“I’m Shooting My First Wedding; Which Lenses Should I Use?”

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I recently had a sweet friend contact me saying she is going to shoot her first wedding this year (how exciting!). She reached out to me to see what lenses I use at weddings.

“Hey Jenna! I’m going to be doing a wedding for the first time soon, and I wanted to know what lenses are your favorite for weddings! Is there one in particular that works for most settings?”

Usually, when I get photography questions, I respond personally, but I thought that responding in a public forum would be more helpful for other people who run into this in the future!

Though I do have a favorite lens and wish I could shoot on it all day, lens variety is important. Sometimes you need a wide angle lens to bring in the whole story, and sometimes you need a long lens to get a close-up of emotion without getting in the way. I’m assuming you don’t have a bag full of lenses sitting around if it’s your very first wedding, and that’s okay! We all start somewhere. I shot my first wedding clients of my own with no assistant in 2008 with one lens on a crop sensor camera! Though my very first wedding clients were very happy with what I did for them at the time (lucky me!), I would love to go back and give myself a bit of advice. The great thing today is that gear rentals are easily accessible and affordable.

Below are some great lenses you should think about renting for the wedding. Keep in mind this is my opinion and there is no right answer. I’m just laying out a few options to think about.  If you’re within driving distance of San Diego County, I love renting from George’s Camera in Kearny Mesa. If that is out of your area, check online to see if there is a place to rent gear near you.

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Canon 50mm 1.2L

I use my 50 for just about everything I can (I’m aware some photographers will hate me for this, but it’s a stylistic preference)! I personally own the 50mm 1.4/f, because I find it to be a fantastic quality for the price. I don’t believe my lens rental store carries the 50mm I own for rental, so I’m highlighting the 50mm 1.2L here instead. I mainly shoot details, getting ready, and portraits on this lens. Unfortunately, I can’t use it all day, and I highly recommend that you don’t either. One thing to note, is that I am shooting on a full-frame sensor camera body (Canon 5D Mark III), so if you are shooting on a crop sensor, I recommend using a 35mm to achieve a similar look to the 50mm on a full-frame.


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Canon 35mm 1.4L

This is a great wide angle lens to tell more of the story. Think a beautiful staircase that the bride is walking down or the entire crowd sitting down at the ceremony. Also, remember that if you are shooting on a crop-sensor camera this lens will achieve more of the “50mm” look (not as wide).

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Canon 24-70mm 2.8L II

This lens is a zoom lens; the others are prime lenses, which mean they do not zoom. I prefer prime lenses because of image quality and lower aperture, but the 24-70 is great for moments like the wedding party running into the reception room as they are being announced! It helps when you can zoom for situations like this. You can use this lens for both wide angle and close-up shots, so it is great for variety in your photos. The cons – the aperture doesn’t go as low as most primes, and it’s not as quick to focus.

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Canon 70-200mm 2.8L II

The beast of lenses. This one is great for close-up portraits of the bride and groom, but it’s especially great for ceremony. If you want to get those closeup emotions, get this lens. Keep in mind it is heavy! I actually don’t use this lens – I prefer the Canon 135mm 2L, but I thought it would be helpful to mention the more popular option. I choose the 135mm, because it is not only lighter, but it achieves a more dreamy look. The background looks like watercolors! It makes me melt. 🙂 I encourage you (over time) to compare these two and choose the one that best fits your style.

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Canon 100mm 2.8L Macro

For ring shots! Some photographers use this lens for close-up portraits, but I don’t care for the look it achieves. My opinion is that it’s best for ring shots and small bridal jewelry or the groom’s cufflinks, but stays in the bag the rest of the day. For this reason, I really enjoy using Macro filters instead! This is just a personal preference, so again, I recommend exploring  your own personal style and owning it.

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Don’t get overwhelmed.

Now, I don’t recommend going out and renting all of these lenses on your first wedding. That would be overwhelming. I wanted to highlight what I find to be the most common lens options for someone who shoots in my style. If you were to only choose two lenses, I would say go with the 50mm (or the 35mm if you’re on a crop sensor) and the 24-70mm. I’d also like to emphasize that you will need a flash, so don’t forget to rent that (super important)! I use the Canon 600 EX-RT, and George’s Camera rents those too!


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But now that I answered the lens question, can I say something?

None of this matters, until you’ve taken care of the more important stuff.

What I have learned after photographing weddings for almost nine years, is that the lenses are merely tools once you have taken care of the foundational elements. I will narrow it down to what I think are the top three elements of doing a great job for these two special people who have asked you to capture their wedding day.

1. Master your timeline.
You must, must, must have a great timeline. As soon as I discovered this, my images got so much better! You know why? I wasn’t in panic mode all day. I had a plan, and when people asked me questions about what is happening next, I had answers. This gave me room to be creative.

2. Get a second shooter.
Even if you have to use your whole budget for rentals and a second shooter, do it! It will save you! I recommend reaching out to someone experienced to help you on your first wedding. It will be the best choice you made, over any lens you could possibly rent.

3. Assist as many weddings as you can before you shoot your first wedding.
Trust me when I say there will be many unexpected events at your first wedding. The more practice you have, the better you can anticipate moments and problem solve with a smile and with grace. 🙂 Reach out to other photographers, offer to work for free, carry bags for them if you have to. After all, it is free education and experience you will greatly benefit from. Expect to get a lot of no’s at first, but if you are persistent, someone will eventually say yes!

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Remember, we all start somewhere, and the journey is the best part! These people asked you to capture their special day for a reason, and that reason is probably because they like you! Embrace this new challenge ahead and enjoy the blessing of learning through experience.

If you found this post helpful and want to learn more, you can sign up for a mentor session with Jenna! Send an email to contact@jennaphoto.com for details.

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  • Katherine Wise

    LOVE this blog! I follow all your blogs and love them all… but this was so informational and helpful. Because honestly who doesn’t love your style of photographs? 😉 xoxoxoReplyCancel

    • contact@jennaphoto.com

      Katie, you are so sweet! Thank you for following the blog and for leaving a comment! I hope you and Bobby are doing well!ReplyCancel

  • Remington Mealey

    Hi pretty lady!

    I just got asked to second shoot my first wedding out here in Australia! You’re the first one I went to in looking for photography advice. This was immensely helpful. Thank you so much for this wisdom! God’s grace and beauty radiates through your lens. You capture the most divine and precious moments. I pray you are doing great xx


    • contact@jennaphoto.com


      First of all, it is so great to hear from you! Secondly, hearing this makes me SO happy! I’m so glad it was of some use to you. Thank you so much for leaving some encouragement behind. Come back and comment to let me know how it goes!!! I love seeing all of your adventures in Australia. Justin and I would love to live there one day. Next time you’re in Cali, please give me a call so we can hang out!

      Love you!ReplyCancel

  • […] for starters, and what they are good for! If you’re wanting to get into weddings, this blog post I wrote on wedding photography gear will help you even […]ReplyCancel