There are a lot of discussions about which medium, tele, and zoom lens teles are great for wedding photography. But it’s also important to remember that those are not the only options. This post is an unsung ode to a lens that is ignored many times by wedding photographers, yet it provides astonishing photos and, once used right, can produce some unique imagery.
So consider this post half praise, half inspiration to what you – a wedding photographer – can accomplish with a 35mm lens f1./4 lens if you put it through its paces. And while this specific post deals with the Canon 35 F/1.4 ($1,999), the same applies to Canon, Sony, and Fuji
Now, before we dive in, let me share that, for some reason, most brands had yet to release a 35mm f/1.4 for new mounts. (With Sony being the exception). Heck, some brands don’t even have a full frame 35 f/1.4 for the legacy mounts. This is quite sad, but if you happen to use one of the brands that do, you are in for a treat. On the flip side, the fact that there is a v2 for this lens means you can snag a used v1 for a very affordable price. Just for reference, Canon 35mm f/1.4 v1’s are currently selling for about $800 at B&H.
The 35mm f/1.4 creates a wonderful sense of motion
On the one hand, this is a wide lens so that you can get pretty close to your subject. On the other, even at a close distance, you get some background in the frame. Lastly, at 35mm, it is relatively easy to shoot a bit longer exposures. Between the ability to get close, shoot a longer shutter speed, and get some action off-center, it is very easy to create a sense of motion.
The 35mm f/1.4 gives a wide, non-distorted image
Wide lenses are notorious for some imperfections. Vinneting at large apertures is one. Distortion at the edges of the frame is another. A 35mm lens provides a great balance between two conflicting factors: 1. having a wide enough lens to shoot atmosphere photos with the venue, the tables, and so on. 2. being able to shoot wide open and get lots of light without having to worry about vignetting. To top that, this specific Canon lens has very minimal distortion.
The 35mm f/1.4 is great for the entire wedding
Some lenses are great reception lenses, some are great for the dance floor, and some, like the 35mm f/1.4, are all-arounders. While 35mm may seem a bit wide, it allows you to get closer for tighter portraits or further away for full-body shots or even group shots.
It’s true. It takes a different mindset to shoot wedding portraits with a 35mm lens, and I would definitely not shove it in anyone’s face just to fill the frame. But a step or two back will be perfect.
Then there is the wide aperture. A 1.4 lens is a full-day workhorse. It will work for an outdoor reception, evening shots, a dim venue, and even dark dancefloor photos. At 35mm, it is very easy to nail focus, so you can really shoot wide open and get very good results.
There is still DOF, even at 35mm
The depth of field handling of a 35mm lens will never give you the smoothness of an 85mm lens. But having the option to open up all the way to f/1.4 can still generate a pleasant bokeh. It is not the creamy, smooth background is a fully blurred type of bokeh. But it is a more subtle out-of-focus background, similar to the blur you can find in old movies—enough for background separation without drawing attention to the background itself.
It is relatively small and relatively light
If you opt for the first version of the lens, you are in for a treat. Not only is it less than half the price, but it is also relatively small (86mm) and relatively light (500 g). If you are shooting a wedding for a full day, having a light setup can really make your life easier. And considering that there is a good chance that you will have a second kit on your shoulders, weight, and size matter.
I hope you are convinced by now that a 35mm f/1.4 is a great addition for shooting weddings. Do you agree? Disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.