A candid photo is an image taken without any prior preparation, i.e. off the cuff. To capture true candid wedding photos you have to effectively point, shoot and fire off a few frames before the subject has any idea what is going on.
Go to any wedding, and there will be those guests hawking the official wedding photographer noting his or her every movement and getting ready to jump in and pose for a photo at every possible opportunity. At the other end of the scale there will be those guests hawk eyeing the official wedding photographer so they can dodge out of the way and make sure they are absent for every shot. Candid wedding photography involves capturing photos of those people who love having their photo taken, those people who don’t like having their photo taken, and everyone in between.
To be successful at candid wedding photography you need to blend in to the background and be ready to take a shot as unplanned opportunities arise, and when these opportunities do arise the lens lovers won’t have the chance to get in there and pose, and the lens haters won’t have the chance to run away.
The ideal lenses for candid wedding photography are small, lightweight, discreet and not in your face. Large telephoto lenses are not ideal as you can’t hide them out of the way. Similarly, my normal wedding photography workhorse lens, my Canon 24mm – 70mm f2.8L (reviewed here) is too big and noticeable to capture candid wedding photos.
The perfect lenses for candid wedding photography photos are small prime lenses. 85mm and 50mm prime lenses are popular for taking portraits but for candid wedding photography shots I would say these lenses aren’t wide enough. Personally, I prefer to use a 40mm or 35mm prime lens as I can be real close and personal to the subjects and still manage to get them in the frame. Out of the two prime lenses the 40mm is the smallest, however the maximum widest aperture is f2.8, which isn’t always wide enough. The other problem I have with the 40mm prime is that I prefer the image quality of my 35mm prime lens however if I want a “snatch and grab” type photo the 40mm is the lens to go for.
CANON EF 40MM F2.8 (full review here)
Focal Length – Full frame/APS-C:- 40mm/ 64mm/ Aperture:- 2.8 - 22/ Min focus:- 11.8"/ Dimensions:- 2.69" x 0.9"/ Weight:- 4.6 oz/ Image stabilization:- No/ Price (approx.) $USD/£ GBP:- $180.00/£145.00
This is a cracking little lens that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. The 40mm focal length, whilst unconventional, is great when you want something a little wider than what the 50mm will give and the more I use this lens the more I find I really like the 40mm framing. This lens is a ‘pancake’ lens that is absolutely tiny and it is the smallest and most discreet lens I have ever used. It is a no frills lens and very basic but the build quality is good and the image quality is superb. This is definitely a lens to consider.
The Canon 40mm f2.8 is available from Adorama, Amazon (US), eBay, Amazon (UK)
One thing I should point out is that the Canon 40mm f2.8 only works on full frame cameras so if you have a crop sensor camera it won’t work. This is not too much of a problem though because Canon also make an EF-S 24mm f2.8 lens specifically for crop sensor cameras (as pictured below). This lens has an effective focal length of 38.4mm (so almost 40mm) and is built to the same specification, and has the same image quality, as the 40mm lens.
Focal Length – Full frame/APS-C:- N/A/ 88.4mm/ Aperture:- 2.8 - 22/ Min focus:- 6.3"/ Dimensions:- 2.69" x 0.9"/ Weight:- 4.4oz/ Image stabilization:- No/ Price (approx.) $USD/£ GBP:- $150.00/£125.00
I was so impressed with the 40mm f2.8 for my full frame camera I ended up buying the Canon 24mm f2.8 for my crop sensor dslrs and boy am I glad I did. It really is an awesome lens.
The Canon EF-S 24mm f2.8 is available from Adorama, Amazon (US), eBay, Amazon (UK)
CANON EF 35MM F2 IS (full review here)
Focal Length – Full frame/APS-C:- 35mm/ 42mm/ Aperture:- 2 - 22/ Min focus:- 9.4"/ Dimensions:- 3.07" x 2.46"/ Weight:- 11.8oz/ Image stabilization:- Yes/ Price (approx.) $USD/£ GBP:-$550.00/£445.00
I know that many photographers would instantly reach for the 35mm f1.4 lens for candid wedding photography however my lens of choice is this, the Canon 35mm f2 IS lens. The 35mm f1.4 lenses are big and noticeable, whereas this one is small and discreet, making it ideal for candid shots. Okay, the maximum widest aperture is f2, which is narrower than f1.4 but when using this f2 lens focusing isn’t as critical and you can be slightly ‘off’ and still get a sharp photo. Being slightly ‘off’ with an f1.4 lens is going to result in a photo that is slightly soft in areas, such as the ears or the nose which is most annoying.
Whilst you don’t really need image stabilization with short focal length lenses it is very useful when taking candid shots indoors, and since a lot of the wedding celebration is held indoors it is pretty obvious image stabilization is a good thing on this lens.
The Canon 35mm f2 IS is available from Adorama, Amazon (US), eBay, Amazon (UK)
An alternative to the Canon 35mm f2 lens IS
YONGNUO 35MM F2
Focal Length – Full frame/APS-C:- 35mm/56mm/ Aperture:- f2 - 22 /Min focus:- 9.8”/ Dimensions:- 2.9” X 2.3”/ Weight:- 5.4oz / Image stabilization:- No / Price (approx.) $USD/£ GBP:- $90.00/£85.00
If you don’t shoot a Canon camera a great alternative lens is the Yongnuo 35mm f2 lens. This lens isn’t built to the same high spec as the Canon (although it’s not too bad), and it doesn’t have image stabilization but the image quality isn’t too far off, and for the stupidly low price you have to pay it is an exceptional lens that gives a lot of bang for the buck.
Below are some other wedding photography tutorials, posts and articles you may find interesting. Please feel free to head on over and check them out:
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.