What’s the Best Lens for Wedding Photography?
A great camera body will help capture the wedding day’s most fleeting moments. But the best lens for wedding photography will help you capture those moments no matter where they occur.
Photography wedding lenses come in all shapes and sizes and also cost.
Here are some of the most recommended lenses, ranging from less than $200 to more than $2,000.
Are Lenses for Wedding Photography Really That Important?
Camera lenses come in dozens of different focal lengths. They have different apertures and different features. So what’s the best lens for wedding photography?
The best wedding photography lens differs from photographer to photographer. It’s based on shooting style and the brand of the camera body. Some photographers favor bright primes with two bodies for fast access. Others prefer the ease and range of a zoom lens.
Owning multiple wedding lenses allow photographers to capture the moment in a cramped, dim reception venue. Or in a wide open, brightly lit park.
But there are a few features and focal lengths that are fairly standard for the pro wedding photographer.
1. Bright, Wide-Angle Zoom: The 24-70mm f/2.8
One of two workhouse wedding photography lenses. This wide to medium telephoto lens covers a solid range of focal lengths. And still packs in a bright aperture for those dimly lit ceremonies.
The lens is wide enough to capture the entire ceremony in one shot. And you can adjust the telephoto end for closer shots and even portraits.
That is if the budget doesn’t also allow for another fast, portrait prime.
The lens also comes in handy for those family formals.
As a popular wedding photography lens, some manufacturers have multiple versions of this lens. Often, the difference is optical image stabilization.
That stabilization is helpful for shooting those dimly lit spaces. Especially at lower shutter speeds, allowing you to drop the ISO down.
Remember that you’re shooting motion. So while IS may prevent camera shake, it won’t prevent motion blur. If stabilization is in the budget, great. But stabilization isn’t as essential in a wide angle lens as it is for telephoto and macro.
As such a popular workhorse, third-party manufacturers get in on the action too. This could help you save some cash when choosing gear for wedding photography.
The 24-70mm is one of the best Canon wedding lenses out there.
Best 24-70mm f/2.8 Wedding Photography Lenses:
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 ED: A fast zoom lens, this Nikon lens is sharp and performs well in low light. The lens retails for about $1,800, or you can pick up the one with VR for about $2,400.
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 II USM: Canon’s versatile zoom is sharp with solid bokeh. The lens retails for about $1,700. But there’s not a ton of difference between the new and the old for wedding photography on a budget.
- Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM: Owners of this Sony lens praise the bokeh and sharpness and even the performance for video. The lens retails for about $2,200.
- Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens (Several mounts available): Still fainting from the first price tags? This Sigma offers a similar range and bright aperture. Sigma’s Art line is known for a high-end quality. But it retails for a lower $1,300 list price.
- Fujifilm Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR: This Fujifilm is a bit wider than the 24-70mm standard. But it maintains that f/2.8 that’s essential for many low light scenarios. And it offers a sharpness many photographers applaud. The lens retails for $1,200.
2. Bright, Versatile Telephoto: The 70-200mm f/2.8
The second workhorse wedding photography lens. The 70-200mm offers a versatile zoom range. And there’s enough focal length to really help the subject pop from the background.
The 70-200mm is great for capturing details. And you don’t even have to run around to get up close during the ceremony. The long zoom range also makes the lens an option for the portrait section of the day.
Its length will help create softer backgrounds. All this while having the aperture a bit wider to keep both the bride and groom in focus.
There’s one downside though. The long focal length and bright aperture mix makes this wedding photography lens a heavy piece of glass. It’s also an expensive addition to your wedding photography kit.
The longer the lens, the more important image stabilisation is. If you can only afford to get stabilisation on one lens, get it on the longest lens in your bag. That will no doubt be this lens.
The general rule is to keep your shutter speed above the focal length. While it’s easy to shoot a 50mm at 1/50 in limited light, the 1/200 suggested for a 200mm is harder to do. This is where that lens stabilisation comes in.
Many photographers use both a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm to capture the wedding day. These work particularly well during portions of the day where the pace of events isn’t ideal for lens swaps.
As far as Canon wedding lenses go, this is one of the most necessary.
Best 70-200mm Wedding Photography Lenses:
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR: While expensive, Nikon fans note this lens’ sharpness, speed, and colours. The lens also includes image stabilisation, which is one of the reasons for that higher $2,800 price point.
- Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM: Canon photographers rave about this lens’ mix of sharpness and bokeh with the telephoto zoom range. The downside? It’s heavy and costs around $2,100.
- Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS: This lens is designed with high-end optics. And it’s noted for sharpness, bokeh, Eye AF and stabilization. Like many others covering the same range, it is heavy and pricey at $2,600.
- Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 (multiple mounts): Going with a third-party lens drops the price of a workhorse lens significantly. Fans of this $1,200 lens note the sharpness and stabilization.
- Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM (multiple mounts): Sigma’s second generation 70-200mm lens. It’s known for a three to four stop stabilization system, sharpness, and speed. The lens sells for $1,400.
- Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS: This lens is designed for a crop sensor. So the numbers aren’t as high. But it actually shoots up to a 213mm equivalent. The sharp, stabilized lens sells for $1,600.
3. Portrait Prime: The 85mm and 50mm f/1.8
The f/2.8 zoom wedding photography lenses may be workhorses, but prime lenses offer an even brighter aperture. In some brands, they even offer a more efficient autofocus and higher quality images.
Without all those zoom components, most prime lenses are also lighter and cheaper.
