Wedding Photography Lenses That Every Photographer Can’t Do Without

There are generally four kinds of photography lenses that every wedding photographer should have in his or her gig bag:

  • Wide-Angle Zoom
  • Wide-to-Telephoto Zoom
  • Image-Stabilized Telephoto Zoom
  • Prime/Portrait Lenses

Wide-Angle Zoom

Wide-angle zoom lenses are one of the most important photography lenses that every wedding photographer should have, typically 17mm to 35mm in length with a fixed aperture of f/2.8. They provide a large depth of field, making it simple to have foreground and background in focus. They are an indispensable wedding photography equipment which allows versatility in confined areas such as a small banquet room or crowded dance floor. While shorter photography lenses allow you to capture more details, wide-angle zoom lenses allow you to capture more reactions and atmosphere to tell a richer story.

To elaborate further, wide-angle zoom photography lenses allow you to shoot a wider perspective of moments happening around the major subject, hence providing a bigger picture of the entire event. For example, wide-angle photos have the capability to tell “stories within a story”, allowing you to reveal more of the story behind the shot. This is essential for a good photojournalistic wedding photography. As events surrounding weddings are so time sensitive, good photography lenses will allow you to capture as many actions or emotions in the quickest time as possible.

When used in a venue such as the church or ballroom, wide-angle zoom photography lenses also magnify the grandeur and spaciousness of the area, which encapsulates the creative feel for a photojournalistic wedding photography.

However, you need to be selective of the scenes or actions using wide-angle photography lenses, as a caveat to shooting wide is that it creates some body distortion, particularly when a subject is photographed close-up. Generally, people tend to look heavier and shorter on the edges, while arms can look huge. The last thing you want is to have the bride cursing you for making her look like she has put on 10 pounds! To get around this problem, you should as far as possible avoid putting the bride and groom at the edges of the wide-angle distortion. In addition, wide-angle photography lenses might also introduce distracting or unwanted elements into the frame, which would otherwise ruin a picture perfect moment.

Wide-to-Telephoto Zoom

Wide-to-telephoto lenses are the single most important photography lenses that a wedding photographer cannot do without. They should ideally be lenses that cover somewhere around the 20-70mm focal length range with an aperture of f/2.8. This ideal range lets you get wide enough to take a group photograph and close enough to capture facial emotions in your candid shots or a three-quarter portrait of a couple without the undesirable effects of wide-angle perspective distortion. They also double as good lenses for portraits. Given just this lens, you would be able to capture most of the shots needed for a wedding decently well.

Image-Stabilized Telephoto Zoom

Image-stabilized telephoto zoom lenses are also essential items in your wedding photography equipment checklist. The 70-200mm focal length is an important range for wedding ceremony photos. It allows you to give your subjects more space in situations where you don’t want to get in the way. As you will often be photographing down the aisle from the back of the church, image-stabilized telephoto zoom lenses will come in very handy. 200mm is long enough to be able to take 3/4 length images of the bride and groom exchanging their vows while staying at a reasonable distance away from the action and 70mm is wide enough to take in the bridesmaids or groomsmen as a group without switching photography lenses.

A good point to note is that when using such photography lenses, nice blurred background can be achieved with maximum wide apertures of f/2.8 and long focal lengths of 200mm or 300mm, whether you are using a full-frame or a small sensor body. This allows you to isolate the subject from its background, and to focus attention on the image as the main subject you want to portray. Such photography lenses are especially useful for shots where you are unable to get in close and for intimate and private moments, where you want to be an unobserved stranger at a distance. Some examples include a stolen glance, a mischievous grin, a kiss – the details that are effectively conveyed by the emotions. Image-stabilized telephoto zoom photography lenses hence play an important role in capturing such moments.

These image-stabilized telephoto zoom photography lenses aren’t only good for blurry backgrounds or shooting events from a distance. They could also be used to photograph stunning facial close-ups from creative angles above or below the subject that don’t exhibit the normal distortions of large chins or shrinking heads that come from wider photography lenses.

Yet another advantage of such photography lenses is that you can use the small-sensor camera’s 1.5x crop factor to your favour. The 200/2.8 long end of the standard zoom effectively becomes 300/2.8, a lens that would cost $4000 for a full-frame camera. The effective 300mm length allows for more creative photo angles than shorter photography lenses, such as tightly cropped images of the groom’s hands lifting the bride’s veil or the bride and groom’s hands while they put rings on each others fingers.

The obvious disadvantage of image-stabilized telephoto zooms is that in many cases, long photography lenses tend to disconnect the subject from the main scene and there might be little to no context as to why the subject may have had expressed how they were feeling, the whereabouts of the subject and who else was there.

