Weddings are perhaps the most important day in the lives of the participants, but they're pretty important for the photographer to get right too! Our guide to the best lenses for wedding photography, and the best lenses for event photography, suggests the best and most versatile lenses to take with you, and the best examples of each for Canon, Nikon and Sony users.
We asked a lot of wedding and event photographers which lenses they found most useful, and while there was a lot of individual variation, we think we've found the five most popular lens types.
We've split this guide up into sections, one per lens type, but here's our list:
Which are the best lenses for wedding and event photography?
- 70-200mm f/2.8 telephotos: Perfect for portraits and creative background blur
- 24-70mm f/2.8 standard zooms: The ideal ready-for-anything lens to keep on the camera
- 16-35mm f/2.8 wide-angles (or similar): Perfect for the church, reception and group shots
- 90-100mm macro lens: For close-ups of the ring and table decorations and a great focal length for for head and shoulders portraits too
- 35mm f/1.4 or 1.8: The classic focal length for candid shots, with wide aperture to handle low light and deliver nice background blur
Full frame or APS-C?
We've stuck to full frame cameras for this roundup, since these are the most popular amongst wedding and events photographers who are most likely doing these jobs on a commercial basis. There's no reason why you shouldn't use an APS-C or MFT camera, but while the quality is fine, you might not get such a wide choice of constant aperture zoom lenses and wide-aperture primes.
• See also Best camera for wedding photography
Many of the lenses in this guide are available in more than one lens mount. Make sure you order the right one for your camera.
We've chosen 70-200mm lenses in preference to portrait lenses, and for two reasons. First, the zoom lets you can quickly adapt to different circumstances, subject distances and backgrounds. Second, at longer focal lengths the background blur can be just as effective, and you have more control over selecting and framing the background.
Launched at the end of 2018, the ‘Sports’ edition of Sigma’s 70-200mm lens delivers fully pro-grade build quality, handling, performance and image quality at a bargain price. The weather-sealed construction feels rock-solid and the controls include switchable autofocus modes that give priority to AF or manual override, an autofocus range limiter switch, three customizable AF on/hold buttons and dual static/panning optical stabilization modes. There are also two switchable custom modes that you can set up with Sigma’s optional USB Dock. The optical path features no less than nine top-grade FLD (‘Fluorite’ Low Dispersion) elements plus one SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements, while the 11-blade aperture diaphragm is particularly well rounded. It’s easily as good as the latest top-flight Canon and Nikon own-brand lenses for DSLRs, if not better, and much less expensive to buy. The only downsides are that it’s a little bigger and heavier, and the tripod mount ring isn’t removable.
• See also Best wedding photography tips
Building on the success of the original 70-200mm Di VC USD, the G2 model has an enhanced optical system to increase sharpness and reduce colour fringing, ghosting and flare. The autofocus system is revamped for greater speed, and the optical stabilizer is uprated to give 5-stop effectiveness, with three switchable modes. These include conventional static and panning modes, plus a mode that only applies stabilization during actual exposures. This makes it easier to track erratically moving objects in the viewfinder. Build quality is excellent, with a sturdy metal barrel and comprehensive weather-seals, plus a fluorine coating on the front element. Sharpness is good, and on a par with Canon’s latest EF 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, for example, but is marginally beaten by the Sigma lens above.
At little more than half the weight of the Sigma 70-200mm DSLR lens above, this RF-mount zoom for EOS R-series cameras is a relative lightweight that suits the more compact Canon EOS R camera bodies. It’s also much smaller than most 70-200mm lenses, due to having a telescoping rather than fixed physical length. As such, the inner barrel extends at longer zoom settings, which adds the risk of dust being sucked into the lens. The autofocus system is driven by dual Nano USM motors, for blazingly fast yet virtually silent operation. The image stabilizer is similarly impressive with three operating modes and up to 5-stop effectiveness. All in all, it’s the ideal telephoto zoom for R-series cameras, but it comes with a weighty price tag.
