One of the greatest privileges of being a wedding photographer is being entrusted with the task of recording the events of one of the most important days in the lives of the newlyweds. It is essential to use a variety of photographic techniques throughout the event. With this in mind, it's important to have the right lens for each photo opportunity, whether you're taking a group shot, a portrait of the happy couple, a detailed shot of the engagement ring, or a wide-angle shot of the first dance.
While you're experimenting with various lenses, it can't hurt to look to other wedding photographers for inspiration. Learning new skills, honing your existing ones, and keeping an eye on the market for emerging trends are all essential parts of developing as a photographer.
It's important to take into account the characteristics of the wedding you'll be photographing while choosing on the finest lens to use. For instance, how long does the shoot last in general? Is it a traditional wedding or will there be a special theme? How many people can you expect to attend? Will it be a small, intimate gathering of 60, or a massive, boisterous bash for 600? Do you work with a cohort or do you prefer to operate independently?
When selecting lenses to use for a wedding shoot, you may want to keep the aforementioned factors in mind. If the couple has only engaged you to work for a maximum of four hours, it may not be possible to carry your complete bag of lenses (basically just for wedding photographs and the ceremony). On the other hand, if you're going to be filming nonstop for 12 hours or more, you'll appreciate having greater flexibility. Having more time between events allows you to switch lenses more frequently, but it can also force you to think laterally and change your perspective, which is where creative lenses come in. In certain traditions, the bridal party will travel from home to home for several days. There will probably be dozens of smaller ceremonies spaced out throughout the wedding day, so it's a good idea to pack a selection of lenses.
The most expensive or most popular lenses on the rack at your local camera store won't necessarily be the best choice. It takes time and thought to determine which lens best serves your photographic goals, those of your customer, and your own artistic sensibilities.
Before we get into the nuances of choosing lenses for weddings, let's go over some of the basics of the various lenses.
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Table of Contents
Which are the best lenses for wedding and event photography?
- 70-200mm f/2.8 telephotos: Perfect for portraits and creative background blur
- 24-70mm f/2.8 standard zooms: The ideal ready-for-anything lens to keep on the camera
- 16-35mm f/2.8 wide-angles (or similar): Perfect for the church, reception and group shots
- 90-100mm macro lens: For close-ups of the ring and table decorations and a great focal length for head and shoulders portraits too
- 35mm f/1.4 or 1.8: The classic focal length for candid shots, with a wide aperture to handle low light and deliver nice background blur
Full frame or APS-C?
Since full-frame cameras are the standard for professional photographers, that's what we've focused on for this roundup. The images would still be excellent using an APS-C or MFT camera, but you might not have as many options for lenses, especially constant aperture zooms and wide-aperture primes.
The Best Lenses for Wedding Photography
Bright, Wide-Angle Zoom: The 24-70mm f/2.8
This wide-to-medium zoom lens has a broad focal length range and a relatively large maximum aperture.
The lens's field of view is large enough to accommodate the full ceremony. The telephoto end may be adapted for close-up photos and portraits, making it useful for both group shots and individual subjects.
Some companies produce several variations of this lens because of how common it is for use in wedding photography. The main distinction is usually optical picture stabilisation (IS).
This stabilisation is especially useful while shooting in low light. The ISO can be lowered, especially with the slower shutter speeds. However, image stabilisation is more important in telephoto and macro lenses than in wide-angle lenses.
Because of how widespread it is, even unaffiliated companies are producing their own versions. If you're looking to save money on wedding photography equipment, this might be helpful.
Bright, Versatile Telephoto: The 70-200mm f/2.8
The 70-200mm's extensive zoom range and relatively long focal length help to bring focus to the subject.
When you need to go up close and personal, or capture finer details in general, the 70-200mm is the lens for you. This lens's long focal length makes it suitable for portraiture as well. The length will make it simpler to create delicate backgrounds. Simply open the aperture to blur everyone else in the shot save the bride and groom.
Nonetheless, there is a drawback. Due to its long focal length and big aperture, this lens is relatively heavy. It's a splurge if you're planning on using it at your wedding.
Shutter speeds should typically be higher than focal lengths. Shooting at 1/50 is no problem with a 50mm lens, but you'll need a lot more light to use the suggested 1/200 shutter speed when using a 200mm lens. A lens with image stabilisation would be useful here.
As the focal length of a lens lengthens, the need for image stabilisation becomes more pressing. If you can swing it, invest in image stabilisation technology for your longest lens.
