In 2017, we wrote the original article for our “Favorite Lenses Used For 10,000 Couples Portraits.” This was before the introduction of the Canon R5 and the introduction of their game-changing RF lenses. In particular, the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens changed our entire approach.
How? Well I no longer use prime lenses within that range. The 28-70mm f/2L has eliminated the 24mm prime, 35mm prime and 50mm prime from my wedding and engagement shooting kit. Now, all I need are the following lenses:
- Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens
- Canon RF 70-200mm f/2/8L IS USM Lens
- Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM Lens
Moreover, while I have yet to take enough images to get you a precise number, I would estimate that at least 80% of my images are taken on the 28-70mm lens. The other two are necessary for specific moments and specific looks, but the 28-70 does the majority of the work. For more information and analysis on this lens, see the article The Canon RF 28 70 F/2 and Why It’s My Favorite Lens.
The original information in the 2017 video and the article still apply if you do not own this particular lens, so we’ve included it below.
Original Video – With a Full Frame Camera (Canon 5D Mark IV)
Original Article – With a Full Frame Camera (Canon 5D Mark IV)
Which lenses should you use throughout a wedding day?
The answer, perhaps surprisingly, has more to do with the specific look and style of imagery you are trying to capture than anything else. Some lenses lend themselves more to journalistic or environmental images while others are more appropriately used to capture traditional portraits. Whatever lenses you decide to pack, it is important to choose the right ones for the job.
You will also want to consider how much weight in gear you want to carry. When covering a 14-hour wedding, the last thing you want to do is lug around gear that you will not really need or use. We suggest taking no more than 3 lenses for a couples portrait session to allow you to move efficiently and think more creatively.
If you don’t already own an arsenal of lenses and are considering which make and model of lens to buy, we recommend buying the best gear that you can afford without burying yourself in debt. As one could probably guess, we have found that high-end lenses deliver consistently sharper images, which saves time and energy in several ways:
- Fewer shots to nail focus
- Lower overall image count
- Less culling time in post
To determine which lenses we use most, we looked at over 10,000 of our very own wedding day couples portraits and this is what we discovered:
Our top 3 lenses for wedding day coverage
35mm Prime: 28% of 10,000 images
Though it is a prime lens, the 35mm is great for a wide range of shots, from wide landscapes to medium portraits. Be careful, however, not to frame subjects toward the edge, especially when closer up, to avoid distortion.
50mm Prime: 25% of 10,000 images
The 50mm prime is another great portrait lens that also can be used for wider and closer up portraits, but again, not too close. Like the 35mm, the 50mm lens will also exaggerate facial features and any lines or objects along the edges of the frame.
24mm Prime: 23% of 10,000 images
This environmental portrait lens works well for wide landscapes. The exaggeration of objects toward the edges of the frame can be used to turn wider images into epic landscape portraits that allow the environment to wrap around the couple, especially when shot with the aperture wide open.
Our runner-up lenses for wedding day coverage
85mm Prime: 10% of 10,000 images
Also known as a true portrait lens, the 85mm prime offers great compression and background bokeh at wider apertures. You can also stand closer for more intimate portraits because the 85mm does not distort the image along the edges like some of the wider angle lenses.
70-200mm Telephoto: 8% of 10,000 images
With a great zoom lens comes great versatility. The 200mm focal length works wonders for environmental compression shots, making the background appear much closer than it actually is. Shooting farther away can also be beneficial for taking candid portraits, as the photographer is physically removed from the scene and the zoom and compression still allow the viewer to feel that they are in the moment with the couple.
90mm Tilt-Shift: 4% of 10,000 images
Perhaps more than any other lens, the tilt aspect of the tilt-shift lens literally uses focus to direct the viewer’s attention to the subject. While a shallow depth of field from other lenses with similar focal lengths and apertures also use a limited focal plane to draw focus, the tilt effect further minimizes the sharp areas of the image, and the soft look of the image is perfect for wedding day couples portraits.
This article relates directly to a video from our Photographing the Couple workshop, where you can learn how to pose, light, capture, and post-produce creative and inspiring couples portraits just like those that you see above. Upgrade to SLRL Premium now to enjoy full streaming access to this workshop and many others in our extensive library!