This Nikon Z mirrorless lens is the perfect choice (well, the only choice) for Nikon Z owners in this category right now. It’s pretty big and heavy, but certainly packs a lot in. Fully weather-sealed and with a fluorine coating, it’s built for top-end professional use. Handling is superb, with smooth and precise zoom and focus rings and dual customisable Lens-function buttons. There’s also a customisable control ring for the likes of aperture and ISO, and an OLED screen for displaying parameters like focus distance, focal length, depth of field, aperture and ISO. Autofocus is fast for stills and smooth and silent for video capture, while the optical stabilizer has 5-stop effectiveness. As with Canon's own mirrorless 70-200mm f/2.8, you are paying for the privilege of an own-brand lens.
Like most recent 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses, the Sony has strong build quality with weather-seals and a fluorine coating on its front element to repel moisture and grease. High-end features include a complex autofocus system that combines ring-type ultrasonic drive for a forward group of elements, and double linear stepping motors for the rear group. The aperture diaphragm is similarly well-rounded as in the Sigma 70-200mm Sports lens above, based on 11 blades. Dual-mode Optical SteadyShot is featured but has a relatively disappointing effectiveness, equating to about two f/stops. Even so, it works well in conjunction with the sensor-shift stabilization of Sony’s more recent mirrorless bodies.
The 24-70mm f/2.8 is the perfect standby lens for wedding and event photographers. It's wide enough for most interiors, yet 'long' enough for impromptu portraits and couple shots. Many will focus close enough for quite small details too, and the constant aperture and pro-grade optics mean you can shoot wide open to combine sharp subjects with defocused backgrounds.
Sigma’s 24-70mm Art lens for Canon and Nikon DSLRs is solidly built with a metal barrel and a weather-seal gasket on its brass mounting plate. The zoom and focus rings operate with smooth precision, and the ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system is very quick and quiet, as well as featuring switchable modes to give priority to AF or manual override. The lens also features a 4-stop optical stabilizer. Image quality is gorgeous, with superb sharpness and very attractive bokeh, while color fringing, distortions and vignetting are all quite minimal. In-camera corrections are available in the Canon-mount edition of the lens.
A more recent Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 AF DG DN Art version of the lens is also available for Sony E-mount cameras, but with a rather different optical design and no optical stabilization.
The Generation 2 edition of this lens represents a major upgrade. The redesigned optical path includes two XR (Extra Refractive Index) elements, three LD (Low Dispersion) elements, three GM (Glass-Molded aspherical) elements and one hybrid aspherical element. A combination of conventional and nano-structure coatings are applied to minimize ghosting and flare. There’s a comprehensive set of weather-seals and a fluorine coating on the front element. Other improvements include a faster, more accurate autofocus system and a more effective 5-stop optical stabilizer. Image quality is highly impressive in all respects, although the Tamron isn’t quite as sharp as the Sigma lens above in the 50-70mm sector of the zoom range. The rotational direction of the zoom ring is the same as in own-brand Nikon lenses, whereas the Sigma follows suit with Canon zooms.
Canon’s heavyweight RF 28-70mm f/2L USM tips the scales at 1,430g and lacks image stabilization, so we think this 24-70mm zoom is a better fit for wedding and event photography. It has a wider maximum viewing angle, adds highly effective 5-stop stabilization, and is less than two-thirds the weight. Even so, it still feels pretty hefty on a slim-line EOS mirrorless body. Build quality is up to Canon’s usual L-series standards, complete with comprehensive weather-seals. The optical line-up includes three moulded aspherical elements and three UD elements, plus Air Sphere Coating. Autofocus is courtesy of a super-fast and practically silent Nano USM system. Image quality is fabulous in all respects, with particularly impressive sharpness throughout the entire zoom range.
Nikon’s retractable Z 24-70mm f/4 S shoehorns great image quality and all-round performance into a compact and lightweight build. This more up-market f/2.8 lens goes all-out for refinement, with an additional customisable control ring and a customisable Lens-function button. An OLED display screen is also featured, which can display the aperture setting, zoom position or focus distance, complete with depth of field indication. The optical path includes four aspherical elements, two ED elements, plus dual Nano Crystal and ARNEO coatings, as well as fluorine coatings front and back. Multiple autofocus actuators boost speed and accuracy. Image quality is spectacular, more akin to a selection of best-in-class prime lenses.
