What Lens Next?!

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a reoccurring question that we receive really often and so I thought it would be helpful if I blogged about it! Every photographer goes through the process of buying new lenses and has to decided which lenses take priority over the other. For me, we hit a place in our business two years ago when I had all the lenses I needed/wanted for my “style” of photography. It took a while because they are pricey AND I didn’t know instantly what I needed. I LOVE shooting with prime lenses. I actually only shoot with one zoom lens for ceremonies and that’s my 70-200. I don’t even love it, I just know I need it for ceremonies in

order to be discreet so I keep it around. :)I did a post a LONG time ago about my lenses and what I use each one for and to be honest, I need to do that again with an updated post. Today I’m just sharing some tips for decided what your next lens should be! Before I get into the nitty gritty of lenses, here are some things to remember before buying ANYTHING equipment related! :

1. Just because something works for someone, doesn’t mean it will work for you! I know so many photographers that shoot portraits with the 70-200 and that baffles me! It’s not wrong, it’s just not what I do. Some photographers probably think it’s weird that I am constantly changing lens instead of shooting with two camera bodies but it’s just what I prefer and that’s ok! So don’t buy something JUST because “That’s that Katelyn uses”! It may not work for you!

2. Rent! Renting lenses is not a waste of money! Buying a new lenses without proper research and then hating it is a waste of money. :) I know because I’ve done it! I bought the 24-70 because I thought I needed it… because everyone has one right?! Well, I used it ONCE and never touched it again. Thankfully Michael loves it or else I would have had to returned it and lost some money!

3. Read reviews! Some reviews are a bit ridiculous and exaggerated but read enough reviews about the piece you’re about to buy so that you have a good understanding about it. Michael is great about this! Me, not so much. :) He does all the research for me before we make big purchases!

Ok, so you’re growing your lens collection and you are ready for your next lens! Now, I’m going to approach this from a wedding photographer’s point of view. I normally try to gauge what a photographer’s next lens should be based off of what I use the MOST. Here are my top 5 lenses in ORDER OF IMPORTANCE! :

1. The 50 1.2 : This is my universal lens. I use it throughout the WHOLE day. If everything in my bag was broken except my 50mm, I could still photograph a wedding day pretty well! Do you NEED the 1.2? Not really! That’s totally up to you and your budget! I love it but I know that it’s not 100% necessary and the price tag is ridiculously high compared to the 1.4. This is the first lens I encourage new photographers to invest in!

2. The 35 1.4 : I LOVE this lens and I need to at EVERY wedding! It comes in handy during  the bride getting in her dress when I need a full body shot in a tight room, large family formals, portraits that are in an alley or need more width for effect and composition, large bridal party portraits, large shots of the overall ceremony, etc! The list goes on! If you were stuck inside a tight space for bridal party portraits and only had a 50mm, you would be sunk. The 35mm is AWESOME and doesn’t have distorted edges like the 24mm!

3. The 85mm 1.2 : The reason this is 3rd in line over the macro is because it’s GREAT for portraits AND gives you some focal length for the ceremony! And because it’s prime, it works great at low light ceremonies! It’s my “epic” lens and it’s a dream with a MarkIII!  However, if you don’t have ANY type of longer lens for ceremonies and you don’t want to spend $2000 on an 85mm, get the 85 1.8 and look into the 70-200.  Now, please realize that I’m partial to the 85, I LOVE it… some people don’t and that’s ok! Don’t just go off of my opinion! Do your research:)

4. The 100mm Macro : If you’re a wedding photographer, you’re going to be expected to shoot great ring shots, jewelry and stationary! This is done best with a macro lens AND this lens can serve as a longer focal length lens for your second shooter as well. Before we had our 135mm, Michael would use the 100mm Macro during ceremonies every now and then!

5. The 70-200mm 2.8 : This lens isn’t my favorite just because of the way I like to shoot but it is necessary for most wedding photographers. I use this lens for outdoor ceremonies only and then I use the 135 2.0 for indoor ceremonies because once again, I love my primes.  However, the 135 isn’t versatile like the 70-200 so that’s why I recommend it for starters!