When using a small-sensor camera as your primary or backup body, the other disadvantage of image-stabilized telephoto zoom lenses is that neither Nikon, Canon or Sony make an f/2.8 lens that gives you an effective 70-200mm focal length. Hence, you would have to pay the high price and carry the weight of photography lenses designed for a full-frame camera.

Canon’s Image-Stabilization, Nikon’s Vibration-Reduction and Sony’s SteadyShot INSIDE systems are indispensable in allowing you to hand-hold these large and heavy long photography lenses, especially in low light situations. Every wedding photographer should ensure that the image-stablization and vibration-reduction features are available on their long lenses. You might also want to consider using a tripod to ensure continuous, accurate subject placement and sharp photos. Such telephoto zoom photography lenses are huge investments and if you have a budget constraint or an amateur just starting out, you might want to consider rental instead.

Prime Lenses

Prime lenses are essentially photography lenses with fixed focal lengths, as opposed to zoom lenses, which have variable focal lengths of say 24-70mm or 17-55mm. Prime lenses generally have a better optical quality than zoom photography lenses, and usually come with wider maximum apertures such as f/2.8 or f/1.8.

Good prime lenses are must-have photography lenses for any wedding photographer, as they are excellent for taking good portraits. Although you will be adequately equipped for a wedding shoot with the three zoom lenses in your lens kit as discussed above, it is worth including two to three fast prime lenses in your bag as well. These photography lenses are compact, light, and fairly inexpensive and would probably be needed in about 10 to 20% of a wedding shoot.

Faster prime photography lenses are ideal in situations where f/2.8 aperture is not enough to get the motion-stopping shutter speed or shallow depth of field desired, whether for artistic or technical reasons. For example, an image that requires a 1/20th of a second shutter speed at f/2.8 will only require 1/60th of a second at f/1.8, forming a distinction between a sharp image and a blurry one. Many professional wedding photographers actually include prime lenses in their gig bags as an economical backup to their zoom lenses. Not many people could afford to purchase an additional 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto lens as a backup and you also want to prevent a frantic situation whereby your photography lens fails on you during a crucial moment.

There are many prime lenses available on the market but most photographers would include a 28/1.8, 50/1.8, and 85/1.8 in their prime photography lenses kit to be used on a full-frame body. The 28mm is wide enough to cover most ceremony locations and confined spaces, the 50mm is good for small groups or a priest blessing a couple, and the 85mm is long enough for ceremony vows and exchange of rings. A wedding can be successfully photographed with just these three photography lenses.

A Unique Style of Wedding Photography

When you consider engaging a wedding photographer to photograph at your wedding it is important to remember that every photographer has a different ability. With the advent of sophisticated digital slr cameras at affordable prices there has been an explosion of individuals who have purchased a medium range or even a fully professional digital slr camera and set up shop as a wedding photographer. Some of these photographers are actually extremely good at what they do, even to the point of being able to make it as a professional photographer. However the vast majority do not have the technical expertise or understanding that will enable them to capture the perfect wedding picture time and time again. Wedding photography is actually one of the most difficult areas of photography because there is so much that is out of control of the photographer. From poor lighting to crowded venues, from a tired bride to a screaming child, inclement weather to guests who refuse to have their photograph taken there are literally hundreds of things that can cause a problem for the average amateur. Everyone needs to gain experience but do you really want them gaining the experience at your wedding?

Every wedding is unique and your wedding is no exception. You can find a really cheap photographer who may well have an expensive digital slr camera but unless the photographer actually understands how to use and control the camera then there can be a real problem that will affect the results of your wedding photographs. Most of these amateur photographers use the camera in either full automatic mode or programme mode. For taking snapshots when you are on holiday the his options are fantastic for the amateur, letting the amateur photographer create decent images just like using any other point and shoot digital camera. A little anecdote at this point may help to illustrate an extreme of this happy amateur photography. I was taking photographs of a newborn baby when the mother said that her oldest daughter was at college studying photography. She asked if her daughter could take some photographs two, of course I said yes, I’ve always try to accommodate the requests of my clients as long as it does not affect my work. I asked her daughter what camera she was using for her photography course. Her reply was something of a surprise, “I use an iPhone” she remarked. I’m not too sure I was able to hide my amusement, but you could just imagine the reaction I would have got turning out to photograph this new baby if I then pulled out my smart phone and started taking photographs. There is far more to photography can simply pressing a button and this is especially true when it comes to events that can never be repeated such as weddings.

