Which prime is best to compliment my gear?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by joel_danto, Feb 26, 2013.

  1. I've been prepping myself to get into the event photography and recently purchased the following items:
    28-300mm f3.5 VR Nikkor (came with camera)
    70-210 f.28 VR Nikkor
    24-70mm f.28 VC Tamron
    2 SB-910 speedlights
    1 flash commander
    1 lightsphere
    With that said, a little background as to why I think I need a prime. I want to start picking up 2nd shooter gigs for weddings and it seems that a lot of professionals have prime lenses because they're relatively cheap and have a low f-stop. I can appreciate that since you often don't know what your lighting situation will be, so the lower the f-stop the better. Another thing to consider is the D600's iso sensitivity, which I think is professionally useable up to 2500, max 3200 without much image quality loss (but that's my opinion, I'm sure some of you think up to 6400 is fine).

    At first I researched what would be better, a 50mm or an 85mm. Results seemed mixed, some people swear by one or the other. I guess what I want to know is if I'm someone's second shooter and I have the equipment stated above, what prime would be best for me? Would a 105mm be better than a 55mm or 85mm? What would a lead photographer prefer I have? If I were, for example, shooting on the dance floor with minimal light, would a 55mm be best?
    And for those curious of my shooting ability and experience I welcome you to check out my website at www.dantophotography.com.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Unfortunately, "event photography" coveres so much ground it is hard to tell just what you will be faced with. Personally I would feel rather undressed without a quite fast "normal" lens. Say, a 50mm f 1.4. Some events don't allow flash, for one thing.
  3. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    For the coverage of Weddings:
    Using a Nikon D600 and as a (my) second shooter, I would prefer you to have a fast 35 and a fast 85.
    If you only have one fast lens, then I would prefer it to be a fast 85.
    My rationale being that the 2nd Photographer would (usually) be farther away than I.
    But a fast 35 is very handy (as one example) to shoot wide, sans flash, from opposite side of the Church.
    Or (as another example) to capture shallow DoF, Available Light Portraiture in the Groom's house, if we were to each cover a different location, prior to the Wedding Service.
    As a general comment - for a “FF” camera:
    The pair of a fast 35 and fast 85 Primes, can be very useful to both the Primary and Secondary Photographers, far more flexible than and will provide more variety than a single fast, 50mm lens.
    HOWEVER - the fast 50's (i.e. F/1.8) are so cheap:
    Therefore a set of three Prime Lenses, might be in the ball park of your expenditure.
    If so then the Kit Zoom could be sold, because that set of three Primes (35 50 85) are the primary tier for lens redundancy, should your Tamron 24 to 70, fail.
    Although not asked - I would be hastening to get a second (back up) camera – having a second shooter (with Nikon gear) and NOT having TWO cameras would be more concern to me (having Canon gear), than the fact that my Second Photographer, had no Prime Lenses.
    For the coverage of Events:
    Well, what “events” particularly?
    (as an example) for theatre, etc a fast 135 might be the best answer.
    (as another example) for “grips and grins” awards – a small snub 35 Prime would likely be more suitable.
  4. Sorry, to be specific, I'd like to second shoot weddings. So you would consider a 50mm to be the standard prime of choice? Does anyone else on this board feel that way?
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    to second shoot weddings. So you would consider a 50mm to be the standard prime of choice? Does anyone else on this board feel that way?
    Well not me.
    As per the above reasoning.
    Just consider this, more reasons – you are inside and tight:
    You can make the same Perspective using a 35 Prime and most nearly always crop the excess to make it a suitable print, as if it were taken with a 50 Prime.
    But, once your back is against the wall with a 50 Prime mounted – you are snookered. You just cannot step back any further. You cannot make the shot.
    You are in the Church and shooting sans flash and shooting long (as most seconds usually are) – and your 70 to 210/2.8 is just not fast enough – the 50/1.8 or 1.4, again is not very useful – rather need to shoot with an 85/1.8 and crop the excess (though a fast 135/2 might be better – ROI dictates that a fast 85 will be used more often).
    BUT as I mentioned the 50/1.8 (in both Canon and Nikon) are so cheap . . .
    The fact that (in the olden days) we would shoot ALL the wedding with a 6x6 and one ‘standard’ 80/2.8 lens, does not mean that a ‘standard 50mm’ lens is the ‘ideal choice’ to supplement a 24 to 70/2.8 zoom for a wedding shot with a ‘FF’ DSLR.

  6. Thanks William. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated. I'll probably get the 85mm and if I can afford, I'll go for the 35mm as well. Selling the kit lens is a possibility, I just really enjoy the ability to shoot up to 300mm. But maybe I'll sacrifice that until I can afford one later on.
    And yes, I do have a second DSLR. It's a Sony A55. I know, it's only a DX camera, but it takes a great picture and I can't quite afford to duplicate my system to a better camera.
  7. 35mm would be my pick. Great for little groups, detail shots, full length environmental type portraits.
  8. Nikons 28/1.8G and 85/1.8G would be the low budget high quality gear to get. That would serve as backup for your 24-70 zoom as well. One prime lens wont really cut it IMHO.
    For better gear we would be looking at the 35/1.4G and 85/1.4G by Nikon or Sigma. The 24/1.4 would be nice as well but would get less use. The 50/1.4G is cheap compared to the others. I have one but I dont think its needed unless you really love the 50mm focal length.
    But Im not sure you would need primes as a second shooter. You should be able to use you 24-70 for anything wide and your 70-200 for sniper duty.
  9. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    It took me some time to dig this Collage out of my hard drive.
    It suits, perfectly, as an example, for this thread:
    Half Shot 2 Portrait; 2 x Dance Floor Full Length - different orientations; Three-Quarter Shot Portrait and Close Up of Bouquet, all shot with a fast 35, Sans Flash.
    C595556. Technical: EOS 5D; EF 35 F/1.4L; Collage made using Available-Light images.
  10. Good shots William. The 35mm focal length is my absolute favorite. Very versatile. You could even push it to a medium close up without major perspective distortion (if you go horisontal).
    Easy to shot with as well with its 1:1 relationship between subject distance and coverage on the long side of the frame.
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Thank you.
    35mm has certainly been very useful for me, for wedding portraiture.
    On ‘full frame’, a 35mm lens has great appeal, kind of ‘street style’ and it is very personal focal length when used inside, I find: but I tend to work reasonably close and yet I still want to capture the atmosphere of the surrounds to “place them somewhere”
    I don't "know" the Nikon range now, in respect of what lens works with what DSLR body - and I agree that a fast 28 would easily do, instead of a fast 35.
    This collage (and I have another two from the same wedding), were made for examples.
    I used only the 5D and the 35/1.4 all day. This was a "test" and “fun” for me: and also to gather some teaching material / examples for the future.
    I was a guest, not the Pro Photographer.
  12. Well then, it seems a 35 and an 85 are both fairly important. The 35 or 28 seem to have more applicable uses for shooting. I suppose that should be my priority lens to buy and then get an 85 as well at some point soon. I see your point Pete with me even needing prime lenses as a second shooter given the lenses that I currently own, but I think that buying a 35 or 28 would work well and be a nice asset to have in the future, at least at the moment.
    Thank you and everyone who's commented, I've barely been on this board a day and you're giving me some great insight. Now all I need is to find myself some second shooter gigs...
  13. If you have no experience and don't know much about
    photography, I don't see you as a very useful second
    shooter. I wouldn't hire someone who isn't already
    competent and doesn't know their equipment. I've done it before and basically got nothing usable out of them, just another person in my way when framing. Those people have then gone on their own shortly after and claimed to be competent wedding photographers themselves when they still didn't know what they were doing.

    On topic...being a 35/85 user I find them both useful, but it is more about what focal length the specific person works with best. Some do top notch work with 24 and 50, others want 35/85, etc. Among newbies the cost appeal of 50 on aps c sensors is apparent in how often that combo is seen, leadin to every newbie shooter having an effective 80-85mm lens as their main prime. This is stereotypical and the commonness of it makes me wish they had something wider.
  14. Joey, as I stated in my original comment, feel free to look at my work at www.dantophotography.com to see my experience and ability. I've been shooting professionally for concerts, feature films and recently engagements/weddings. I'm not some noob who thought it'd be a fun idea to get into wedding/event photography, I'm trying to make an honest effort into the business. I have photography experience, just not a lot of wedding photography experience. The reason I posted this question was to get an idea of what type of lenses would be expected of me when I eventually found my first gig as a second. I want to come off as professional and capable as possible when given that opportunity. Anyway, I appreciate your comments regarding lens recommendation, thank you.
  15. An intelligent and competent photographer would probably
    require you to have bare minimums plus maybe 70-200 and
    then whatever else you feel most comfortable using as long
    as they have seen good past results with you using what
    you use.

    You're in the spaghetti against the wall phase, your shots
    are extremely random as far as focus point, framing,
    posing, and somewhat in lighting. You are in the most basic stages of learning flash use of any kind, and I suspect you still shoot jpg. And you have that apsc habit of lots of
    inappropriate closeups looking much like 80-85mm used at the wrong time.

    Therefore you need wider lenses and lots more learning and experience.
  16. 50mm 1.4 for its speed in low light. Many love the 85 1.5 or 1.8 for portraits. But the 1.4 version is expensive. The 1.8 version costs significantly less. 4-500 USD compared to 15-1600USD for the latest autofocus version and maybe 6 - 8 for an older manual focus ais version. The latest version of the 50 1.4 is significantly less than any of the 85s.
  17. it


    A 50mm or 85mm is usually pretty useful, but some prefer a fast 35mm.
  18. Nice as always WW.

    I try to keep things simple. I have a mess of primes and I really did them.

    However, I use mainly zooms for weddings and events. The only thing you are missing is a 16 to 35 zoom, or maybe a 20 mm prime. Something to fill the wide angle area of lenses.
  19. it


    And you might want to think about what the best prime is to compliment your style.
  20. Hi Joel,
    Rather than making random comments on focal lengths and fast aperture primes, I'd urge you to think in terms of the flow of a wedding and what may be encountered throughout the day. In essence, shooting a wedding is more akin to a photo essay where the narrative flows from one sub-plot to the next ... and the situations of each section may require certain photographic solutions.
    So, began by thinking holistically, and as Ian has mentioned, applying your own stylistic predilections to any requirement that may arise ... i.e., some shooters tend to shoot candidly from a distance, where others prefer a more intimate approach and have the stealth skills to pull that off. I am the latter type shooter and almost never use my 70-200, or 135, where others would be lost without their longer zoom. Ditto for super wides, which I have and infrequently use. Neither approach is right or wrong, it is just a preference based on creative vision.
    In reality, an entire average wedding can be shot with a 24-70 and perhaps a 100mm for waist-up portraits. Some churches are quite dark and do not allow flash to be used during the ceremony ... which can be solved with a mono-pod or a tripod and careful timing of shots to avoid subject movement. It is here that some folks opt for a f/1.4 lens ... 35mm or 50mm or 85mm depending on style. There are very few other situations that skillful and demure use of flash cannot solve. We take more lenses for creative reasons ... like subject isolation from a f/1.4 lens used closer to the subject.
    Here is a sample of a narrative embodied in an Album ... a mix of candid work and more traditional posed images which is a very prevalent combination favored by wedding clients these days ... in addition, I mix color with B&W where appropriate. Many of the candid ceremony and reception "speech" shots in B&W were done available light using either a 35/1.4 or 50/1.4 ... but some ceremony shots were done by my second shooter from a balcony with my 70-200 on a tripod.

