One of the questions we get asked most often is about the gear we have in our bag – what lenses we love and why.
Before we get started, I want to mention that we shoot on Canon gear and the lenses we have are the best lenses for us – your needs may vary.
It’s important to have purpose behind each and every lens you own, and it’s definitely not to your advantage to just go out and buy every lens you can get your hands on.
We built our kit over time, and when we are unsure about a lens, we rent it first.
Many local camera stores will rent lenses to you at a great price, and there’s also a few awesome online lens rental places (BorrowLenses.com is a favorite around here.)
We love the 5D Mark III‘s for two major reasons:
- The full frame sensor
- The wonderful, true-to-life colors
The full frame sensor means that all our lenses perform the way they’re supposed to – at their standard focal length.
Other cameras have crop factors due to varying sensor sizes that make certain lenses perform as if they were “longer” in focal length (ie on a Canon 40D, a 35mm lens would actually perform as a 56mm lens).
Additionally, the sensor, since it’s larger in size produces more data and therefor a better color representation of our subjects.
The 5D Mark III is the bomb.
Erin and I each use a 5D Mark III and then we have several 5D Mark II’s as backups (each of us only shoot on one camera at a time), and I can’t emphasize how important having backup equipment is.
If you’re shooting weddings with only one camera, you’re playing with fire.
In addition to the backups that we keep with us, we have backup bodies that we keep in the car in our “oh crap” kit that we’ll go to if everything else we have disappears.
We have recently fallen back in love with shooting medium format film, and we love our Contax 645.
We use this camera with a Zeiss 80mm f/2.0, and the combination is magical!
It has been such an inspiring journey with this camera and we’re loving every frame that comes back from this breathtaking duo!
It’s been the most true to our style, and we love the warm skin tones that this film produces!
My most favoritest lens ever.
Of all time, period.
If you are a Canon shooter and haven’t yet purchased any ‘L’ series lenses, this should be your first.
In fact, I always recommend a 50mm (the 1.2 or 1.4) for anyone first starting out because it’s a go-to lens for any situation.
We definitely use it the most out of any lens we have ever owned because it’s so versatile.
It’s the sharpest lens I’ve ever used and is really beautiful wide open at f/1.2.
It produces the creamiest, most wonderful bokeh (blurry background) and it is absolutely amazing for portraits.
I’ve also owned the f/1.4 version of this, and to answer the question in your mind, YES, the f/1.2 is worth the extra money.
Totally worth it.
Our second favorite lens is the 135 f/2.0. In fact, Erin and I fought over it so much at weddings, that we actually own two!
It’s really fast (f/2.0) and is perfect for dimly lit churches and getting in close to the action at receptions.
I also use it a lot for both single-person portraits and portraits of our couples, depending on the look I’m going for.
It’s one of the best lenses you can possibly get for how little it costs!
For being a gorgeous ‘L’ series lens, this comes at a wonderful price.
This is our go-to telephoto lens, and after renting it for years, we finally decided to buy it because we loved it so much.
This replaced our 70-200 f/2.8 as our long option for ceremonies, portraits, and receptions.
The 200 f/2.0 is much sharper, more colorful, and better in low light than the the 70-200, and the wide 2.0 creates unbelievable portraits.
However, this is not a lens that I would recommend for most wedding photographers because of the size (it’s HUGE) and the price.
Like I said, we rented it for a very long time before we ever thought about investing in it!
This is our go-to wide-angle lens.
My favorite aspect of this lens is the commercial feel that it gives to the images, being at such a standard focal length.
It’s a great lens for wide scene-setting images and cool, close-up shots of our clients where we’re right in their faces. This has all the benefits of the 24 1.4, with none of the edge distortion.
This is a lens that Erin uses, because this lens takes a ton of patience!
It’s incredibly slow to focus, but when it locks in on a subject, the results are breathtaking!
Because it’s so slow to focus, we use this almost exclusively for portraits and details, and the majority of the time we shoot it wide open at f/1.2.
