Camera Lenses for Wedding Photographers: My Favorite Lens & My Workhorse Lens

Camera Lenses for Wedding PhotographersI’m often approached by amateur photographers who are thinking about making their first lens purchase. This is a big investment, so people want to know what lens is the best one to have if you are only going to have 1. First, it’s important to understand that different lenses will do different things. So this is a very, very subjective answer as it depends on the type of photography YOU are going to do. The problem is, of course, most amateur photographers are not yet sure what type of photography they want to focus on in the beginning. You might end up as a pet photographer, build your career in stock photography, weddings, you name it.

As a wedding photographer, I would have to say the one lens I consider to be my “workhorse” would be the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens followed very closely by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Telephoto Zoom. It’s a great general use lens for portraits, people, action, and the zoom capabilities give you a lot of flexibility for different types of shots. I actually tend to use my prime lenses a lot more these days, but I would not recommend a prime as a first or second lens. While prime lenses have some key benefits, they are not as versatile as a zoom lens, especially when you have to quickly compose shots on the fly. On the other hand, the depth, color and emotion I can capture with my Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM Lens is incredible. But I’d better know what I’m focusing on, otherwise the image will turn out to be a blurry mess, which I don’t consider to be “artistic”. It took me a couple of years to really nail my understanding of focusing and composition before I could really handle a prime lens properly.

What’s your favorite lens?

 


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Foto Nunta Brasov July 8, 2014 at 5:07 am

Hello!
I use for wedding this lenses:
Canon 35 f2 IS
Canon 100 mm Macro
Canon 24-105 f4 IS
Canon 70-200 f 2.8 L IS II

Thank you for the review.

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Alicia Johnson June 21, 2013 at 8:19 pm

I’ve been debating about this topic for a while. The comments were very helpful. I think I’m going to go with the 24-70, too.

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Arved April 15, 2013 at 9:29 am

On my D300, the Tamron 17-50/2.8 (early pre-VC version) is my workhorse, but I love to use my 70-200/2.8 Nikkor whenever I have the chance. There’s a reason the 70-200 is called “the money lens” by pros, and it has nothing to do with it’s $2.4K price tag.

I’m looking to move to full frame, though, so the choice is both between going to the D800, or saving a bit of dough and going with the D600. But the other choice I’m making is between the 24-70/2.8 (Nikon and Sigma versions) and the 24-120/4G with VR. The 24-120 is supposed to be vastly improved over it’s predecessor, but I don’t know if I really want to loose a stop of light, and loose the selective focus capability the f/2.8 provides.

Decisions, decisions… But your mention of the Canon 24-105/4 gives me a little more confidence that I can live with an f/4 – albeit reluctantly!

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Ron Palmer July 31, 2012 at 10:33 am

My Favourite Lens is a toss up between my Tokina 80-200 2.8 and my Tamron 28-75 2.8 both are amazingly sharp and between the 2 everything is covered.

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ed June 21, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Sorry if my post was too long. And could I get feedback on what my next lens plan is, or should I post this somewhere else?

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Lara White June 22, 2012 at 8:00 am

In terms of the 70-200 or 300, personally I would stick with the 70-200 for weddings, I find that to be a good, reliable lens that I still use at every shoot. You can also rent lenses from calumet or borrowlenses.com and that would be a great way to see how you enjoy working with different types.

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Ed June 21, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I have used compact superzoom cameras for several years. And I like them very much. Last year I decided I wanted to “go pro”, and after reading a lot, and looking at professional photographers, I jumped on the DSLR band wagon. I got an “entry level” DSLR (a Sony SLT a35) with the “kit lens” 18-55mm f/3.5-6.3? Both the camera and lens got good reviews from independant sites.
I do candid photography and photojournalism type shoots. I’m also wanting to get into portraits and weddings. My passion is people, I don’t care who or where I find them. I decided to pursue weddings because I think I can, and I read that is where the money is. That and portraits, and so far I’m not making ANY money. Well, got paid half price to cover one event, and now he just copies my other work and doesn’t return my messages, but that is a different story.

My point is, I don’t have a lot of money to put into photography, and I’m not currently making any money at it eithor. So price is deffinantly a factor. I miss my Carl-Zeiss f/2.8-6.5 18-540mm fixed lens on my last two Kodak cameras. My Sony DSLR zoom lenses START at f/3.5, and I’ve noticed the difference between a f2.8 and 3.5 since I shoot after dark and in bars and buildings.

