There is no single best lens for wedding photography. This type of work requires a great deal of versatility on the part of the photographer, and naturally that means a mix of photography gear. As weddings can either be an indoor or an outdoor event (or a combination of both), in addition to the fact that you will need to shoot close-ups as well as large gatherings, a combination of lenses is required.
This also means, as even an aspirational photographer knows, that shooting a wedding requires at least two cameras, with a mandatory backup photographer. This post examines a wide variety of lenses, suitable to the many challenges posed by this type of event, trying to encompass examples for both APS-C’s and full-frame DSLRs. Firstly, however, let’s take a look at some preliminary observations in order to shed light on the subject of best lens for wedding photography.
The Specifics of Wedding Photography
There are lots of factors one must take into consideration when approached for wedding photography, as each couple wants their perfect moment to touch on the unique; therefore variations in lighting, scope of shoot, size of the event or manpower may limit you to just a handful of lenses, or a number that borders a dozen lenses.
This multitude of challenges means that for a job well done you need lenses with a variety of focal lengths, although we have encountered opinions (and not isolated cases one might add) that a single prime lens is a way to go, especially when deeming the best lens for wedding photography.
To illustrate the complex animal that is a wedding, one can take a systematic approach. You have the preparation, where you must document the bride getting ready for the ceremony; the ceremony itself, where there is usually a limitation on where the photographer places their instruments of choice; the portraits, which range from only the bride and groom up to dozens of people for large families or grand bridal parties; the reception, where there is a bit more leeway for the photographer, yet the demands are also substantial.
This highly schematic description of a typical wedding goes to show that the photographer really needs to be a jack of all trades in the matter of wedding photography, with the gear needing to be likewise – prime lenses for the reception, lenses with a wide focal length for larger portraits or high-quality standard lenses for overview images of locations and guests.
Best Canon Lens for Wedding Photography
As lighting conditions vary widely at this kind of events, as general instructions go lenses with a wide aperture and fast image stabilizations are most welcomed. In trying to accommodate the many cases, we’ll start by drawing up a kit of lenses for APS-C camera users.
- Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM at $779, delivers adequate image quality for its aperture, has a focal length that suits a wide range of situations. It definitely is the lens that should be part of any wedding photographer’s tool kit, when using an APS-C camera. The 17mm end is more than able at framing a whole bridal party while the 55mm is the way to go for the odd ad-hoc portrait request. One particularly attractive feature of this lens is the Full-Time Manual (FTM) focusing. It is best suited for indoor events, as the flare it produces has been decried by quite a few reviewers.
- Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM is a “mere trifle” at $1,949, however, it is your best option for portrait photography, delivering a remarkable image quality, with its image stabilization system and a focal length range that is more than useful. It offers great value for money, being especially helpful when it comes to large portrait shots in outdoor circumstances, due to its insignificant distortions and non-existent chromatic aberration.
- With the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, we round up the elementary arsenal of a wedding photographer who uses an APS-C cameras. A wedding is a community rite of passage, therefore, one must capture images with the whole nuptial retinue, whether indoors or outdoors. The wide focal length of this lens allows you to immortalize large groups against wide backgrounds, and the asking price of $649 is a decent one, considering other options at your disposal.
As ever, full-frame DSLR users certainly are spoiled for choice, yet we will present three models that have an established place in the lens kit of any serious wedding photographer.
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM standard zoom is most people’s first choice. The range makes it ideal for shooting the preparation and the ceremony itself stages of a wedding. It delivers unmatched image quality (for its price category – $1,749) for both medium-sized group shots and also the much maligned frequent close-ups of the bride. The over-the-top image quality comes at the price of the lack of image stabilization, nevertheless, the sheer versatility of its focal length range is a satisfactory selling point.
- Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM may cost around $2,000, yet it is the standard when it comes to shooting portraits. The f/1.2 maximum aperture on a lens with a focal length that delivers a perfect depth of field for this purpose will certainly offer you a great largess at handling the swift sequence of guests. You will never again be afraid of pacey processions in the dim light of an old basilica.
- Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM is a wide angle lens with properties that are ideal for large-scale ceremonies. What sets this model apart is its maximum aperture of f/1.4, the widest available for any lens that is wider than 50mm. The lens is tailor-made for users of high-performance full-frame DSLR’s, due to its fast and accurate autofocus and amazing control of flare. The price of $1,439 speaks volumes about whether this lens should be part of your gear or not.
Best Nikon Lens for Wedding Photography
We have dedicated a smaller section to Nikon lenses, due to space constraints. Nevertheless, taking into account the number of examples regarding Canon lenses, there is no great effort in searching for corresponding lenses that suit Nikon cameras.
That being said, we will, as was the case with the previous section, three lenses that have acquired “mandatory status”:
- the NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G can be the general purpose lens of choice for wedding photographers that shoot with a Nikon DSLR. $696!
- the NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G is an adequate product for portrait photography. $446!
- NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED for your love-hate relationship with wide angles. $1,096!
We hope to have provided a modest insight on the matter of best lens for wedding photography. Obviously, the more complex the event and the more sophisticated your clientele is, the larger your pouch of lenses needs to be. A lens kit that provides quality and versatility should be your ideal after you have read this post.