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My Favorite Lenses, and When I Love them Most

Every photographer has their go-to lenses. Many lenses have advantages and disadvantages, and it takes time and experience to figure out which lenses are best for you according to your style and preferences. Over the years, I have tried lenses recommended by my favorite photographers…I agreed with these photographers that prime lenses are really cool, have great bokeh, are perfect for low light situations, are really affordable for the most part, and are lightweight which is a plus when your wrists are supporting them all day. However, the problem I found for my own personality with lenses with a fixed focal length was that I couldn’t zoom in or out to capture a fleeting candid moment the way I saw it. For my personality, I felt like a dog on a tight leash when a moment was happening and there was no way to back up or move closer in time to frame it in a stronger way. This KILLED my soul. So that being said, prime lenses are spectacular for super dark rooms and I will never live without one or two of them (it’s true – I am an over-packer in all areas of life – my apologies to the Airline luggage handlers and my poor sweet husband. 😉 ). When it got right down to it, my personality forced its way into my camera bag and created my own lens dream team that I use and love today. So here are my favorite lenses for weddings and portraits and when I love them most:

1. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens

The Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS USM is my most adored, but probably least utilized favorite lens. I love it mainly because I feel like I have super powers to capture details when using this baby. I primarily use the macro to take ring shots. The IS allows extra room for me to adjust my settings to a slower shutter speed allowing me to expose at apertures like f/11 to capture more detail without camera shake. Even in low light, or when it is 12 degrees outside and I am shivering, this lens can grab a crisp beautiful shot! 🙂  I also pull this lens out for items with font or any decor or wedding components throughout the day that have a ton of detail, but ring or jewelry detail shots are where it earns its keep in my bag.

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2. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Standard Zoom Lens

The  Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II is my personal workhorse lens. This lens has a super-fast and reliable auto-focus (even in low light) and it allows for me to work in any tiny room to capture full length shots and also zoomed in tight, more intimate shots almost simultaneously…all while producing a nice clean and crisp image time after time. I use this lens probably 75% of the time, for Bride and Groom preparation, details when necessary, wide ceremony shots, wide reception shots, Bride and Groom portraits, half of the special dance photos, and events like the Bouquet and Garter toss. I just really love its consistency and flexibility.

This lens also captures stunning detail shots in those quick moments where there is no time to change lenses or not much room to back up and move around the subject. With its close focusing distance of 0.38m/1.25 ft and its nice bokeh at an aperture of f/2.8, I appreciate this quick way to capture a variety of compositions of those details in a time-sensitive manner since there is usually a limited amount of time allocated to photograph details.  Thanks to its versatility, I can photograph a wide shot of the whole table, middle shot of just the centerpiece, and close up of a detail on the center piece in matter of seconds without taking time to change my lens once.

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I also love this lens in a more personal since because I naturally tend to be drawn to capturing the grand scene – or the bigger picture. I tend to always envision the scene at a wide angle, with a full length shot of the bride and groom sharing the moment together amidst a beautiful backdrop or landscape of some sort. When shooting with the 24-70, I can shoot at a wide angle and still speak from a comfortable distance to my clients keeping them confident and relaxed as I guide them in creating the image I am envisioning for them…no yelling across the field necessary. 😉

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3. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

I have to say, while I adore the first two mentioned lenses, the 70-200 is the lens that will consistently produce portraits that make me gawk at them. Above is a photo of Bonnie and Shane in the snow. While the above image gives viewers an idea of the big picture, here is a tighter, more personal shot – taken with the 70-200. Notice the buttery background. I love this look too, and think it will more often be one clients want to display on the wall. 

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While Bryan loves to use this lens most of the time, I really love to also use this lens most for Engagement or Bride and Groom portraits – especially when I have time and space to move closer and further away from the couple to get a variety of shots. This lens is sharp and quick to auto-focus while creating a gorgeous buttery bokeh that makes a portrait pop.

One of the best features of this Telephoto lens is the way it compresses the background of your photo, making things in the background seem larger and closer.  I love using this feature in a variety of ways.

One fun benefit to this is that falling snow will look dreamy and amazing with this lens!

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If I want to feature the scenery or a structure in the background more, I love the way this lens magnifies and compresses it beautifully. Take a look at these photos of Kaitlin’s Bridal Session. Notice the mountains in the right photo (taken with the 70-200) appear larger and more compressed verses my wide angle shot on the left. Each gives a different look.

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This lens  is also great for some details, ceremony and reception close-ups (especially first dance and parent dancing close-ups), toasts, and candids since you are less noticed when able to stand further away.

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Well these are my lens favorites folks! Although I have a few other lenses that serve us well, I hope this peek at my own camera’s most loved lenses helps shed light on some of their advantages while encouraging you to find the lenses that match your personality and preferences so that you are always happily ready to photograph as you see things!