But, that all said, here is my plan:
– keep my 15-55mm f/3.5-6.5 kit lens.
– last month I bought a 50mm f/1.8.
– next will be an attachment flash (researching that now).
– next a 70 – 200 /270 / 300. (3 different zoom lenses that all start at 70mm. Not sure which one I will finally settle on. My camera body and lenses come with IS.)
– I think cameras will last a long time. How soon really will a 12 MP, APS-C, CMOS sensor on a DSLR body really become obsolete? Next I will save up my money for however long it takes for an ideally 18-270mm f/2.8, (or a 14-200mm f/2.8) or what ever configuration Sony comes out with. I know prime zoom lenses are expensive, but then I will get the advantages of both a variable zoom and semi-fast lens. I think this will be worth it. And I probably could sell my two other zoom lenses to help pay for this one.

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Lara White June 22, 2012 at 7:52 am

It’s a smart move to invest more in the lenses instead of the camera body. I would definitely look into the used market. Have fun with the 50mm, that opens up a whole new world of images if you shoot at f1.8. You might try working as a second shooter for weddings to build up more experience and start earning. Here in San Francisco, second shooters tend to make about $300-$500 for the day.

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Bogdan May 25, 2012 at 3:24 pm

I’m using my “lazy man” 24-70 f2.8 for 75% of the shots at any given wedding… at engagements however I’ve come to trust and use my Sigma 85mm f1.4 almost exclusively.

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Mandy Orser May 21, 2012 at 2:58 am

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Lara White May 23, 2012 at 8:05 pm

absolutely, just please link back to the article. thanks!

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Teresa March 23, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Thank you an unbelievable put up, may read your particular others topics. thanks for your thinking for this, Many thanks again!

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William February 1, 2012 at 7:57 pm

My favourite is my 24-70mm f2.8 on my Nikon D3. I shoot exclusively with this lens when I am in action. Once the event is in “steady state”, eg, preacher preaching, etc, I will fix my 200mm prime lens and started to shoot “non intrusive candid”.
I have tried to justify a 70-200MM but intuition told me that if I need it, I just walk closer. Of course, I will lose out on some effects if it were a 200mm. But at the moment, I am quite happy with what I have.
I will save the money on lens to go for a second camera, Nikon D4. Perhaps, at that time, I will fix a 70-200mm lens. But I have to earn my money first.

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Andrew January 23, 2012 at 5:02 pm

My standard lenses are 24-70 f2.8 , 85f1.4 50f1.4 , but honestly my favorite is my 70-200 f2.8

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Roger Rosentreter November 2, 2011 at 3:27 am

I agree with Lara

My 24-70mm f2.8 is the wedding workhorse on the 5D MkII

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Oleg Katchinski October 28, 2011 at 6:15 am

I also have my 50mm 1.4 on old Canon 20D hanging from my neck all the time for that special moment. I call this set – “my compact camera”. And then I have 1Ds MkII playing in turn with 70-200 and 24-105. I also noticed I work more in the region of 70-100mm so a bit scared of feeling underpowered with 24-70

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Ned Andujo October 27, 2011 at 9:55 am

Well I truly liked reading it. This subject offered by you is very constructive for correct planning.

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Nadin Dunnigan October 21, 2011 at 10:38 am

My favourite lens which is basically glued to my camera is a Nikon 50 mm 1.8 lens. I love this one, it produces my best-selling photos 🙂

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Tracy Eau Claire October 17, 2011 at 9:26 am

Love, love, love my 24-70 too! Stays on my 5D mkii most often. Also loving my 70-200 2.8 and 50 1.4. They are pretty dreamy. The 85 1.2 has been in my cart for far too long. Not sure how much longer I can hold out before hitting the buy button! 🙂

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Henning Ras October 11, 2011 at 3:42 pm

My workhorse is my trusty Nikon D700 and 24-70 F/2.8 lens and then a 105 mm F/2.8 VR Macro lens. I do have the 24mm F/2.8 and the Nifty 50mm F1.8 too, but have no time to switch between the images to take…
The 24-70 is super sharp from edge to edge in ALL the images I took so far…

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Matt Snyder June 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I thought about getting a lens designed for aps-c sensors, but if I move up to FF then I’m kind of stuck. Though they are cheaper to begin with.

I tried the Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 and wasn’t happy at all. The vignetting at 17mm was terrible. I had to step down to f8 to clear it up, I don’t know if it was a bad copy or what, it was getting good reviews.

I’m looking at the Carl Zeiss 16-80 (Sony). It’s a little slow at f3.5 to 4.5 but at 2.8 the DoF is pretty thin. I think it is a DT lens, so it is probably made for APS-C (1.5 crop on Sony Alpha). Zeiss does offer a 24-70 2.8 lens ($1599). The Zeiss 16-35 F2.8 is nice too, but it’s running $1899.

