What lens is best for wedding photography?

Have you ever wondered which lenses for wedding photographers are best?

There is a plethora of choice for lenses, and lens companies come up with new products all the time. Many photographers are attracted to these bright and shiny things and end up with a vast collection of lenses, many of which hardly see the light of day. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

Having the best lenses for wedding photography will help you capture those special moments, no matter where they occur. Lenses come in all shapes and sizes. They also vary in cost. In this article, we have collected some of the most recommended lenses for wedding photography.

Does the Choice of Lens Matter?

Camera lenses come in dozens of different focal lengths. They have different apertures and features.

The best lens differs from photographer to photographer. It’s based on shooting style and the brand of the camera body. Some wedding photographers favour bright primes with two bodies for fast access. Others prefer the ease and range of a zoom lens.

Owning more wedding lenses allows you to capture the moment in a cramped, dim reception venue, as well as in a wide-open, brightly lit park. But there are a few features and focal lengths that are standard for the pro wedding photographer.

Which are the best lenses for wedding and event photography?

What lens is best for wedding photography?

  • 70-200mm f/2.8 telephotos: Perfect for portraits and creative background blur
  • 24-70mm f/2.8 standard zooms: The ideal ready-for-anything lens to keep on the camera
  • 16-35mm f/2.8 wide-angle (or similar): Perfect for the church, reception and group shots
  • 90-100mm macro lens: For close-ups of the ring and table decorations and a great focal length for head and shoulders portraits too
  • 35mm f/1.4 or 1.8: The classic focal length for candid shots, with a wide aperture to handle low light and deliver a nice background blur

Now let’s look at each lens individually to see why they are used for wedding photography. We have an exclusive range of wedding photography Mornington Peninsula services. Check them out here.

70-200mm f/2.8

It’s big, bulky, and heavy, but I wouldn’t do a wedding without this lens. The 70-200 f/2.8 is my workhorse when it comes to weddings. It is a versatile lens that gives you fantastic sharpness at all focal lengths. The bokeh is beautiful, especially at 200mm and even with a stopped-down aperture (thanks to the compression created by the long focal length).

A 70-200mm f/2.8 makes a wedding photographer invisible. You don’t have to be close to people’s faces; you can capture candid expressions and serendipitous moments from a fair distance away. This lens is handy during the wedding ceremony, when you would rather be far away and out of sight or hidden behind a wall or door. It allows you to capture the exchange of rings, the vows, and the kiss discreetly.

We’ve chosen 70-200mm lenses in preference to portrait lenses and for two reasons. First, the zoom lets you quickly adapt to different circumstances, subject distances and backgrounds. Second, at longer focal lengths, the background blur can be just as effective, and you have more control over selecting and framing the scene.

The 70-200mm offers a versatile zoom range and enough focal length to help the subject pop from the background. It is excellent for capturing details and close-ups. The long zoom range also makes the lens an option for the portrait section of the day. Its length will help create softer backgrounds. All this while having the aperture a bit wider to keep both the bride and groom in focus.

There’s a downside, though. The long focal length and bright aperture mix make this lens a heavy piece of glass. It’s also an expensive addition to your wedding photography kit.

The general rule is to keep your shutter speed above the focal length. While it’s easy to shoot a 50mm at 1/50 in limited light, the 1/200 suggested for a 200mm is harder to do. This is where that lens stabilisation comes in.

The longer the lens, the more critical the image stabilisation is. If you can only afford to get stabilisation on one lens, bring it on the longest one in your bag. Many wedding photographers use both 24-70mm and 70-200mm to capture the wedding day. These work particularly well during parts of the day where the pace of events isn’t ideal for lens swaps.

As far as wedding lenses go, this is the most necessary addition.

If you require an even longer zoom while staying at the same distance, you can choose to photograph using Crop mode (if you shoot full-frame and your camera offers this option). This will generally give you a 1.5x crop factor (it only uses a portion of the image and enlarges it by approximately 1.5x). If you do this, make sure that you have enough pixels for the crop if you feel the need to straighten or change your composition in post-processing.

For example, if you are shooting with a 12 MP camera in its full-frame mode when you convert to your Crop mode, the camera becomes a 5 MP camera. This is below the minimum amount of pixels you need (generally around 6 MP) to enlarge prints to a decent size.

And if you have to crop in post-processing, 5 MP will not offer enough pixels to do so without compromising print output sizes.

However, if you photograph with a 36 MP camera in Crop mode, it drops to 15.3 MP. While this is a significant resolution reduction, it still leaves you enough wiggle room for minimal and sensible cropping if necessary.

