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A Rant On Why One Photographer Hates the 24-70 For Wedding Photography | Do You?

By Kishore Sawh on May 5th 2018

Wedding photographers can be passionately defensive about their choice of equipment, perhaps more so than in most other genres. There’s a sense, at times, especially in the current environment, that the gear one chooses is not solely a representation of one’s preferences and how one operates, but a reflection of values. After all, this is the modern understanding of branding…

But in most wedding kits, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that a 24-70 2.8 will be found. It is, perhaps, that most familiar thread in the wide tapestry of wedding photographers. However, Taylor Jackson, a YouTuber and photographer from Canada, challenges the sensibility of this lens choice, and has published a 1-minute self-proclaimed ‘rant’ on why.

Sure it’s clickbait, and it’s sure to get some people’s Irish up, but there’s nothing wrong with challenging the status quo and re-evaluating that which we may have taken as gospel, even if not necessarily written in stone.

[RELATED: SLR Lounge’s Top Lenses | Why You Need A 24-70mm f/2.8]

Thoughts

And it’s easy to see some of his points, such as the fact 24-70 2.8 lenses from the primary brands like Canon, Sony, Nikon, are very expensive, and can be very heavy. And that using primes in place of a zoom inspires creativity by forcing practical parameters. But some of his other points are harder to see,  even if you squint, or even empirically incorrect.

Taylor argues that in a gallery shot on a prime lens, every image has a purpose, which implies he believes those shot on a 24-70 don’t? He also goes on to say said gallery on a 24-70 feels dull because there is so much minor variance in focal range, where as there’s more impact to be had from switching up between an 85 and 24mm prime, and back again.

Furthermore, Taylor suggests there’s a sense of crispness to an entire gallery of primes that can’t be had with a 24-70, and he prefers primes due to the shallower depth of field they can provide as he prefers shooting at 1.4 and 1.8 over 2.8 for that level of subject isolation from a background which he says you can’t get from a 24-70 2.8.

There’s a lot to digest here. Granted, the whole video is meant to be idiosyncratic by nature, but while some words are subjective, other things can be objectively challenged. Such as the subject separation that can be had with a 24-70 compared to some of the primes mentioned. And sharpness too.

But it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on the matter. I will, however, leave you with one of my own:

If we’re speaking about being creative, you know what’s creative? Not relying on a defocused background to make an image compelling.

 

Terms: #Prime Lens
About

Kishore is, among other things, the Editor-In-Chief at SLR Lounge. A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

8 Comments

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  1. Matthew Saville

    I remember this exact argument from…..14 years ago?

    And, my response was essentially the same then as it is now.

    1.) Zooms are now just as sharp as primes, and high ISO performance has improved by well over 2 stops, making f/1.4 only useful for shallow DOF, from a technical angle.

    2.) Creatively, if you can’t make it work with a 24-70, then you can’t make it work. Some people find that a zoom makes them “lazy”, and yeah, their final results suffer. Others can work a mid-range zoom just fine, without any “dull” feelings, and not miss moments while switching lenses. (Clearly this dude hasn’t photographed many Hindu weddings.)

    3.) I love shallow DOF as a tool for subject isolation, but as a Nikon shooter who spent 5+ years shooting on APS-C DSLRs and “only” 2.8 zooms, I learned that subject framing is 1000x more valuable than an extra stop (or even two or three) of background blur. In fact 10+ years ago, that was my main critique of most other wedding photographers- they had the Canon 5D or 5D2, and as such the only useful AF point was the dead-center one, so everybody shot on the 50 1.2 or 85 1.2 wide open, framing their subjects’ heads in the center of the frame literally all the time, relying on bokeh (and a “laughing pose”) alone to make the image impactful.

    So, yeah, I love primes as much as the next guy. If I could, I’d shoot entire weddings and certainly portrait sessions with just a 35 and 85 prime. But, sometimes you gotta use a 24-70 to cover a journalistic situation, and knowing how to STAY creative, even when you don’t have your favorite artistic tool in your hand, is extremely important as a professional photographer.

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    • Kyle Stauffer

      Not having shot a Hindu wedding, I’m curious as to what you mean about a 24-70 being vital. Are they pretty fast paced? From what I’ve seen of Jackson’s youtube videos, I don’t think he would do well with that haha. I’m not trying to be critical, but his style seems kind of laid back and for lack of a better word “lazy” .

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    • Matthew Saville

      Kyle,  yeah, they’re pretty crazy! In a few different common situations, you are crammed into a crowd, unable to move, and in other situations, your movement is also restricted for other reasons yet you’re expected to capture all different types of images within seconds. Many days, I wish I had a 24-200mm f/2.8, but carrying two cameras can solve that problem decently, if you’re ok with editing photos from 3-5 different cameras when your 2nd (and usually 3rd) photographer’s images all get downloaded.

      If you’re a Premium subscriber, you can check out some of the education that SLR Lounge offers which prepares photographers for these various different types of conditions. ;-)

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  2. Kyle Stauffer

    I get his point, and I kind of disagree with it a little.

    I usually only shoot with a 24-70 (in combination with 70-200) during an outdoor ceremony. It focuses fast  and has a more forgiving DOF for walking isle shots. However, I use it like two primes. 80% of the time i’m at 70mm to get subject separation. the other 20% i’m at 24mm getting as wide as it goes. 

    Other than an outdoor ceremony, i’d be shooting with a 35 and 85 on separate cameras. If a company made a 35-85 f2 zoom that was sharp wide open, i’d be all over it!

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  3. Jaques Scheepers

    I shoot with Primes and zooms but I must say I have been toying with the idea to sell my zoom lenses and use only prime lenses, that said I have never had a client complain about my images and that they think I should have used one lens over another.  As photographers we see photos completely different than our clients do. We have way more issues with our photos. We think we should have done this and that different but the client loves their photos and are happy to pay.  My reason for wanting to use prime lenses will not effect my clients at all, only me by not carrying around all this super heavy lenses all day long. I do agree though that your photos will have a better flow to them when you are only using 2 or maybe 3 different focal lengths, but would the photographer be the only one that notices that ??

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  4. Josh Leavitt

    It’s always enjoyable to hear a good rant on a highly prized lens design. I can understand his point about image purpose on prime versus zoom, however. I think he was trying to convey that in general photographs shot on primes tend to be more carefully composed in shooting angle and framing when you lack the convenience of zoom. But I disagree with his point about subject isolation; F/2.8 on full-frame is very shallow. The only reason I see in dropping into the sub-F/2 range is for bokeh effects. I also have to disagree on the sharpness issue. Sure primes tend to be sharper than zooms, but 1st-party 24-70mm F/2.8 glass is virtually indistinguishable from primes in terms of IQ for prints up to 30″ x 20″.

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  5. Kent Bunn

    “which infers he believes”

    Actually it implies that.  Or you choose to infer that.

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  6. Gary Brook

    I really hate when clients look at my pictures and say, “This one would have been good, but you used 31mm vs 30mm.  :)

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