F2.8 is nice for low light, but are you comfortable with that shallow of a DoF? How often are you really shooting at 2.8?

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Geoff White June 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm

DOF is partly an artistic choice. I personally shoot at f2.8 or wider the majority of the time at a wedding, except for group photos and such. I tend to use primes as much as possible. But the big caveat is that my shooting style typically has me be further away from my subjects, so the DOF is going to be larger, even if I am stopping down to f2 or lower. The second caveat is that you will get a lower hit rate of sharp in focus photos (due to people moving mainly), so I tend to shoot more when wide-open.

I hear you on the aps-c vs FF issue. There was a time when I was sure the smaller sensor cameras were a short-lived phenomenon, but they are still around and multiplying, and with improvements in lens and sensor production, and the introduction of new systems like the four thirds, it seems that smaller sensors are here to stay. The real problem is that there are now many different sensor size / lens combo’s available now, and with the rate of change of technology increasing every year, we, as photographers, probably have to accept that we likely won’t be able to buy a lens and expect to be still using that lens in 10+ years, if we keep upgrading our camera bodies/systems.

As for the Tamron lens, I’ve had hit or miss experiences with them, but I can say the same for other brands, even the top tier lenses. If you have a friend with the same lens (or take it into a store that sells the same lens) then you can compare to see if your copy is worse than average.

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Matt Snyder June 16, 2011 at 7:13 pm

One thing I did like about the Tamron was the six year warranty. Sony will be releasing the a77 soonish (I hope) rumored to be 24mp (aps-c). Also a new 16-50mm F2.8 lens. I’m interested in the new lens for sure, but if I can find a good copy of the Tamron it might be hard to pass up. Sony’s warranty is only one year.

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Geoff White June 16, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I’ve stuck with Canon lenses for the past 5 or so years, and being a working pro I expect my gear will need repairs, whether it’s from mechanical failure, general wear and tear, or human related mishaps (dropped lenses, etc), so budget a certain amount each year for repairs, just like with a car, for example. But this is definitely a mindset that is usually only attained after being a full-time photographer for a while and getting used to the fact that gear gets old and fails, and it’s not a big deal, as long as you are prepared for it by having backup gear, etc. We rely on Canon’s CPS program (Canon Professional Services) which is a great program for working photographers, giving you access to expedited and discounted repair services. I’m sure Nikon and perhaps some of the other camera manufacturers have similar programs (or maybe it’s just Canon & Nikon that offer that type of program).

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Matt Snyder June 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Do you think 24mm is wide enough on an aps-c camera body?

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Geoff White June 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Matt, that’s a great question. Our workhorse cameras are the Canon 1D Mark 3’s, which have a 1.3 crop factor, so that 24-70 effectively becomes a 31-91mm lens. Probably wide enough for your first lens, but on an APS-C sensor, the crop factor is in the 1.5-1.7 range, depending on the camera manufacturer. So on a Canon aps-c camera (1.6 crop) the 24-70 lens becomes a 38-112 lens, and now we’re definitely out of the wide-angle territory. So you options are to live with this, supplement with a wide-angle lens like a 16-35mm, for example (which is what we do), or consider aps-c lenses that are designed for that sensor size.

Now we could go on for hours talking about the merits of different lenses and combinations of lenses, but the key is to step back from the technical specs of the lenses for a moment, and instead consider the finished products you need to obtain for your clients. Unless you have a large budget to buy a full set of lenses covering everything from ultra-wide-angle to mega-zoom, you need to make a lens purchasing plan that starts with the types of photos you need to take, then adds the types of photos you’d like to take, and use that to prioritize your purchasing list over time.

In general, for event photography, we typically recommend starting with a mid range zoom (24-70, 24-105, 28-135, etc), then a longer zoom (70-200, for example), then a wide zoom (16-35, for example), and then go into the prime lenses and specialty lenses (macro, fisheye, etc). Now a fairly large factor that can change this order is what speed of lenses you are buying. If you can get f2.8 lenses, then you can shoot in fairly low light, especially with the higher ISO capabilities of today’s digital SLR’s, but if you are looking at the f3.5-5.6 type lenses, then you’re going to struggle a bit more in low-light, end up relying on flash a lot more, and so might consider getting some prime lenses earlier, such as the 50mm and 85mm primes. On an aps-c camera, the 50mm prime becomes approxmiately an 80mm prime, which is a great focal length for close up portraits.

Hope this helps, feel free to ask more questions.

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