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Texas based landscape photographer

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Zoom vs Prime Lenses at Weddings - Part 1

I'm a zoom guy. I love my zooms at weddings, but I've gotten the itch to drop some weight from my camera bag and try a prime lens. That's why this blog is called "part 1".  I currently shoot with a Nikon D4. My lenses at every wedding are the 14-24 2.8, 24-70 2.8, and 70-200 2.8 VRII. I also use a 105 macro (prime) for ring shots. I walk around with a lens bag on my shoulder all day and I change lenses all the time. 

Here's why I love my zooms! I can get 2-3 shots immediately by standing in one place. With a prime, you have to be a human zoom. Trust me, there's no one else that can be more of a human zoom than me, but I'm already running so much, that it's nice to stay in one place and get a few shots. Here's a couple examples from a recent wedding with the lens distance in the caption.

The first shot is when the Bride and Groom first saw each other. This is always an amazing moment to watch and I try to stay out of the way as much as possible. My 70-200 2.8 VRII allows me to get close enough to show some emotion in the picture.

 175mm - first look

 175mm - first look

Staying in the same place, I was able to zoom out, do some cool composition with the top of the trees and get a great shot of them together!

95mm - first look - kissing

95mm - first look - kissing

If I was shooting a prime, I would have had to walk way back quite a ways to get that same shot. Next, I went back in to get that close up again. It's kind of similar to the first shot, just showing a little more interaction between them.

195mm - first look continues

195mm - first look continues

So here I am, making the decision to be close on them, just to capture the emotion of the scene, when all of the sudden, the Groom decides to spin his Bride. It happened so fast and all I had to do to capture it, was zoom out. Here's the shot I got.

75mm - twirling the bridet's nothI

75mm - twirling the bridet's nothI

It's nothing to write home about, but it's beautiful scene of him twirling her. If I had a prime, once again I would have been way to close to get this shot. If I tried to change lenses, it would have been over by then. 

Photographers, ask me how I'm able to capture the emotion I do in my pictures and I tell them that I work really fast. I know exactly where I want to be before I take a shot and if I'm off by a few yards, I just zoom in or out. Zooms give you so much flexibility and if you are someone who composes your shots in camera, then zooms are your best friend! 95% of the time... the shot you see from me was exactly how I composed it in my camera. When bridesmaids are walking down the aisle, I compose them to the right of my camera so they have room to walk into. With my 70-200 2.8 VRII, I slightly zoom out as they walk, to make sure my composition stays the same.

Here's an example of me zooming out as someone walks down the aisle.

200mm - at the back of the aisle, completely zoomed in

200mm - at the back of the aisle, completely zoomed in

140mm - The same couple, half way up the aisle.

140mm - The same couple, half way up the aisle.

As you can see, I'm slowly zooming out so that my composition stay the same. Both of those shots were only adjusted for my "natural tilt".

I love this last example! The Bride and Groom decided to skip on their way out! It was a little unexpected, but because I was shooting with a zoom lens, I was able to follow them out the entire way. These are all composed in camera with my focus point on the bride all the way out.

165mm

165mm

135mm

135mm

86mm

86mm

70mm

70mm

If you're wondering about my focus point on the Bride, I actually move it as I'm shooting. Nikons are really good at doing this!

Zooms are my best friend. You really have to know what you want with a zoom, because sometimes they can give you to many options. There are times where an amazing shot is unfolding in front of me and I am zooming in and out, left and right, up and down trying to find the right shot, because sometimes you don't see it until it presents itself to you in camera.

I'm definitely not bashing primes, I've used them for years in the past and love them. I've never used them at a wedding and that's what I'm curious to find out about now. All I can tell you is my experiences with what I use. Maybe it helps you to see zoom lenses in a different light.

This weekend, I am traveling to San Francisco for an engagement session and I'm taking a 35mm with me instead of my 24-70 zoom. I can't wait to see how it challenges me to think differently when I've been zooming for so long! I completely understand how creativity is spawned when you embrace your limitations. I look forward to writing another post next week on how the 35mm prime changed my thinking.

What did you think? Are you a prime of a zoom shooter at wedding? Have you ever thought about switching? Let me know in the comments below.

Joe

inspiration, gearJoe Hendricks