Wedding photographers frequently use two lenses, one wide-angle (24-70mm) and another telephoto (70-200mm). During the day's calmer periods, when it would be inconvenient to change lenses, these are very helpful.
You cannot do without this lens if you plan on taking wedding photos.
Portrait Prime: The 85mm and 50mm f/1.8
Prime lenses, in contrast to the standard zoom range of 70–200mm, have a larger aperture. When it comes to autofocus and image quality, some manufacturers even offer advantages. Since they lack the zoom mechanism, prime lenses are often smaller, lighter, and less expensive.
When using a full-frame camera, the 85mm is a great choice for portraiture. More pleasing results can be achieved by using a longer focal length as opposed to a broader angle. And yet, you may still use it to capture photographs in confined areas.
The 50mm lens is also widely used for portraits, despite the fact that it doesn't provide quite as much separation from the background as the 85mm. Photographers shooting weddings on a tight budget will find that a 50mm lens is ideal. It provides the large aperture light without the astronomical cost.
Using a prime lens with a brighter aperture, such as an f/1.8, will help you achieve even more seamless blending between foreground and background in portraiture. Some manufacturers provide lenses with apertures as large as f/1.2 or f/1.4.
When shooting in dim conditions, the wider aperture is preferable to the smaller f/2.8 opening. This lens comes in handy at evening events and other low-light situations.
For the Details: The Macro Lenses
There are only a handful of albums that include pictures of the wedding bands and other minor details, but these images are nonetheless meaningful.
With the right macro lens, you may capture stunning images of flowers and architecture as well as your precious ring collection. They can be used for anything from images of the bride's eyelashes and cosmetics to the wedding album itself.
Macro lenses come in a variety of focal lengths and apertures. With a longer focal length, you can achieve greater background defocus. Due to the extreme closeness required to capture a macro shot, a great deal of blur is inherent in the final product. To rephrase: a wedding photographer doesn't need an f/1.2.
If you decide to invest in a brighter macro lens, you won't be limited to shooting in macro. Many lenses allow you to disable the close-up feature, allowing you to take pictures as if you were using a conventional lens. Investing in a bright macro that doubles as a portrait prime can be a good way to cut costs.
Similarly to how telephoto lenses benefit more from stabilisation, macro lenses benefit more from stabilisation than wide-angle lenses. Because of the increased magnification, camera shake will be more noticeable.
The Wide, Bright Performer: The 35mm Prime
Storytelling is a vital part of wedding photography. Sometimes the photos that really make the story come to life require a wider lens. Compared to a wide telephoto lens, a prime 35mm lens is both lighter and brighter.
Prime lenses with a 35mm format tend to be both brilliant and reasonably priced. Perfect for photographing the entire dance floor or the entire ceremony setup.
The Absolute Best Lens…is it?
As I was getting started in wedding photography, I kept hearing that the 70-200mm 2.8 is THE BEST lens for the job. This lens was dubbed the "ultimate wedding lens" by one website I visited. I absolutely needed it. I put a lot of money away and now I can't wait to use it at my future wedding. For sure, I enjoyed using it, and there were times when it was instrumental in helping me get a great shot from a great distance (ex: the final I Do & kiss while standing from the back of a large church).
But what I discovered was unexpected: it wasn't my go-to or even my favourite lens for weddings. I discovered that while it can be very useful in some situations, I generally prefered to use my other lenses whenever possible.
In low light, the 70-200mm isn't always fast enough for my tastes, thus I prefer using prime lenses instead. As a result of its weight, I am constantly concerned that my camera would wobble. When zoomed in, it does a fantastic job of isolating the foreground object from the backdrop, making it stand out prominently. Even though it's not my favourite, I wouldn't be without it because it's so useful when you can't go as near as you'd like. To avoid having to buy a 70-200mm lens just for the few weddings you plan on photographing each year, you may want to look into renting one instead. Inexpensive lens rentals are available.
What is the best lens for wedding photography?
What follows is merely my personal view based on my own wedding-going experience, but here's what I've learned: every wedding is special and unique in its own way. Depending on the specifics of each situation, the best lens to use will change. Your optimal decision will depend on a number of things.
To sum up, there is no such thing as having "too many lenses" when photographing a wedding. I bring two cameras (a D700 and a D3S) so that I can have two lenses active at once and switch between several different lenses as needed. Let's discuss some considerations for selecting lenses.
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How to choose your lenses for wedding photography
The spaces you are working with will play a huge part in your lens choice.
For candid shots of the bride and her attendants getting ready, a 35mm lens may be a lot of fun; but, if you have the space to back up, a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera can help you avoid lens distortion. If you're looking for a versatile lens that can zoom in and out, the 24-70mm is a solid option as well.
