Is a 50mm lens good for weddings?

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Wedding photography is unique in that it encompasses several genres of photography: fashion, portrait, architectural, product, macro, family, and sometimes even travel photography. Few genres demand more from photographers and their gear.

In order to deliver a complete wedding photography product, you’re going to need lenses that allow you to capture each of these aspects with artistry and creativity. In a perfect world, we’d have the finances and manpower to haul every available lens to the venue; in reality, we’re limited to a handful of lenses, each of which needs to be accessible, high-quality, and versatile.

Wedding photography is probably one of the hardest of genres to shoot. A wedding photographer has to work through a day of chaos, making his clients, the bride and the groom, look their absolute best on the most important day of their life. A million different things can go wrong, and as a wedding photographer, you will always have challenges to overcome. No wonder, a lot of first time wedding photographers get intimated by all this.

For some, wedding photography is a genre that’s best left to others.

Ask any wedding photographer, and they would list a minimum of two professional bodies and three lenses as their bare minimum gear for shooting a wedding. Not to mention the other accessories such as spotlights, monopods, light stands etc. Lenses, however, occupy the most important place in a wedding photographer’s kit bag.

Though there are many which fit the profile as a great lens for wedding photography, such as the 85mm, 28mm, 35mm, 28-70mm and the 70-200mm; here in this article, we shall be looking at the 50mm prime.

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Reasons Why a 50mm Lens Should Be Your Go-To Glass

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It Doesn’t Distort Faces.

Lens distortion is where the natural view of content in the frame is just off, looking different than normal. While many filmmakers use lens distortion to their advantage, the 50mm lens is still the best option for capturing content in a natural way. The 50mm will capture human faces without distorting them into unnatural proportions.

It’s Closest to the Natural Eye

As our first reason alluded to, the 50mm lens is the closest a 35mm sensor lens gets to be like the human eye. Now, this is not to say the 50mm lens has a field of view similar to the human eye, because it doesn’t. Rather, it captures content within the frame in a very similar spatial scale as the human eye.

It’s Cheaper

Since the 50mm lens is so popular, it has a wide range of pricing options… and even the cheapest 50mm lens options produce a quality image. Canon’s standard 50mm f/1.8 lens is quite possibly the bestselling lens of all time. This is probably because of the low price and sharp image quality. You can pick up a Canon 50mm f/1.8 for $125.

It’s Fast and Sharp

The 50 is a really fast lens. For those who are unsure about what makes a fast lens: any lens with an f-stop of 2.8 or lower is considered fast. Having a fast lens gives you a lot of leeways, as we’ll see in a moment. Combine this speed with a dynamic focus ring, and you can capture incredibly sharp imagery.

It Has Great Depth of Field

As we just learned, the 50mm is a fast lens. Another area where this speed sets this lens apart is with its ability to capture bokeh or the blur in the out-of-focus areas of the composition. While you can capture images with other primes and zooms, the 50mm has a certain look and feel when it comes to depth of field.

It Can Be Used in Low Light

In addition to depth of field, the speed of the lens also gives the 50 an advantage when filming in low-light conditions. The 50mm is one of the very best lenses to use in low-light conditions, as most options come out of the box with at least a 1.8 maximum aperture. With speeds generally between 1.8 and 1.4, the 50mm allows a ton of light in, which in turn allows you to capture great imagery in very low-light conditions.

It’s Small and Lightweight

The 50mm lens has fewer mechanical components inside its shell. Because of this, the lens is the most compact and lightweight of the primes. This is a huge bonus for filmmakers or videographers when travelling — especially when you need to run and gun. By using a 50mm lens on a shoulder rig or Steadicam, the overall weight of your rig goes down considerably.

Must-Have Lenses for Wedding Photographers and Why

70-200mm f/2.8

It’s big, bulky, and heavy, but I wouldn’t do a wedding without this lens. The 70-200 f/2.8 is my workhorse when it comes to weddings. It is a versatile lens that gives you amazing sharpness at all focal lengths. The bokeh is beautiful, especially at 200mm and even with a stopped-down aperture (thanks to the compression created by the long focal length).

