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Photography Question 
Tracy A. Emerson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/18/2005

Wedding Photography: Which Lens?

I have a big wedding party this weekend and was wanting some help on which lens for the wedding party, 6 guys and 6 girls and the bride and groom. The choices I already own are Canon 24mm 1:2.8, Canon 50mm 1:1.8II , Sigma dc 17-70mm 1:2.8-4.5. I'm worried about the large group and get everyone as sharp as possible. Any help, please ... thanks!

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8/11/2008 5:13:40 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Hi Tracy,
I would take them all, but I would think the zoom lens may be preferable for its ability to get closer without having to move so much. Prime lenses are great, but you have to position yourself for every shot, and that can sometimes place you in awkward positions to get the angle and distance you want. For large groups, the 24mm will work, and for other portraits, the 50mm may be better suited.
I am also shooting a wedding this weekend, and I will use my 24-70mm & 70-200mm most of the time.
Good luck,

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8/11/2008 5:39:37 PM

W.    Like Carlton says, Tracy.
Addendum: Wide-angle lenses provide a very UNflattering perspective to human faces and bodies. People look fat and distorted if you use a wide-angle lens. A short telephoto focal length, like 70 to 100mm, is a much more flattering perspective for people. It makes them look decidedly slimmer and less distorted. It also enables you to keep more distance to your subject(s), which will make your subject(s) relax more as you are not invading their 'private space'.

Have fun!

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8/12/2008 7:39:14 AM

Bruce A. Dart   Hi Tracy,
I'm also shooting a wedding this weekend, which I have done professionally for more than 30 years now. What has been said is true....However. Zoom lenses have certainly made photography easier over the years. I use a 28-200 most of the time; use the 17-35 for groups and switch frequently to the 50mm f/1.8 for available light images during the ceremony. While I have handheld most of my images for more than 500 weddings, a tripod is MOST helpful. Available light images from the back -- even at a higher ISO -- are better with a tripod. The group photos, similarly, are also better with a tripod. Wide angle lenses CAN be used effectively and at times offer a unique perspective. Keeping the lens level with help minimize the distortion.One thing about photography is that there are always exceptions. Seminar speakers have joked that "always" and "never" mean 80% of the time!! Lenses in the "normal" to telephoto range usually offer more flattering perspective for people and that is certainly true. But don't be afraid to use the wide angle, just watch how you are using it. One of my favorite images to do is a wide angle shot of the bride and groom in the empty church (usually one of the last ones I do before we leave for the reception). With the bride and groom closer to the lens so they don't look 100 miles away, it makes a very nice image to show almost all of the church. Most times I shoot this facing the back of the church since the bulk of images have already faced the altar. The rule of thumb for handheld is match your shutter speed to the focal length of the lens for the slowest handheld speed. At 100mm, for example, a shutter of 1/125 is recommended. Can you shoot slower if you are steady? Of course. But the BEST results are close to this formula. When in doubt, remember Wayne Gretsky's comment about hockey: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." A tripod, with a quick release clamp to allow you to easily remove it for some shots and then put it back as needed, improves your results. While I have managed without a tripod for years, helping a fellow professional who DID use a tripod shoot a wedding earlier this summer, I "lost" the argument that "I can do this" when his images were sharper!! As with most things in photography, you need to learn the limits of your equipment and use it to your advantage. But HAVE FUN as well.

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8/19/2008 4:23:30 AM

James Kirk   What body were you using? I assume a digital body. When ever I do a wedding I like to have a selection from wide angle to telephoto. If you are using any body other than the 5d or EOS 1Ds MII or MIII you have to figure in lens crop factor. The 17 gives similar wide-angle coverage to a 28mm assuming a 1.6x factor. That should be sufficient for wide angle. Slightly wider would be nicer. The previous comment about distortion is definitely true though. Limit the use of wide-angle to large group activities that are not bothered by a little distortion or some specific effect you are going for. Creativity is cool.

The telephoto, I use a 70-200, is great for being less intrusive during the ceremony yet still being able to isolate specific intimate components of the ceremony. 200 is usually more than enough. Unless you have a balcony some distance from the ceremony. Get a 1.4x tele-converter. That helps. Image stabilization is great as well on the longer lenses.

Of course, all this costs great gobs of money thatÖ maybe you donít have. Again, assuming 1.6x lens factor, that 17-70, in the 50 to 70mm range gives you reasonable focal length for portraits and group shots. If you can, use your bodyís built in zoom system (feet and legs) to get the appropriate framing at those focal lengths for portraits.

Now if you are using a full frame sensor body or 35mm film, then a 24-70 and 70-200 with a 1.4x or 2x tele-converter is good. Keep in mind that all canon bodies really need f5.6 or below for autofocus to work. So if you use a 2x tele-converter on an f4 lens or above donít expect autofocus to work.

Thatís my $0.02 worth. OK maybe a nickel.

