5 Essential Lens Types for Your Wedding Photography Toolbox

November 3, 2021

We’ve surveyed professional wedding photographers to identify the best lenses for capturing couples and their special day. In this short guide, we’ll share the best lenses to stock your camera bag and say “I do” to your next wedding gig!

The challenges of wedding photography

Wedding photography is one of the most lucrative niches to specialize in. While only a select clientele wants wedding portraits, couples get married year-round, and everyone needs photography at their wedding.

Weddings are often all-day affairs, which can pose some unique challenges. Throughout the day, you can expect the following:

  • Venue changes – You may need to prepare for indoor and outdoor locations with different lighting setups
  • Changing sunlight – Even if you’re outside all day, the location of the sun will affect your lens choice. You may also need to prepare to shoot at sunset or at night.
  • Unpredictable conditions – Couples hope they won’t have rain on their wedding day—but if they do, they’ll need a backup plan, and you’ll need to be ready to capture all the moments with the right lens.

To prepare for your wedding shoot, make sure you visit the venue to scope out different locations and see how the lighting changes. Make a tentative plan for the first look, wedding ceremony, and reception photos accordingly. A great app to help track your shot plans is PhotoPhills. This was just one of the best photography apps shared by our expert photographers. Another must-have app? A sun/moon tracker to help you frame the couple perfectly at sunset or capture a well-lit shot of the ceremony.

Next, we’ll take a closer look at the best wedding photography lens for each lighting scenario.

If you lean strongly toward one of these lenses or want to vote for a favorite we didn’t mention, be sure to tell us in the survey!

Get Greenlight in your inbox.

Join a community of 50,000+ small business owners and get insights and inspo every other week.

35mm lens

While some weddings take place in smaller, cozy venues, you’ll likely need to capture hundreds of wide-angle shots:

  • Shots of the guest seated at the venue
  • Group photos (wedding party, bride and groom’s families, etc.)
  • Reception photos

A 35mm lens is incredibly versatile, and the best all-around lens to get most of the shots you need.

Pros:

  • Can handle landscapes and close-ups
  • Great for full-body portraits
  • One of the most flexible prime lenses

Cons:

  • Not the best for face portrait photography
  • No zoom

Readers’ pick

Sigma Art 35mm ($899) — This lens is perfect for small hotel rooms where you’ll capture the bride getting ready. It also excels at wide-angle reception shots!

50mm lens

The 50mm lens has a slightly longer focal length than the 35mm. The trade-off is a less angle of view. But where the 50mm shines is getting a closer, more intimate quality in your photographs.

There’s a reason the 50mm lens is called the “nifty fifty” by photographers. It’s the closest representation of what we actually see with our own eyes. And it gives your work that sought-after bokeh effect.

Pros:

  • Essential for portraits
  • Great in low-light situations
  • Creates more artistic results than the 35mm

Cons:

  • Not great for wide-angle shots
  • No zoom

Readers’ pick

Canon EF 50mm 1.4 ($399) – This super sharp lens has a focal length that matches that of our eye.

70-200mm Lens

You’ll also need a lens for more focused pictures such as wedding party portraits or candid photos during the reception. Thanks to its large focal length, a 70-200m lens works up-close-and-personal, or at a distance (i.e. from the back of a church or temple).

This lens will come in handy for the following kinds of shots:

  • Portrait photography – Use a setting closer to 70 mm to capture portraits of the bride and groom, as well as other couples and individuals in attendance at the wedding.
  • Group shots – Zoom in on guests to capture intimate group moments without interrupting the action.

This is a great all-around lens choice that you’ll find yourself using for future events of all kinds.

Pros:

  • Vast focal range makes this lens suitable for nearly every type of photo
  • Captures incredible background details
  • Excels at action shots

Cons:

  • Can be very expensive
  • Tend to be large and heavy

Readers’ pick

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 ($1499) – Fast, accurate, and sharp, this lens makes a great investment and can give you a range of results at any wedding shoot.

24-70 mm lens

Some lenses are ideal for a single purpose, however wedding photographers know flexibility is key. When you’re taking candid photos, you may find yourself called to switch between a wide frame, group shot, and a focused photo of a detail in the decor.

In these cases, you’ll want a 24-70mm lens.

Zoom in for a closeup, then switch back to capturing larger action shots in less time than it takes to say “cheese!”

Pros:

  • Zoom ranges from wide-angle scenes to beautiful close-ups
  • Solidly built
  • Easy to walk around with

Cons:

  • More expensive than prime lenses (35mm and 50mm)
  • Image stabilization can be an issue with these lenses

Readers’ pick

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 ($1899) – When you want to capture the action at a boisterous reception, this lens is the right pick. Bonus points for the incredible bokeh.

100mm macro lens

Having at least one prime and one zoom lens will set you off on the right foot as a wedding photographer. But if you really want the full arsenal, you might consider investing in a macro lens.

Macro lenses excel at photographing the extremely up close. Think wedding rings, floral arrangements, and other objects. They can add a whole new element to your shoots and could easily set you apart from other photographers.

Pros:

  • Excellent for high-quality close-ups
  • Sharp photos with little to no distortion

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Can be very situational and niche

Readers’ pick

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 ($1299) – Macro photography takes a lot of patience, but this lens offers smooth and fast focus with an impressive range of aperture.

Other wedding photography essentials

Besides your lenses, be sure to stock your kit for the day with a few other must-have essentials.

These include:

  • A tripod for posed group shots and portraits to provide image stabilization
  • A spare memory card and batteries so you can keep shooting all day long
  • A flashgun to illuminate nighttime shots
  • A lens cleaning kit in case of smudges or rain
  • Photographer insurance in case something goes wrong on the job

While most of these items are widely available at photography stores, you’ll need insurance to help you cover your liability exposure and protect your camera gear.

As a wedding photographer, especially when you’re starting out, you need insurance that works when you do, not insurance that you pay for 365 days a year. That’s where Thimble’s Photographer Insurance comes in. It’s fast and flexible. Take out a policy for an hour, day, or month so you can focus on growing your business. Additionally, our monthly policies come equipped with an optional business equipment protection add-on. This means you can protect yourself and your camera equipment.

We’ve covered the 5 most essential lens types for wedding photography according to our readers. But that doesn’t mean the debate’s over. What are your must-have lenses? Let us know in the survey!

  1. What’s your favorite lens?

    • Sigma Art 35mm
    • Canon EF 50mm 1.4
    • Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8
    • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8
    • Canon EF 100mm f/2.8
    • Other
    • Vote

Written on January 21, 2021 | Last updated: November 3, 2021

Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.