Wedding photography is a unique combination of every type of photography. Fashion and portrait photography, architectural photography, product photography, macro photography, family and children photography, and sometimes even travel photography are all included under the required knowledge umbrella of wedding photography.
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; but in reality, we’re limited to a handful of accessible, high-quality, and versatile lenses.
Here is a subjective list of 6 must have lenses for any given wedding. It should be noted that we, the authors of this article, have a bias for shooting wide open (low apertures) in most situations. Also, we list Canon lenses, as the authors of this article shoot with Canon 5D Mark III‘s, but each lens listed should have an equivalent for every other brand name DSLR producer.
6 Must-Have Lenses for Wedding Photography
This is my favorite lens. It creates a beautiful bokeh (blur) at f2.8, 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 on the moment without disrupting the moment, such as the following image:
It also allows you to capture candids, from the tears at a wedding ceremony to the laughs at a wedding reception.
This is another one of my favorite lenses. It can save the day when the light starts to drop and allow you to bring out the backgrounds. It also, makes you less reliant on your flash, creating a softer, more natural look for your subjects, as illustrated in the following outdoor dance floor picture.
The 50mm also allows you to create stunning portraits, as the low aperture creates the shallow depth of field that makes your subject pop off the page and softens your subject’s skin.
[I would say that if you are just starting out and you want a 50mm prime lens and you’re on a budget, get the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II. At around $125, the 50mm 1.8 is a real bargain and the best bang for your buck by far].
This is a critical lens for smaller spaces. For example, a tea ceremony in a Chinese wedding is commonly held in a living room. The 70-200 would be too close for this situation, and the 50mm would not provide enough versatility, as you typically don’t have too much room for movement.
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 in your touch of lighting and creativity, and you get ring shots like the one below.
Sometimes the 24-70mm lens just isn’t wide enough to capture everything you want. The ultra wide angle helps you capture your surroundings.
Venue and landscape shots are also a great addition to your wedding day coverage, as it sets the scene for the day and allows you to take full advantage of amazing scenery.
When this article was first published in 2009, the 85mm f1.2 was in our honorable mention category, but we’ve since fallen in love with this lens. With this lens, you get an incredible look in the bokeh which really isn’t matched by any other lens.
[If you’re on a budget, for $419 you can get the Canon 85mm f/1.8. It is not only a good lens for the money, but it is one of the best values you can get in terms of prime lenses, While you do lose a stop of low light capability, and it doesn’t quite have the same amount of creamy-licious bokeh as the Canon 85mm f/1.2L, it is still amazingly capable, very quick in low light at 1.8, and creates a beautiful amount of bokeh while also being usable at f/1.8].
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.