Wedding photography is arguably one of the most difficult challenges you can face in your photography career. Not only do you need to have artistic and creative ability, an eye for detail, and great communication skills, you have to be quick on your feet to get that priceless shot. Many different situations can arise at any moment, so you need to be prepared with the gear you have.
At a minimum, you should have a lens for shooting wide angle, mid range, and telephoto. There are a few different routes you can take to achieve this setup, and we are going to tell you the pros and cons of each.
Shooting Zoom vs Prime Lenses
There are two breeds of photographers: those who swear by prime lenses, and those who prefer zooms. There is a middle ground between the two, which is where most people may be, but we will touch on that later.
Each side has its pros and cons, and no one side is "better" than the other. It's all about what lens the shooter is comfortable with, and which lens allows them to get the shot they need.
- Flexibility - Zoom lenses allow for the most flexibility, hands down.When you're in a pinch and can't move, a zoom will allow you to compose your shot easier than using a prime.
- One Lens - A good zoom lens will give the photographer the ability to use one lens if needed. When using only prime lenses, you may find yourself switching lenses a lot, which means you will need to carry a lot more lenses.
- Price - A quality zoom lens can be pricey. Finding a zoom lens with a fast aperture like f/2.8, quality glass, and quality construction for under $1,000 is really hard.
- Image quality - Prime lenses have fewer components on the inside of the lens since they do not need to zoom. This allows for the glass inside the lens to be more exact and produce a crisper image.
- Aperture - Once again, since there is less going on inside the lens, these lenses are able to shoot wider open at f/1.8, f/1.4, or even f/1.2, giving you that awesome background blur, and low light performance.
- Technique - This isn't so much a "pro", but what it does to the photographers sense of composition and framing. Prime lenses make the person running the camera think a little bit more about the shot. You are unable to zoom, so you need to make the shot happen, and not wait for it.
- No Zoom - Be prepared to switch lenses, A LOT. Going from wide, to mid range, and then to long or telephoto, you're going to be changing lenses a lot. Also not being able to zoom means you're going to be moving a lot as well. For some this isn't a big deal, but for others it is a deal breaker.
- No Image Stabilization - Most Canon L series prime lenses do not have built in stabilization, though there are some lens manufacturers that build primes with IS (Tamron). Especially when using a longer focal length prime lens, the absence of IS is a lot more apparent than if you were shooting wider like 24mm or 35mm.
Now that we've covered both ends of the spectrum, lets get into what lenses you should be getting for each shooting style.
Top 3 Zooms
1. 70-200mm f/2.8 IS Lens
No matter what system you shoot on (Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc) you're going to want one of these in your arsenal. This lens allows you to get that extra reach you never could achieve before. With this lens used wide open at f/2.8, paired with the compression you get at 200mm, the background has this beautiful blur that is sure to impress. The zoom allows you to get close to the moment without disturbing everyone, such as this image:
The 70-200mm is the lens recommended for our telephoto zoom users.
2. 24-70mm f/2.8 IS Lens
This is the MOST versatile lens money can buy. If you consider yourself to be a portrait/wedding photographer, you definitely should have one of these. The ability to shoot wide open at f/2.8 is what makes this lens so special. You are able to shoot wide at 24mm to get that nice wide environmental image, and then come in tight to get an awesome portrait shot.
3. 16-35mm f/2.8 IS or Ultra-Wide Lens
The last of our zoom lens recommendations is the 16-35 f/2.8 or any other fast ultra-wide lens. When the 24-70mm just can not get wide enough, turn to this lens to get awesome environment shots. Whether inside of the church, or outdoors on the beach, you will be able to capture all of the beautiful surroundings with an ultra-wide lens.
*Shot at 24mm*
Top 3 Primes
1. 14mm - 24mm Prime Lenses
For the prime shooters out there, these are your wide-angle options. These are the best focal lengths for showing the environment during a wedding ceremony or the reception hall.
2. 50mm Lens
The 50mm covers a mid-range focal length that can be used to capture beautiful portraits, or if you step back, you can capture the subject with the environment like the image below.
3. 85mm or 135mm Lens
Finishing off the list on the longer side of focal lengths is the 85mm and 135mm prime lenses. At these focal lengths you are able to achieve amazing compression, giving your subject great separation from the background.
These lenses may not be used every day, but they can be a great addition to your arsenal.
100mm Macro f/2.8 IS Lens
The bride and groom are spending lots of money on all the little details, so you need a lens to capture them. This lens allows you to focus closer to your subject than any of the others. You'll be able to get amazing photos of wedding rings, the bride's shoes, and the small things you never could before. You're going to see a spike in your creativity once you pick up this lens!
Oh the fisheye. Some hate it, others love it. This lens has some major distortion, but that is the point. If used correctly, this lens can give you a wacky alternative to the same old reception hall shot. I wouldn't say that you would be using this lens everyday, but from time to time it can be fun to shoot at 8mm, and it can add a little extra flare to your wedding photography.