If you’re trying to venture into wedding photography, the obstacles are enormous for a photographer. From really poor lighting such as a palette of neon, multi-color reception hall, to practically no light in a dark, traditional cathedral.
Packing the right lens for the job will be a challenge to many. While we all have our favorite lens or two, also known as ‘go-to’ lenses, we must also have back-up lenses that we may not use that often, but we must always carry in our bag of arsenal to any wedding shoots. Not just to act as a back-up when our main gear breaks down, but also to overcome non-negotiable lighting and composition challenges that we couldn’t have anticipated.
Canon Lenses for Wedding Photographers
In this article, I’ll focus on Canon lenses only. I’ll follow it up with a Nikon post soon after. The only reason why I’m separating the two is for brevity and for less confusion/comparison as there’s really no point comparing lenses used on a different camera sensor anyway.
The recommended lenses comes from different surveys and forum trending I’ve observed over the years moderating and participating photography forums, so odds are you’ll find the list useful as well.
This is a no-brainer. All professional photographers should have two all-around zoom lenses to work with. In this category, two Canon lenses stand out and are staples of all wedding photographers – the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II USM and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM Mark II.
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II USM covers the most versatile focal length for almost all situations. Wide enough for group shots and dynamic environmental compositions, while long enough to take distortion-free portraits with decent out-of-focus background rendition at 70mm.
The fast f/2.8 aperture ensures flexibility in low-light as well as good depth-of-field control.
The Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM Mark II, on the other hand, works extremely well when you have more than a few feet of working space. The excellent image stabilization system coupled with stunning optics allow you to take sharp, detailed, and camera shake-free images in low light conditions.
Both lenses are super fast in focusing and are reliable as a tank due to their quality construction.
For the crop-sensor, APS-C user, the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM is an excellent and safe choice as well. It’s one of the sharpest zoom lenses Canon has and apart from the build materials, this cropped-sensor lens is as close to a professional L-lens as it gets.
Macro and Portrait Prime Lens
For portraits, nothing beats a prime lens in depth-of-field control, high shutter speed shooting (due to larger aperture) and image quality. A prime lens is quick to use and can make your final album look a lot more consistent due to the single field-of-view offered by a non-zooming lens.
If you’ve been following this site long enough, you’ll know that the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L USM Mark II has been a favorite of mine with it’s unparalleled results due to its gargantuan f/1.2 aperture opening and great image quality at it’s widest opening.
The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM trumps the Canon version by a mile in image quality and even surpasses the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM in image quality and focus accuracy as well due to its more modern design.
Using a macro lens for portraits work just as well but with the added benefit of a true 1:1 macro shooting ability, which is invaluable for detail shots and close-ups. Macro lenses are normally extremely sharp and have the best optics of all lenses in a particular brand, picking a macro lens with decent focal length can effectively transform it to a portrait lens as well.
For Canon, I can’t recommend anything better than the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM. The hybrid image stabilization feature is truly awesome and the optics are unmatched both in lab results and in the real world. 100mm focal length is perfect for head-and-shoulder portraits and it focuses really quickly as well for normal use.
Wide Angle & Creative Lenses
It’s difficult not to have a dramatic, wide-angle, sweeping photograph of a venue that the couple spent months planning on. A normal focal length won’t cut it, and a longer lens simply takes the venue out of the frame completely, that’s why we need a wide angle lens in our arsenal.
To be absolutely honest, I’m quite disappointed with the aging Canon wide-angle lens line-up. The Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L Mark II and the Canon EF 17-40 f/4L are both extremely old and not really worth their asking price at this point.
So I’m going for value now.
For full-frame cameras, the Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 II DG HSM is a unique lens. 12mm is already fish-eye range already, and to have the ability to zoom it to a more usable 24mm is hard to fault. The price is competitive and it works on both full-frame and cropped sensor DSLRs.
For crop sensor users, I strongly recommend the unique Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM ultra wide angle lens. This lens is insane for creative shots and is actually very good across the zoom range.
For prime lenses, Canon does have some gems in its arsenal. The gorgeous, gorgeous Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon T* ZE is beyond words in quality and unique appeal, though it’s a manual focus lens (but hey, if you’re a pro, shouldn’t you know how to use hyperfocal focusing?).
On the more mainstream side, the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM is a cracker of a lens as well, though it’s not really that wide at 24mm, but it’s whopping fast at f/1.4.
Wedding Photographers Shopping List for Lenses
Yes, the list I provided is costly, but I’m sure you’d agree that if you’re turning pro, you’ll eventually upgrade to these premium lenses anyway. I strongly suggest you check out trusted shopping site like Amazon and pick a premium lens or two that covers your shooting style first, then slowly add more as you see fit.
It’s important for a wedding photographer to have that ‘go-to’ lens that you can rely on, not only mechanically, but also a lens that you’re so comfortable working with that every shutter click you make, you’re confident that the lens can capture what you envisioned.
Do you have any lenses in mind to recommend? Let the world know by commenting below!