Wedding Photography and the Zoom Lens

If you get a bunch of wedding photographers together in a room (like AA), talk will eventually come around to lenses. A bunch of photographers talking about lenses makes watching paint dry seem glamorous. Everyone has a favorite lens and everyone has a particular style and it can be tough to decide on what your style and lens choices will be. It’s really just trial and error. Eventually, you will find yourself reaching for the same lens again and again and suddenly, before you know it, you have a style!

So, let’s talk about the almighty zoom lens.

Everyone loves the zoom lens. It’s long and sexy and makes you look like you are a PRO, baby!   “Look at my lens! I must know what I’m doing!”   The “photo-journalistic” photographers love the big zoom because it enables them to sit in the back and take pictures without being noticed; because if someone see’s them, the magical veil will be lifted and the unicorn will die (or something like that). The truth is that everyone is a photo-journalistic photographer now. I have yet to meet a single photographer who claims to only show up, take posed pictures, and leave.

But I digress. I was talking about the big zoom…

You need the big zoom. You may not need it right away but eventually you will get that gig where it’s “no flash, no approaching the altar…. in fact, if you could just stay in the parking lot we’d be very happy.” When that happens, you need the 70-200mm, f2.8, IS, monster. On the plus side, this lens can be used everyday for portraits as it is an awesome lens. Check out any website that sells this lens and read the reviews. You can almost see the reviewers drooling as they write about their love for it. Get it, use it, love it.

Personally, I could (and have) shot entire weddings without ever mounting a zoom lens.

What’s that you say? No zoom lens!? Have you gone insane!?

You see, here’s where I differ from many photo-journalistic photographers: I like to be close to the action.

That’s why I use an 18-50mm lens most of the time. (Crop-body camera so it’s actually 29-75  times the square root of “pi” or something.)   Here’s why:

1.   I can zoom with my feet. Except for the church (and sometimes there, too), I am usually in a tight space. Even in a big reception hall there are tables and chairs and people dancing, etc. I can’t always back up to get a good shot but I can almost always walk closer. Also, the closer I am to my subject, the less chance that someone will block my shot.

2.   Flash management. Well, not always–because there’s something to be said for being back far enough to easily bounce flash off a wall–but, in most receptions I am moving around so much that it’s more likely  I am bouncing off the ceiling with a little bounce forward. And that is easier to control if you are not too far back from the subjects.

3.   I get better pictures from people who know I’m there most of the time. Yea, yea… I know: We’re supposed to be observers. Well, guess what: A lot of people like pictures where they are looking at the camera. Shocking but true. At my last wedding I had a guest come up and ask me, “Do you always have so much fun at weddings?”   I don’t blend in. I’m a big guy and I’m going to be noticed no matter what, so I   use it to my advantage. I joke around, I blow kisses, I get involved. And I need a wide-angle lens to do that.   The picture below is a perfect example of what I mean. If I had been off the dance floor with a telephoto lens, the best man would not have walked up to me and I would not have got this shot:


I LOVE this shot!   He’s leering, he’s got the garter, he’s about to go in for the kill. He was right on top of me when  I took it. He knew I was there and he played to the camera.

Here comes the disclaimer:   This won’t work for everyone. First, you have to be handsome and charming like me (do I really have to point out that I’m joking?). Sometimes you just have to lay back and rock the big zoom. But given a choice, I would rather be in-and-out of the action with the wide angle. It’s really a judgment call based on the style of wedding and mood of the guests. If it’s a big party, I mix it up. If it’s a somber affair  I disappear into the background.   Plus, as a wedding photographer in Tampa I shoot my share of beach weddings and outdoor stuff plays to the zoom lens better.

So, don’t be afraid to use that wide-angle lens and get involved   little. You might be surprised at the results.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu