Best Focal length for formal portraits/ Lighting

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by mary_mchenry, Mar 20, 2004.

  1. Hi-

    I am shooting a wedding in a few weeks and would like to get a general take on what
    focal length people like to use for their formals. I shoot 35mm documentary style,
    using 2 canon a2e's. One loaded with B&W and one with color. I generally prefer
    zooms to primes but would consider renting a prime to try to out with the formals.
    Also- we are shooting the formals outdoors as the sun is setting -any tips there? I
    like to limit the amount of flash gear- so are their any suggestions for a very simple
    set-up? I use a proT bracket already with a 550Ex.

    Mary McHenry
  2. Hi Mary,
    you cant beat a good prime - I use 50mm standard and 85mm a lot - especially the 85 for bride and groom, the 50 also has a nice natural perspective for a BG portrait. The fast apertures of primes also gives the added advantage of capitalising on post sunset lighting(without flash) Unless you have a top of the range zoom, reproduction quality wont be nearly as good as a system prime.For most other shooting I use a 35-70 2.8 with an ultrawide zoom in my kit also.
    As for sunset shots - this is a broad question.
  3. Hi Mary, could you be a little more specific? Formals can, and usually do, include the
    whole wedding party. If indoors at the alter, there are different problems to solve than
    with portrait shots of just the bride and groom.
  4. Mary, what lenses are you using at present? Everyone has a different style, concept and perspective on wedding photography. My previous answer was referring to a specific part of the wedding.
    At the altar, once again a fast wide prime or a fast zoom to take advantage of the ambience.These will also take care of indoor/ outdoor formals.
    If you are using two bodies then you could have a wide on one and a short fast zoom on the other.
    The decisions you make will have a lot to do with your budget as well.
    Peter (Australia)
  5. TO be more specific, the wedding is outdoors on the beach. THe ceremony and portraits will all be outdoors. I am shooting a lot of portraits but the biggest group shouldn't be more than 10 people. My current lens are zooms 24-80 and 35-105, both of them slow. (yuck) BUT, I have a great rental place here that has every lens canon makes and they are reasonable to rent, so I was planning on renting the lenses for this wedding because I'll really need something fast. I avoid using flash whenever possible and am working up towards purchasing my own fast lens but want to try out a few before settling on which one to buy. Hope this clears it up!

    Mary McHenry
  6. Just use a 50mm normal lens. For the group shot, you could use a 35mm slight wide
  7. Im with Timber here.I use a 55MM & a 80MM on my 645 camera to shoot entire weddings,these of course are equal to a 35MM & 50MM respectively in 35MM photography.
  8. If your guy has it, try the 50mm 1.0 lens! As fast as you can get and gives you a lot of ability after the sun gets low! The review I saw says very fast and really sharp! Very versatile!
  9. Hi Mary,
    those zooms would suffice - no problems. Beach photos are great in the sense that you really have a great theatre of light and this would be the best place to be when light is at a premium.I would be packing some Fuji 400 / 800 because there are great shots to be had just after the sun goes down. Do you own a tripod - I would take it too.
    I think your focal lengths are well covered with what you have got - maybe you could go for a straight 20mm for an expansive view or for something different a big tele like a fast 200mm. It boils down to your choice!
    Variety is the spice of life and this may be a great opportunity to help straighten that learning curve.
  10. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    portrait formals; go with 85mm for full body, and 105 mid body and 135 for headshots.
  11. Hi Mary,

    I shoot w/A2E (5) and EOS1 backup or for B&W. My work horse lens is Canon 28-80 2.8-4L. I shoot 80% of weddings with it. Other shots are w/80-200 2.8L from back of church, 20-35 2.8L for wide shots of church and any tight spots, and 85 1.2L for portraits and isolated focusing and available light. I also carry a 100 2.8 Macro and 135 2.8 SF. I also have 300 2.8L w/ext. but don't use it much for weddings.

    I find the 28-80 gives me good coverage and I shoot all formals w/it. There should be some good buys on used 28-70 2.8L now that 24-70 is out. If your budget can cover it, this lens will do a great job for you. I you plan on going digital, then you might consider the 24-70.

    As for your formal shots on beach; meter sky behind shots and compensate, or not, to make it as you want, i.e., to make it darker or lighter, then shoot in Av mode w/550 TTL as fill-in. The A2E has Custom Function to turn Auto. Flash Reductions off - I always keep mine off so I can control flash compensation myself. I vary flash comp. outdoors ~ -1 ~ -2. I did this shot yesterday at a wedding using my 28-80 1/45 @ f4.0, the only difference was I used a 540EZ flash.

    Good Luck.

  12. Though you'll hear all sorts of "opinions" on what is the best lens....I personally think the light and background and composition are primary and the lens secondary. Suprisingly enough, my favorite group shots have been taken with my 70-200 2.8L IS. I know it sounds crazy but it works. I use other lenses of course, but I always like these best due to the blurred background. I shoot from a good distance for increased depth of field. You can see some of these in my portfolio. I'm not suggesting that you use the same lens. I'm just saying that it is a matter of taste -- and lighting, background etc.. is more important then the lens... Important to note that this is just my opinion and certainly subject to debate. Cheers..
  13. Mary,
    I've found that a good zoom is my ideal. I like the 24-85
    although for the portraits I sometimes use the 80-200.

    Generally both are in the 60-85 and 80-120 range..

    Relax, concentrate on using the best lens you have (the one that
    gives the best photos) and pose,compose, frame, light, and delight.

    The gear will take care of itself if you do the rest....

    Best of luck,
  14. Wow- thanks for all the great feedback. I think I'll rent a faster version (28-70/2.8)
    of my main zoom and also get the 70-200/2.8. Maybe even a 20/2.8 prime for extra
    wide shots.
    As far as the lighting goes, I'm going to the spot today and will try shooting ttl fill
    flash, letting the flash make adjustments and also try metering the background and
    doing my own exposure compensations.
    I really appreciate all the ideas- this site has been a lifesaver!
    Happy shooting,


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