Have you ever wondered which lenses are in a wedding photographer’s bag? There is a plethora of choice when it comes to lenses, and lens companies come up with new products all the time. Many photographers are attracted to these bright and shiny things and end up with an enormous collection of lenses, many of which hardly see the light of day. If you have to pare back to the absolute necessities and are allowed five lenses in your wedding photography bag, these are the ones that most professional photographers would recommend.
The 70-200mm f/2.8
The 24-70mm f/2.8
The 85mm prime
The 35mm prime
1. 70-200mm f/2.8
This lens makes a wedding photographer invisible. You don’t have to be so 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 ceremony, where 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, vows, and kiss discreetly.
For example, if you are shooting with a 12MP camera such as the old Nikon D700 on FX mode, when you convert to DX mode, the camera becomes a 5MP camera, which is below the minimum amount of pixels you can have – 6MP – to be able to enlarge prints to a decent size. If you have to crop in post-processing, this will not give you enough pixels to be able to do so without compromising print output sizes safely.
2. 24-70mm f/2.8
3. 85mm Prime
The 85mm for Nikon comes in either an f/1.8 or f/1.4 version. There is a considerable price difference between these two lenses. It is due to the glass elements and optics. However, many photographers may swing from one lense to another; therefore, they are divided between which lens is better. I have the f/1.8, and it has always performed marvelously for professionals. The f/1.4 has been on the lens list forever, and while someone could buy it as the 85mm is on the necessity list, photographers have held off given that it has never felt the need to upgrade.
This is an ultra-versatile lens that you can use to photograph the bride getting ready – the time when wedding photographers are usually under pressure to capture everything from location, the myriad of accessories, details, candid shots, the dress, the natural interactions between the bride and her loved ones, and group portraits – in a very short amount of time and more often than not, in small spaces like cramped hotel rooms. It is also perfect for photographing more extensive scenes, and you get images without the exaggerated distortions that you get with the 24mm.
This lens is super fast and sharp and has yet to fail me. With this lens, you can get close, with 0.3m (11.7″) minimum focusing distance – very handy when you are in in a crowded space. As if that weren’t enough, this lens opens up to f/1.4 which can let you photograph in shallow light, especially if you are so pressed for time and space to use off-camera flashes. Even though the 24-70mm already covers the 35mm focal length, the difference between f/1.4 and f/2.8, in its ability to allow more light in (two more stops of 4x the light), cannot be underestimated.
The 35mm also comes in f/1.8, a DX lens anyone can purchase inexpensively (under $200). You may wonder why 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 without the 35mm focal lens becoming a 52.5mm, which can be very limiting in tight spaces. Secondly, the 35mm view is close enough to what the eye naturally sees which people say is around 40mm in loose terms, and I like that view. If you are a wedding photographer, it allows you to capture images that give the viewer the impression that they could have been there, seeing the same view themselves. It is an essential element in any wedding photography, specifically that with a documentary style, in my opinion.