Every day thousands of people get married, and they all want stunning photos of every last second of their big day. Wedding photography is a cut throat highly competitive (and lucrative) industry to be in. To get the best rates, you need to take the best pictures, and for that – you need the right equipment.
Wedding photography is often a whole day job for a photographer. Photographers are expected to be there in the morning when the bride is getting ready, all the way through to the evening’s reception and celebrations. Because of this, you are going to be taking a wide range of different kinds of photos, and you will need one or two specialist lenses. But most importantly you are going to need one or two good lenses that have most (or all) of the below qualities.
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Low Light Capability
This is probably the most important feature of any lens for a wedding photographer. Mainly due to the fact that you are going to be shooting in sub-optimal lighting conditions the majority of the time. Because of this, you are going to need a fast lens that can work in low light. This is especially important for the evening’s entertainment as you are regularly going to be working in very dark conditions.
Image stabilization is again mainly needed because of the low light conditions during many parts of the wedding. Stabilization will allow you to take photos in lower light at faster speeds before the image quality starts to suffer. Another reason image stabilization is required is because of the highly dynamic nature of weddings. When the drunk uncle starts dancing hilariously on the dance floor you don’t want to miss it because your shot is blurry. It’s not an essential feature if you have a fast lens, but it’s nice to have.
This is a big one, mainly again because of the dynamic nature of weddings. You are going to be stalking in the shadows waiting for opportune vivid moments that may only last a second or two. When the perfect shot full of emotion arises, you want to be able to focus and take the picture quickly before it ends. Simply put, it’s impossible to have a lens that focuses too quickly for wedding photography – the faster the better.
Not every lens on this list is going to be a Zoom lens. But any wedding photographer worth their salt needs to have one. This is particularly good for the ceremony itself where wedding photographers face a bit of a conundrum. They are expected to get the best shots possible, but they also need to keep a respectful distance. A good zoom lens will allow you to do both at the same time. Resulting in great pictures, and a very happy couple.
Now we know what things we are looking for in a good lens for wedding photography, let’s take a look at some of our recommendations.
The Absolute Best Lens For Wedding Photography – Canon EF 50mm
We are starting off our list with one of the best lenses for wedding photography that can be used to capture shots with stunning beauty. It’s a 50mm f/1.2 lens that should be a part of any wedding photographers toolkit.
Low Light Capability
The super-fast f/1.2 lens is excellent in low light conditions. This is many peoples go to lens for the wedding reception and the evening’s entertainment. It can deal with the varying light levels excellently and produces crystal clear sharp photographs every time.
The only issue with this lens in our opinion is that it does not have image stabilization technology. This means you need to have a reasonably good stance and technique to get great shots with it. Luckily this is quite a fast lens, which means it is already inherently a little more forgiving of a little shake.
Being a prime lens this is a piece of equipment that will focus at near warp speed. You will never miss a single moment when you have this attached to your DSLR. Perfect for those awkward moments when the drunken uncle makes a fool out of himself.
This is a prime lens that doesn’t have any zoom. As this will mainly be being used in the darker wedding reception it’s not really an issue because discretion is not really required then.
This is the best wedding photography lens to use all day long if you have nothing better, but there are other lenses that are more suitable for this purpose. This is a great choice for its low light capabilities. You will probably find yourself using this at the reception more than any other lens in your kit.
The Second Best Wedding Photography Lens – EF 70-200mm
When it comes to all-rounder lenses, they don’t really get much better than this. This is the best camera lens for wedding photography. The Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 is one of those products that does a little bit of everything, and it does it well.
It’s an incredibly versatile lens that will take super sharp crystal clear shots at any length. We particularly like the bokeh effect that it can create, especially when closer to 200mm. (Tip: Couples love a good bokeh shot or two of their cake).
Low Light Capability
This is a reasonably fast lens with its f/2.8 rating. It can take excellent, sharp pictures in a wide range of lighting conditions – including low light. It’s one of the two main factors that make this our “all rounder” pick. If you wanted to you could leave this lens on for 90% of the day and take 90% of your pictures without ever swapping it out.
The only problem with this lens is that it does not have image stabilization. This is something that really does let this lens down a little bit. There can be quite a bit of wobble without a tripod, especially when shooting at 200m. The low light capabilities would also have been further improved here if Cannon had decided to add IS into the lens.
