We get lots of questions about what gear we use, what we like best and what we find ourselves using the most while photographing a wedding! So here is our “What’s in our bag-Wedding Lens Edition!”....we plan to do some other blogs with other goodies we think are necessities for the wedding day so stay tuned!
The short answer is we have a lot of lenses that we bounce between and use for different reasons or bring as backups to our main lenses but I will try to highlight them all for their own special reasons here. Without buying lots of lenses that are just pure duplicates of lenses we try to buy lenses that could fill the gap of other lenses, extra bonus if it adds something that lens did not like a lower aperture etc. For example, if our 70-200mm f/2.8 lens died mid shoot our replacement lens most likely wouldn’t be another 70-200mm lens. **as a note you will see me reference f/2.8 and lower for aperture. We only shoot with f/2.8 and lower because we are often photographing in low light (lower the aperture the more light in) and because we really love the bokeh that lower aperture lenses offer.
Before we get too far along, one small caveat is that Alan shoots with a Sony mirrorless camera and I shoot with a Canon. 99% of the time we are using the same type of lens just the version made for our specific camera so I will try to highlight the general lens information so that you can apply it to Sony, Nikon, Canon etc. I do suggest that you research each lens for that brand first just in case the Canon “x” lens is amazing and for some reason that version on another brand you are looking at didn’t perform as well.
75% of the time we are using our 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. This lens is our workhorse lens that we rely on day in and day out! We have the sony version, cannon, and a sigma version as a backup. All are excellent and we recommend them all whole heartedly! The sigma version is a great starter for this lens (because it can be pricey) but it is not weather sealed like the Canon and Sony lenses are if that is a concern of yours. This lens allows us to really zoom in and get a lot of those intimate special moments we love to capture without being all up in someone’s personal space! It also has the versatility to zoom out a bit and get that full body shot of the bride walking in then return right away to get the emotions of her with a loved one that is escorting her down. This focal length also is great for portraits because it compresses the face which is often very flattering!
24-70mm f/2.8….so this one I honestly didn’t think I would use as much as I do but for the past year I have begun shooting for a wedding roughly 50/50 between this lens and the 70-200mm listed above. This has the versatility of the 70-200mm so that you can adjust and zoom in and capture some more emotions but also step out wider if need be. I love this lens because during the ceremony I can easily get my “group shots” where I am photographing the ceremony from the back row and getting everyone in but it will also perform great if you find yourself on a cramped dance floor in capturing the group shot then zooming in and catching a sweet moment with a couple.
35mm f/1.4 is an awesome lens! We use this lens primarily when it’s dark or when Alan needs a wider lens. This lens is a life saver when it comes to a sparkler sendoff! It has a low enough aperture to still have a good picture in those dark sparkler exits and the 35mm is wonderful at capturing the group around celebrating with their firey sendoff! This lens, because of the low aperture, also does great at that blown out background/shallow depth of field look that can be so beautiful with portraits. We love this for weddings because as we all know there are two stars of the show-the bride and the groom-and that natural separation that a low aperture lens brings to the table is just perfect! The 35mm is also great for environmental shots if you have a beautiful setting as well because you can get pretty close to the subject (like a bride) and still be able to catch a great mountain scene behind her.
85mm f/1.8 is much like the 35mm f/1.4….it has a lower aperture so it will give that blown out look and will take great portraits. It is more zoomed in though than the 35mm so capturing emotions and closer images that we really enjoy is great with this lens. Extra bonus with this lens-it is a great value so if you are looking for a lower aperture lens to get you going this can be a great one! This lens also falls within that focal length that compresses the face and makes this a more flattering portrait lens like the 70-200mm I mentioned before.
A macro lens. We always bring a macro lens for those close up detail shots like the rings! The macro lens is great and we actually have a pretty inexpensive one since it is so little of our days portfolio that we deliver but it is helpful when you need it. A good alternative if you did not have a macro would be to get something like the F1.8 85mm lens we talked about above. Photographing the rings at 85mm and then blowing out the background around it would also really draw your eyes to the rings and make a beautiful picture!
After the macro we do have one other specialty lens that we don’t use that often but when you need it, you need it! That lens is our wide angle lens. Our wide angle lens is a 16-24mm f/2.8 lens. This one we used this past weekend because the bride and groom wanted one picture with everyone that was at their wedding. This is a really cool and special idea but 1. You only have limited space that you can fit that many people and 2. We were outside so trying to fit all of those people into the same lighting i.e. all shade or all sun so that we could properly expose the picture was challenging. We ended up smushing everyone up against a tree line and making a flatter wider picture because we had the ability thanks to this lens!
Obviously you do not need ALL of these lenses especially if you are just starting out. A little tip…. LensRentals.com is an amazing website where you can rent different lenses i.e. that macro that you don’t need allllll the time. You can also try it before you buy it, so if you think you want a new Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 (or maybe a newer model of something you already own)? Try it and see if you are as obsessed as I think you will be :) They rent LOTS of things lenses, camera bodies etc. Serious game changer especially if you are just starting out and don’t have a huge breath of lenses and cameras.
We have the added benefit of being a married photography unit and we often swap gear in and out depending on what we need (Sony has an adapter that can use many of the Canon lenses I typically shoot with). With that being said, I do not think I would ever photograph a wedding without a 70-200mm lens so if I had to pick one to recommend, that is it! For the rest, we recommend just thinking about what sort of pictures you may need to take and making sure you have an option (and preferably a backup) if that option fails. I heard a photographer say one time that they brought primes of commonly used lenses just in case something happens. We don’t tie ourselves to saying we need a 70mm prime (just as an example not a real standard size) but we do try things like if our 70-200mm died mid shoot we could switch to the 85mm and get all the same shots just by moving our feet more rather than zooming in and out. Or in the instance of the 24-70mm lens the 35mm could take very similar pictures-you just may have to move a bit more!
Our overall advice is, think about what you need and prepare as best you can for all possible scenarios. Talking with your bride and groom ahead of time on the various aspects of their wedding and if certain pictures really matter to them over others will really help guide you! And our last advice, if at all possible have a backup because technology can and will fail!
-Happy shootin’ :) Meg