Ok, please remember that this is MY personal opinion.  If someone needs a wider lens AND a great portrait lens for their kiddo sessions, the 24-70 2.8 would be ideal for you instead of the 35mm. Lens selections are different for anyone!! So do your research and just use my advice as one frame of reference as you shop for your next piece of glass! Happy shooting!!! Oh and below is a sneak peek of our newly decorated foyer! We’re showing that off tomorrow and I can hardly wait!! It’s my new favorite space!!

xoxo, Katelyn
17 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. Louise reply

    Thank you for this post. I think, I am a lot like you, when I shoot weddings :) I use the 50 mm 1,2 a lot, and my 70-200 as well.
    People often ask me, why I don’t use a 24mm or similar wide angle lense, but I honestly don’t need it for the way I work. I have the 35 mm 2.0 – didn’t buy the “expensive” one, cause I knew, I wouldn’t use it enough. And I was right. I use it as you mention for tight places and group portraits, but I am back to the 50 as soon as I can.
    My next purchase is definately the 100 mm macro. I miss a macro, but just upgraded to mark III (loooove it!) and haven’t really got the money for anything new right now.

    Thank you for a great blog – I enjoy it all the way for Copenhagen, Denmark!

  2. Kim reply

    This really helped – I was wondering if renting a lens before a purchase would be worth it! I am just starting out in this wonderful art and need all the help I can get! Thank you :)

  3. ashley barnett reply

    Love hearing you talk about the 70-200! There are so many photographers that tell others that THAT is the only lens to get and a “must-have”…and people look at me like I’m crazy when I say we don’t even have one!! I love the 135 and it works great for US and most ceremony spaces in Virginia (we don’t have those epic churches that a lot of places do!) Great post! :)

  4. Tara Medina reply

    Very informative. Thank you!

  5. amy reply

    wow! Thanks so much!!!! Very, Very helpful! Love your work and your willingness to share!!! blessings!

  6. Maddie reply

    Great post! I just traded in my 50 1.8 for a 35 1.8 and I’m totally in love. I love that it’s a little bit wider than my 50 but I’m still getting great portrait shots. Because I only do Portraits, the 35 is all I have now, so this post came at a perfect time as I think about my next purchase (and my husband tells me to slow down, first! ;) ) Thanks!

  7. Brittany Bekas reply

    I agree with Ashley. So many people look at me like i am crazy because I tell them I don’t have a 70-200 and that i hardly use my 24-70. prime is the way to go. thanks for a great post! :)

  8. Stephanie Messick reply

    I completely agree with this list! My absolute must have lens is my 85mm and I agree with the 70-200 as I just use it for ceremony purposes only as well. Great post! :)

  9. Bonnie Jean Koenn reply

    OH man could this post have come at a more perfect time?? I’m SO glad I read this! My first wedding in two years is coming up this week and I feel like such a loser only with my 50mm, but I know I’ve rocked it with TONS of events I did for my school. This was exactly the post I needed. Definitely will be looking into those lenses!

  10. Jason and Amy reply

    Wow! We use the nikon 200 f/2 for the majority of our b&g portraits and almost exclusively for seniors! We probably use the 50mm the least of our lenses.

  11. Julie reply

    I have way too many lenses and would like to add that the biggest and most expensive mistake was the 80-400. It is so hard to handle. If you want something big, the 70-200 is just about all you need. I got a little scared when I switched to a full frame camera.
    On another note, I have both the 35 and 50, and had been favoring the 35 after purchasing it. Just stuck the 50 back on yesterday and had this moment of rediscovery. Saving up for the 85 as we speak. I wish I’d bought that instead of the 80-400! I love the sharing that goes on here, Katelyn. Thanks!

  12. tiffany heidenthal reply

    I don’t like shooting with the 70-200 at all and have been trying to think of a solution. I just love primes way too much!

  13. Kelly Green reply

    Brilliantly timed post Katelyn, as I am just contemplating my next purchase…the 35mm or the 135mm…I still can’t decide!!!

  14. Stacey reply

    Good read katelyn! You do such beautiful work! I always enjoy reading the blog and watching your work.

  15. Stacey reply

    Great read katelyn! I love reading the blog and watching your work.

  16. Ashlyn reply

    It’s nice to read other opinions in the comment section. I want to go Canon but I need a tighter lens… so I’m struggling with what to do next. :)

  17. Kimber Wassenberg reply

    Thanks for going over this again! I want to get the Nikon 70-200mm to replace my 55-200mm because it has a lower aperture. I’d love to get an 85mm one day too! :)

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