I get asked this question all the time by photographers who are looking to enter the photography industry and from others who are just thinking of a career change and don’t have the necessary knowledge. Firstly, if you are entering this highly competitive market it is necessary that you have 5 lenses. Some of the best wedding photographers I know only use two lenses. As long as you know how to use the equipment I am sure you can capture incredible images.
Top tip – Although having an arsenal of lenses is not required a good tip, before we get started on my list, is to have two bodies. This will mean that the two lenses you do have you don’t need to keep interchanging between them and instead you can just keep the two lenses on and get some versatile shots without ever missing the action. Moreover, a flash would also be a definite requirement!
Top 5 lenses
Before I start my list of required lenses I would first like to explain the order in which I am going through my list.
Number 1 – This is an ideal lens if you are literally only thinking about getting one. That’s right. You have heard me correctly. It is possible to only use one lenses throughout the whole day. Are the Bride and Groom going to notice? Not at all. Unless they are photographers themselves, in which case they probably will be hiring someone with more experience anyway. They are not going to tell – particularly as they will be getting married.
Number 2 and 3 – These are the two lenses that I primarily use. They consist of prime lenses that I will explain later. However, they are basically non-zoom lenses, for lack of a better word – and provide you with enough versatility to last you the whole day. If you are to start out and fancy buying just two lenses I would first buy these and not the “number 1” option and this as you will really be doubling up on your shots.
Number 4 and 5 – These are extra superb lenses that you can use to capture shots that you just can’t with the other lenses. One of which is a wide and lenses for capturing a significant amount of landscape (i.e. “wide”—sense) and number 5 will be a lens which you can obviously use if you want to capture people from far away – say if the minister won’t allow you to go up the ideal to photograph the bride and groom (yes, this does happen from time to time.
One last note before I get into it. These will all be lenses for
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II
The first lenses are the canon 24-70mm. This is a lens that is the most versatile on my list. This is a great lens as it allows you to capture a large group of people for the portrait section of the wedding, without having to walk that far back, as this works as a wide-angle lens. The reason why this is the only lenses you really need is that you can also zoom in, so for the ceremony you don’t need to even be near the couple and you will still capture some amazing images.
The downside to this lens is that it is only a f/2.8 – which is quite high compared to the other lenses that I will recommend – the other lenses provide you a shallower depth of field that will allow you to make the pride and groom stand out more in a crowd. Although this is not really a consideration with a wide-angle range.
For those not in the know – this number is just the size of the aperture compared with the focal length. In other words, a 50mm f2 lens has an aperture of 25mm, a 16mm f4 lens has an aperture of 4mm and a 200mm f4 lens has an aperture of 50mm. The reason the number series is an odd one (f1, f1.4, f2, f2.8, f4, f5.6 f8 etc.) is that each number allows twice the light through and each aperture diameter is about 1.41 times larger than the previous one.
With the lenses you mention, the f2.8 lens has an aperture which allows twice the light of the f4 lens and allows you to make an image in half the light or make an image at a lower ISO or with a shorter shutter speed in the same light.
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2. Canon 35mm f/1.4L II USM
My second lenses – which should work in unisons with the third choice of lenses is the canon 35mm. This lens does not go as wide as the 24-70 mentioned above but it goes wide enough that you can capture all the portrait photos that you require.
It is a f/1.4 which means you can get a really beautiful shallow depth of field and pick people out in a crowd, whilst also capturing the atmosphere of the surrounding. This camera lens could really just stay on the body all day given that you can capture a huge range of shots with this lens.
Image quality is superb, this is the type of lens that can set your work apart, delivering sharp, high contrast details without motion blur, without high ISO noise and with the background nicely blurred. In those capabilities is definite value.
3. canon 85mm f/1.2 USM ii 'L' lens
My third lens is the canon 85mm professional short-telephoto lens. This is precision-made piece of kit for low-light shooting and those situations where extremely shallow depth of field is required. Perfect for creative portraiture.
A large maximum aperture of f/1.2 allows the use of fast shutter speeds when shooting in low light. The lens also enables fine control over focusing, allowing extremely shallow depth of field for creative effects in portraiture, for example.
This lens has Super Spectra coatings ensure accurate colour balance and enhance contrast. They also reduce flare and ghosting – a common problem caused by light bouncing off a camera's sensor.
As I mentioned this lens should be used with the 35mm as this will allow you to get almost unmatched portrait pictures than any other lens on the market – with almost any sort of lighting condition.
4. Canon 70-200m f2.8 L IS ii USM Lens
We are now starting to get more into the range of lenses that provide additional support on the wedding day. They are also superb but they should be used in particular scenarios.
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens features a redesigned optical system that delivers incredible results. A high-performance fluorite element is combined with 5 ultra-low dispersion (UD) elements to reduce chromatic aberration and producing high-contrast, sharp images. An inbuilt Image Stabiliser mechanism reduces the effect of camera shake in lower light environments.
Combining a very popular and very useful focal length range with excellent image quality, professional build quality, superb autofocus performance, a fast aperture and one of my favourite features - Canon's valuable 3-stop Image Stabilization - makes the 70-200 IS one of Canon's most desired lenses.
In simple terms – if you want one of the best zoom lenses on the market this is the lens to get. You can really be standing as far back from the bride and groom and still capture a perfect image. This is particularly great for the speeches where you may not be able to get close to the couple. Moreover, you can capture the vows from the back of the isle.
5. Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens
The Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens is, without question, Canon's best-performing (optically and physically) and best-built 24mm autofocus lens. It is also Canon's widest-angle lens with an aperture wider than f/2.8 - a full 2 stops wider than all wider-angle Canon lenses. This lens looks great, feels great and functions superbly.
This is a great lens for capturing the full venue when the is quite small – or for the bride preparations. One thing to be aware of is that images can look stretched and so you have to be careful is that being an extremely wide-angle lens people can look stretched. This can be corrected to a certain degree in post edit but it takes a bit of experience and doing.
So, these are the lenses that I use the most frequently. I hope this has been helpful and informative. For more information on photography and wedding photography in general please visit my blog.
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