One of the most common questions I receive is "what lens do you use?" and "what is your favorite lens to use on a wedding day?". I thought that this would be a great topic to discuss on the blog and over on my Instagram IGTV channel. I use several lenses throughout the course of a wedding but I definitely have my favorites and must-have lenses. I've listed each lens below including why I love it and how I use it for each part of the wedding.
Oh, and I should mention that I do not use zoom lenses. Yep, you read that right. From the compression, higher aperture's and slower speeds just do not work for me in my own wedding photography. I prefer prime lenses for their speed, low light capabilities, and overall sharpness. They are, however, VERY expensive and unfortunately there is no way around the price of prime lens so if you can find a good one used, I say grab it while you can! I hope its helpful!!
Let's start with my all time ride or die lens - the 50mm 1.4. I absolutely love the 50mm focal length because it's as close to our own eyes as possible. I love that there is no distortion and the perspective is exactly how we see it. It's very flattering on our faces and bodies keeping everything as natural as possible. I have two 50mm's but the one that spends 95% of the time on my camera is the 50mm 1.4 Sigma Art lens for Nikon. This lens is simply the best 50mm out there in my humble opinion. It's unbelievable sharp (which I actually turn down in post-processing) and is a true workhorse. I purchased this lens 3 years ago and it hasn't left my side since! I photograph everything from the details, getting ready, bridal portraits, bride and groom photos, reception details, wedding toast and speeches with this lens. However, when I do get to the reception, I will switch out the heavier Sigma lens for my lighter Nikon 50mm 1.4G. This lens is so small and light that it's perfect for receptions when my back starts to ache from running around all day. This lens has zero distortion or vignetting (dark shading at the corners of the frame) which is exactly why I prefer the 50mm lens to any other. Also, the 1.4 aperture allows me to shoot very wide open and let in a lot of light in low light situations like wedding receptions or sparkler exits. This is hands down my number ONE recommendation for any wedding photographer looking to build their gear kit. It's a must-have, can't live without kind of lens for me!
the 35mm 1.4 Lens is a fantastic wide angle lens that has very minimal to no distortion on the edges of the frame. The 35mm is the perfect lens for those tight hotel rooms or stunning ceremony locations. I will use the 35mm for getting ready photos in small hotel rooms. I always use this lens for clean wide ceremony photos just after the bride and groom have walked down the aisle. This is the perfect time to take a few stunning wide photos of the ceremony space with everyone seated so the couple can remember what it looked like. The 35mm is great for large bridal party shots and always on my camera body for family formals. Especially, the extended family! This lens is great for cocktail hour photos when asking guests to smile for the camera. Last, I will use this lens for the first dance, father-daughter/mother-son dances and speeches/toasts to include more of the reception room in the photos before switching to a tighter lens. When guests are eating, I like to include a few ambient photos of the space so the couple can get a full sense of their wedding venue during their reception. I think it's a nice way to add to more photos into their final wedding gallery. I will put the 35mm away after the last toast and switch it out for a wider, lighter lens. (see below). A less expensive option, would be the 35mm 1.4 Sigma Art Lens for Nikon.
the 85mm 1.4 Lens is a beast! She is perfect for getting in close without being noticed and still has the power and speed of a prime lens. I use the 85mm during my engagement sessions when we are just starting and couples can be a bit nervous. I'll walk away and give them an action to do and capture them from afar so they can start to get comfortable. I like that I can get a close up shot without being directly in front of them. I love this lens for wedding ceremonies and getting close up reactions from family members, the bride and groom and wedding guests during the service. It also produces the prettiest bokeh (blurry background) in the photos. I always use this lens during the reception for couples first dance, parent dances, speeches and toasts. It's just the right compression with no distortion to create a beautiful photos capturing real authentic moments. I will say that it's incredibly HEAVY (all that glass!!) and once the last speech is done, it's put back in my rollie and it's finished for the night.
The 105 Macro 2.8G Lens has just one purpose in my gear collection. It's for ring detail shots and ring shots alone. It's an expensive lens for just one thing (I KNOW!) but it's worth every penny to make those epic ring shots for your couples. I manually focus this lens around f/6.3, f/8, or even f/11 to created a incredible detail shot of the rings. Since it's a macro lens, the compression and depth of field are still extremely low at higher apertures BUT shooting higher lets you get the prongs, diamonds, engravings in focus each and every time. I do manually focus this lens because the autofocus is just a waste on a macro images. I usually get very low to my subject (the rings) and take my time manually focusing my shot. I'm usually sweating at this point during the detail photo process because of all the concentration I have to do to nail the foucs. It's not a pretty sight!!
The 28mm 1.8G Lens is perfect for wedding reception dancing photos! I purchased this lens a few years ago when it was released from Nikon and boy, do I LOVE it! It's so little, light and the perfect wide angel lens for getting in close on the dance floor and capturing all the action. I'm usually in the middle of the dance floor (I have several bruises to prove it!) with the 28mm capturing really fun wide shots from the heart of the party. There is some distortion on the edges of the images but that is to be expected with such a wide lens. I'm ok with this look during the reception but only at the receptions! It's a prime lens which means it's still fast in low light situations (ie. candlelight dinners, receptions) which is exactly why I prefer this lens to a 24-70mm 2.8 Zoom. In my opinion, it's just too slow and doesn't open up wide enough to let in the pretty ambient light I love for my style of photography. My back loves this lens too because it's so light and easy to carry around for several hours during the reception.
The 135mm 2.0 Lens sits in my bag 95% of the time throughout a wedding day. Since I do not use zoom lenses, I needed a lens that had a longer focal point past 85mm but was still sharp enough to create great images. I found this 135mm Lens from Nikon used and it's amazing for ceremonies where I'm not allowed to be in the first few aisles. Some churches have very strict rules about where the photographer and videographers are allowed to be during the actual ceremony, so having this long prime lens in my kit is definitely handy in those less common situations. It's a 2.0 aperture which is just fast enough to let in a lot of light if needed in a dark church or synagogue. Usually, I have already spoken with the facility director and know what my limitations are for the ceremony space, so I already know if I need to dust off this lens and use the day of my wedding. It's a great long prime lens to have "just in case" I need it and I always like to be prepared. I do, however, love when my second photographer has a 70-200mm for the ceremony to get in nice and tight to the Bride and Groom or reactions from the guests. It's a great addition to the couples overall wedding gallery but not a lens I'm going to purchase anytime soon.
And finally, I also use the Black Rapid LensBling Caps on each of my lenses so I can quickly see which lens I'm reaching for inside my Shootsac or Thinktank Rollie. They are so helpful and by the end of the night, I can never find any of my front or rear lens caps. It's the truth!!
So, those are MY favorite lenses. What are yours? I'd love to hear from you jn the comment section below. Am I missing any amazing lens options out there?!