Need the best lens for wedding photography that is universal? Or you want to have several lenses for portrait, group, and lifestyle photos? What lenses do professional wedding photographers use? Do you need a macro lens for wedding? Let’s answer these and other questions to make the process of buying a new wedding photography lens clear for everyone.
Even having the best camera for wedding photography for about $2500 can’t guarantee beautiful and breathtaking wedding photos with magical bokeh. It’s all about lenses you use. Today I’ll tell you what lenses I use (recommend to use) for specific purposes as photographic portraits (preparation, reception, ceremony), group photos, the photos of decoration and rings, and lifestyle images. I’ll be walking through the process in which my mind works in relation to what wedding photography gear I’m carrying with me.
These lenses are very popular among beginning wedding photographers as having only one zoom lens, you can “have” several focal lengths, sometimes even a very wide diapason. But, unfortunately, here comes a big minus – too low aperture ratio. It can cause problems while shoting not only indoors, but even outdoors on a cloudy day. Even the most expensive zoom lenses rarely surpass f/2.8 value. Such lenses are typically used in combination with any fix lens to photograph portraits. The zoom lens is good for everything else, for example, group and indoor shots etc.
Price: about $1800
It is a good universal Canon wedding lens to photograph almost in all light conditions. Pictures taken with this lens show high quality. Overpaying almost twice for an additional aperture step isn't an option for everyone, especially since the photo quality is the same. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM is darker and cheaper, but has a stabilizer and a large range of focal lengths. That's why it isn’t the best Canon lens for low light wedding photography, this model is designed primarily for the photographers, who really care about the maximum aperture.
The first 24-70 is a high-quality zoom lens. The second 24-70 is a zoom lens which shoots as a fix one, according to all parameters. The color rendering is saturated and contrast. At f/2.8, the lens is sharp in the entire zoom diapason and has a low distortion level. Vignetting is visible only at an open aperture, flare protection is at a high level.
Price: about $2700
Nikon claims that their new noiseless ultrasonic motor speed (SWM) is 1.5 times higher than the f/2.8G motor version. Indeed, the first attempts to focus and the speed of focusing were pleasantly impressive. The lens showed itself well in the evening shooting which gives the opportunity to check both a new focus system and the reliability of the stabilizer. Namely, the stabilizer makes this lens different from the previous model. At a shutter speed of only 1/6, the photo in the center of focus will be stable, even in the evening. If you wonder what lens to use for wedding ceremony, consider this one. It is the dream of any photographer. The lens provides the optimized view angle for both indoor and outdoor shooting. Therefore, photographers can shoot the wedding from the beginning till the end without changing the lens. Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 VR became even longer (154,4 mm vs 133 mm of the forerunner) and heavier (2.36 lb vs 1.99 lb), and can be named the largest medium focal length product from Nikon Co. View more best Nikon lenses for weddings.
Price: about $2200
This lens is easy to use, it is in demand among professionals primarily because of high image quality and convenience, which provides an optimal set of focal lengths, suitable for the vast majority of footage. It is the first time when a lens speed zoom with almost perfect sharpness at open apertures and stunning details appeared on the market. Add an accurate and fast autofocus (that won't get distracted even by the dim light), ergonomic build, moisture, and dust protection and you'll get the perfect zoom. Actually, Sony developers managed to achieve both top-notch technical characteristics and pleasant bokeh. The lens is considered to be the best Sony lens for wedding photography for all situations. I believe the lens is an excellent "workhorse" for dynamic journalistic wedding photography fans.
Price: about $1100
The lens is an appropriate variant for photographers, who need a high-quality rapid full-frame lens of 24-70mm diapason on a budget. High optical characteristics, nice color rendering, an optical stabilizer, drip-proof build and 5-year warranty in combination with an affordable price makes it an appealing option and one of the best budget wedding lenses. I think Tamron developers tried to create a high-quality lens that may compete with professional models and meet the expectations of demanding photo enthusiasts.
