The Best Lenses for Natural Light Wedding & Portrait Photography


Natural light weddings and portraiture are challenging tasks. Although your results will most likely reflect your current skill level, it can help tremendously to have an appropriate lens. Portraits and wedding images both benefit from having a soft feeling, which is why fast lenses with wide maximum apertures are ideal. When fast lenses are opened up to their widest setting, the background becomes blurred, softly reducing clutter behind the subjects and keeping the moment in focus. There are several ideal lenses for these occasions from top camera brands such as Canon, Pentax, Sony, and Nikon. Third-party lens manufacturers such as Tamron and Sigma also produce good lenses for natural-light wedding and portrait photography.

85 mm f1.8

  • Lenses with 35 millimeter equivalent focal lengths of 85 millimeters, with fast maximum apertures of at least f1.8, are ideal for weddings. An 85mm focal length is considered standard for this type of photography. It will keep you at a close but professional distance from your subjects.

    An aperture of f1.8 or wider allows for high performance in low light, and it produces a pleasant background blur. The versatility of this simple lens, as well as its ability to produce soft images, makes it must for weddings and portraits with natural light.

    Most non-full-frame digital cameras have a sensor crop factor of 1.5 or 1.6x, therefore on most cameras an 85 millimeter lens will display a focal length of 127 to 136 millimeters. A 50 millimeter lens will function as a 75 to 80 millimeters lens. Choose your lens to stay as close as you can to an 85 millimeter focal length as the final result.

24-70 mm f2.8

  • The 24-70 millimeter f2.8 zoom lens is a go-to lens for professional photographers. This focal range captures both super-wide and medium-wide angles. The f2.8 aperture allows the lens to perform well in low light and to use soft window light for portraits. Photographers can get good results with this lens just about anywhere that there is good natural light, including a sunset or an overcast day.

70-200 f2.8

  • The 70-200 f2.8 lens is best zoom lens around for weddings and portraits. Like the 24-70 lens, the 70-200's wide f2.8 aperture provides good low-light performance. The zoom effect of the lens also makes for great background blur. Nikon's and Canon's versions are available with image stabilization, allowing for sharper images while hand-holding the lens.

35 mm f1.4

  • A 35 millimeter f1.4 lens provides a fixed wide-angle shot and superior low light capabilities. The 35 millimeter focal length is ideal for close-ups and group portraits. This lens would be suitable for wedding reception dances and activities when the lighting is dim. The exceptionally wide aperture means a shallow enough depth of field that softens any distracting backgrounds.

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  • Photo Credit wedding image by Mat Hayward from
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