Wedding photography is a great way to earn money with your camera however to win the work and capture the best wedding photos you need to use the best wedding lens for the job, and the best lens depends on what aspect of the wedding you are taking photos of. Unfortunately, there is no single best wedding lens and you will have to have a collection with you………..
Best wedding lens for the ceremony
The wedding ceremony is something you have to nail as a wedding photographer, and if you fail the happy couple won’t have any pics of the most important part of the wedding, i.e. the exchanging of vows. Mess up the ceremony photography and you will not make it as a wedding photographer.
I appreciate some couples have outdoor ceremonies, however most wedding ceremonies take place indoors where light levels are low, such as in churches and chapels. This lack of light is something you, as the wedding photographer has to deal with.
In addition to the dimly lit venues you are going to be stood quite a distance from the bride and groom, and you also have to consider this when choosing an appropriate lens.
A wide angle lens is no good for photographing a wedding ceremony, and in my experience the best wedding lens for the ceremony is a 70mm – 200mm f2.8 zoom lens. The 70mm – 200mm focal length is versatile and will allow you to zoom in nice and close for frame filling shots whilst standing a fair distance from the bride and groom. Using a 70mm – 200mm lens you can zoom right in and isolate parts of the body (the bride’s face as she is unveiled, the hands whilst exchanging the rings etc.) or you can pull back to the wide end and include a full body shot of the happy couple. I would never use a prime lens during the wedding ceremony because you need to use different focal lengths for the event and having to change lenses is not only a faff but it is also slow, cumbersome and you could miss something special.
The 2.8 aperture is crucial not only to deal with the low ambient light (and keep camera shake at bay) but to also get a shallow depth of field when needed. Whilst you may be able to get away with an f4 70mm – 200mm lens in some locations this is not going to be sufficient for many places therefore I would suggest buying a 2.8 lens in the first instance.
The 70mm – 200mm zoom is poplar and as such there is a large choice available from all the major camera manufacturers as well as third parties. I shoot a Canon, which makes four different l series 70mm – 200mm lenses, and the lens I use is the 70mm – 200mm f2.8L IS. The build quality of this lens is superb, the image quality of this lens is superb, the 2.8 maximum aperture gathers the light (making it great for low light situations) and the image stabilisation ensures sharp hand held shots at slower shutter speeds. The Canon 70mm – 200mm f2.8L IS is, without a doubt the best wedding lens for the ceremony. For a quick review of this lens take a look at Canon lens review – 70mm – 200mm f2.8L IS
Buy the Canon 70 - 200 f2.8L IS from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
Best wedding lens for group shots
In order to take group shots and ensure everyone is in the frame you are going to need a wider lens, therefore the best wedding lens for group shots is, in my opinion and experience, the 16mm – 35mm zoom lens.
When shooting with an ultra-wide field of view you need to be careful with distortion, which means grabbing a 12mm lens, sticking it on the camera and taking group wedding shots isn’t going to work. In my experience the widest you can go without distortion is 16mm, hence this is the shortest focal length I use for wedding photography. The longest focal length I use for group shots is 28mm, therefore the 16mm – 35mm zoom lens is the best wedding lens for group shots in my opinion.
When taking group shots you need to be careful with the choice of aperture and depth of field. Whilst it may be tempting to shoot wide open for a shallow depth of field you need to make sure that everyone in the group photo is in focus. When you multiple rows of people a wide aperture often renders some people out of focus. Because of this the best wedding lens for group shots needn’t be a super-fast lens with a really wide maximum aperture.
The lens I use for group wedding shots is the Canon 16mm – 35mm f4L IS lens, and I think it is the best wedding lens for group shots currently available. This lens is small, light and comfortable to use. This lens is not intimidating for the people in the photograph, like the 16mm – 35mm f2.8L can be, and I usually get a more engaging photo as a result. I find a widest aperture of f4 the absolute widest and I have never wished I was using the 16mm – 35mm f2.8 instead. The f4 has 4 stop image stabilisation which is great since t allows me to dispense with the tripod and move around the group taking hand held shots from all different angles knowing they are going to be sharp. For a quick review of this awesome lens check out Canon lens review – 16mm – 35mm f4L IS
Buy the Canon 16 - 35 f4L IS lens from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
Best wedding lens for the speeches
The speeches is an awkward part of the wedding to photograph and different photographers have different styles. I went to a wedding where the photographer used a wide angle lens to photograph the speeches which meant he was right up close to the top table moving around a few feet from the wedding party sticking a camera in their face in an intrusive manner.
I like to see the people actually speaking but with the photographer so close he got in the way, which ruined it not only for me but many of the other wedding guests.
Wide angles are not the best wedding lenses for the speeches and I would never recommend using one to photograph this part of the wedding. A wedding photographer should never be in the way and should be able to get the shot without being intrusive.
When it comes to photographing the speeches the best wedding lens is a 70mm – 200mm f2.8 lens. This type of zoom lens will allow you to be far enough back to not be intrusive or in the way, but also zoom in nice and close for frame filling shots. Basically, the best wedding lens for the ceremony is the best wedding lens for the speeches.
Best wedding lens for artistic shots
There was a time when wedding photography simply involved taking photographs of the bride and groom, the wedding party and the guests, and there was tie when wedding photography was nothing but portrait photography.
Times have changed and modern day wedding photography is totally different. The bride and groom still want photos of the people at the wedding, but they also want artistic shots of other wedding things.
Nowadays wedding photographers are being asked to take close up photos of the wedding bands, close up photos of the cake, close up photos of the dress, close up photos of the brides shoes… the list goes on and on. A wedding photographer has to be a great portrait photographer as well as a product photographer for these artistic shots.
The best wedding lens for these artistic shots is a 100mm macro lens. Macro lenses are versatile and allows you to take extreme close up shots (i.e. true macro shots), close up shots and also general shots. Macro lenses are also super sharp and the image quality is awesome.
There is a large choice of macro lenses from both the large camera manufacturers as well as third parties, so there is something for all wedding photographers.
The macro lens I use for wedding photography is the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS, and it is a lens I highly recommend. This lens is the sharpest lens I have, and being an L lens it is tough, durable and bullet proof. The image stabilisation works very well and allows me to move around different subjects snapping tack sharp hand held shots as I go. For a review of this lens check out Canon lens review – 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens
Buy the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
Best wedding lens for the after ceremony party
When taking photographs of the after party the best lens is a 24mm – 70mm f2.8 lens. The 24mm – 70mm focal length is perfect for walking around capturing photos of the bride and groom, the wedding party and all the wedding guests having fun. The 24mm end allows for some wide shots (small group shots) whereas the 70mm long end allows for some closer frame filling shots.
Focal lengths of 24mm, 28mm, 35mm and 50mm are very popular for portrait photography, and the 24mm – 70mm lens includes all of these which makes it a versatile lens.
Low light at the after ceremony party means you need a lens with a wide aperture to make sure it can gather enough light, and the 2.8 aperture is perfect for this.
I shoot a Canon and the 24mm – 70mm lens I use is the Canon 24mm – 70mm f2.8L and I have to say it is a great lens. Being an l series lens it is tough, durable and contains the best optics. The image quality is superb, there are no issues with sharpness and the colours are bright, vivid and not oversaturated. The Canon 24mm – 70mm is a big and heavy lens, and some people may feel a little intimidated when it is pointed at them from close range, but all things considered it is the best wedding lens for the after ceremony party. For a review of this lens check out Canon lens review – 24mm – 70mm f2.8L
Buy the Canon 24 - 70 f2.8L lens from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens).
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.