This is a reasonably quick focusing lens, but there is nothing to really brag about here. It does a perfectly adequate job and will not let you down by focus hunting at a crucial moment. That being said, it could probably focus a little bit quicker if we were being really picky. Overall it does above average in this department, with room for improvement.
This is the second factor that makes this our best all rounder pick. The respectable 200mm zoom on this lens will allow you to take highly intimate photos of the ceremony and the guests without being intrusive.
This is one of those things the wedding guests are not likely to notice if you do it right. But if you don’t have a good zoom lens and are in everyone’s face all the time, comments can (and do) get made about you intruding.
The zoom on this lens allows you to be a fly on the wall. It allows you to take candid shots of intimate and emotional moments. Many of these opportune shots would simply not be possible if the people in the shot were aware that a photographer was watching them.
Aside from the lack of image stabilization, there is nothing we would really change about this wedding photography lens. It’s an incredible all rounder that will do most of the heavy lifting for you. You can use it to take portraits, you can use it in low light at the reception, and you can use it in intimate moments without getting in the way.
We will be the first to admit that this is not a cheap lens. It’s a premium product and it has a premium price tag. But quite honestly it’s an investment worth making, there is no situation where you are going to regret buying this.
You will use it more than any other lens in your kit. Guaranteed.
The Third Best Wedding Lens – Canon EF 100mm
This is another reasonably specialized lens that is only going to get a little bit of use compared to some of the other all-rounder “workhorse” lenses on this list. But a good macro lens is absolutely essential for any wedding photographer. The bride and groom are going to have spent a huge amount of money on their wedding rings, and as such – they are going to want lots of pictures of them.
The only way to do this is with a macro lens, and while you will probably use this lens the least throughout the whole day – it’s one you cannot afford to do without. The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 is the best wedding lens in this category. It creates crystal clear images that are super sharp from one foot away, and really brings out additional detail that other lenses may miss.
For a macro lens, this product does well in low light conditions. Now you may think that a macro lens does not need to have a good low light capability to be a good product. While this can be true, having a fast macro lens does have its benefits. It allows you to play around with and get creative with shadows in a variety of different ways. It’s not an essential function by any means, but it’s nice to have – it’s what we expect from the best cannon lens for weddings.
There is no image stabilization within the lens, and to be totally honest it doesn’t really need it considering the subjects you are going to be shooting at a wedding. That being said, it would have been nice to have the functionality – especially if you want to use it recreationally
This lens is fitted with an ultrasonic monitor that allows you to quickly and accurately focus on subjects at a moment’s notice. It’s a really nice feature to have, and you will quickly notice how well this lens focuses. There is no focus hunting, and it gets the job done. Again this is not really required considering the subject matter you will be shooting, but we will take it as an added bonus.
This lens has no zoom and doesn’t need one.
It’s slightly unfortunate that wedding photographers are almost forced to buy a good quality macro lens. The chances are that you will only use this to take pictures of the rings, and maybe a few decorations. But it is an essential item, and it does allow creative possibilities that you may not have been able to take advantage of if you didn’t have it.
The Fourth Best Canon Lens For Weddings – Canon EF 24-70mm
Taking stylized pictures of the newlywed husband and wife is the bread and butter of wedding photography. These pictures usually involve posing the happy couple at strategic locations around the (hopefully) beautiful wedding venue and taking exceptional photographs. These are the pictures they are going to share on Facebook, and they are the pictures that matter the most (except perhaps for the ceremony itself).
To ensure you are able to capture as much of the wedding venue as possible, you are going to need a wide angle lens. For these all important pictures we recommend you consider the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8, it is one of the best lenses for wedding photography by cannon. It produces a dramatic, slightly panoramic image that can really capture the magnificence of the venue, and the intimacy of the couple at the same time.
Low Light Capabilities
Because these shots are usually staged, they are also usually properly lit using your lighting equipment. They are also usually able to be taken with tripods (as they are often done away from the rest of the guests who are starting to enjoy the evening’s entertainment). This means that the low light capabilities of a wide angle lens are less important for wedding photographers. However, just in case you did need the ability to shoot in low light – this lens is reasonably fast and should be more than up to the task.
This is another lens on our list that does not have image stabilization (despite us telling you how important it is at the start of the article). Again this is another unique lens that is only going to be used in a small part of the wedding, and tripods are usually going to be used anyway. So the lack of image stabilization technology is not really an issue here.
