One of the most common questions asked by Canon photographers is what the best lens is to buy for wedding photography. There is of course more than one right answer to this question and it depends a lot on whether your camera has a full frame sensor or one with a crop factor, but in this article I am going to keep things simple and focus on the more popular lens choices amongst wedding photographers. I hope that this will help you to make the best choice for your specific situation.
General Purpose Wedding Lenses
The first (and probably the most important) type of lens you need for weddings is a good general purpose lens that will allow you to take a wide variety of photos without having to switch lenses all the time. You will use this lens for the majority of your wedding photos and if you choose the right lens you can actually shoot a whole wedding without any additional lenses.
Until recently, most wedding photographers would choose either the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS or the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L as their go to lens for this purpose, but since the 24-70mm has been discontinued and replaced by the more expensive Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II things have changed a bit. If you have a full frame camera like the Canon 5D, then my first choice would be the new 24-70mm f/28L II, but if this lens is out of your budget, then the 24-105mm f/4.0L IS will also be a very good choice, especially if you don’t plan to buy other zoom lenses soon.
In general, I would say the 24-105mm is the best choice if it’s the only lens you are going to buy, but if you plan to buy another zoom lens like something from the 70-200mm range then it makes a lot more sense to get the 24-70mm instead of the 24-105mm. If you are looking for a more affordable alternatives to the 24-70mm f/2.8L II, then you can also consider the Tamron SP AF28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di or Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 IF EX DG HSM, which have recently gained a lot of popularity.
If you use a Canon 7D or any of the other cameras that have a crop factor and you don’t plan to upgrade to a full frame camera soon, then in my opinion the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM is a much better choice than the 24-70mm. The quality of this lens is outstanding compared to the 24-70mm and you won’t be frustrated by the imact of the crop factor. Alternatively, you can also consider the Canon 24-105mm, Tamron SP AF28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di or Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 IF EX DG HSM.
When you photograph a wedding there will always be situations where you have to capture a moment from a distance and there’s nothing more frustrating than missing a great photo because you can’t zoom in enough. It’s for these situations that most wedding photographers carry a good zoom lens in addition to their general purpose lens.
The most popular zoom lens for both cropped and full frame cameras is without a doubt the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, but the other lenses in the 70-200mm range like the 70-200 f/4L and 70-200mm f/4L IS are also very good options at lower prices. For cameras with a crop factor you should also consider the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II, especially if you also have the 17-55mm.
A good general approach is to maximise your focal range when choosing your lenses. For example, if you have a 7D you could buy the EF-S 17-55mm and the EF-S 55-250mm and you will be covered all the way from 17mm to 250mm with only 2 lenses. For the 5D you can buy the 24-70mm and the 70-200mm and you are covered all the way from 24mm to 200mm.
Another type of lens that always comes in handy at weddings is a macro lens. A macro lens is perfect for shooting decor, rings, the wedding cake and other small objects. The recommended lenses for this purpose are the 100 f/2.8L IS Macro and the more affordable 100mm f/2.8 Macro, which is a very high quality lens for its price. You can take fairly good macro photos with the 24-70mm and EF-S 17-55mm for example, so you don’t need a macro lens at first, but it’s definitely something to consider later on if you have the budget. Once you have used a macro lens for these type of photos you will never go back.
Prime lenses are not ideal for general shooting at weddings due to their fixed focal length, but they are perfect for portraits of the bride and groom, group photos and other situations where you have time to compose the photo. These lenses are known for their sharpness and quality, which is why many wedding photographers keep them in their bags for specific photos.
Popular prime lenses for weddings include the 35mm f/1.4L and the 85mm f/1.2L, but the 50mm range is in my opinion the most popular by far. My first choice would without a doubt be the Canon 50mm f/1.4L lens, but if you are looking for a more affordable alternative, the 50mm f/1.8 II is also a great choice. You won’t use a prime lens often at a wedding, but you will definitely not be sorry when you do.
If I had to choose just 1 lense to take to a wedding I would personally choose a standard zoom lens like the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L or the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8, but as you can see above, there is more to it than that. If you are just starting out I would suggest buying a good general purpose lens first, then a zoom lense and lastly some prime lenses.
Lastly, you should also consider buying a second camera body. This not only makes it easier to switch between lenses, but it also provides backup, which is crucial when you photograph an event like a wedding.