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Which Lenses Should I Use To Shoot Weddings?

This is a question I get asked on a regular basis by amateurs looking to get into wedding photography- it’s a great question, and probably a more important consideration than the choice of camera body. After all, it’s the type and quality of lens used that will dictate the nature of the photographs your produce. Here are some of my top tips:
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  1. Avoid ‘all in one’ zoom lenses like the plague– I have a photographer friend that uses a 28-300mm all-in-one zoom lens, because to quote him ‘it’s so convenient’. Yes, this may seem like a convenient choice, but these lenses tend to have significant issues. Firstly, they tend to suffer from, at best, mediocre image quality. Add to this the fact that they tend to have a poor max aperture, such as f5.6, and you have a lens that is ill suited to shooting weddings. Such a slow lens will not enable you to get shots in dark conditions, and an aperture such as f5.6 does not allow you to get a shallow depth of field effect in-camera.
  2. If you can afford it, buy ‘fast’ lenses– Although it cost me quite a bit, now all my lenses are f2.8 or faster. When you shoot a lot of weddings you realise how often you end up shooting in dark conditions. If your lens can only get down to f4.5 you will probably miss a lot of shots, or end up shooting at a ridiculously high ISO, with its resultant high noise. Fast lenses are not cheap, but boy do you see the benefits of them when shooting weddings!
  3. One good lens is better than 3 mediocre lenses – I recently advised a friend of mine who is new to wedding photography, to invest in a single pro-grade standard zoom lens. He was going to invest in 3 amateur grade lenses. Yes, the latter option would give him more options in terms of ‘reach’, but at the expense of better image quality and speed. It’s far, far better to invest in one great quality standard zoom lens, such as the 24-70 f2.8, and become really proficient in its use. Over time, as your wedding photography develops, you can consider adding another lens, such as the brilliant 70-200 f2.8.
  4. The 24-70mm f2.8 Lens – I use the Canon variant of this standard fast zoom lens, but Nikon and other manufacturers also produce these. They are fantastic lenses, that offer a brilliant focal length range, and the benefits of a constant f2.8 aperture. I’m not exaggerating when I say that 85% of the shots I take on a wedding day are with this lens. You see, it enables you to get wide, establishing shots, as well as mid and even tight shots. The Canon version also enables you to focus quite close to the subject, which is great for getting detail shots as well. The only time I change lenses is generally when I use my 70-200 mm f2.8 zoom, which can be great for compressing perspective in certain portraits. That said, I know plenty of photographers that simply use the 24-70mm on its own!

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Remember, great quality glass tends to hold its value really well. Yes, those pro-grade lenses are expensive but they really do help you to get the job done on wedding days. If you find yourself confronted by limited funds then I would advise you to buy a single great quality standard zoom lens, like the 24-70mm f2.8, and then add to your collection at a later time. I wish you the best of luck!
Matt works for Foden Photography, and regularly shoots weddings across the United Kingdom. He is based in Croydon, Surrey.

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