Most photographers I know have lens preferences and tend to utilize a favorite lens for their photography. Maybe it’s the way the lens captures the sun flare or the way the lens sees what they picture in their mind. But what if you could only shoot one?
Sometimes it’s a fun creative exercise to self-impose constraints on your shooting style. For example, instead of changing lenses, you zoom with your feet.
When I first started shooting weddings, I was afraid of my wide-angle lens because I didn’t want to get too close to my subjects. Instead, I would stand at a comfortable distance and shoot with a 50mm or 85mm. Eventually, I learned that there was something magical about being in the moment, physically.
Not only do photos shot with the 35mm appear intimate to the viewer of the image but it put me in an intimate space with my subject. Sometimes they still didn’t notice me because they were so caught up in their wedding day, but I noticed everything. And that does not even address the versatility of the 35mm focal length when it comes to portraits.
Today I’m going to share more about the top 6 reasons I love my 35mm lens for wedding photography.
Note: Every photo in this article was captured with my 35mm lens.
1. Prime is Prime
Prime lenses are excellent for a variety of reasons. They’re generally sharp, fast, and good for low light. Additionally, shooting with a prime lens will make you a better photographer because it forces you to work within the constraints of the focal length rather than lazily zooming in.
When it comes to shopping for lenses, there are a fair amount of lens options for the 35mm. Therefore, you’re likely to find something that fits your budget especially when you consider third-party options as well.
2. You Never HAVE to Change Your Lens
Picture yourself shooting reception details in a smaller venue with your fast 85mm and the bride comes up to you and asks you to take a photo of her group of friends. Chances are you can’t get that shot with your 85mm. Conversely, while you might prefer a different lens for a nice clean portrait there’s almost nothing you can’t shoot with the 35mm if you have to.
The 35mm focal length is great for working in tight spaces when your 50mm or 85mm might not be wide enough. You can get close or far from your subjects and capture variety in your work even with one lens.
3. Wide Enough but Not Too Wide
In that same vein, the 35mm focal length is wide but not too wide. It’s wide enough to capture almost any scene but not so wide that it captures everything including miscellaneous things you don’t want.
I think that the 35mm is awesome because it feels like I’m getting the whole scene slightly wider than my eye sees it. It’s like my eye plus some peripheral vision which just kind of draws the viewer into the photograph. But unlike wider lenses, it doesn’t feel too wide where you might get lost in the scene and struggle with what to focus on or be distracted by distortion.
Sure, there are times in a small getting-ready room where I struggle to get a wide enough view of the dress or tight spaces in general where I want something a little wider. And there are times when I can’t get close enough for whatever reason and I need something telephoto. However, overall, 35mm is pretty versatile, especially for its size and weight.
4. It’s Lightweight and Compact
That brings me to how lightweight and compact a 35mm prime lens is. I use the Sony f1.8 for that reason, loving the punch that it delivers from its small package. If I’m shooting all day in tight spaces and up in people’s faces, it’s nice to be nimble.
It’s also nice to be able to have my camera anywhere I am and not hesitate to carry it or pull it out. It may not be huge on your list when gear shopping, but size is often a big factor for me because I want to be quick and light, allowing my gear to make me better rather than slow me down.
5. It Shoots Great Moments
This brings me back to the idea I mentioned in the intro about getting close to people, telling stories, and capturing moments. The 35mm focal length creates a nice intimate storytelling image. It forces you to get close and shows the viewer the emotion of the scene.
You’ll see a lot of photojournalists, travel photographers, and street photographers utilize this focal length for that reason. It’s definitely less intimidating than having a huge zoom lens in your face and also feels more intimate than having your photo taken with a telephoto lens.
6. It Shoots Great Landscape Portraits or Storytelling Landscapes
And at the same time, I can shoot a fairly wide storytelling landscape style image with the 35mm lens. It’s wide enough to capture the scenery and create a dramatic landscape portrait. While sometimes I prefer my 16-35mm for flexibility to go a little wider, the 35mm often does the job.
For me, shooting moments and shooting landscapes or landscape-style portraits are my bread and butter and the 35mm accomplishes both of those goals beautifully. Perhaps I still want something else for a clean portrait or when I can’t get close during a ceremony, for example.
In conclusion, I love my 35mm lens for its versatility. This focal length accomplishes a lot in a small package, making it a great go-to for wedding photography. If you’re just starting out and trying to keep your gear list minimalistic, you can’t go wrong with this lens focal length.
I frequently shoot my 35mm during any and all aspects of the wedding day, from getting ready to the ceremony to portraits and finally to the reception. One of the main challenges is that to get a variety of imagery you have to move around a lot. You get close, you get far, low, and high.
Mostly, all that moving around and finding a variety in your compositions make you a better photographer as I’ve said (more than once!) The challenge comes when you’re shooting a crowded ceremony or one where you don’t have good close access to where the couple is or time to transition. For most scenarios, I usually rock my 85mm on my second camera during the ceremony and have everything I need.
I’m not pretending I don’t carry other lenses in my bag or prefer other lenses for various scenarios. But if all my lenses were to suddenly disappear, I would survive if I still had my 35mm!
About the author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga teacher, and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “love. adventurously.” They are dedicated to telling adventurous stories in beautiful places.