Shooting wedding photography with micro four thirds prime lenses

Prime Focus On Your Wedding Photography

Blog Article, My Style

Shooting Wedding Photography with Prime Lenses

I’ve already covered elsewhere why I shoot weddings with three Olympus OMD EM5 camera bodies. Today I thought it would be interesting to delve a little further into why I shoot wedding photography specifically with prime lenses.

For the uninitiated a prime lens is a camera lens with a fixed focal length. Unlike zoom lenses, which can cover a range of focal lengths, from very wide to extremely long, in a single lens, a prime only lets you shoot at one specific length – depending on the prime lens you have attached to your camera body.

Now, of course, and quite rightly, you’re most probably thinking why would any wedding photographer choose to shoot with prime lenses which sound like they restrict the kind of lengths you can shoot at a wedding?  This is a good question but, as I’m sure you’re expecting, I have a good answer (or two.)

Low Light, Focus and Image Quality

Harlestone Village Institute wedding photography of the bride and groom being toasted by the guests during the wedding speeches

One of the distinct advantages of prime lenses is that they are usually much faster lenses than zoom lenses.  What this means is, that in low light situations, like at a church wedding where the interiors are quite dark and gloomy, you can carry on shooting hand held without gutting blurry camera shake or have to resort to a camera flash – which can be harsh, a mood killer and often forbidden during the ceremony. This achieved by setting a wide aperture (or a low F number such as f/1.4 or f/1.8) that allows in more light and lets you shoot at a faster shutter speed (which helps to eliminate camera shake and blurred movements.)

Connected with the ability to shoot at a wider aperture is the ability to get a much shallower depth of field with prime lenses – which helps blur distracting backgrounds and ensuring the main subject, like a bride or a groom, remains the most important part of the photo.  Yes there other factors that also assist with a shallow depth of field (such as distance to subject, distance from subject to the background and the length of the actual lens) but on the whole the wider aperture of a prime lens is going to help with the blurred background which, based on my experience as a wedding photographer, is what the majority of wedding couples love in their final wedding photography.

The other big advantage of prime lenses is a better image quality over zoom lenses. The simple fact is that a prime lens has a lot less glass and elements in it than a zoom lens does – which after all needs more to cover all the focal ranges it can move between. Therefore, the less glass you have between the end of a lens and the sensor inside the camera body (which records the image) the sharper the image quality will be.  And who doesn’t love sharper better quality images for their wedding photography?  And don’t forget, because they have less glass and elements they are smaller and lighter than bulkier and longer zoom lenses – again reducing the risk of camera shake. So it does all add up to better image quality overall.

Have Feet, Will “Zoom”

Old Ship Inn Hotel Brighton wedding photography of bride and groom cutting the wedding cake

But what about the “inconvenience” of only being able to shoot at one focal length? I hear you ask. Well, for starters, I can simply move my feet to either move in closer or pull back if required.  I have found in the past that zoom lenses can make you lazy and as a result you’re more likely to favour the longer focal length and stand back on the edges more.  As a wedding photojournalist I prefer to get in close to the action, rather than being a “voyeur” of sorts standing on the edge of things. Prime lenses encourage me to do this and get in closer. And because of their smaller size they are far more discrete and much less obtrusive than having some bulking big telephoto stuck in your face.

And in addition, that’s where my 3 camera set-up to shoot wedding photography comes in to play, it means I can attach 3 lenses which will give me wide, medium and longer focal lengths without having to continually change lenses.  That’s why I attend every wedding with a total of 6 prime lenses in my kit bag.  The wider focal lengths are covered by 12mm f/2 and 17mm f/1.8 lenses.  The 25mm f/1.4 covers the mid range and the longer focal lengths are covered by a 45mm f/1.8, a 60mm f/2 and a 75mm f/1.8 lenses.  The 60mm also doubles up as a fantastic macro lens – great for those detail shots like rings and table decorations.

Wedding Photojournalism for your Wedding Day?

Rowton Castle wedding photography of bride shedding a tear during the speeches .

So as you can see, I have a carefully thought out and professional approach to capturing your wedding photography. So if you are interested in my wedding photojournalism approach for capturing the real story of your wedding, then please do give me a call on 07920 422144 or send me a message via my contact page. I’ll be delighted to hear about your wedding plans and discuss my wedding photography packages in more detail with you.  You can also find my latest prices by clicking here.

3 Camera Wedding Photography

My Style

So why do use 3 cameras to capture wedding photography?

As a wedding photographer one of the things I often get asked about – especially by guests on the wedding day – is why I am shooting the wedding with 3 cameras.  So I thought it might be useful (and a little interesting?) to explain why here.

Old Ship Inn Brighton wedding photography of the bride putting on a necklace above a tattoo of her daughter's name, during the bridal preparations

Being a wedding photographer who specialises in natural, candid and unobtrusive wedding photojournalism it is important I have cameras small and light enough that allow me to get inside the real moments of the wedding day without damaging the integrity of the moment.  The beauty of mirrorless camera systems is that they offer camera bodies small enough to do this whilst not compacting on image quality that couples would expect of professional wedding photography.  Arguably the Olympus OMD system is one of the best and most professional of these mirrorless camera systems and having shot with Olympus cameras ever since I first picked up a professional camera in the mid 1980s, it was only logical I would stick with Olympus as a brand.  But let’s not get too carried away by brand choice or gear snobbery – ultimately a camera is just a tool. It’s the photographer who puts the word professional into professional wedding photography. And professional wedding photographers have full control over their cameras rather than allowing their camera to control them!