Price: about $1300
It is a remarkable universal rapid zoom lens for Canon EF full-frame SLR cameras and the best lens to use for wedding photography. The lens is also used with APS-C models, where it gives a focal length diapason of 38.4-112mm. For low light conditions, the maximum aperture of f/2.8 is perfect. It also provides good focus control when using techniques of shallow sharpness depth. The manufacturers used an elaborate optical design, which includes three glass SLD lenses and four aspherical lenses to reduce monochromatic and spherical aberrations for greater image clarity and sharpness. Special multi-layer lens coating is used to suppress flares and halos to get accurate color rendering and high contrast. The aperture consists of nine blades, which gives an opportunity to get a smooth and pleasant bokeh quality on wedding portraits.
Wedding portraits is the most frequent photos you take on the wedding ceremony, and therefore it requires more quality lenses than other photos. You have two options – shoot with the fixed lens and or use a zoom model. Most photographers are satisfied with the image quality of zoom lenses, but it’s still inferior to the fixed ones. Many zooms are equipped with a variable maximum aperture that can be lowered to F/5.6 at the long end of the zoom range. This increases the depth of the sharply depicted space, which makes it difficult to separate the subject from the background, and the blurred backdrop is one of the main features of the portraits. In such cases, fixed lenses offer aperture from F/1.4 to F/1.8. The following list includes the lenses, which are great for half-length portraits.
Price: about $1300
If you try to understand what lens to use for wedding ceremony, have a look at this creative lens with a unique picture. It can be used for shooting half-length portraits of the bride or groom as well as full-length ones with a very nice soft effect and bokeh. Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM can create a beautiful background out of literally nothing, just blurring a dull and uninteresting backdrop. The low focusing speed, as well as the softness of the image at open apertures, doesn’t make it applicable in reportage and any other dynamic shooting. F/1.2 lens speed is the maximum in the modern Canon lenses line. The lens is large and heavy, because of the large weight of the glass inside. The resolution is low at the edges, but only at open aperture. The situation is much better at 2.0, and the resolution is high across the entire image field at 2.8 aperture.
Price: about $300
Nikon 50/1.8G is a high-aperture autofocus lens from Nikon. This lens is one of the most affordable on the market. Lightweight and compact 50mm standard lens. It has a large f/1.8 lens speed, which is suitable for shooting in low light conditions and provides a bright image in the viewfinder. A great choice for taking portraits at the wedding party. The only weak point of this lens is the distortion. However, more expensive models have some visible distortions as well. As for me, it is the best lens for outdoor wedding photography because it works great even in challenging lighting conditions as rain/fog/snow. In comparison with other 50 mm lenses, this one can boast of reasonable price/performance ratio.
Price: about $850
The lens is designed for Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras. There is no optical stabilizer. Autofocus speed is very fast, and it feels like it is almost on the level with the best reportage zoom lenses. It has excellent accuracy and sharpness, and everything is fine even at an open aperture. However, there were situations when the lens did not find the object immediately under medium lighting. There are not so many products with such a lens speed and focal length on the modern photo market. It’s the best Sony lens for wedding photography, which provides excellent detail over the entire area of the frame at an open aperture even on a 42-megapixel matrix. Its high sharpness is combined with soft and plastic bokeh. The only disadvantage about this lens is a noticeable vignetting and chromatic aberrations at the open aperture. However, they do not significantly influence the image quality.
Price: about $600
This lens with a rare combination of focal length and luminosity was the only one of a kind until 2017. Manufacturers combined relatively high f/1.8 lens speed and optical stabilization system. This allows you to forget about the flash and shoot with a camera in your hands in natural light and even at dusk at acceptable ISO. This is also probably the sharpest lens in its class. It will produce perfect image detail from F1.8. It is also equipped with a built-in stabilizer in order to achieve sharp pictures. Tamron SP 45mm F1.8 Di VC USD can be definitely recommended to all fans of high sharpness, high-quality images and comfort use. This lens will be interesting to both professionals and amateurs, and its price makes it affordable for a sufficiently wide range of photographers.
