When I was first starting out in the photography world, I felt SO overwhelmed by the sheer number of different lenses. I was a biology major finishing up my last year of college and was on the fence between following a more traditional job route or pursuing my passion. I knew that I wanted to take my photography to the next level and be prepared for the first few solo weddings I had coming up. At the time, I had ONE lense and knew that it was time to invest in more gear so that I wouldn’t be held back and could deliver the best quality work possible! I remember thinking to myself, “Man, I wish someone could just list out what they use and have found to be tried and true for their gear!” as I scrolled down a website with a seemingly endless list of different lenses.
That was my inspiration for today’s post! I’m going to share my absolute favorite lenses that I use for every single engagement/family session and wedding I shoot and for what part of the day I use each of them for. Hopefully, it will be helpful in helping you decide what lenses to invest in and when to use them!
To begin with, I shoot with two Nikon d750s as my camera bodies. I know there is constant debate over which is better, Nikon or Canon, but I can honestly say that once you reach a certain level of camera body quality, you probably won’t see a huge difference in the photos themselves. I admire work from both Canon and Nikon users equally and usually can’t even distinguish between which body took which photo once the editing is done! I shoot Nikon solely because that’s what I started with. I went to Best Buy with my dad when I was still in high school and the employee there handed me a Nikon. I built my gear around that platform and learned on a Nikon body, so here I am!
For a wedding day, I like to be able to have two cameras on my body and use my HoldFast Moneymaker Strap to do so! It takes the pressure off of my neck and back and lets me switch back and forth with different lenses so I can capture a wedding from multiple perspectives!
Now, to the lenses!
SIGMA 50MM F/1.4 ART
This is my absolute favorite lense and one that I use throughout the wedding day the most and for virtually 95% of all the photos I take during any portrait session (engagements, families, etc)! I find it incredibly versatile, sharp, and I love the low aperture capability for creating a dreamy look in my photos. This lense is pretty close to how your eye naturally sees things (versus a zoom lense that brings you closer or a wide angle that takes you back), so I find that I’m able to predict exactly where to stand much more easily since it matches my eye closely. This is a prime lense, meaning that there is no zoom to it. You need to move your feet in order to get closer or farther away! If you take a look through my website and Instagram, about 90% of the images I share are taken with this one lense. For a full wedding gallery, about 70% of the total images are taken with this lense!
I use it for:
- Basically all my engagements and family portrait sessions
- Styled detail photos (invitations, bouquets, etc)
- Getting ready photos
- Ceremony photos
- Smaller family photos
- Bridal party portraits
- Bride and groom portraits
- The reception
This lense is usually attached to one of my cameras throughout the entire day!
SIGMA 35MM F/1.4 ART
This lense is very similar to the 50mm f/1.4, except that it’s a bit wider so you’re able to get more in each shot! While the 50mm is closer to how your eye naturally perceives things, the 35mm takes you back a few steps. For portraits, I either use the 50mm or my 35mm depending on how much room I have to back up. If I’m in a tight area and don’t have enough space to use my 50mm, I usually switch to my 35mm. An example of this would be during the getting ready photos if the girls want a photo in their robes on a bed. I usually don’t have enough room to use my 50mm, so I switch to my 35mm and am able to get the bed and all the girls!
This lense is super similar in quality to the 50mm f/1.4 and delivers the same sharpness and low aperture for dreamy photos. It is also a prime lense.
I use it for:
- Larger family photos
- Larger bridal party photos, especially when I can’t back up enough to use my 50mm
- Bride and groom portraits (especially if I want a wide photo if there is pretty scenery)
- Ceremony photos (to get a wide shot of the entire ceremony + guests)
- Venue photos
- Reception photos
- Dance floor photos (since people are usually close together on the dance floor)
This lense comes in at a very close second for me in terms of favorites and could easily be used in place of a 50mm f/1.4 lens. If you had to choose just one portrait lense to invest in, I would go with THIS 35mm lense since it gives you more versatility in your shots. You can always crop a photo closer in, but can’t take it farther back! The biggest reason I prefer the 50mm is solely because it was my first lense and I’m so used to how things look through it!
NIKON 70-200MM F/2.8
I consider this lense one of my absolute essentials in my gear bag for weddings! It’s a great zoom lense that lets me capture moments of a wedding day from different angles and perspectives. It’s essentially a creeper lense and lets you get close-ups of your subjects without being intrusive ;).
If I were starting out with wedding photography and could only invest in two lenses, this would be one of them!
I use it for:
- Ceremony photos
- Speeches at receptions
NIKON 105MM F/2.8
This is my go-to macro lens that lets me capture gorgeous detail shots! It lets you get up close and personal with smaller items to give them a little extra love and spotlight. It is on the pricier side, though, so if you’re on a budget, I wouldn’t prioritize this lense since you probably won’t use it throughout the day quite as much.
I use it for:
- Ring shots
- Various detail shots (invitations, jewelry, etc)
SIGMA 24-35MM F/2.0
This lense is a super wide angle that allows me to get a ton of background into my photos. I only really break this bad boy out for a few shots at every wedding when I really need it. To be honest, you could most likely get away with just having a 35mm f/1.4 lens rather than investing in another wide angle! I know many landscape photographers live this lense, but it is pricey and you don’t get as much bang for your buck!
I use it for:
- REALLY wide ceremony site photos
- Really wide reception photos
- When my couples want a huge group photo that includes every one of their wedding guests and I’m not able to back up to fit everyone in with my 35mm.
So there you have it! A semi-quick rundown of my favorite lenses and for what parts of a wedding day I use them for. Hopefully, a few of you guys found this helpful!
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