What lenses should I use to shoot this wedding? It’s a question we receive many times every day. It’s a question you probably ask yourself on a regular basis. And the lenses you shot with at your last wedding won’t necessarily be the most appropriate choices for your next wedding. Venues and lighting conditions can vary so widely that you really do need a variety of choices.
What are the Best Lenses for Wedding Photography?
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular choices. While there are certainly some good lenses out there, you may shoot with one that did not make this list. Please don’t view that as a snub. I’m looking at only Canon and Nikon compatible lenses here that are f/2.8 or faster. Under the right circumstances, particularly with modern cameras that can produce excellent images at very high ISO settings, f/4 lenses can be perfectly suitable for some weddings.
But by and large, the best wedding lenses need to be fast. You are shooting in low light frequently throughout the day, and a fast lens will help you keep pace. For that reason, the best lenses for wedding day coverage that we review will be focused on f/2.8 or faster.
First, let’s take a look at the tried and true zoom lenses. In the past, many high-quality zoom lenses really sacrificed the sharpness found in most prime lenses. No more! The latest editions of the Canon and Nikon fast zooms are pleasingly sharp and truly not a downgrade from their high-end primes.
An ultra-wide zoom lens is extremely useful at a wedding. During the reception, a Canon 16-35 f/2.8 III or the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 are great for capturing the energy of the dance floor. There are many really talented wedding photographers who are great at capturing not only the couple but the stunning venues as well. When the family has chosen a gorgeous venue for their wedding, you can bet they want to see it in their pictures and an ultra wide zoom is a great way to capture it all.
For standard zooms, look no further than the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II and the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 VR. These lenses are sharp and encompass that perfect middle length focal range. These lenses are fast, diverse and sharp. Also, new to the market is the Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 OS Art lens. Both the Nikon and Sigma versions are optically stabilized which can only help when shooting in low light situations.
If you are new to wedding photography, you really might want to consider picking up one of these standard zoom lenses. Many consider the standard zoom to be one of the best Nikon lenses for wedding photography, or if you’re Canon, one of the best Canon lenses for wedding photography. They are high quality and give you many options throughout the wedding day.
On the longer end of the zoom range are the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II and the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 E VR. These lenses are both optically stabilized and very sharp. For the ceremony, a fast 70-200 lens has been the go-to lens for thousands of photographers for many years and for good reason. The image quality this lens can produce, while allowing you to stay at a distance during the ceremony (or whenever getting close to the couple is not practical), makes it an amazing choice for nearly any wedding photographer.
Also, the focal range of this lens makes it an amazing portrait lens at weddings or otherwise. The downside of this lens is the size and weight. Using it for an extended period of time might leave your arms, shoulders, wrists, and/or back exhausted!
Primes! Some people love shooting prime lenses and shoot with them exclusively. Others fear the absence of the focal length flexibility of prime lenses. The inherent advantages of prime lenses are the faster apertures (up to two stops faster than the fast zooms!) and often, the smaller size and lighter weights. In the past, we could say the prime lenses were significantly sharper than a similar zoom lens but that’s not necessarily the case anymore. The best prime lenses for wedding photography are sharp and fast!
The ultra-wide prime lenses from Nikon and Sigma are loved by photographers who want super wide lenses with fast apertures. Both the Nikon 20 f/1.8 and the Sigma 20 f/1.4 Art (in both Canon and Nikon mounts) are wide without a great amount of distortion and sharp. They’re solid, easy to use and fast! Try one of these as an alternative to the ultra-wide zooms.
The 24mm prime lens is a classic. The three offerings from Canon, Nikon, and Sigma all come in at a fast f/1.4 and are really sharp. Photographers who love shooting wide are going to love these lenses and the extra 2 stops they bring to the table, versus the f/2.8 zooms. Many photographers also consider this one of the best lenses for wedding reception photography. It is wide, so you can capture all of the dancing and events, while also being really fast and able to draw in the available light.