Price: about $900
This model takes the first place in my 50 mm lenses list and is in a high position among all tested and familiar lenses. It has excellent sharpness, and there is no difference between the center and the edges of the frame. There is almost no distortion, low chromatic aberrations and low vignetting. In many ways, this lens is better than Canon 50/1.2L, but it is inferior in size and, most importantly, in the picture quality. Sigma has peculiar bokeh, which is softer than in L model in the previous version, but here we can see that it is more often sharper. At an open aperture, it gives such a sharpness that is difficult to find in its competitors. That’s why I would recommend this lens primarily to all wedding and event photographers. Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art will help you forget about bad lighting, and allow you to get great pictures.
In addition to powerful and budget wedding lenses, this list also includes portrait models, but only those that are no longer suitable for half-length portraits. These are the lenses that are ideal for shoulder-length portraits. This is the most expensive lens segment (except for “crazy” telephoto lenses), but usually, their quality will allow you to get very sharp and saturated portraits, with good bokeh. These lenses will be the most suitable for lifestyle photography, where you can single out each guest among other people, from the room or nature. Such pictures are particularly vivid, as they are not posed.
Price: about $1900
This professional portrait lens became a dream of many Canon fans after its release because it is characterized by a unique picture quality and a magnificent bokeh. This is an extremely important characteristic in portrait photography and event shooting. However, photographers complained about visible chromatic aberrations, slow AF, and low sharpness. Having released the update, Canon established a new level of quality. The quality of the picture itself has not improved significantly, but autofocus has become much better, and there is also optical image stabilization. Even in the dark, the lens shows the skin tone great. There is glare from contrast sources, which evens out the illumination of the skin. That’s why it’s the best Canon lens for indoor photography. Still, the lens isn’t durable enough and it has quite a large weight.
Price: about $440
If you need to get high-quality photos at wedding photo session, it’s a must-have lens in your arsenal. This is a simple model, without expensive ED and aspherical elements that significantly increase the price of lens production. Yet this lens is one of the sharpest, among all 85 mm fixes that I have ever used. The sharpness is especially great in the cameras without an anti-aliasing filter, like D810. There is no lens distortion, and 85mm f/1.8G is sharp across the entire frame. The sharpness is almost equal from the center to the edges of the frame, which is very important for portrait and studio shooting. However, you should check that you have the focus exactly where you need it at a fully open aperture. Bokeh is not bad, though it is not perfect as well. Therefore, if you want the background to be blurred even more, you'd better take 85mm f/1.4G. Still, it isn’t the best Nikon lens for wedding photography and quick reportage shooting, because you may need to set autofocus for a long time. In difficult lighting conditions, you may also notice chromatic aberrations.
Price: about $640
The lens was released in 2017 and had all the chances to become a bestseller in the Sony Alpha system. This is the most accessible brand portrait lens of the E bayonet. The lens appeared to be very sharp, and it is not a classic representative of modern portrait lenses with an ideal and boring bokeh. The blurring of this lens has some formal “flaws” in the form of light bokeh twisting, a bit harsh glare than other portrait lenses have. Nevertheless, this slight non-perfection gives SEL85F18 its character and singularity. This is a truly creative lens, in which bokeh is not just a perfect blur, but an expressive tool. Particularly interesting is the focus testing at a wide open aperture. So, the lens is sometimes focused with a small front-focus, although this is not critical, and the focus shift is often smoothed by an increased depth of field. The only drawback of such best Sony lens for wedding photography is the tendency to reduce the contrast when shooting against the light. It is rather annoying, but it depends on the way you shoot, and it should not affect your decision to buy it. This lens is suitable for full-frame mirrorless cameras of A7 series and it is compatible with models with an APS-C format matrix.