Anyhow, I digress. So, back to my 3 camera wedding photography setup, so with cameras that are much smaller and, importantly, lighter than traditional Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras (DSLR) it’s so much easier to carry 3 cameras to capture wedding reportage photographer than, say, 2 much bigger and heavier DSLRs – and believe me I know…I did it or years!  And believe me, as a working professional wedding photographer, I can safely say the technology is such now that those big DSLRs will be a thing of the past in just a few years time.

Holiday Inn Brighton wedding photography of the briding crying during the wedding ceremony

Still I guess it still doesn’t explain why I would want to shoot a wedding with 3 cameras, even if they are smaller and lighter.  The answer to this is simply all about image quality.  As a wedding photojournalist it is important, given the dark and low light situations I face in shooting a wedding day (think dark churches, dark receptions and the good old English weather amongst other challenges), that I have a “fast” lens.  Simply put the faster a lens is the more light it will let in and the lower the light I can work in whilst still handholding my camera or without having to resort flash photography (which is often not allowed or is quite intrusive).  The truth is that the fastest lenses are what are known as “Prime” lenses or, in other words, fixed length lenses which unlike zoom lenses only shoot at 1 fixed distance to/from subject.  So given I choose to shoot my wedding photojournalism with prime lenses I invariably need 3 cameras to put these on. After all, I want a wide, normal and longer length lenses to cover all possibilities on the wedding day (and of course I carry a wide variety of prime lenses with me to a wedding – and the smaller lighter nature of these I can carry more a lot easier) so 3 cameras give me this flexibility.

Now, of course, I hear you thinking why not shoot a wedding with 2 zoom lenses that offer a variety of focal lengths. After all, this would perhaps require only two cameras.  And, yes, a lot of the wedding photographers do shoot with 2 cameras and 2 zoom lenses. However, if we put the fact that zooms are much heavier and longer to carry around than prime lenses, they generally are not as “fast” as prime lenses (making it more of a challenge to work in low light conditions) and, arguably, the image quality out of a zoom lens doesn’t match the sharper, crisper images you get out of a prime lens (and don’t forget a camera is only as good as the lens you put on it – but maybe that’s a different post for another day). This is because a zoom lens needs more elements and optics in it to provide all those “zoomable” focal lengths.  The more elements you have been the lens and the camera’s sensor, arguably the softer and less sharp your images will turn out.  That’s not to say there’s not some zoom lenses out there that produce stunning results, there are, but these can be ridiculously priced and  very susceptible to damage (another post for another day is how rugged Olympus gear is compared to other more sensitive brands!).  So shooting with primes gives me the ease and flexibility to capture stunning wedding photos. And being smaller than zoom lenses they are less obtrusive and allow me to get in much closer to subjects and moments, which is vital to capturing the genuine and authentic wedding moments that is demanded of wedding photojournalism.

Rowton Castle Wedding Photography of the bride being helped into her wedding dress

There is one final reason I shoot with 3 cameras on the wedding day and it’s the simple factor of reducing risk.  In the worst case scenario if one camera breaks or stops working I will still have two cameras to carry on shooting you wedding (and yes I do have 2 zoom lenses in my bag should I need to revert to them in a worst case 2 or 1 camera scenario – again all about reducing risk on such a big and important day, where a lot of money has been spent!) Imagine the poor 2 camera wedding photographer who would need to go down to 1 camera at a wedding in the same circumstances (it’s still doable on 1 camera – I had that happen in my 2 camera days – but its a lot more stressful and challenging capturing all the shots expected of a wedding day!) I don’t want to even think about those who choose to shoot wedding photography with just 1 camera (I won’t call them professional wedding photographers as no professional would dare to risk shooting a wedding with 1 camera!) and something goes wrong with the camera.  That’s one of the things you will find with those wedding photographers who offer unbelievably cheap prices to shoot your wedding. Often they will only have 1 camera and maybe 2 lenses (and more than likely not very good cameras or lenses at that).  It’s how they manage to keep their price so low, but I genuinely believe that’s too big a risk. What value do you put on your wedding photography? Are you really wanting to take that kind of risk?

Brighton wedding dress and bride

So what prime lenses do I use and bring to a wedding.  Generally on my cameras I have a 12mm f/2 wide angle lens, a 25mm f1.4 mid lens and a 45mm f1.8 lens. In my bag I also carry a 17mm f/1.8, a 60mm f/2.8 macro lens that also doubles up as a longer portrait lens and a beautiful 75mm f1/1.8 longer portrait lens. In addition to these I have 4 zoom lenses available (should I really need them!) that cover from an ultra wide 9mm right up to a really long 300mm.  So you can see, I really do have all bases covered!

And there you have it, the reasons I shoot with 3 cameras on a wedding day (it’s also worth pointing out that in addition to these 3 cameras I often bring 2 older backup cameras too!)

So if you are getting married and are assured by my approach to wedding photography then please do give me a call on 07920 422144 or leave me a message on my contact page. I’d love to chat with you about your wedding plans and how my wedding photojournalism approach will help you get the beautiful and genuine story of your wedding day. You can find details of my current packages and prices on the Collections & Prices page.