Wedding and event photography typically combines a variety of styles, from portraits to group shots and from detail shots to big interiors. You don't always know how big (or small) the venue is going to be, where you're going to be able to stand and how far back you can get. An ultra-wide zoom can really get you out of trouble, especially if you need to get a big group shot in a confined space.
More than just a minor upgrade over the previous version of this lens, the Mark III edition of Canon’s 16-35mm f/2.8L is extensively redesigned. The new optical path gains a large double-surface GMo (Glass Moulded) aspherical element at the front, adding to two UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) elements and a ground aspherical element at the rear. High-tech coatings include both SWC (SubWavelength Coating) and ASC (Air Sphere Coating) for greater resistance to ghosting and flare, and fluorine coatings are added to the front and rear elements. Image quality is excellent with a noticeable improvement in sharpness from previous editions of the lens, particularly towards the edges and corners of the frame – especially useful when capturing venues and interiors.
Extensive weather-seals and robust build quality make this a pro-grade lens, and it’s packed with sophisticated features. Two XA (eXtreme Aspherical) elements in the optical path combine to deliver excellent sharpness with super-smooth bokeh, the latter being retained when stopping down a little, helped by a particularly well-rounded 11-blade diaphragm. Nano AR Coating is applied to minimize ghosting and flare. The high-tech autofocus system is based on two DDSSM (Direct Drive SuperSonic Motor) actuators which work independently to drive separate groups of elements. Autofocus is very rapid for stills while enabling smooth, near-silent focus transitions during movie capture. Handling is enhanced by the inclusion of a customisable focus-hold button. All in all, it’s yet another inspiring but pricey G Master lens from Sony. There is a cheaper and wider 12-24mm f/4 if this isn't wide enough!
Nikon’s AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED is a highly popular fast wide-angle zoom but the 16-35mm can work better for weddings and events. It doesn’t go quite as wide but stretches to a longer and highly useful 35mm focal length. Another major bonus is the addition of optical stabilization, albeit with a modest 2.5-stop effectiveness. Also unlike the 14-24mm lens, this one has a detachable lens hood which enables the inclusion of a 77mm attachment thread for the straightforward fitment of filters. Two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements boost sharpness and contrast while reducing colour fringing, and Nano Crystal coat is on hand to minimize ghosting and flare. Build quality feels very solid and the mounting plate features Nikon’s usual rubber weather-seal gasket. All in all, it’s a very good and practical buy at an attractive price.
Depending on how close your standard zoom can focus, you may or may not need a macro lens – but ultra-close-up shots of tiny details can add real variety to a package of shots. The typical 90-100mm focal length for macro lenses is also close to the ideal 'portrait' lens, so although an f/2.8 macro lens won't offer as much background blur as an f/1.4 portrait lens, you may still get more than you expect and you will still get that flattering portrait 'perspective'.
Tamron has a long history of excellent 90mm macro lenses but the latest edition is by far the best. It has a robust construction that includes weather-seals and a fluorine coating on the front element. Similar to a number of Canon macro lenses, it features a ‘hybrid’ image stabilizer that compensates for XY-shift as well as the more usual angular vibration. This enables less of a drop-off in the effectiveness of stabilization when shooting close-ups. Ring-type ultrasonic autofocus is quick and quiet, and comes complete with a limiter switch for locking out either the short or long sector of the focus distance range. One LD (Low Dispersion) and two XLD (eXtra Low Dispersion) elements are featured in the optical path along with both conventional and nano-structure coatings to reduce ghosting and flare. Tamron is working on a firmware update to make the lens compatible with Canon EOS R and Nikon Z series cameras, via the respective mount adapters.