Price: about $750
The lens is designed specifically for portrait photography. The lens picture, like in the rest of the portraits lenses, doesn’t differ by a strong micro-contrast at an open aperture, but the detail is very high and uniform. The developers created the optical scheme suitable for multi-megapixel cameras.
This lens doesn’t feature automatic aberrations correction either in cameras or in most RAW converters, but there is nothing to correct because they are almost absent. The distortion is small and even vignetting, which is noticeable at an open diaphragm, doesn’t interfere with the work. The lens speed is not the highest according to the standards of portrait optics, but it is enough for convenient work. You can blur everything around the eyes on close-up shots. Autofocus works very quickly, especially for a portrait lens. Undoubtedly, Tamron 85/1.8 Di VC USD with its optical perfection, the stabilizer work, and moisture protection will be the best lens for wedding photography or portraits, especially for a camera that has a great number of megapixels.
Price: about $1000
A well thought-out construction, excellent design, and great optical characteristics make the lens truly high-quality. The lens pleasantly surprises with the high accuracy of focusing in low light conditions. In all the pictures I took there are almost no frames with blunders. Moreover, the accuracy depends on the selected system, so Nikon D750 will give almost 100% of the focus. The picture has beautiful bokeh, inherent in the entire Art series. The contrast is high, both when shooting outdoors and indoors. Sigma 85mm ART is not afraid of the backlight, and the photos do not lose their color saturation and contrast. Thanks to the high aperture and long focal length, it can also be successfully used for reportage shootings. The exact and fast focus will please everybody, who shoots sports events, and those, who have chosen children and wedding photography as their profession. Yes, it is heavier than other portrait lenses, but in this case, we are talking about quality. The image quality really corresponds to the Art line. Moreover, you feel that the construction is so reliable that it can be intensively used for many years and it will not break.
Wide-angle lenses for wedding photography should be treated with extreme caution because most of the lenses of this type have geometric distortions, which are unacceptable for weddings. Best lens for wedding photography is the one that doesn't have such distortion. Wide-angle lenses are used to show not only the main object in a photo but also a delightful background.
Price: about $2000
The lens is a rare combination of f/1.4 lens speed, highest sharpness at an open aperture and smooth flexible pattern. Such a set of characteristics for a 35mm full-frame lens is quite rare. The lens has other unquestionable advantages: fast autofocus for this class of optics, small minimum focusing distance. But there are also some disadvantages: at open apertures, the lens is prone to chromatic aberrations that appear in the form of purple stripes and halos. At f/1.4, vignetting is visible. The lens belongs to the line of professional optics and differs from the younger version with the f/2 technically improved build, which has advanced optics. The lens speed is a whole step above, but it is three times more expensive, half longer and weighs twice as much. This lens is indispensable for highly artistic tasks when the background blur pattern becomes an important part of the composition. I believe that it is the best Canon lens for portraits and wedding photography, as it is a creative lens with a smooth and beautiful picture.
Price: about $500
It is a great full-frame 35mm lens with excellent optical quality, good contrast, and high autofocus speed (one of Nikon's fastest fix lenses). The lens remains rather compact and light, that's why it is the best Nikon wide angle lens for wedding photography. Vignetting and distortion are not significant. The ED letters don’t really matter, as the lens chromatic aberrations are quite strong. If you want an affordable full-frame 35mm lens and you shoot a lot at a closed aperture (f/4 and below), you will definitely like it. It seems that the fix with such focal length should be in the bag of every novice photographer and even an advanced enthusiast. It has very fast focusing, is sharp, lightweight, compact and is not expensive.
Price: about $2200
Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM is another good portrait lend from the G Master Sony lineup. Sharp with an open aperture, with low levels of chromatic aberration and geometric distortion, with a pleasant blurring effect on the background. The lens has a fast and silent autofocus, equipped with a dust- and waterproof body. Talking about its minuses, this is a little vignetting on the open diaphragm. However, both vignetting and geometric distortions (yes, they also exist, but are very weakly expressed) are easily removed with one click in the RAW converter without damaging the image quality. Only the price can scare the photographer away from buying this wonderful lens.