If you use Crop mode, don’t forget that when photographing on a full-frame camera or using a lens designed for APS-C cameras, the camera only uses the centre sensor centre. So if you fail to compose accordingly in-camera, you will get a nasty surprise after taking the image: cut off heads and limbs and badly cropped compositions are two examples.

When using APS-C lenses on a full-frame body, the rest of the unused sensor area is blacked out. But when using full-frame lenses in Crop mode, this is not the default. You will still see the entire full-frame sensor if you don’t change your settings. At Wild Romantic Photography, we have the best Melbourne wedding photographer to take memorable photos on your wedding day.

24-70mm f/2.8

The 24-70mm f/2.8 offers the focal length versatility needed when you are photographing the go, which is what wedding photographers require for most of the day. You can use this lens to capture more expansive location scenes, candid photos of people, guests arriving, people milling and chatting while waiting for the ceremony to start or during the wedding breakfast, some decorations and details, the first dance, and the leaving photos, to cite just a few.

The 24-70mm f/2.8 is the perfect standby lens for wedding and event photographers. It’s wide enough for most interiors yet ‘long’ sufficient for impromptu portraits and couple shots. Many will focus close enough for relatively small details too, and the constant aperture and pro-grade optics mean you can shoot wide open to combining sharp subjects with defocused backgrounds.

This wide to medium zoom lens covers a substantial range of focal lengths and still packs in a bright aperture. The lens is wide enough to capture the entire ceremony in one shot. You can adjust the telephoto end for closer photos and even portraits, which comes in handy for those family formals.

As a popular wedding photography lens, some manufacturers have multiple versions of it. The difference is often optical image stabilisation (IS). That stabilisation helps shoot those dimly lit spaces. Especially at slower shutter speeds, they are allowing you to drop the ISO down. But stabilisation isn’t as essential in a wide-angle lens as it is for telephoto and macro.

Due to its popularity, third-party manufacturers get in on the action too. This could help you save some cash when choosing gear for wedding photography.

The 24-70mm lens sees a whole lot of action on the wedding day and is my other workhorse for capturing people, more wide shots, and behind-the-scenes images. 

Many photographers use a much wider lens for location photographs, such as a 14-24mm f/2.8. But while you would love to add this lens to your arsenal, this is not an absolute necessity. With the 24-70mm, you can photograph location scenes wide enough. And should you need to capture a wider stage, you could snap a few images and stitch them together in Photoshop as a panorama. This is easy enough to do by making sure the exposure setting for the series of shots is the same, standing on a fixed point, then capturing a set of images while adjusting your composition slightly.

85mm prime

What lens is best for wedding photography?

As a fixed lens, an 85mm prime requires more work on your part; you have to zoom in and out with your feet. But the extra effort is worth it. The portraits are cleaner, the backgrounds are creamier, and it is an excellent lens in very low-light conditions.

Prime lenses offer a brighter aperture than the 70-200mm ones. In some brands, they even provide more efficient autofocus and higher quality shots. Without all those zoom components, most prime lenses are also lighter and cheaper.

The 85mm is an excellent focal length for portraits, particularly on full-frame cameras. The focal length is more flattering than a wider angle. But it still allows you to take pictures in venues with limited space.

The best thing about this lens is that it is tack sharp from the sweet spot on. Accurate, light-sensitive, with excellent results; this is my go-to lens, and it never leaves my bag. As a prime lens, the 85mm is fast, small, and extremely reliable.

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35mm

For some wedding and event photographers, a fast 35mm prime lens might be a low priority, but those who are tasked with grabbing informal shots and not just the formal proceedings could be the most useful lens in their bag. Many photographers work in pairs, with one acting as a ‘second shooter’, which could be the perfect lens for that role.

Wedding photography involves storytelling. And sometimes, you need a wider lens to capture the shots that tell the story. A prime 35mm is brighter and lighter than a wide telephoto lens. 35mm prime lenses are often colourful and affordable. These are excellent for everything, from capturing the entire ceremony set up in one shot to photographing the whole dance floor.

It’s an ultra-versatile lens that you can use to photograph the bride getting ready, which is when wedding photographers are usually under pressure to capture everything. This includes the many accessories, any small details, candid shots, the dress, the natural interactions between the bride and her loved ones, and group portraits. Plus, you must do this in a concise amount of time, often in small spaces like cramped hotel rooms.

A 35mm lens is also perfect for photographing more expansive scenes because you can get images without the exaggerated distortions caused by a wider focal length. This lens is super fast and sharp. It has yet to fail me. With this lens, you can get close, which is very handy when you are in a crowded space.

As if that weren’t enough, my 35mm lens opens up to f/1.4, which allows you to photograph in low light, especially if you are too pressed for time and space to use off-camera flashes.