This Canon macro lens was the first to feature hybrid image stabilization, ideal for close-up shooting. As such, it compensates for movements in the horizontal and vertical planes, as well as for the more usual angular vibrations or wobble. Hybrid stabilization has since been adopted in other Canon lenses but, even so, 4-stop effectiveness in general shooting shrinks to 3 stops at 0.5x magnification and 2 stops at full 1.0x macro shooting. Overall construction is typically robust for an L-series lens and features weather-seals. Ring-type ultrasonic autofocus is rapid and whisper-quiet, while manual focusing is smooth and precise. Optional accessories include a Macrolite Adapter for use with Canon’s external Macro Twin or Ring Lite flash systems and a tripod mount ring. Perfect for macro shooting, sharpness remains excellent at narrow apertures.
This full-frame compatible Sony E-mount lens is pricey to buy but certainly isn’t short on high-tech features. It has a Dual DDSSM (Direct Drive Super Sonic wave Motor) autofocus system that delivers rapid, accurate and near-silent performance. It’s also Sony’s first macro lens to incorporate image stabilization, or ‘Optical SteadyShot’, which is worth having for general shooting but of limited benefit for extreme close-ups. High-grade optics include aspherical, ED and Super ED elements, built into a tough and weather-sealed metal barrel. Handling benefits from a super-smooth focus ring, which is electronically coupled to the autofocus system and enables very fine and precise adjustments for macro shooting. There’s also a three-position autofocus range limiter switch and a focus hold button. Image quality is excellent, combining superb sharpness with beautifully smooth bokeh.
For some wedding and event photographers, a fast 35mm prime lens might be a low priority, but for those who are tasked with grabbing informal shots and not just the formal proceedings, it could be the most useful lens in their bag. Many photographers work in pairs, with one acting as a 'second shooter', and this could be the perfect lens for that role.
Tamron decided to make something rather special to mark the 40th anniversary of its SP (Super Performance) line-up of lenses. It came in the shape of this 35mm f/1.4, which Tamron claims to be its finest ever lens. There’s certainly no compromise in the quality of its components or finish, which include three moulded glass aspherical elements and four LC (Low Dispersion) elements. High-end coatings comprise nano-structure BBAR-G2 (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection Generation 2) and a newly developed fluorine-based coating. There’s also a new ‘dynamic rolling cam’ variant of the ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system, developed exclusively for this lens. Handling is excellent and image quality is simply sublime, with amazingly beautiful bokeh for a 35mm wide-angle lens.
Some of Sigma’s Art lenses are notoriously big and heavy, including the 50mm and 85mm f/1.4 primes. By contrast, this 35mm lens is more compact and lightweight than most direct competitors, but still feels very solid and well-built. The optical layout includes two aspherical elements with a large-diameter one at the front, plus a top-grade FLD (‘Fluorite’ Low Dispersion) element and four SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements. Ring-type ultrasonic autofocus is typically quick and quiet, with the usual full-time manual override. Unlike many subsequent Sigma Art lenses, the 35mm is available in a wide variety of mount options that include Canon EF, Nikon F, Leica L, Pentax K, Sony A, Sony E, as well as Sigma’s proprietary mount. Image quality is excellent in all respects, with superb sharpness and contrast, and very good resistance to ghosting and flare.
When launched four years ago, the Mark II edition of this lens was the first to feature Canon’s BR (Blue Spectrum Refractive) optics. Engineered at a molecular level, it’s based on an organic material that’s integrated into a compound element within the lens. The aim is to refract blue light and significantly reduce chromatic aberration, enabling greater sharpness and contrast in images. The Mark II is also noticeably bigger and heavier than the original lens, with a tougher construction that adds weather-seals and fluorine coatings on the front and rear elements. Centre-sharpness is excellent, even when shooting wide-open at f/1.4, although corner-sharpness drops off a little more than in the competing Sigma and Tamron lenses.
How we test lenses
We test lenses using a mix of both real world sample images and lab tests. Our lab tests are carried out scientifically in controlled conditions using the Imatest testing suite, which consists of custom charts and analysis software that measures resolution in line widths/picture height, a measurement widely used in lens and camera testing. We find the combination of lab and real-word testing works best, as each reveals different qualities and characteristics.
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