Price: about $900
It is a rapid ultra wide-angle lens with variable focal length for SLR cameras. The lens is made very reliably, but because of a considerable size, it is the largest in the class. Rubberized rings move smoothly, zoom works easily, and accurately, the refocusing is soft, without any distortion. The lens hood is not removable, which affects the dimensions. It is one of the heaviest lenses (not narrow-angle ones) I have ever used. The classic Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM weighs 950 grams. The built-in Dual MPU microprocessor unit has significantly increased the speed and accuracy of the autofocusing together with the efficiency of the image stabilization system. This new generation lens with first-class optics and a wide variety of functions is the best camera lens for wedding photography that will also satisfy any demands.
Price: about $800
If you need the best lens for wedding photography and want to get a wide-angle one, but not a fisheye, with minimum distortion, this is an excellent option. The lens is unique because(at the moment of purchase) such focal length for full-frame cameras didn't exist. The lens is heavy but not large, and it is an advantage. Comparing with Tokina AT-x 16-28 mm f/2.8, which doesn't fit in any bag, this one is of a compact size. There are certain disadvantages, concerning sharpness, which is absent at an open aperture and the corners are fuzzy at f/8. At 12 mm, if you don't remove the built-in blend, you’ll get a very strong vignetting. If you shoot with crop matrix, you don’t need to remove the blend. The lens is recommended for indoor shooting, but you will need to raise the ISO to get enough lens speed.
A macro lens isn't the type of lenses that you must have if you want to shoot a wedding ceremony. Macro wedding shooting isn't very common because good pictures of rings or any small decorations can be taken even with the usual 24-70mm lens. After all, if you have a macro lens, in any case, it doesn't limit the scope of its usage, but, on the contrary, only expands it: your portraits will be much sharper.
Price: about $700
It is a great macro lens that belongs to Canon lens L-series. Therefore, you may expect a good image and build quality. It is the first macro Canon lens with the image stabilization system. This system allows compensating different types of blurs. The stabilizer works really well, especially in the diapason from infinity to 0.5 m. It is truly the best lens for wedding photography Canon, which can also be used for portraits. The picture is brighter than with non-L models. The aperture and focal length have good micro contrast, very beautiful bokeh and the accuracy of the geometry over the entire frame field. There are almost no chromatic aberrations, which is sometimes considered “acceptable" even with more expensive lenses.
Price: about $800
It is an expensive and professional device designed to produce photos of the highest quality. It is also the best Nikon macro lens for wedding photography.
It is a unique medium telephoto lens to shoot small objects and now the only one fix focus macro lens with optical stabilization. This is the lens, which uses vibration reduction (VR) in macro photography, provides images with maximum optical quality and resolution for both digital and SLR cameras. The built-in optical stabilization provides up to four additional exposure stages. The pleasant structure of blurring areas makes it perfect not only for macro photography but also for portraits and reportage.
Price: about $1000
The lens belongs to G-series, which means that we deal with a high-end lens. Before G Master lenses appeared on the market in 2016, G series from Sony was considered to be the best. Despite a certain specialization (macro photography), the lens can have a more universal application, for example, in still-life photography, when you need to be more attentive with small details. That's why it can also be called the best Sony lens for wedding photography. Conveniently, the lens can be recommended to shoot reportages and other footage. The focal distances limiter easily turns the macro lens into a usual 100-mm fix with lens f/2.8 speed and excellent sharpness at an open aperture. Lens bokeh is surely inferior to the real portrait optics: in the contrast compositions you may get contrasting flare, and at partly closed diaphragm – the effect of the rings. However, in the majority of cases, the blur area looks smooth and pleasant enough. When shooting in macro mode, the background looks the most advantageous. In general, the lens is known for a very beautiful macro lens picture.