The 85mm is an excellent focal length for portraits. Particularly so on full frame cameras. The focal length is more flattering than wide angle. But it still allows you to take portraits in venues with limited space.
The 50mm is also a popular choice for portraits. The background separation isn’t quite as nice as that 85mm, but 50mm lenses are often very affordable.
For photographers who need to make the budget, a 50mm lens is an excellent option. It offers that bright aperture without the big price tag.
While not as versatile as a zoom lens, many photographers can find a decent 50mm wedding photography lens for only around $200.
The brighter aperture of a f/1.8 prime will allow for even smoother backgrounds in portraits. Some brands go even wider, down to f/1.4 or f/1.2.
The wider aperture is also excellent for limited light when that f/2.8 isn’t enough to get a nicely lit shot. This lens is helpful during ceremonies and other low light portions of the day.
For your wedding shoot, this Canon wedding lens is a perfect choice. It can handle those details and close-cut portraits.
Best 85mm Wedding Photography Lenses :
- Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art (multiple mounts): Sigma’s Art lens series is quickly gaining a following. This is due to the high-end optics. The lens is ultra bright and the autofocus also performs well. The prime lens retails for $1,200.
- Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G: Bright and affordable, this Nikon is a popular option. The lens lists for around $500.
- Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM: A portrait favorite, this Canon lens gets bokeh and sharp subjects for not a lot of cash at about $420.
- Sony FE 85mm f/1.8: A popular option for Sony shooters, this lens is noted for the sharpness and the compact size. Retail price is around $600.
- Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R: Equivalent to an 85mm on a full frame body. This Fujifilm uses a crazy bright f/1.2 for nice background bokeh. The lens list for about $1,000, however.
Best 50mm Wedding Photography Lenses:
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM: With a super bright f/1.4 and a price under $400, this Canon has a lot to love about it. For a super low budget, try the $125 Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM.
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G: One of the lenses in my own kit. This is a nice portrait lens that performs well in low light without breaking the bank at around $220. The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G is also excellent. But it sits at about twice the price in exchange for that lower aperture.
- Sony FE 50mm f/1.8: Affordable and bright, this Sony lens is a good portrait option for about $250.
4. For the Details: The Macro Lenses
Those ring shots and detail photos may only make up some of the wedding album, but they are important.
Along with ring shots, macro lenses capture other details like flowers or architecture. You can even use them for portraits, like a shot of the bride’s eyelashes and makeup.
Macro lenses come in all different focal lengths and apertures. A longer focal length will offer more separation for the background. But getting close up on a macro level already provides significant softness in that background.
The 100mm focal length is popular among many wedding photographers. But photographers with a limited gear budget could pick up a macro with a shorter focal length, for less cash.
Many macro shots are photographed at narrower apertures in order to get more of the ring in focus. That means an f/1.2 isn’t necessary.
If you do pick up a brighter macro, you don’t have to use it for just macro. Many lenses allow you to switch off the close-up mode, then the lens shoots as a normal lens.
Buying a bright macro that doubles as a portrait prime can help stretch the lens budget.
Like with a telephoto, stabilization is more important on a macro than a wide-angle. That close magnification will exaggerate any camera shake.
Macro also tends to be easier to manually focus. And the great thing about this Canon wedding lens is you can use it as a normal 100m lens.
Best Macro Wedding Photography Lenses:
- Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8G ED IF VR Micro: It has a life-sized 1:1 magnification and stabilization. This lens is a popular choice for Nikon shooters. The lens retails for about $900.
- Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM: Bright, long and stabilized. This Canon lens has an excellent reputation among photographers. The price sits at around $900. (On a budget? Consider the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM, which runs for about $400)
- Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro (multiple mounts): This Sigma macro offers stabilization and a 1:1 ratio. Some photographers suggest the autofocus is a bit slower than the equivalent from big brands.
- Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro (multiple mounts): This Tamron lens has life-size reproductions and stabilization. But it doesn’t have nearly as high of a price. Like the Sigma, the complaints center on the autofocus.
- Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS: Sony’s 90mm macro boasts stabilization, internal focus and a 1:1 magnification. The lens lists for about $1,100.
- Fujifilm XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro: This Fujifilm offers a 120mm equivalent and shoots close enough to get a 1:1 ratio. The body is also weather-sealed. The lens list for $1,200. (Budget photographers can consider the older Fujifilm XF 60mm f/2.4 XF Macro with a 1:2 magnification).
5. The Wide, Bright Performer: The 35mm Prime
Wedding photography involves storytelling. And sometimes you need a wide angle lens to capture that story. A prime 35mm is brighter and lighter than a 24-70mm.
Other photographers may choose to shoot with two primes on two bodies. This would be instead of using the pricey, less bright zoom options.
35mm prime lenses are often bright and affordable. These are excellent for everything. From capturing the entire ceremony setup in one shot to photographing the entire dance floor.
The 35mm Canon wedding lenses is a perfect choice.
Best 35mm Wedding Photography Lenses:
- Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8 G ED: Wide, bright and lightweight. This Nikon is a popular option for getting the wide shots of the wedding day. The lens sells for about $530.
- Canon 35mm f/1.4 L USM: This Canon lens is a pricey $1,800 for a prime lens. But photographers who have shot with this wide lens praise its sharpness as well as that extra wide f/1.4 aperture.
- Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art (multiple mounts): The Sigma option still has a crazy wide f/1.4 without quite such a high price point. The lens sells for $899.
- Fujifilm XF 23mm F2 R WR: This compact lens is the equivalent of a 35mm on a full frame camera. It’s known for its fast performance and bokeh. The lens sells for $450.