Every bride and groom has an idea, or should I say usually has an idea of what they expect from the photography that their wedding photographer will give them. Unfortunately there are so many bride and groom’s who have been so disappointed with the results of the photography they have received from a so called professional photographer who actually was an amateur who set up his own or her own website after purchasing a digital slr camera. Some brides want the photographer to capture the whole day from having their make-up and hair done right through till the first dance. For others they are only looking for the wedding ceremony to be photographed. Occasionally the bride or wants photographs of the groom getting ready rather than herself; as I said earlier I’d try to accommodate the wishes of the client and when it comes to the photography that they require. I have been known to arrive in order to photograph the groom and best man getting ready for the wedding only to be turned away due to the fact that they were still in bed and an asked to return in a couple of hours when they have finally sorted themselves out.

Sometimes the bride and groom are happy to be led by the photographer and when this is the case there is a real opportunity for the photographer to really show why it is of such value to book an experienced wedding photographer. There are of course some cheesy photographs that some brides asked for, the one that is often requested is where the bride is lifted horizontally by all of the groom’s man. I’m perfectly happy to take said photographs but for myself I never suggest it. Now there are some images that I have taken that I get requested by a other bride and groom’s to take because they think the images are perfect or standing or original. The problem with anything that is original is that the venture he is copied. So I’d try to take some images at each wedding where the bride and groom are happy to let me have a little free rein, that are as unique to that wedding as the bride and groom our unique. Sometimes of course when you client sees a particular image they can’t understand why such a photograph would be taken or indeed why somebody would want to have a particular image. This is perfectly understandable, but because I spent a time getting to know each client I have never taken and image where the client has said why have you taken that. This again is something that comes with experience as a wedding photographer. I once had a couple of clients who were getting married near Leicester who only wanted what they termed ‘traditional wedding photographs’. The groom commented that one of my images from a previous wedding was a “waste of a photograph.” So what was this disaster of a photograph? It was a picture of four Bride’s Maids all of whom were under 12 years of age. Needless to say they had no children at their wedding; they were not an old couple but were in their twenties.

So having established with the client exactly the style and result that they are expecting from their wedding photos I then set about trying to be as creative as possible within the boundaries and constraints that are set by the bride and groom’s expectations. The purpose of wedding photography is to capture the story, joy and the uniqueness of the wedding day. There is nothing better than bringing a sense of delight to the bride and groom when they recall the events of the day while looking through the wedding photographs I have taken for them. By understanding how to control the camera in order to get the very best results possible by using the Manual settings and customising the results for each photograph of a professional wedding photographer is able to produce a record of your wedding that can far exceed your expectations. You may have ‘uncle Bob’ with his new super duper digital camera standing over the shoulder of a professional photographer taking almost exactly the same photograph from the same place in the same light, yet each with totally different results due to the fact that the professional wedding photographer understands how to control the camera to create the result that is designed, while uncle bob simply takes a snapshot with inexpensive camera.

Any real professional photographer will have developed a particular style of photography, but with an understanding of the client he or she also has an expectation that may require that style to be subtly altered in order to create the effect and results that are expected by the photographer and exceeding expectations of clients. There is a lot of advice on the Internet regarding finding the cheapest possible wedding photographer, but I would recommend that you consider the fact that this is one day there will not be repeated and therefore you need to make sure that you have booked a photographer that has the technical ability and artistic creativity to capture your wedding or other event in such a way that will give you the very best memories.

Please ensure that your photographer is a member of a professional photography body.

Wedding Photography Myths

1. I can’t afford a professional wedding photographer If you have a wedding budget, then you can afford it. Plan to designate 10% towards your photographer for a basic service. If you require more options, such as all-day coverage or an expensive album, consider increasing that percentage to 20% or more. Many photographers, including yours truly, offer a gift registry option to help cover a wedding package or even funds for extras beyond the big day, such as that album that seems a bit beyond financial reach at the moment. Anything is possible. If your ideal photographer seems beyond your budget, let them know. They might be able to tailor their services to meet a lower price, particularly if the date is either coming soon or in the “off-season.”

2. Digital photography makes the job easier In some respects, yes. No more clumsy film changes. Easier to spot errant camera settings, check results of lighting setups on the spot, etc. Digital photography still requires a significant amount of post-wedding work to achieve professional results, however. In the days of film, this would be performed by a lab (with the costs passed on to the client), and the photographer could go about shooting more weddings or spend week days shooting in the studio or working in their “day job.” Most digital photographers handle their own post-production work, however, and need to include allowance for this time in their package prices.

