Being a professional freelance photographer can be a real mixed bag. Unless you make it very clear that you are specialising in one field of photography, you could be asked to do any number of photoshoots, from events to fashion to portraits to weddings – and more! These are all areas of photography that I’m super comfortable and confident in, but because there’s such a variety in what I need to get out of each shoot, I have to have access to all the equipment I need to pull it off. I use a Canon 6D DSLR for my freelance work, as well as other equipment such as flashes and radio triggers, but my lenses are the most important part of my kit. The lens you choose to use dictates the angle of view, focal length, aperture capability, stability, speed, and quality of your set up.
So without further ado, and in no particular order, here’s my list of my top 5 lenses I either own or have used in the past.
Canon 50mm f1.8 STM lens (the Nifty Fifty)
The Nifty Fifty is so called because of its design and capabilities. Compact and lightweight, it’s literally small enough to fit into your pocket when you’re not using it; yet despite this, it delivers brilliant images with awesome bokeh in the out-of-focus areas. The focal length, 50mm, is perfect for an assortment of situations. It can be used in travel, portrait, event, fashion, wedding, beauty, and product photography (I personally love using it for portraits, fashion, and weddings). It’s a real all-rounder. And it’s super cheap!
I currently use: the Canon 50mm f1.8 STM lens. We did have the earlier version of this lens a few years ago, but it… well… got crushed. The earlier version did not have as good of a build quality as this version, and it’s a running joke among my photographer friends that everyone who’s ever owned one ended up breaking it.
Canon/Sigma 24-105mm f4 L IS/DG OS HSM lens
The 24-105mm is incredibly versatile. The focal length ranges from 24mm, which provides an angle of view wide enough to fit a large group of people into, to 105mm, which is considered to be a medium telephoto length. Although its aperture is f4, this lens performs really well in low lighting. It is quite a heavy lens and is pretty big, but usually if you’re using this bad boy you won’t really need another lens as well because it’s so multifunctional. This is a lens I personally use for fashion shows, events, and weddings.
I currently use: the Canon 24-105mm f4 L IS lens, which belongs to my fiancé. I used the Sigma 24-105mm f4 DG OS HSM lens for Norwich Fashion Week 2017, and I really liked that version too.
Canon 70-200mm f4 L USM or f2.8 L IS II USM lens
This might be somewhat controversial, because a lot of wedding photographers seem to think this is blasphemous, but I love using the 70-200mm lenses for wedding work. This is partly because I can’t afford multiple bodies and a huge variety of prime lenses at the moment – I only own a 50mm f1.8 and an 85mm f2.2 (and obviously take those along as well!) – but also because of the beautiful image quality that these lenses produce. They’re super sharp, the bokeh is beautiful in both the f2.8 and f4 versions, and they’re fast. The zoom range allows you to get awesome candid or posed photos without getting in the way, making it perfect for wedding ceremonies and speeches.
I currently use: the Canon 70-200mm f4 L USM lens.
I want: the Canon f2.8 L IS II USM version, which is obviously quite a bit better than mine due to the added stability and aperture, but which is way out of my budget at the moment. Alternatively, the Sigma f2.8 EX DG OS HSM which isn't that much different to the Canon (apart from being cheaper)!
Lomography Petzval 85mm f2.2 lens
The 85mm prime lens is another one, similar to the nifty fifty, that just kinda works for everything. While I don’t actually own a f1.8 or f1.4 version, I do have the Lomography 85mm f2.2 Petzval lens – and let me tell you, it is one of my most favourite purchases ever. 85mm is a brilliant focal length for portraiture and fashion. You have to take a few more steps backwards than you would with the 50mm, but it’s totally worth it. My Lomo lens is designed to produce amazing, swirly bokeh with quite soft focus, but I have also used the Canon f1.8 version and can confirm that it’s super sharp with brilliant out-of-focus blur. I looooove using my 85mm at weddings.
I currently use: Lomography Petzval 85mm f2.2.
Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens
Ok, so I don’t actually own a 35mm prime lens - but I have used one, and it made me wish that I had one. 35mm lenses are so good because 35mm on a full-frame camera is essentially equivalent to the focal length of your eyes. So when you use a 35mm lens, you are seeing things from a human perspective. These lenses are awesome for portraits, events, and fashion, but are particularly coveted by street and travel photographers. They produce really high-quality images that are slightly wide angle without being distorted.
I currently use: none *sad face*.
I want: the Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens.
So there you go! There’s a list of lenses that I would currently recommend. Obviously if you’re intending to do any kind of specialist photography, such as sport or wildlife, you’re going to want specialised lenses (specifically, fast telephoto zoom lenses). But for the type of work I do at the moment, the lenses I’ve recommended above are perfect.
What is your favourite lens to use? Do you disagree with me about using a 70-200mm at a wedding? Let me know in the comments!