiple mounts). This Tamron lens has life-size reproductions and stabilisation. But it doesn’t have nearly as high of a price. Like the Sigma, the complaints centre on the autofocus.
- Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS. Sony’s 90mm macro boasts stabilisation, internal focus and a 1:1 magnification.
- Fujifilm XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro. This Fujifilm offers a 120mm equivalent and shoots close enough to get a 1:1 ratio. The body is also weather-sealed.
5. The Wide, Bright Performer: The 35mm Prime
35mm prime lenses are often bright and affordable. These are excellent for everything. From capturing the entire ceremony setup in one shot to photographing the entire dance floor.
Best 35mm Lenses for Wedding Photography:
- Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8 G ED. Wide, bright and lightweight. This Nikon is a popular option for getting the wide shots of the wedding day.
- Canon 35mm f/1.4 L II USM. This Canon lens is pricey for a prime. But photographers who have shot with it praise its sharpness as well as that extra-wide aperture.
- Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art (multiple mounts). The Sigma option still has a crazy wide f/1.4 without quite such a high price point.
- Fujifilm XF 23mm F2 R WR. This compact lens is the equivalent of a 35mm on a full-frame camera. It’s known for its fast performance and bokeh.
How Many Wedding Lenses Do You Need?
A wedding photographer needs enough focal lengths to cover the wedding from start to finish. How many lenses that means is different for every photographer.
Photographers with enough clients to support a big budget may have one lens in each category. They might even have a few duplicates as backups. Others may shoot with only two or three lenses.
The choice of a focal length also varies based on style. Some favour the separating power of a big lens. Others enjoy the storytelling feel of a wide-angle that captures the full scene.
Lenses are difficult to judge based on tech specs alone. If you’re still not sure if you should get that pricey brand name or a third-party lens, try renting one.
Renting is an affordable way to rest easy in your choice. Some rental companies will allow you to buy the lens that you rent if you like it. If you don’t, it’s a much cheaper loss than finding you don’t use that focal length after purchasing it.
Prioritise what focal lengths you need most for both your style and to capture every event of the day.
Choosing the best lens for wedding photography is important. You need it to capture the entirety of the day.
The most popular lenses for this niche are the 24-70mm and 70-200mm bright zooms. For primes, think of the 85mm, 50mm 35mm, and a macro.
The best lenses for weddings are also bright, sharp and versatile.
Find a lens that fits your camera body, wedding photography style and budget. That way you can cover the wedding day from cramped rooms to wide-open fields with the best results.
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