Wedding Photographers Favorite Lenses

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first started, I blog stalked like no one’s business. I watched my favorite photographer’s EVERY move! It wasn’t because I was a creeper… even though at times I felt like one… it was because I was desperate to LEARN.  I seriously learned SO much from reading other photographer’s blogs and watching them as they continued to grow THEIR business. I wanted whatever lenses Jasmine was shooting with and whatever light setup Justin and Mary were using etc. etc. There is nothing wrong with that! It gave me a place to START! However, I think I’m finally at a place where I’m making decisions based on what “I” need for my business,

not just copying the “big guys”.  And when I refer to “The Big Guys”… that’s not a weight reference… I’m talking about the leaders in the industry, the photogs I look up to, the ones that are setting the bar and setting it high.  I’m so thankful for them. So I began shooting with prime lenses because I found out that I loved shooting wide open. I started with Canon’s 50mm and my collection grew from there. I can honestly say that I’m DONE with lens purchases for a long time. Michael doesn’t believe me… but I’m serious. No more. I literally have everything I could ever need and I’m thankful. There are some mega-lenses out there that I would love to shoot with but they cost more than our new car, so that will never happen (and that was an exaggeration).


Ok, so lets get to this! A lot of people email and ask about what’s in my bag and so I wanted to do a post that I can refer them to that explains my equipment. Below are my Canon L Series lenses. I only shoot with Canon lenses just because I LOVE them and I wanted them to all have a matching red ring around the top…just kidding… kinda. The image below shows all of my lenses (besides the 50 1.4 that I was shooting with and a 24-105 4.0 that I never use).  They are lined up in the order of USAGE. So on the left, you’ll see my 50 1.2 because I use that the MOST! On the far right, you’ll see my 135 2.0 because I use it the least. Here is the lineup:

Canon 50mm 1.2

Canon 85mm 1.2

Canon 35mm 1.4

Canon 100mm Macro 2.8

Canon 24mm 1.4

Canon 70-200mm 2.8

Canon 24-70mm 2.8

Canon 135mm 2.0

With the exception of the 135, I usually use all of these at a single wedding. I switch lenses A LOT and my new Kelly Moore bag makes that so simple! I’ll introduce you to that soon!! I think using a variety of lenses on a wedding day really gives the couple a variety of shots! I love using a wide angle and then switching to my 50 to get closer and then switching to my 85 for a really intimate shot. I can do that in each location and have a TON of images that are all very different and my clients didn’t even move! I’m going to explain a little more about each lens and give you an example from Dan and Kelsey’s wedding! Before I continue, let me just reiterate that these lenses work for ME. I love using them for my wedding photography but if you’re a new photographer, be sure to figure out what lenses you love on your own. I spent way to much time just buying what other people used and not really researching anything for myself. is a GREAT resource for new photographers trying to find their perfect lenses!


So here is my 85 1.2.  I love this lens and I first used one at Chris and Katie’s South Carolina Wedding last July. I was sold on it! I bought it as soon as I got home and I blame that $2000 purchase on Chris Isham!!! It’s a sharp lens with an incredible DOF. I recommend it for more advanced photographers, if you’re brand new, you would be wise to spend your money on a more versatile lens like this next one…..

The 50 1.2! My Baby… my old faithful…I love this lens! I feel the MOST comfortable shooting with this lens. I feel like we have a close bond and if I use my 85 too much, this little guy gets jealous.  Well, I say “little guy” but this is a fat lens.  The 50 1.2 is the BEST starter lens for a photographer. However, it’s a bit pricey. If you can’t afford the 1.2, start with the 1.4.  Many ask if the 1.2 is WORTH the extra money and they answer is YES. It’s a totally different world when you enter the “L” series and would highly recommend it. 

My Canon 100 2.8 is my Macro lens.  I only shoot details with this lens but it CAN be used during a ceremony and actually does a great job!! It’s a great second shooter lens in that regard.  When I shoot details, I focus manually with this lens. It’s sharp and relatively lightweight and I couldn’t live without it!

The 35 1.4 was my BEST investment this year. It’s wide but there isn’t any distortion like the 24mm.  The 24 is still as GREAT lens but when using it for LARGE family shots in a tight space, the people on the edges looked a littttttle stretched and that’s not cool! So I purchased the 35 1.4 and I’ve been in love since day one! I use it at EVERY wedding!!

Ah, the 24 1.4 II… it’s a winner. It’s super wide and even though I’ve been using my 35mm more recently, the 24 cannot be replaced. It’s sharp and it’s AMAZING for indoor shots. This shot was taken in a SMALL room, I barely had room to back up but the 24 allowed me to shoot wide and capture the couple completely.

The 70-200 2.8 ….. it’s like the big mama lens that no one wants to hold. It’s SO HEAVY. However, it’s really necessary if you’re a wedding photographer. I only use this lens for the ceremony and it serves its purpose. It gives me great range and sharp images but it’s not my FAV. I use it out of necessity. For example, Kelsey and her dad entered on this bridge but they were 200 yards from the start of the aisle. Kelsey chose this location because she liked the bridge…. so I needed a shot of her coming over it but I didn’t want to run closer and be a distraction as she made her entrance so I used my 70-200 and stood at the back of the ceremony. Perfect.

These two are newbies. I love them but if I had to shoot a wedding without them, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The 24-70 2. 8 is used for receptions when the bridal party is entering and I need to have some range. I know it seems silly to buy a lens for one moment but it’s worth it for me. I also use it for some reception dancing but I really prefer my 35 and 24 for dancing shots. The 135 2.0 is a favorite for INDOOR ceremony shots. I use it other times but it’s nice to have when the 70-200 just can’t shoot wide enough. The 2.0 it a huge difference from the 2.8 and the clarity is amazing!

I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II and I also have a back Mark II and an old 5D….just in case! I hope this was helpful and remember…if you’re a photographer, find what works for YOU! Rent some lenses and have a ball!!! I also use 3 580ex II Canon flashes and pocket wizards. I’ve recently switched to the Pocket Wizard Flex and Mini… I’ll share more about my lighting setup one day! Promise!

 The Lens Lineup | Find Out What You Should Have In Your Bag by Katelyn James Photography

Thanks for reading!

— Katelyn

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