Wedding photography is unique in that it encompasses several genres of photography: fashion, portrait, architectural, product, macro, family, and sometimes even travel photography. Few genres demand more from photographers and their gear.
In order to deliver a complete wedding photography product, you’re going to need lenses that allow you to capture each of these aspects with artistry and creativity. In a perfect world, we’d have the finances and manpower to haul every available lens to the venue; in reality, we’re limited to a handful of lenses, each of which needs to be accessible, high-quality, and versatile.
Here is a subjective list of 6 must-have lenses for any given wedding.
This is my favorite lens. It creates beautiful bokeh (blur) at f/2.8, and the compression you get when you’re zoomed in from 150-200mm gives your image a look that’s hard to achieve with any other lens. It also allows you to get in close to the action without disrupting the moment.
The 70-200mm also allows you to capture candids, from the tears at a wedding ceremony to the laughs at a wedding reception.
- Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens
- Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Lens
- Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM Lens for Canon EF
- Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens for Canon EF
- Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens
- Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens
- Nikon NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S Lens
This is another one of my favorite lenses. The 50mm focal length is great for portraits, and it can save the day when the light starts to drop; the wider aperture allows you to depend less on your flash and it creates a softer, more natural look for your subjects.
The 50mm also allows you to create stunning portraits, as the low aperture creates the shallow depth of field that softens your subjects’ skin and makes them pop off the page.
[Related: Canon RF 50mm F1.2L Lens | Hands-On Review]
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens
- Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens
- Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF
- Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens
- Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens
- Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S Lens
- Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Sony E
- Rokinon AF 50mm f/1.4 FE Lens for Sony E
The versatility of the 24-70mm zoom lens is critical for smaller spaces. For example, a tea ceremony in a Vietnamese wedding is commonly held in a living room. The 70-200mm would be too compressed for this situation, and the 50mm would not provide enough versatility, as you typically don’t have much room for movement.
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Lens
- Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens for Canon EF
- Tamron SP 24.-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens for Canon EF
- Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens
- Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM Lens
- Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Lens
- Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens for Sony E
- Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens for Sony E
4. 100mm Macro
If your bride and groom are spending thousands of dollars on the details of a wedding, they are sure to appreciate you capturing the event in detail. With the 100mm Macro, you can capture detailed shots with the same quality and detail as product advertisements in magazines. Add your touch of lighting and creativity, and you get ring shots like the one below.
Be sure to check out Wedding Workshop 6 | Photographing The Details for an in-depth overview of how to capture details that get shared and published.
- Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens
- Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens
- Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens for Canon EOS
- Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD Lens for Canon EF
Sometimes the 24-70mm lens just isn’t wide enough to capture everything you want. The ultra wide angle helps you capture the environment. Venue and landscape shots also provide a great addition to your wedding day coverage, as they set the scene for the day and allow you to take full advantage of the scenery, especially at beautiful venues.
- Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Lens
- Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens for Canon EF
- Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens
- Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM Lens
- Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S Lens
When this article was first published in 2009, the 85mm f/1.2 was in our honorable mention category, but we’ve since fallen in love with this focal length. The 85mm lens is a true portrait lens that doesn’t distort the image the way that some wider-angle lenses do (such as the 24mm or 35mm), especially along the edges of the frame. This lens also offers great compression and background bokeh at wider apertures.
- Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM Lens
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Lens
- Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF
- Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens for Canon EF
The original article also included the 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens which we no longer use. Funny how quickly trends can change!
What do you think? What are your must-have lenses?
If you haven’t done so already, check out our Lens Wars series, the ultimate visual guide to real world differences between a whole host of Canon professional zoom lenses and primes. In total, we tested 25 Canon lenses valued at over $40,000 dollars starting from 17mm to 300mm focal length.
CREDITS: All photographs by Lin and Jirsa Photography are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.