A 70-200mm f/2.8 makes a wedding photographer invisible. You don’t have to be close to people’s faces; you can capture candid expressions and serendipitous moments from a fair distance away. This lens is especially useful during the wedding ceremony, when you would rather be far away and out of sight or hidden behind a wall or door. It allows you to capture the exchange of rings, the vows, and the kiss discreetly.

If you require an even longer zoom while staying at the same distance, you can choose to photograph using Crop mode (if you shoot full-frame and your camera offers this option). This will generally give you a 1.5x crop factor (it only uses a portion of the image and enlarges it approximately 1.5x). If you do this, make sure that you have enough pixels for the crop in case you feel the need to straighten or change your composition in post-processing.

For example, if you are shooting with a 12 MP camera in its full-frame mode when you convert to your Crop mode, the camera becomes a 5 MP camera. This is below the minimum amount of pixels you need (generally around 6 MP) to enlarge prints to a decent size.

And if you have to crop in post-processing, 5 MP will not offer enough pixels to do so without compromising print output sizes.

However, if you are photographing with a 36 MP camera in Crop mode, it drops to 15.3 MP. While this is a significant resolution reduction, it still leaves you enough wiggle room for minimal and sensible cropping if necessary.

24-70mm f/2.8

The 24-70mm f/2.8 offers the focal length versatility needed when you are photographing on the go, which is what wedding photographers require for most of the day. You can use this lens to capture wider location scenes, candid photos of people, guests arriving, people milling and chatting while waiting for the ceremony to start or during the wedding breakfast, some decorations and details, the first dance, and the leaving photos, to cite just a few.

I use this lens for photos that do not require close portrait work, although it can be used for that type of image. The 50-70mm range will yield pleasing results, like the image directly below. However, my preference is to use prime lenses for portraits.

The 24-70mm lens sees a whole lot of action on the wedding day and is my other workhorse for capturing people, wider shots, and behind-the-scenes images.

Many photographers use a much wider lens for location photographs, such as a 14-24mm f/2.8. But while I would love to add this lens to my arsenal, this is not an absolute necessity. With the 24-70mm, you can photograph location scenes wide enough. And should you need to capture a wider scene, you could photograph a few images and stitch them together in Photoshop as a panorama. This is easy enough to do by making sure the exposure setting for the series of shots is the same, standing on a fixed point, then capturing a set of images while adjusting your composition slightly.

You can do the same for a photograph of all the guests, too. The two times mentioned above are the only times I need an ultra-wide lens for a wedding, so I cannot yet justify adding it to my list of must-haves.

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85mm prime

This is my all-time favourite lens and the one I use for portraits of the bride and groom, bridesmaids and groomsmen, individual guests and small groups (the list goes on!).

As a fixed lens, an 85mm prime requires more work on your part; you have to zoom in and out with your feet. But the extra effort is worth it. The portraits are cleaner, the backgrounds are creamier, and it is a fabulous lens in very low-light conditions.

The best thing about this lens is that it is tack sharp from the sweet spot on. Accurate, light-sensitive, with great results; this is my go-to lens, and it never leaves my bag. As a prime lens, the 85mm is fast, small, and extremely reliable.

35mm

One of my early serious lens investments was the amazing 35mm f/1.4. If there is a lens I can always rely on, it’s this one.

It’s an ultra-versatile lens that you can use to photograph the bride getting ready, which is the time when wedding photographers are usually under pressure to capture everything. This includes the location, the many accessories, any small details, candid shots, the dress, the natural interactions between the bride and her loved ones, and group portraits. Plus, you must do this in a very short amount of time, often in small spaces like cramped hotel rooms.

A 35mm lens is also perfect for photographing wider scenes because you can get images without the exaggerated distortions caused by a wider focal length.

This lens is super fast and sharp. It has yet to fail me. With this lens, you can get close, which is very handy when you are in a crowded space.

As if that weren’t enough, my 35mm lens opens up to f/1.4, which allows you to photograph in extremely low light, especially if you are too pressed for time and space to use off-camera flashes.

Even though the 35mm focal length is already covered by the 24-70mm f/2.8 (discussed above), the difference between f/1.4 and f/2.8 (two extra stops for four times the light) cannot be underestimated.