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8/19/2008 10:28:44 AM

ROBERT  F. CUMMINGS   Tracy, I would have to agree with the previous comments on wedding photography, but not only do you need to know which lens to use and when; but, you also need to know about flash lighting. For your group shots, I recommend a flash pillow, made to fit the flash on your camera and is inflated with air; not real expensive but works wonders. It is made to spread out the light and kill harsh shadows. You might be able to find just a flash card system, where it bounces the light off of a white board mounted about the flash. These are not for built in flashes. For an off camera flash, you want a flash with a fairly quick recycle time, say no more than 2 seconds on full power, will adjust for different ASA film settings, has several different distance settings and has the ability to magnify the light at zoom lens useage. Meaning the more focal length you use, 100 say, you adjust the lens magnifier out to narrow the beam of light so it will travel farther. If you use stand lighting, and I recommend this for portrait work and group work, you should get some slave flashes and bounce them off of a photographic umbrella at about 45% measured from the center of the person in the middle back row out to about half way between the front row and you. Those slave flashes along with the flash on your camera will give you a very even light. Ritz camera sells some good light sets for doing things just as weddings and portraits for a very resonable price, you might want to check them out in your local area. When it comes to an off mount flash, I like to use one that makes it's own handle. But, this type is more expensive and is more for professional photography and constant useage. The one I have now is a handle that you mount a flash on. It works OK and you can get a dedicated flash cord to attach to your hot shoe on the camera so you can use a dedicated flash that matches settings with your particular camera. That is not as expensive as a larger flash unit, but for infrequent useage it works just fine. If you take into consideration all the information the other photographers gave you about the lens choices and get some good, not expensive, slave units and umbrellas, I think you will surprise even yourself with the quality shots you will get. That is when you pictures turn into small portraits. Also, offer the wedding party, their choice of the photos printed in 5x7, if you are useing film. MOST likely, this will inspire them to reorder enlargements from you and that is where you can make some good money. But, you have to know what it will cost you to print 8x10's and larger, even 16x20 and sometimes 20x30. This is where you can make some extra money. Good luck and have fun, try not to make it work. If it is pleasureable and fun, you will want to do it again. Bob

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8/19/2008 12:40:25 PM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  Tracy, I just shot a wedding last Saturday and used 3 lenses with my Canon 1Ds MarkII. Canon 50mm 1.4, 24-70 2.8 & 70-200 2.8IS. I used the last the most, its fast, has (IS), shot around ISO 500-1000 most the time so I need the f/2.8, and didn't need to get into the guests business....I also recommend the Quantum Turbo for the flash....

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8/19/2008 2:38:44 PM

Bruce A. Dart   Hi Tracy,
Every photographer has their own pet system for photographing most anything, including weddings. While many pros take umbrellas, secondary lights with slave units, and even painted backgrounds mosxt of that is not necessary to do the job. Knowing your equipment is. Having fresh batteries and enough to get the job done is. Having a backup plan and equipment in case something fails also is important. While I have taken a background to use at a wedding (for pre-ceremony portraits) it has been a matter of practicality where the church did not have a distraction free area -- as opposed to a style of doing weddings. Many "double light" weddings and use a second strobe to simulate studio lighting. While that produces wonderful results if you know how to use the equipment and balance the lights, I have never found it necessary to take all that extra stuff. Nor have I ever needed a teleconverter or have I ever needed to calculate the crop factor as I shoot. You do have to keep in mind the proportions for final prints (8x10's will crop at least 20% of the image so if that is your final product you need to allow some extra room and not crop too tight. However, apart from that, what you see in the finder is what you will get for the most part. Each photographer also has a "system" to sell their work that they are comfortable with. Digital has changed some of that but if you make prints on speculation without having your client committed to buy them, you could easily spend more than what you sell. Presenting your work, pricing your work and selling your work so that you actually make money is the subject of a whole 'nother dissertation. You asked about the photography, though. Six people on a side is a manageable group. One group that drove me nuts years ago had 12 on a side or a group of 26. Without a wide angle in that case, you are back so far to get everyone in the photo that the light falloff on your flash is so much that it's hard to get an adequate exposure. Start your day with fresh batteries -- you don't have time to change your old ones when the bride is coming down the aisle, and have a backup. Equipment, even fairly new equipment, can quit on you at the wrong time. I just sent a D200 body back to Nikon for repair. Without a backup, I would have to rent a camera or be out of business until I got it back!! Test your equipment, in the church where you will work if you can, or if not in similar space and then just do it. You will be fine. Enjoy the contagious enthusiasm found at nearly every wedding (it is rare when it is not present)and record the event as you would want it recorded for you. With digital you can see how you are doing as you go and make adjustments if necessary. Good luck.

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8/19/2008 6:26:01 PM

Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
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I recommend taking a class from wedding professional photographer Paul Gero. He'll teach you what you need to know about flash equipment and fast lenses. All of his lenses are fast and most are wide angle.

However, with a wide angle, positioning is crucial, especially with a group. Those on the outside of the group will be distorted the wider the angle.

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8/20/2008 5:24:24 AM

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