What is your second shooter shooting with?
Each time I fire, I use a different weapon than my backup. As a result of their distinct perspective and approach, they are able to take striking photographs. Have a discussion with your second and figure out who will shoot when and with what equipment.
What kind of available light are you working with?
Use a fast lens if you need to take photos in dim conditions (lower aperture number)
If the wedding takes place in a church, the church's rules will guide what your lens choices are.
A lot of churches have rules about how far away from the altar you can get (obviously in that scenario, a long lens is best). You may be able to roam about and get a little bit closer in some churches than in others. Outdoor nuptials are more relaxed and enjoyable than their indoor counterparts.
In light of our discussion thus far, I'll give you a brief overview of what happens during a normal wedding for me and why I use the lenses that I do. Aside from using two bodies, I also frequently alter lenses.
The Best Cameras for Wedding Photography
If you ask any professional photographer, they will tell you that the lens is far more important than the camera body. The shutter speed and ISO requirements are quite significant when shooting in possibly low-light and fast-moving conditions, so it is still useful to know which cameras are the best for wedding photography in particular.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should serve as a solid jumping off point for those curious about the top full-frame cameras for wedding photography. Unsure if you want to spend your hard-earned money on a camera or lens you have never used? If you're not sure if it's the appropriate fit, our friends at BorrowLenses recommend giving it a try through a rental.
An inexpensive alternative that excels in low-light photography. While it can keep up with the 5D Mark III, it lacks the 5D Mark III's excellent autofocus, which might be a problem for wedding photographers.
Perfect for those looking for a Nikon alternative that doesn't break the bank but still delivers on performance. Despite being a DX (crop) sensor, this camera is a great choice for novice or intermediate wedding photographers thanks to its fast frame rate and usable ISO range.
Canon 5D Mark III
This camera is a wedding photographer's dream because of how well it performs in low light, how fast its AutoFocus is, and how well it can withstand the elements. In spite of being more expensive than the Canon 6D, it delivers excellent results.
The D7300 is an improvement over the D7200 in terms of resolution, frame rate, and sensitivity to light. In spite of providing the photographer with professional features, its price is still manageable.
The finest Nikon professional camera for shooting weddings. You get 36 megapixels, an incredible ISO range, and rock-solid performance for the steep price tag. The sole drawback as compared to the D750 is a slightly slower frame rate.
The 50-megapixel CMOS sensor in this Canon set a new standard. It should be made clear that this level of resolution is not necessary for the great majority of wedding photographers. The effects from this camera can be rather impressive when the right lens is used.
Prime Lenses for Shooting Weddings
When photographing a wedding, a prime lens is invaluable. Many wedding photographers simply bring prime lenses, but any serious photographer should bring prime, zoom, and macro lenses.
Because of their speed and portability, prime lenses are frequently chosen over other lens types. Images produced by the glass are significantly sharper when the focus is locked in place. Making ensuring you have the best prime lens for shooting weddings is the gold standard in the industry, as these photographers prioritise speed and quality above all else.
Zoom Lenses for Shooting Weddings
Because of how far zoom lenses have come, even if you aren't a professional photographer, you should bring one with you on the big day. The right zoom lens will let you to play around with different focal lengths, allowing you to take beautiful photos of the ceremony and reception without being in the way.
Micro Lenses for Shooting Weddings
Most serious wedding photographers will have a macro lens in their kit. Why? Macro lenses are specialised optics that allow photographers to capture lifelike details in subjects that are often out of reach. Photos taken with a macro lens can have the appearance of being taken from a bridal magazine, whether the subject is the bride's ring, a decorative piece, or the beautiful beadwork on the bride's dress.
Despite macro lenses being the most expensive option, a 50mm prime lens is more than capable of capturing minute details for amateur wedding photographers. If you're serious about wedding photography, though, you should come back to us once you've amassed some experience to get our advice on a good macro lens for the occasion.
For more, see our breakdown of the best smartphone camera lenses.
Keep in mind that the final image quality will change depending on the lens you use. Keep in mind that the effect of a 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera will be different from that on a full-frame camera. For the time being, let's assume that you primarily shoot with a full-frame camera.
The lens you pick will have a significant impact on the final product of your wedding photography. Irreplaceable for documenting each and every second of the day.
Most people opt for 24-70mm or 70-200mm bright zooms when using their cameras for this purpose. Think about prime lenses like the 85mm, 50mm, 35mm, and the macro.