The 35mm is also offered as an f/1.8 version by Nikon, but it’s a DX lens that you can purchase for cheap (under $200).

You may wonder about the astronomical difference in price compared to the professional f/1.4 counterpart. First of all, you cannot use the DX lens on a full-frame camera without losing pixels, and the lens becomes 52.5mm which can be very limiting in tight spaces.

Secondly, the 35mm view is close enough to what the eye naturally sees, and I like that view. It allows you to capture images that give the viewer the impression that they could have been there seeing the scene themselves. This is an important element in any wedding photography, specifically wedding photography with a documentary style.

If you ever get to physically hold each lens in your hands at the same time, the enormous price difference between the f/1.4 version and the f/1.8 version won’t even be in question. The f/1.4 is considerably heavier and much bigger than the pocket-sized f/1.8. But don’t be fooled by appearances; the f/1.8 is also an outstanding lens with exceptional capabilities in its own right, and for crop-sensor cameras may be more than sufficient. It is easy on the budget.

If you already have a 50mm lens and your budget is constrained, then a 50mm prime could replace the 35mm prime on this list. It is also an incredible lens.

Although a 50mm doesn’t give you as much room to maneuver in smaller spaces as a 35mm, the bokeh on the 50mm is stunning, and it’s impressively sharp too, which is one of the top benefits of prime lenses. Like the 35mm lens, the 50mm is available as an f/1.8, f/1.4 or, for Canon cameras, an f/1.2 maximum aperture. The price difference is small between the f/1.8 and the f/1.4, but it jumps up to a huge number for the f/1.2.

105mm (100mm) or 60mm macro lens

A macro lens is the last of my must-have lenses for wedding photographers. It’s key if you want to capture detailed images of rings. You can also use your macro lens for photographing jewellery and other accessories while the bride is getting ready.

If the bride’s dress is adorned with jewels, a macro lens would also be ideal for photographing the details.

Besides, macro lenses are also great for portraits if you do not require an aperture wider than f/2.8. This makes macro lenses versatile options to carry around, especially 60mm macro lenses, which look and feel minuscule compared to the 105mm options (100mm for Canon). These macro lenses can generally stop down to f/32, which is handy, especially when photographing location landscapes in extremely bright sunlight.

Some photographers even use the 105mm macro lens as a substitute for the 70-200mm lens if the latter is just too out of reach. You can use the 105mm in Crop mode, which gives you 157.5mm; this is long enough to still be very inconspicuous at a wedding. A 105mm lens is also smaller and lighter, and it opens up to f/2.8. Plus, it doubles as a macro lens.

Check out our post on Which camera is best for wedding videography?

50 MM PRIME

The 50mm prime is often not the natural choice of wedding photographers. It is not ideally suited for portraits, especially if you plan to shoot close to the subject. There are some photographers who would have one of their camera bodies mounted with a 50mm lens for the entire duration of the shoot. It is, without doubt, one of the best lenses for candid and photojournalistic styles. It is sharp, fast, accurate and ideally suitable for low light conditions.

The biggest reason why one would shoot a wedding with a 50mm lens is that it gives consistent results in all kinds of lighting. At a wedding you can use your 50mm lens both indoors with ambient light and outdoors, when the sun has gone down, with equal ease, never worrying about the lack of light.

As it gives you a standard perspective of things, it is ideal when you are shooting group photos, and couple shoots from the knee up or even those special candid moments which were not on the list.

When shooting those getting ready shots, because of the larger field of view with a 50mm lens compared to something like the 85mm, you can cover a larger section of the bride’s dress, instead of focusing on a smaller area.

Another reason you would want to use the 50mm is that it will force you to be creative, thereby make your images from the weirdest of angles possible. I saw a photographer shoot one of them getting ready shots lying flat on the floor! He later explained that he needed to get the reflection of his lens hood out of the mirror. The result was a unique image, which I had never seen before.

There are several choices when it comes to 50mm lenses. Both Nikon and Canon offer some excellent options. Anyone of them would do. The real trick is in able to use the lens properly. With a 50mm lens, you would be working 2 to 3 times as hard as you normally would with a zoom lens, because you would have to run around a lot!

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