A 35mm lens is commonly referred to as a normal lens. It’s wide without being too wide and it’s great for capturing weddings and groups. Again, these lenses from Canon, Nikon, and Sigma are all f/1.4, sharp and easy to handhold through the day. Many prime shooters will carry 2 cameras with them at all times. One with a 35mm and one with an 85mm. Just those 2 lenses and you have a lot covered without a backbreaking amount of weight.
There are those who love the 50mm lens for its simplicity and those who simply find it too blah. Whichever camp you fall into, there are 3 really excellent choices from Canon, Nikon, and Sigma. The 50 can be really great for portraits, capturing candids, and getting ready images. And the bokeh on these lenses are often really wonderful!
The 85mm prime lens is one that many photographers are passionate about for both weddings and portraits. There are truly some excellent choices right now. The Canon 85L f/1.2 II has been around for quite some time. It’s known for its legendary smooth image quality, as well as its slow autofocus. Just around the corner, though, is Canon’s new 85 f/1.4L IS.
At just 1/3 stop slower (shooting at f/1.2 is such a risky proposition anyways!) but with IS added, this new lens is sure to be a wedding favorite for many years. The Nikon offering is an excellent lens in its own right. The new Sigma 85 f/1.4 Art is truly fantastic and a lens that most photographers should take for a spin. The optics are amazing but it is on the heavy side.
Many wedding photographers love having a macro lens in their bag to capture close-up ring shots and other detailed images. The Canon 100 f/2.8L IS and the Nikon 105 f/2.8 VR are both super choices. In addition to macro images, these lenses are both great portrait lenses.
The Nikon 105 f/1.4 is simply a fantastic lens and a relatively new piece of glass unique to Nikon. Truly unsurpassed image quality and very shallow depth of field. Personally, we love this lens. It’s a bit on the heavy side but it’s truly worth its weight. You might become addicted to this one.
For those who need more reach than what an 85mm can provide, there are some great 135mm choices. While the Canon 135 f/2L has been around for many years, it’s still a small, light, sharp and fast focusing lens. Truly an excellent addition to any wedding bag. The Nikon version has been around even longer and it does suffer from a slower autofocus. Especially for Nikon shooters, I highly recommend the new Sigma 135 f/1.8 Art lens. While it is a beefy lens, the image quality is wonderful and does provide for an extra 1/3 stop over both the Canon and Nikon.
Anyone needing something both long and really fast, these lenses are for you: The Canon 200 f/2L IS and the Nikon f/2 VR II are amazing lenses. Not for the faint of heart, these lenses tip the scales at between 5 and 6 pounds, roughly twice the weight of most other prime lenses mentioned here. They’re also the most expensive lenses on the list.
So why choose one of these? Do you need one at every wedding? Not likely. But picture yourself in a really dark church, where you know you’ll be relegated to the back. That 135mm is great, but not quite long enough and the 70-200 f/2.8 is not quite fast enough. Bring in the big gun and you can shoot even under the most challenging of conditions. And when you’re done with the ceremony and you have a couple that you can’t wait to photograph, you really can’t find a better quality portrait lens than this one.
How do we sum up all the amazing choices we have today? Not every lens is right for every photographer and most photographers can’t own all of the lenses on this list. What we’ve found is that many photographers own one or two staple lenses and then rent the one or two other lenses they need for that particular event. Thankfully, with LensProToGo, the tough choices of which 4 or 5 lenses to own are not choices you have to make. Just rent the lenses (or cameras, flashes, etc.) to supplement what’s already in your bag!
LensProToGo is a national photo and video rental company that ships gear to your home, business, FedEx, or UPS location. Additionally, they can ship gear to any hotel within the United States to make travel easier! They make it easy to determine the final price by including up to 2-Day shipping in the cost of all rentals. Even better, the gear is shipped in Pelican Cases to keep it extra safe while in transit. Click. Ship. Shoot. Return. It’s that easy!
After reading through the best lenses for wedding photography in 2018, what do you think? Which lens is the best choice for you to use? Let us know in the comments! And, don’t forget to check out the related post on the best cameras for wedding photography.
And while you’re at it, find out how you can use the best Nikon lenses (or the best Canon lenses) in even the most challenging situations when you download our Pro Photographer Lighting and Posing Guide!