The busiest photographers can afford to outsource the post-production work or hire staff to perform it instead. In this case, however, you’ll likely still be paying a premium for the busy photographer’s valuable time. Realise your photographer also needs to account for time spent before the wedding in consultation, visiting clients and venues, doing any pre-wedding shoots and associated processing and printing, readying themselves for the day, etc. Finally, the apparent “ease” of digital photography means most photographers shoot significantly more images and spend considerably more time at weddings than during the film days. This reality actually increases the time and therefore the costs in post-production. One day of wedding photography can occupy a decent professional photographer for a full working week.

3. Digital photography is cheaper than film photography Digital storage is cheaper than film, archiving is easier, and nothing is wasted if you just delete a frame. It’s free, right? That’s only a portion of the equation.Digital technology also means that a camera’s lifespan is much shorter than film cameras of only a few years ago. Technology becomes outdated quickly, and the disposable mentality of modern manufacturing ensures that a photographer will simply purchase a new model rather than replace a worn-out shutter after 150,000+ frames.

The same can be said for high-end computer equipment required for professional digital imaging. Acquiring proper gear to do professional work requires more financial outlay than it did a few years ago. Keep in mind that for a professional, time is money, and the post-production work referenced above in number 2 requires more time of the photographer than was required in the days of film. Finally, the other costs associated with running a business don’t discriminate between digital and film: overhead, staff, insurance, pension, paid vacation. A freelancer must factor in all of these costs when charging for their services.

4. Our snaps can just be fixed in Photoshop to make them look “professional” Photoshop can indeed cover many sins. Clean up the rubbish and balance the lighting in formal portraits? Clone out the busy and distracting background elements? Open the groom’s eyes? No problem.Unfortunately, it becomes a problem when one has to apply this practice to 500 photographs (or considerably more in some cases).

Creating professional results from problematic images takes a large investment of time, when it can be accomplished at all. Hiring a professional retoucher to “fix” amateur photos can end up costing as much as hiring a professional photographer in the first place. The right professional photographer will be able to control a scene with selective framing, composition, and lighting. Professional lenses will ensure sharp, detailed images without resorting to drastic digital sharpening to create an artificially sharp look. Your images will enlarge beautifully without requiring a digital artist’s skills.

5. Competition in the photo market is fierce, so I can shop on price and expect similar results Make sure you ask lots of questions and look at actual prints and albums before you even begin to decide. A weekend snapper shooting with entry-level kit might be able to produce reasonable looking images on your backlit computer monitor, but large prints will suffer in comparison to similar images taken with professional-level gear. The cheaper photographer might not have the proper insurance to cover themselves and any staff working with them should something happen.

The cheaper photographer might not have back-up equipment to cover them in case their primary camera fails or a lens breaks. The cheaper photographer might not have an appropriate colour-calibrated monitor to ensure colour fidelity, plus proper contrast and detail in your images. The cheaper photographer might not be able to deliver your product within the time specified, if indeed they can stay in business long enough to deliver at all.Most bargain photographers underestimate the cost required to do business and stay in business. Be certain of your choice before you hand your budgeted funds over.

6. An album doesn’t really matter to me. I’ll be happy with the photos on a disc. How many of your own digital photos make it beyond the memory card? Or see any light outside of the “Photos” folder on your hard drive? Think very carefully about what your wedding photographs and the associated memories will mean to you after the day has passed. Will 4×6-inch prints from Jessops suffice? A mass-market digital book?Of course albums decisions don’t necessarily need to be made before the wedding. A professional photographer will generally store and archive your image files so they may be accessed later for enlargements and albums.

Check with your photographer, however, as some will only keep files for a specified time frame. Also, make a duplicate copy of your disc and store it in a safety deposit box, just in case. If the bargain photographer you hired can’t afford to stay in business, or the photographer suffers from some sort of catastrophic data failure or theft, you might find yourself a year from the wedding without his or her support to fall back on.

7. I don’t need an expensive wedding album. I’ll just use Jessops or Blurb. The digital album industry exploded just a short while ago, and now consumers have a dizzying array of choices for their snaps and professional photos. If you’re happy to have your wedding book match your vacation snaps in terms of build quality, design, and longevity, then take your pick. Most services have an online design application to make it easy to design and order your book.A basic wedding album doesn’t have to break the bank, however, and your photographer will know some cheaper options, even if they don’t advertise them in their own materials. Don’t forget the gift registry idea mentioned above. Ask your photographer if this is a feature they can add, and you just might be able to afford that luxury 12×18-inch 40-side leather-bound book.

Still confused on some points? Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your photographer or any other wedding professional. We are in business to provide great service, so it’s in our interest to make sure our clients are well-educated. Best of luck out there.