Sidebar
  • Ask Anything

We receive this question often after we post a new shoot or wedding images that are full of bright images and vibrant colors! Photographers want to know how we’re accomplishing that look and there isn’t one easy answer! Our style is defined by so many different aspects! Lighting, editing, posing, backgrounds and lenses! I would write a novel if I explained how each aspect contributes to our defined style, so today I’m just going to focus on lenses and why we choose to shoot with PRIME (or fixed) lenses instead of zoom lenses!

During our workshops (Our next 2017 workshop date and seats will be released on BLACK FRIDAY! Join the waiting list HERE!) we always have at least one or two photographers who are shooting with a zoom lens, and my settings that I’m calling out aren’t properly exposing the image for them…. and yet we’re taking pictures of the very same thing! So if we’re both shooting at 2.8 Aperture, 1/200 shutter and 600 ISO, a PRIME lens will still create a different LOOK and exposure than a standard zoom lens! These two styles of lenses are built differently and because the PRIME lens includes fewer elements and less glass, it’s lighter, faster and has a wider aperture!

PRIME lenses allow me to accomplish MY STYLE, and I would struggle to create my look without them! The 70-200 at 200mm creates a similar look, but it’s still not the same! I love using prime lenses for so many reasons!

Here are my Top Five Reasons Why I Prefer Primes! :

1. Low Light – What seems DARK can be BRIGHT! :
I love having the freedom of being able to capture beautiful images even after the sun sets or in rooms with only one window! This is very hard to do without a flash if you’re using a zoom lens. Flash really kills my style and the flow of how I shoot and so I would rather use prime lenses, reflective areas and natural light to create my style instead of spending extra time setting up a flash system. My prime lenses almost CREATE MORE LIGHT than reality and I love that!

2. Clean & Crisp : Simple lense structure = cleaner, crisper images. Prime lenses are made with less glass and less elements and so if you’re not purchasing an “L” Series prime, you can often get a basic prime for cheaper than a zoom because they are cheaper to make. Because there is less glass, images are cleaner, crisper and more vibrant because more light is coming into the lens itself! I love that!!! Some of you may think “Primes aren’t CRISPER! They are SOFT!”. They are normally only soft when they need to be calibrated, when you’re shooting too quickly at 1.2 and 1.4 or when you’re focusing and recomposing too quickly. I’m guilty of shooting faster…. and if I don’t take my time, I have soft images. However, I have found a speed that works for me AND I can tell when my lens is locking in the focus and when I’m getting ahead of myself!

3. Staying Engaged : This may sound weird but I think the fact that I CANNOT ZOOM has made me a more engaged photographer and artist. I have to MOVE and WORK for my composition in a way that most zoom shooters don’t necessarily have to! So if I want a certain look, I have to move to get it! I think this makes me more interactive with my clients and that makes me more on top of my game during shoots!

4. Bokeh & Depth of Field : I LOVE BOKEH! I mean…. I named my DOG “Bokeh”! That should give you a hint as to how dedicated I am to this glowy, creamy aspect of my images! I love it! You will have to work really hard to create the kind of Bokeh that my primes create with a zoom lens. It’s hard! The 70-200 will come close but it’s still not exactly what I get from my 85mm or 50mm! I love the crisp foregrounds and blurry backgrounds that I get from being able to shoot at 2.5 and under!! I could never NOT have this feature in my images! It’s so much of my style!

5. Speed & Variety : Last but not least, I love the SPEED of my prime lenses! These lenses are faster and rely on speed when I’m shooting weddings and candid moments that you can’t get back! I use a Canon 35mm 1.4, 85mm 1.2 and 50mm 1.2 for my portraits and these three lenses give me so much glow, vibrancy and VARIETY! What more could a girl ask for?! Now, you’re googling these lenses and you’re SHOCKED… look at Sigma’s options and the Canon 85 1.8 and 50 1.4 options to get you started! They are GREAT lenses!! No need to spend a fortune on your first prime!!

I hope this is helpful! If you want to see more of what’s in my bag, you can visit THIS LINK HERE!!!!!

Need help shooting in natural light? Here are two Mini-Guides that may help! :

Shooting in Harsh Light Mini-Guide and Shooting in Shade Mini-Guide

We Have Lots of Free Downloads for Photographers, Click here!

Sign up for our Consistency Course Waiting List! It’s Being Released in November!

xoxo, Katelyn
7 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. Dorien reply

    Hello :) Thanks for the tips. What do you mean by “shooting too quickly at low apertures”? I have only primes but I still struggle to get sharp shots

    • Katelyn James reply

      If you’re shooting too quickly and focusing & recomposing at 1.2, 1.4 and even 1.6, your images will more than likely be soft and not crisp!

  2. Adrienne reply

    I love this post! I’m curious what prime you started with, and which one you went to next….? I’ve only used my 50 for so, so long. I’d like to stick with a prime, but I’m doing more and more weddings now and I’d like to stay a little more out of sight at times. What would you say the next prime lens should be?

    • Katelyn James reply

      Even though you want to stick to primes, the 70-200 is normally a very desired wedding lens for ceremonies and sometimes for portraits. I prefer the 135 2.0 for ceremonies!!

  3. Elizabeth Ladean reply

    Prime lenses are the bees knees!! :)
    Great post, friend!

  4. Michele with one L reply

    Oh my goodness — I love how you put into words what I have been noticing myself over the years … especially #3!! The examples you shared on your “What’s in my bag” page are so helpful too. Thank you, thank you for being so helpful and transparent in your business! You are truly an inspiration to me!

  5. Daim ali reply

    I have 85 mm 1.2 … when I captured full length pic … most of the time … pictures are blure … even my shutter speed is more then 400. .. plzz gave me some suggestions

Reply to:
close