Since switching to primes from the safety of zooms, I think my photography has improved substantially. To read more about why primes are so much better than your safe zoom go to my article The Advantages of Prime Lenses.
Out of all the focal lengths I think the 35mm prime is the most versatile and is the one focal length you really could keep on your camera all day for wedding photography.
The bride has her veil fitted by her chief Bridesmaid. The 35mm is the most versatile storytelling focal length lens. (ISO 200, 35mm focal length, Aperture f1.4, Shutter speed 1/8000th sec)
While the 50mm lens is closest to the way we see and is probably the easiest prime to learn to compose with, the 35mm can be all things as long as you are quick on your feet.
It is no coincidence why the latest Fujifilm X-100T has a fixed 23mm f2 lens (35mm equivalent). Also most old 20th Century film cameras had either a 50mm or 35mm fixed lens. Did you know also that your iphone camera is an equivalent 35mm focal length?
The main workhorse lenses I have are the 24mm f1.4, 35mm f.14, 50mm f1.4, 85mm 1.4. I use these lenses in pairs on two camera bodies. The 24 & 50mm primes are a pair as are the 35mm & 85mm.
I had just shot some wide angle photographs of the dad seeing his daughter in her dress for the first time. The 35mm allows you to step right in and fill the frame with very minimal stretching of the edge of the frame. if I tried this with a 24 or 28mm the hands and arm would become stretched and abnormally large. At even f2 the background is blurred out making the subject pop right out adding impact to your shots. (ISO 200, 35mm focal length, Aperture f2, Shutter speed 1/320th sec)
The 35mm Is Versatile.
As a documentary wedding photographer I think its important to be in close to what is happening. There is a greater sense of intimacy and emotion in a shot taken at close distance and the 35mm allows you to do this and much more.
What is so wonderful about the 35mm is its versatility. You can get close to your subjects and fill the frame with your subject for a nice environmental portrait.
It doesn’t distort like a 28mm or 24mm prime and at f1.4 the background is very much blurred out. It won’t go as close as an 85mm, but to be honest I rarely use the 85mm as a close portrait lens. I use it mostly to pull in distant subjects which will have a similar look to the 35mm.
Being a documentary wedding photographer its all about context of a shot, and that is what makes the 35mm my most used lens. The 35mm is able to capture a scene and when needed can go in close and shoot a close up of a hug for example which adds to the impact of the image.
The bride arrives at the church in the wedding car. The 35mm is perfect for shots like this. Even at f2 the background is well blurred. This shallow depth of field gives you the ability to be more creative with your composition, as background objects become more abstract and less distracting. There really is nothing like the look of a prime lens wide open. (ISO 200, 35mm focal length, Aperture f2, Shutter speed 1/4000th sec)
When the family formals need shooting I can use the 35mm again because it is wide enough. It probably is the best family formal lens too, as the 24mm can stretch the subjects at the edge of the frame, and the 50mm can’t go wide enough for a large group. The 35mm should be the first on your list of prime lenses!
A wedding photographer needs to document the details of the day, including place settings and close up of Cake details, shoes etc. The 35mm is perfect for this type of shot too. It can focus close enough for you to fill the frame with your subject and shooting at f2 or even f1.4 will give you a very pleasing look.
35mm really can capture the whole scene and is perfect for shots like this. At f1.8 we get a good separation from the other elements in the scene. (ISO 1400, 35mm Focal length, Aperture f1.8, Shutter speed 1/320th sec)
As I previously mentioned you could literally use just the 35mm lens all day for a wedding. There are cheaper f1.8 or f2 versions out there and on a full frame camera they will give you a shallow enough depth of field. The 35mm will get you in with your subjects and forces you to work harder for your shot. Did you know the difference between a 35mm and a 50mm is a footstep and a half? All a zoom does is make you lazy and stops you from viewing the scene properly.
A 35mm prime will help you compose better too, and it won’t be long before you will be able to pre-visualise the scene in front of you before you put your camera to your eye.
You can use near objects for more creative framing like in this shot. Because the 35mm f1.4 has such a shallow depth of field the near object is more abstract and adds to the composition rather than distracts. (ISO 280, 35mm Focal length, Aperture f2, Shutter speed 1/320th sec)
Added to that you have the low light ability of a f1.4 prime lens which will allow you to ditch your flash even in the evenings with subdued light. You will improve the lighting of your shots as you start working with the natural light available in the scene.
Go out and buy a cheap second hand 35 f1.8 and 85 f1.8 which will replace your 24-70 and 70-200 zooms. You will be surprised top learn you don’t really need your 70-200mm as much as you think.
Then at a less crucial part of the wedding try them out and see the difference in the look and feel of your images compared to the zooms. I think you will be pleasantly surprised!
To see more of my work go to my Portfolio Page.