This is best canon lens for weddings and has a very quick focus speed, and there is no focus hunting whatsoever. Again it’s not really too important because of the nature of the shots this lens will be taking – but it’s a nice feature to have.
The very respectable zoom on this lens will come in handy, especially if you have to get a little adventurous to be in the perfect angle for the shot. Getting down on the floor, or up on a ladder is more than common. The adequate zoom will allow you to take the shots from where you want, how you want.
While we have been mainly speaking about how this will be used for stylized pictures of the couple, it is a reasonably well-rounded lens that can be used in a variety of different situations. It’s reasonably good in low light, despite not having image stabilization – which means it could be used quite creatively at the reception too. Overall this is an almost essential canon lens for wedding photography that is worthy of your consideration.
The Fifth Best Nikon Lens For Weddings – Nikon 85mm prime
No wedding photographer worth their salt will turn up to a wedding without a great prime lens in their bag. They are almost unbeatable when it comes to taking intimate portraits (which you are going to be doing at weddings more than anything else).
It’s for this reason that our best Nikon lens for weddings is the 85mm prime. It is available in two versions, the f/1.8, and the f/1.4. The f/1.8 is considerably cheaper than the f/1.4 and is an excellent lens. But there is a vibrant debate among photographers about which is better. The f/1.4 is undoubtedly better in low light conditions, it brings out every little detail and produces a super sharp picture that many photographers say is worth the additional expenditure.
However other photographers swear by the f/1.8 and say that it is the best lens for wedding photography by Nikon cost for the f/1.4 is not worth the huge price increase for what they claim is a “minimal” performance increase. We tend to agree with the f/1.8 crowd, and we are giving the f/1.8 the title of Best Nikon lens for weddings. As such this section will be focusing on the f/1.8 but just be aware that the f/1.4 is available – and is certainly at least worthy of your consideration.
Low Light Capabilities
This is the fastest lens on our entire list, and as such it has excellent low light capabilities. You will easily be able to shoot in the dark of the reception, or in the early morning sun outside the bride’s house with this fantastic lens.
This prime lens does not have image stabilization within it, but as it is such a fast lens it’s not really a problem. Even the shakiest hands will be able to get good pictures out of it. So any professional photographer will have no problem at all.
Being a prime lens this focuses super fast, especially thanks to the super smooth and accurate silent wave motor. There is no hunting whatsoever and it can create a beautiful bokeh effect when used properly.
Now at the risk of stating the obvious, this is a prime lens – which means it doesn’t have a zoom. I know we have just talked about how important zoom is on lenses suitable for wedding photography, but there are some exceptions to the rule. And this is one of them. A good prime lens like this means you are going to have to zoom with your feet.
Because you are mainly going to be using this to take reasonably close up portraits anyway – it’s not a problem. In fact, some people actually feel this is a benefit of prime lenses. The restriction of not having a zoom means that you have to think a little more creatively with your composition. This, in turn, should make you a better photographer.
This is an almost unbeatable prime Nikon lens for wedding photography that we would almost say is essential for any photographer. At a wedding, you are going to be taking many different kinds of photos, that require very different lenses. But you are undoubtedly going to be taking more portrait photos than anything else. Having a dedicated portrait lens like this is going to be worth its weight in gold. The lack of zoom allows you to get up close and personal with the subjects of the photos, interacting with them trying to tease that all important picture perfect split the second moment out of them.
It’s certainly a lens you should strongly consider.
So there you have it, a reasonably comprehensive list of some of the best lenses every wedding photographer should own. But where do you start?
If you are just starting out as a wedding photographer you should probably get the Canon 70-200mm as a good base. If you absolutely had to, you could almost shoot an entire wedding with that lens. The only exception to this is that you are also going to have to get a macro lens too, you simply cannot miss the ring shot – it’s an almost obligatory wedding photo.
With those two lenses, you are set up to be able to take pretty much any shot you could come across. But obviously, there is room for improvement.
If you already have a macro lens and a good workhorse then the Nikon prime is something that should seriously be considered. The ability to take super sharp portrait photos with the minimum of effort can really result in some dramatic photographs.
But ultimately the choice is yours. All of the lenses on this list fill a specific purpose, and they all do their job well. It’s hard to imagine a situation where anyone would regret investing in any of them.
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