If you’ve ever experimented with tilt-shift lenses, you know that they offer photographers unique control over depth of field and perspective. They are often used for photographing architecture, landscapes, or creative portraits, but they can also work wonders for delivering amazing wedding day images. They create a soft, dream-like look, which works especially well with bright and airy images. Although tilt-shift lenses are less commonly found in a wedding photographer’s arsenal, at least as a go-to lens for covering the ceremony, they actually produce solid results when used responsibly!

Our Favorite Tilt-Shift Lenses

Shooting Guidance: Before the Day

Before you take a new tilt-shift lens out to cover a wedding ceremony, we suggest taking the time to better understand the lens and its functionality, and practice shooting with the lens to perfect manual focusing. This will come in handy to help you perform under pressure when capturing creative shots during a wedding ceremony.

Shooting Guidance: During the Shoot

Wedding ceremonies vary by culture, but there are a few key moments that you’ll likely find in most of the ceremonies you’ll cover: Exchanging vows/rings, first kiss, and/or the recessional. These moments offer a great opportunity to experiment with a tilt-shift lens.

How you capture these moments will, of course, depend on the focal length of your lens and the vision you have for the final image. Here are a couple of side-by-side images showing the images captured using a tilt-shift lens versus a standard prime or zoom lens.

Ceremony – Wide Angle

Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 at 80mm, f/2.8, 1/000, ISO 100
Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 at f/3.5, 1/500, ISO 100

First Kiss – Wide Angle

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 at 24mm, f/2.8, 1/400, ISO 100
Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24mm TS-E f/3.5 at f/3.5, 1/500, ISO 400

Recession – Medium Angle & Wide Angle

Top Left: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 at 70mm, f/2.8, 1/400, ISO 100; Bottom Left: Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 at 24mm, f/2.8, 1/1250, ISO 100; Top Right: Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 at f/3.5, 1/500, ISO 200; Bottom Right: Canon 5d Mark IV, Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 at f/3.5, 1/500, ISO 200

Use Creatively For Multiple Planes In Focus

You can’t really achieve this unique look in camera without a tilt-shift lens. Here, we used the tilt feature to shift the plane of sharpness from the sign in the foreground to the couple at the altar in the background.

Plan Ahead To Find More Reward Than Risk

It is a good idea to have a second shooter covering the action whenever you switch to a tilt-shift lens to ensure that you don’t miss any important moments. If you are the lead shooter and you plan to use a tilt-shift lens during a key moment, such as exchanging the rings, the first, kiss, or the recessional, have the second shooter take lead on a 24-70/70-200mm to capture the action.

If all else fails, and you find yourself struggling to use the lens to capture an important moment, you can always use the lens like any other standard lens with its movements locked and centered.

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We designed Photographing the Ceremony to train wedding day teams of all sizes to master wedding ceremony coverage with efficiency using non-invasive photojournalism techniques. Course objectives include never missing a moment, being creative under constraint, understanding wedding cultures, telling complete stories, and directing/managing a wedding team.

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