    Here's the cover to that album (generally speaking, please note that my album design motif is custom and proprietary, thus copyrighted)
  21. I always tried to get my gear down to a minimum and carry with me what I needed. I tried any number of combinations. Onne body with zoom/bracket and body/prime. Mostly it was two bodies, three primes and a flash.
    At some point the amount of equipment you own becomes a hassle and burden. Having excess equipment stashed in a bag can be a prime target for thieves.
    I would ignore adding another layer of equipment until you shoot a couple dozen weddings. At this point your going on internet rumor and advice and not actual experience.
    There were alot more times that f/1.4 was more useful than f/2.8 to me. However, using more flash is not a sin and preferable when the quality of light deterioates. In my day it was cropped bodies and not useful ISO 1600/3200.
    On full frame, I would find 35mm f/1.4 the most useful, but also it's the most cost prohibitive.
    My suggestion is to buy a 50mm and in time you will gain the experience to answer all of your own questions.
    A 50mm f/1.8 lens is a great backup lens and for $100 is a no brainer. The 50mm f/1.4 can be had for less than $300. Both small and useful.
    At this point mastering flash will be your toughest hurdle. If you don't already have them, investing in wireless triggers would likely mean more to your growth as a photographer than another cluster of glass.
    Good luck
  22. Opps I wrote "did," above. You guys probably figured out that I meant "dig." Sorry folks.

    One of my fears when using several lenses is not due to time management but dust getting on the sensors. Because of this I try to hardly ever or sometimes never change lenses during a job. Dust getting on a sensor is simply a pain. I have 2 camera bodies that are the same and another one for something like a 400mm. This hardly ever gets used.

    My favorite lens has always been the fish eye lens, but there's a limit. Maybe 10 shots or so. The next favorite is 70-200 2.8. It's pretty sharp and fast with the focusing. The IS makes it pretty easy to handle and your portraits can be stunning with the short depth of field.

    Nice image Marc.
  23. I've been using f2.8 zooms for weddings, but do carry a Sigma 50mm f1.4 just in case. So far, I've never needed it though. The problem with f1.4 is that if it's not calibrated exactly, or if your focus is of just a tiny bit, you can miss focus with that extremely narrow DoF. My strategy has been to simply ramp up ISO and shoot f2.8 with my zooms. So far, this has worked for me. I agree that all in all, the important thing to master is use of flash (and reflectors.)
    Kent in SD
  24. Marc, your post was really insightful and definitely the right kind of approach I need to take. For me as a photographer I like capturing candids and close-ups, finding the "drama" in the shot is what really appeals to me. With wider lenses that can still be accomplished but it's typically not my style. That said, I do enjoy a fully wide shot capturing the entire scene, but not as much. Since I own a 24-70 and 70-200 both @2.8, I've got a lot covered already. Seems to me from your suggestions and from what everyone else is saying is that I should experiment on my own with a 50mm and an 85mm to see what works best for my style and then down the road when I have a bunch of weddings under my belt I should get a 35mm or lower.

    The response from this board has been fantastic and really eye opening how debated assembling a system can be. As for the people who suggest I learn to improve my lighting skills, I'm making an earnest effort at doing so as we speak. I've got two SB-910s and a commander at home with a couple umbrellas and plan on doing some test shots to really get a feel for them. I'm also attending WPPI this coming week with the intent on sitting in on several classes that teach about lighting technique. I know lighting's critical to a photographers success and I don't want to disappoint so I'm doing my homework :)
    Speaking of WPPI, if any of you are attending WPPI I'd love to meet up and say hello.
  25. I don't shoot weddings, but I do shoot a lot of events. If I were to hire a second-shooter, I would want that person to have two full-frame bodies, one with an 85mm f/1.4 mounted, and the second with the 35mm f/1.4. These, I believe, would be the most appropriate focal lengths for the typical working distances which would be encountered by a second-shooter assigned mainly to available-light candids.
  26. Joel, Another vote for a fast 35mm. You can do a whole wedding with it in a pinch. Great for interiors, most groups, and full length shots, even portraits if you are careful about keeping the camera back in a perfect vertical orientation and zooming with your feet. Next in line for me would be the fast 85mm. Best, LM.
  27. Marc said:
    Here is a sample of a narrative embodied in an Album ... a mix of candid work and more traditional posed images which is a very prevalent combination favored by wedding clients these days​
    Wow! Gorgeous work, Marc! There's so many "winners" it's tough to choose which ones to discuss. Anyhow, I really enjoy the narrative feel of your photos--they're exceedingly well done. The "formals" are absolutely stunning as well! Really, top-notch work!

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