Shooting a wedding is unlike shooting any other genre of photography. That’s because it’s like every genre of photography rolled in to one. Fashion, portraiture, architecture, landscape, lifestyle, product, family. If you’re very lucky, travel too. These all play a part in building the story of your clients’ day As you might imagine then, there will be quite a few different wedding photography lenses that can best help you achieve all these looks.
Starting Out: Don’t Buy Your Kit Just Yet…
When starting out, it’s best not to bankrupt yourself by purchasing an arsenal of glass. Thankfully, you don’t need all them to create stunning images.
I started out shooting weddings with a single Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 lens and an entry level DSLR. I would always suggest waiting until you’ve reached the creative limit of what you can achieve first.
Once you’ve gotten to that point then upgrade. It’s best to make sure you don’t first need to upgrade your knowledge. After all, education lasts longer than gear.
If you’re serious about getting in to weddings and building a portfolio full of beautiful images, then a good option to consider is renting lenses.
You can do this at least until you make enough money and have enough future bookings to buy them outright. This allows you to use some of the higher-end wide aperture lenses without the huge expense upfront.
A Pro Wedding Photographer’s Lens List
With that in mind, below is a list of lenses of lens I always carry in my kit bag. These lenses can seriously help you up your wedding shooting game:
I call this beast of a lens my workhorse for three main reasons.
First, a lot of weddings (in the UK at least) tend to take place in old churches or in country manor houses. These traditionally have very little light in the ceremony rooms. With the wide f/2.8 aperture you get much more light down the lens than the cheaper alternatives.
This allows you to use a faster shutter speed and/or lower ISO which reduces the risk of unintentional motion blur or noise (grain) in your images.
Dark churches are easily combatted with wide apertures.
Second, wide apertures allow you to achieve that ever popular bokeh (blurred) background look. Wedding couples seem to love this. I often use this lens to take the larger group shots, making best use of the compression offered. Even if I have to back up a long way to get everyone in, this lens makes beautiful portraits.
Bokeh (or blurred) backgrounds help to focus the eye on the subject
The third and biggest advantage with this lens is where it allows you to stand. Being able to move far away from the action and zoom right in gives you the ability to take close up images.
This lets you capture much more intimate moments—much more so than if you were stood right next to your subjects using a wider lens.
The best you can hope for in those situations are photos of strained smiles as the guests wait for you to take the shot. After all, no one likes having a camera shoved in their face. The 70-200mm is the perfect stealth lens for just those times.
The 24-70mm is an incredible, versatile lens for smaller settings. It’s great for where the 70-200mm would put you far too close to your subject to work with. It also helps where you want to take in a larger area in one shot or if you’re in a tight space.
Oftentimes, I’ll use this lens to take wide angle shots down the aisle of the church from up high. This helps me take in both the couple at the altar as well as the gathered congregation.
The 24-70mm is also great for intimate weddings where the ceremony room is very small. This lens really comes into its own during the wedding breakfast and speeches, though.
When the couple are wandering around chatting to their guests, you don’t want to be following them like a shadow. Having a lens that allows you to stand back shoot to shoot close ups and wide shots is a blessing then.
For the speeches, you need a long focal length to capture facial expressions of speakers on the top table. Whereas the wide end of the lens helps catch the reactions of guests close up around you. This lens offers unmatched versatility.
The 24-70mm allows you to shoot close up…
and much wider scenes in quick succession.
105mm or 100mm f/2.8 (Macro)
As wedding photography lenses go, there is no better lens than a macro when shooting smaller details at a wedding. Macro lenses allow you to capture incredible, detailed shots. Be those the rings, wedding favours, or other intricate decorations around the venue.
These decorative touches might go by without so much as a glance from the majority of guests. However, the couple may have agonised for months over the exact styling or placement of them. It’s our job as photographers to show our wedding couples that their efforts weren’t for naught.
This focal length is also very useful for portraits too. As such, this lens will do double duty when it comes to your couple’s formal shots. Prime (fixed focal length) lenses also tend to be much sharper than the zoom options.
As such, you may well find the resultant portraits from this lens to be of a more pleasing quality.
Pro tip: It’s difficult to copy the benefits of the first two lenses above by using a cheaper option. When it comes to macro though, you have an opportunity to get a little creative and save some money in the process.
You can do this by using what’s known as a reversing ring. This cheap and unassuming little ring looks like a lens filter without the glass and screws on to the filter thread of your lens.
This allows you to turn the lens on its end and attach it the wrong way around to our camera bodies. This has a huge magnification effect. Although it’s fiddlier than using a dedicated macro lens, the cost-saving benefits can’t be ignored.
A reversing ring can result in some beautifully close up images.
The 50mm f/1.8 is fantastic general use lens with a very wide aperture. This makes it a great choice for detail shots where the Macro lens would get you in too close.
I use this for shots of all the small details, from the bridal jewellery to the ring shots. It’s also very good for close ups of the table decorations in the reception room. It allows for incredibly sharp images with huge focus drop off, for beautiful, blurred backgrounds.
This is yet another nice portrait lens too, so will also help you complete two jobs for the price of one.
Like the 50mm option above, this lens is very good in low light situations.
The wider focal length makes it very handy for situations like the first dance or cake cutting. The lights are turned down a lot lower during these events and often require you to capture a larger area.
The ability to suck in lots of the available light with the f/1.8 aperture helps with the exposure of your images. It also again gives you a very shallow depth of field. This helps in separating your subject from the background.
This focal length of this lens also closely mimics the vision of the natural eye. This helps to create visually pleasing images.
Away from weddings, either this or the 50mm would be great lenses to upgrade the kit lens that comes with your body. As such, you will likely get a lot more use from it to justify its purchase, given the relatively cheap price of them.
Pro tip: For crop sensor cameras (APS-C), I would use the 35mm for general use. When you add the crop factor, this makes a 35mm lens roughly equal to 50mm.
Using the 50mm lens on a cropped body gives you an equivalent focal length of 75-80mm. This is great for portraits but a little restrictive for general use.
If I’m honest, this ultra-wide lens is the least used lens in my kit. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get its fair share of use or that it doesn’t deserve a mention.
The distortion exhibited when tilting and turning the camera around with this lens can be used to creative effect.
I’ll mainly use this lens for fun or uniquely composed shots. This could be of the couple’s confetti shot or guests on the dance floor.
This lens is an indulgence, though, given the price. Whilst you can get some very unique shots with it, I would always recommend buying the above four wedding photography lenses before this one.
Ok, so this isn’t a lens in its truest sense. However, it does have a lens attached to it which can let you take photos no other land based camera can.
Since buying a DJI Phantom drone a short while ago, we’ve found ourselves using it more and more in our wedding work. We’ve used it to take a shot of a Los Angeles wedding venue against the Santa Monica Mountains.
It also helped us get an aerial group photo of a huge Asian wedding where it was impossible to fit everyone in the frame with a conventional camera.
We also recently shot a large country manor wedding venue bathed in beautiful golden hour light.
Drone photography can really set you apart from other wedding photographers.
We’re being asked increasingly by our wedding couples if we could bring the drone to their big day now. The relative novelty of aerial wedding photography makes this a wise option right now.
It is also likely to up your status in wedding couples’ opinions. Wedding guests, who are all potential future clients, also love seeing the drone.
For complete uniqueness then, nothing can beat a flight enabled camera.
Important note: If you are using a drone for a paid project then you will need the relevant qualifications and licence to do so.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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