by Barcelona Wedding Photographer Álvaro González
My first big investment in lenses was in the fantastic 24-70 from Nikon. Then, the 14-24 and before the 70-200 was in my bag, I bought my first «prime». It was the 50mm 1.4 from Nikon. Why to buy a 50mm having already the 24-70?
Prime lenses are incredible «fast», that means, they can have wide apertures that let you shoot in low-light conditions. At least, that’s what the marketing guys sells… the truth is that at 1.4 usually the photograph is out of focus on its borders and the depth of field is so, so narrow, that finally the photograph is not so fine (a personal opinion, of course). You have to be very carefull and creative to use this lenses so wide open and have a good result.
So… what’s the advantage? Against my zoom lenses, they have an incredible advantage: weight. All of my primes are lighter to carry than my zoooms. And believe me, if you’re going to be carrying a camera with a heavy lens on it for hours, it’s very important to have the lighter equipment possible.
The second advange is quality. Prime lenses, at their specific focal lenght, are better than the same focal lenght in a zoom. Of course it depends on the prime and the zoom, but if you think on the best lenses (not the cheapest ones) you can think on this as a regular rule.
So… what do you need for a wedding if you want to shoot it with primes? My suggestion is four primes: 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm or 105mm. Of course, it depends on the taste of the photographer, but you will be absolutly safe 99% of the time with this «fantastic four».
But zoom lenses have an important advantage over primes… as it names implies, they can «zoom in» and «zoom out». You have to think that, at a wedding, the moments comes and goes really fast… and you can’t repeat them. If you have a 50mm and a 24mm would be better in a given situation, the zoom could do the job really fast (the 24-70 is perfect in this case). The situation could go like this: the bride and groom wants a photo with some friends, and then more friends comes to the scene… if you have a 50mm in your camera you have to go a couple of meters back… but you realize there’s a wall and you can’t go back… so you ask all of them to change to another place where you can have enough distance so you can have all of them on the frame, or you ask them to wait untill you change the lens for a wider one. But this rarely happens if you’re used to shoot with primes. Because you «learn» to move with them and usually anticipate this problems before they happen.
Shooting a wedding with two primes lenses
In my last wedddings, I just use two primes. I have only Nikkor lenses, but when it comes to primes, I love Sigma 35mm 1.4 art and Sigma 105mm. I really, really recommend this incredible lenses. Both are fast, sharp, and easy to carry. All social photogaphs, the photocall, the ceremony and much more can be done with the 35mm, an impressive product from Sigma. Then, you need a rock-solid lens for the portraits. Yes, I know, 85mm Nikkor lens rules among weding photographers. Everybody will tell me that this is the perfect lens for portraits. But for me 105mm is the perfect focal lenght for portraits. A personal choice. Sigma’s 105mm is incredible sharp, fast, and perfect for my way of shooting. And the 105mm comes handy if you don’t want to be obstrusive, let’s say, at the ceremony. You can have an important distance to shoot the bride and groom, for example in a church, and you can forget about a longer focal lenght option (I used to carry the 70-200, and believe me, your neck suffers a lot with the camera and this heavy-weight).
Nikon 85mm, 1.4 or 1.8? 1000€ difference?
But if you want to go with the crowd, and prefer the 85mm option instead of 105mm, let me tell you a personal experience. I shot with both of them. And never, ever, used them to their maximum aperture. Side to side, a photograph taken with one and the other is hard to find differences. There are, but at least for me, is overpriced. Looking photos side to side, there is no 3 to 1 difference, as there is in their price (448€ for 1.8 and 1.549€ for the 1.4 version, at the moment of this writing).
Shooting with 2 cameras
If you don’t want to be changing lenses all the time, the only option you have is to carry two camera bodies. You have very good grip solutions to do this and don’t die after 8 to 10 hours of carrying two cameras.
Maybe you think… how much it cost to have two camera bodies? And the answer is… if you don’t have two of EVERYTHING, you’re not a professional wedding photographer. As simple as that. You need a backup of everything because you will never know what can go wrong. 2 cameras, lots of memory cards, two flashes, different lenses… Yes, this is an important investment, but if you’re going to charge for a wedding is your responsability to have no problems at all. You cannot repeat the wedding if something fails.
Álvaro González is a professional wedding photographer based in Barcelona, Spain.