This is an expensive lens, so we recommend this for portrait photographers that are photographing slow-moving subjects like adults or babies (no kids).
They’ll get a LOT of use out of this lens!
Otherwise, we recommend the 85 f/1.8 (see below).
Our only non-‘L’ series lens, we always go back and forth between this and the f/1.2 L version.
This one is much lighter, focuses MUCH faster, and produces good images even out at f/1.8, so this is a great 85mm for wedding photographers that need a fast focus.
But the color won’t be as vibrant as the L version, and the bokeh isn’t as buttery, so I don’t recommend this for portrait photographers.
We use Phottix Tranceivers for our flashes because they have a transmitter AND receiver built into each one.
This has been so wonderful during receptions for a couple of reasons:
- We don’t have to worry about carrying separate transmitters and receivers that get lost, break, and decide not to work at the worst times possible
- Jeff and I manually control the settings of the off camera flashes directly from our on camera flashes, firing them at whatever powers we want, whenever we want, without depending on the other person.
No more having to walk over to the off camera flash to change the power – if it needs to change, I can change it in an instant!
We have four of these flashes – two are on our cameras and, at receptions, two are on stands for off camera light, normally near the DJ and then at an opposite corner of the room or dance floor.
These are also less expensive than the Canon 600 flashes, which is a big bonus!
We use the Motorola BPR40 radios to keep in touch on the wedding day.
I can’t tell you how many times these little things have completely saved the day when Erin and I have needed to talk to each other during the wedding day, even to just tell each other to get out of one another’s shot during the ceremony.
We’ve got secret-service style earpieces that go in our ears with a long mic cable that we clip to our shirts. They’re perfect!
Follow-up questions from the comments:
Anjuli asked: If you could only have 4 lenses to shoot a wedding… what would they be?
Jeff’s list: 35 f/1.4 L, 50 f/1.2 L, 135 f/2.0 L and the 85 f/1.8.
Erin’s list: 35 f/1.4 L, 50 f/1.2 L, 135 f/2.0 L and the 200 f/2L IS.
We could definitely shoot an entire wedding with just the first three lenses we both listed, so it’s the fourth lens that would be the wild card.
For Jeff, the 85 is so light and easy that it’s a great addition to any part of the day.
For Erin, the 200mm adds a beautiful creative element. It’s heavy, so it’s not fun to carry around, but shooting long for portraits during the day and shooting across entire receptions using off-camera lighting on the subject makes for gorgeous images at night.
Ashley Asked: If you had to choose between the 24mm f/1.4L or the 35mm f/1.4L, which would you choose to buy first?
What we did was purchase the 24 first and THEN the 35, and if we had done it the other way around, I don’t think we would have even bought the 24 at all, since we don’t use and are in the process of selling it.
It’s not that the 24 is bad, it’s just that you really have to be conscious of what is on the outside edges of your image since the distortion that is present at the edges can really skew things.
It’s not a big deal for architectural stuff, but when you’ve got people around you don’t want whoever is on the outside to be all distorted. The 35 f/1.4 is simply a fantastic lens, if I had to choose one or the other, it’s the 35 all day, every day.
Deborah Asked: It looks like from the pictures that you don’t use any filters on your lenses – why is that?
Great question! It’s true, we live on the edge and don’t use any filters on any of our lenses.
It’s a pretty common thing for people to use UV filters on any/all lenses as a means to protect the front element of a lens.
After all, it would be much preferable to break a $50 filter as opposed to an expensive lens.
For us, however, we’ve found that shooting at such low apertures (wide open) the filters actually distort the images and cause some strange artifacts to occur on the final images.
This is most noticeable when you’re in a room with a lot of bright, ambient light, coming from a single direction that is off-angle to the lens.
If that light hits the filter at the right angle it will actually go through the filter and bounce back and forth between the filter and the front element which is what causes the artifacts on the final image.