Lenses that are bright, clear, and versatile are ideal for weddings.
Find the best lens for your camera that also fits within your wedding budget. You'll be able to get the best images of the wedding wherever, whether it's indoors or out.
There's a lens for every situation, and you should always have it handy. Think about what makes this wedding unique so that you can capture it in the best light. It's a good idea to bring a few lenses, as there will be dozens of little ceremonies spread out throughout the wedding day. In order to take great photographs while also blurring the background artistically, a 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto is ideal. Since full-frame cameras are the norm for serious photographers, that's what we've focused on for this roundup.
The need for image stabilisation is greater in telephoto and macro lenses than in wide-angle ones. If you're going to be shooting a wedding, the 70-200mm is the lens for you. Because of its long focal length, it is also great for portraits. Despite its reduced ability to isolate subjects from their surroundings, the 50mm lens is also a popular choice for portraiture. Macro lenses can be found in a wide range of apertures and focal lengths.
The smaller f/2.8 aperture is less desirable for photographing in low light, thus opt with the larger aperture if possible. To take images as if you were using a regular lens, the close-up feature may be turned off on many lenses. The 70-200mm 2.8 has been called the "ultimate wedding lens" by one source. Despite its usefulness, I don't typically use or even particularly enjoy using this lens for weddings. Pick the perspective that best captures the individuality of your wedding.
The 24-70mm is a good choice if you need a lens that can zoom in and out. If you must shoot images in poor light, invest in a fast lens (lower aperture number). The use of a long lens is recommended if the wedding will be held inside of a church. The Canon 5D Mark III's exceptional low-light performance makes it ideal for wedding photography. The D750 from Nikon is a step up in terms of image quality, frame rate, and light sensitivity from the D7200.
The 50MP CMOS sensor is revolutionising the wedding photography industry. In fact, a macro lens is a must-have for any professional wedding photographer. The use of macro lenses, which are specialised optics, allows photographers to create incredibly realistic close-ups of subjects. Photographers without professional equipment can get by with a 50mm prime lens and still get great shots of the wedding. Check out our rundown of the top camera apps for smartphones for more information.
- It's crucial to employ a wide range of photographic approaches during the celebration.
- When deciding which lens is best to use, it's crucial to think about the specifics of the wedding you'll be photographing.
- If you want your wedding film to be a contender for best of the year, consult our comprehensive list of videographers.
- I'm looking for advice on what lenses to buy for photographing weddings and other special events.
- This lens is relatively weighty due to its long focal length and large aperture.
- The need of picture stabilisation increases when using a lens with a longer focal length.
- If you have the means, get a lens with image stabilisation for your longest focal length.
- Primitive Portrait: When compared to the typical zoom range of 70-200mm, the apertures of the 85mm and 50mm f/1.8Prime lenses are significantly larger.
- The smaller f/2.8 aperture is less desirable for photographing in low light, thus opt with the larger aperture if possible.
- A prime 35mm lens has greater light-gathering capacity and portability than a wide-angle telephoto lens.
- The majority of 35mm prime lenses are high quality and affordable.
- The 70-200mm 2.8 is THE BEST lens for wedding photography, I was told as I was beginning my career in the field.
- The optimal perspective to take on each given task shifts according to the circumstances.
- Discuss who will shoot when and with what gear with your second.
- If you must shoot images in poor light, invest in a fast lens (lower aperture number)
- If the ceremony is taking place in a religious building, you'll need to adhere to the guidelines set forth by the venue.
- In fact, a macro lens is a must-have for any professional wedding photographer.
- Although macro lenses are the best option for professional photographers, a 50mm prime lens is more than adequate for amateur wedding photographers.
- Consider your wedding photography budget while deciding on a lens.
FAQs About Wedding Photography
Wedding photography is important because it will capture your day, it will capture your memories, it will tell a story, and not just any story, it will tell a beautiful story of your special day, a day you will never forget.
The three variables that matter the most in photography are simple: light, subject, and composition.
There are many elements in photography that come together to make an image be considered “good”. Elements like lighting, the rule of thirds, lines, shapes, texture, patterns, and color all work well together to add interest and a great deal of composition in photographs.
Wedding photographers typically deliver fully edited photo galleries 3-6 weeks after the wedding day. Many photographers send the couple 10-20 “sneak-peeks” or teaser photos to keep them happy while the rest of the photos are being edited.
Nobody needs a wedding photographer. We need food, shelter, water, healthcare, human contact. We want weddings, because we like beautiful and meaningful events that honor our love and our families!