Price: about $700
You can immediately achieve great sharpness in the center at an open aperture at F2.8, which is typical for Pro macro lenses. The peak of resolution falls on F4. In the center of the shot, the lens may exceed the sensor limit in some camera models. The edges of the shot are very sharp, though they aren't as good. At F5.6, the maximum level of even detailization is achieved all over the frame field. It may be used as a portrait lens or one lens for wedding photography, as well as a lightweight and high-quality telephoto lens.
Unlike the previous version, the lens is protected not only from moisture but also from dust. It has a more functional image stabilizer and a rather fast, silent ultrasonic autofocus. All this available at a great price: the new lens costs practically the same as the forerunner.
Price: about $500
It is a stable version of the macro lens with an ultrasonic motor of autofocus drive and the best lens for wedding photography. A rapid telephoto lens of professional EX line was specifically designed for digital cameras with a full-size sensor. It allows macro shooting at 1:1scale and is equipped with OS optical stabilization system and HSM ultrasonic autofocus. The lens has no visible problems with extensional chromatic aberration. The autofocus is quiet and accurate enough, but noticeably slower than the ones from its competitors. Thanks to the ultra-low dispersion lenses (SLD), the model has corrected distortion and aberrations. Multi-layer lens coating of optical elements effectively eliminates unwanted flare and re-reflections, increasing the natural contrast of the image.
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Choosing a lens isn’t easier than choosing a new camera body. You watch videos on YouTube, read articles, compare photos and the principle “the more expensive the lens is, the better it works” isn’t reasonable here. You should clearly understand which lens you need, what do you want from it, and which characteristics are most important to you. For example, for portraits, the lens speed is the most important factor, for wide-angle shots you need the lens, which helps take pictures without distortion, and for lifestyle photography, it is fast focusing and good stabilization that really matters.
If you plan to shoot portraits, the best decision will be 50mm, 85mm, and 135mm, depending on the kind of portraits you want to shoot. If you are looking for the best lens for wedding photography and you need to show the background using a wide angle, select between 14mm – 35mm variants. Do not even think about lower focal length, as this will be a fisheye, which means visible geometric distortion. When you understand what you want to shoot, you should decide whether you need a zoom or fix lens. I’ve already told you about the pros and cons of each one.
The more lens speed is, the better results you get. But not always you can get a lens with the necessary focal length and large lens speed. Zoom lenses often have lower lens speed than fix lenses. That is why you should decide, whether you want to take delightful pictures blurring the background and drawing bokeh, and constantly move to get closer or approach the subject simply by moving your hand with the lens speed of 2-3 levels less.
This is mainly related to wide-angle lenses because they often have the greatest distortion. However, now there is quite a large selection of wide-angle lenses with minimal distortions. You should avoid significant distortion, especially in group photos, because if there are people, who are very close to the edge of the frame, there is a possibility that they can be stretched.
Focusing speed depends not only on the lens but also on the camera itself. When you buy a lens, it is better to have the fastest autofocus. If it works too slowly, you can miss an important frame because of the long focus. Optical Stabilization is also an important parameter, especially for lifestyle photography. Typically, people do not pose for a photographer, they move unpredictably. If it is an evening photo session, you have to shoot at a longer exposure, without stabilization, and you will certainly get blurred photos.
Perhaps it’s not a very important point for some people, but you will agree that it’s quite difficult to carry a camera with a lens around your neck for 10 hours. It all together will weigh 7 pounds. But more often than not, good optical instruments and devices weigh a lot, and it isn’t reasonable to take 5 lenses if you don’t have a second shooter. It is better to take a couple of lenses that will have an average weight but which will not cause much discomfort.
Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a photographer, photo retoucher and of course, journalist. Here on FixThePhoto blog you can find all of my reviews, photography and photo editing tips, pricing guides, and photography experiments.