Even though the 35mm focal length is already covered by the 24-70mm f/2.8 (discussed above), the difference between f/1.4 and f/2.8 (two extra stops for four times the light) cannot be underestimated.

The 35mm view is close enough to what the eye naturally sees. It allows you to capture images that give the viewer the impression that they could have been there witnessing the scene themselves. This is an essential element in any wedding photography, specifically wedding photography with a documentary style.

If you already have a 50mm lens and your budget is constrained, then a 50mm prime could replace the 35mm prime on this list. It is also an incredible lens.

Although a 50mm doesn’t give you as much room to maneuver in smaller spaces as a 35mm, the bokeh on the 50mm is stunning, and it’s impressively sharp too, which is one of the top benefits of prime lenses. Like the 35mm lens, the 50mm is available as an f/1.8, f/1.4 or, for Canon cameras, an f/1.2 maximum aperture. The price difference is small between the f/1.8 and the f/1.4, but it jumps up to a massive number for the f/1.2.

The 50mm is also a popular choice for portraits. For wedding photographers who need to make the budget, a 50mm lens is an excellent option. It offers that bright aperture without the hefty price tag.

105mm (100mm) or 60mm macro lens

A macro lens is the last of the must-have lenses for wedding photographers. It’s vital if you want to capture detailed images of rings. You can also use your macro lens for photographing jewellery and other accessories while the bride is getting ready.

If the bride’s dress is adorned with jewels, a macro lens would also be ideal for photographing the details.

Macro lenses are also great for portraits if you do not require an aperture wider than f/2.8. This makes macro lenses versatile options to carry around, especially 60mm macro lenses, which look and feel minuscule compared to the 105mm options (100mm for Canon). These macro lenses can generally stop down to f/32, which is handy, especially when photographing location landscapes in too bright sunlight.

Ring shots and detail photos may only make up some of the wedding albums, but they are essential. Along with ring shots, a macro lens captures other details like flowers or architecture. You can even use them for portraits, like a shot of the bride’s eyelashes and makeup.

Macro lenses come in all different focal lengths and apertures. A longer focal length will offer more separation for the background. But getting close up shots on a macro level already provides significant softness. That means an f/1.2 isn’t necessary for a wedding photographer.

If you pick up a brighter macro lens, you don’t have to use it for just macro. Many lenses allow you to switch off the close-up mode, which results in shooting like a standard lens. Buying a bright macro that doubles as a portrait prime can help stretch the budget. Like with a telephoto, stabilisation is more important on a macro than a wide-angle. The close magnification will exaggerate any camera shake.

Depending on how close your standard zoom can focus, you may or may not need a macro lens – but ultra-close-up shots of tiny details can add real variety to a package of photos. The typical 90-100mm focal length for macro lenses is also close to the ideal ‘portrait’ lens, so although an f/2.8 macro lens won’t offer as much background blur as an f/1.4 portrait lens, you may still get more than you expect. You will always get that flattering portrait ‘perspective’.

Some photographers even use the 105mm macro lens as a substitute for the 70-200mm lens if the latter is just too out of reach. You can use the 105mm in Crop mode, which gives you 157.5mm; this is long enough to still be very inconspicuous at a wedding. A 105mm lens is also smaller and lighter, and it opens up to f/2.8. Plus, it doubles as a macro lens. We have the best wedding photographer in Yarra Valley to capture your beautiful moments on your wedding day.

How Many Wedding Lenses Do You Need?

A wedding photographer needs enough focal lengths to cover the wedding from start to finish. How many lenses that means is different for every photographer.

Photographers with enough clients to support a big budget may have one lens in each category. They might even have a few duplicates as backups. Others may shoot with only two or three lenses. The choice of a focal length also varies based on style. Some favour the separating power of a big lens. Others enjoy the storytelling feel of a wide-angle that captures the full scene.

Lenses are difficult to judge based on tech specs alone. If you’re still unsure if you should get that pricey brand name or a third-party lens, try renting one. Renting is an affordable way to rest easy in your choice. Some rental companies will allow you to buy the lens that you rent if you like it. If you don’t, it’s a much cheaper loss than finding you don’t use that focal length after purchasing it.

Prioritise what focal lengths you need most for your style and capture every event of the day.

Conclusion

Choosing the best lens for wedding photography is essential. It would help if you had it to capture the entirety of the day. The most popular lenses for this niche are the 24-70mm and 70-200mm bright zooms. For primes, think of the 85mm, 50mm, 35mm, and a macro. The best lenses for weddings are also brilliant, sharp and versatile.

If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.

Find a lens that fits your camera body, wedding photography style and budget. That way, you can cover the wedding day from cramped rooms to wide-open fields with the best results.