Being around people who are in love is just plain awesome.
They are happy, playful and absolute nuts. It’s the best.
Photographing engaged couples is one of my absolute favorite types of shoots, because of this. During the session, anything goes.
Pick her up. Done.
Jump on his back. No problem.
Lay in the grass and have a tickle fight. You got it.
Nothing is off limits, and the more joy the couple exudes in the images, the better they are.
But, with all that joy flowing around you, you had better know how to capture it correctly, and in this article, I want to help you do just that.
The camera itself really won’t matter when it comes to an engagement session, but the lenses? The lenses matter. And there are several important factors to consider when determining which lenses to bring on an engagement session.
1. Fast Lenses
The #1 most important factor in shooting an engagement session is having a fast lens or a lens that can achieve a very low f-stop.
The reason this is so important is that you need a low f-stop to create separation between the couple and the background with a super-slim depth of field.
Any lens that can get below f2.0 is a-ok in my book. Whether the lens can hit f1.2, or f1.8 won’t make a ton of difference here. Just get in the ballpark by only getting lenses that can achieve an f-stop below f2.0.
If you’re a little rusty on your knowledge of f-stops and aperture, let me help you with that.
2. Focal Length
The second most important factor in selecting a lens for an engagement session is the focal length. Consider the focal length of a lens to be the eyes of your shoot and what the eye sees, matters.
There are three focal lengths that are of most value on an engagement session are: 50mm, 85mm and a telephoto lens of 135mm or above.
I usually carry these three focal lengths with me on an engagement session and switch between them depending on the look I want in the image. I only shoot with prime lenses, so I do in fact carry all three lenses, but they are light and very easy to lug around.
For a lifestyle shoot, a 50mm lens is perfect. This focal length is comparable to what we see with our eyes and therefore gives the image a pleasing, natural look. Because a bit more of the background is included, it can be more challenging to shoot with a 50mm lens. But with some practice, it has a chance to become your favorite lens.
The next focal length is probably my favorite; it is 85mm. This focal length gives such great depth of field and delivers just enough telephoto to bring the subjects close without the distortion sometimes caught by wider lenses.
When shooting an engagement session, the 85mm lens gives you enough distance so that you are not right on top of the couple, yet close enough to capture the small details of love.
The third and final focal length that I recommend for an engagement session is a focal length of 135mm or above. This focal length is a telephoto lens which creates visual compression in the image giving the feeling of closeness and intimacy.
I use this type of lens when I want to be backed away from the couple, giving them their space while still having an image that is cropped tight and personal.
3. Fixed Aperture
Having a fixed aperture is essential to anyone wanting to dip their toe into the world of shooting in manual mode. It can be so frustrating to get your exposure settings correct, only to zoom and have the aperture unknowingly change on you ruining your exposure.
With engagement photography, you have to be able to move fast, and to have the exposure settings continually changing does not allow for quick shooting. It forces you to be less connected with the couple and more focused on the settings of the camera. Not good.
This predicament is never a problem with prime lenses, as all prime lenses are fixed aperture lenses. With zoom lenses, however you can run into this problem.
Let’s be honest, we are not made of money, and the lenses that fit the criteria above can cost some serious coin. That’s why I want to help you find lenses that can do everything listed above, without breaking the bank. Continue reading and I will share with you the lenses that are excellent for engagement photography and cost effective.
The Best Lenses for Engagement Photography.
Here are the criteria I have laid out above:
- You gotta have fast lenses
- The correct focal length is critical
- You must have the ability to lock down the aperture
- Low cost so you can still pay the bills
Let me introduce you to the lenses that I use all the time, the lenses that fit the bill for me.
None of the lenses listed below are zoom lenses; they are all primes. Besides the fact that I think prime lenses help you become a better photographer faster, they are also tons cheaper. Zoom lenses that meet all of the requirements above start at around $2000.
Prime lenses that fit the above qualifications start at $150. No, we’re talking, am I right?
Below are some images shot with a 85mm lens.
With the images above, notice the wonderful depth of field that the 85mm 1.8 gives. I can include interesting items in the foreground or background but they blur keeping the focus on the couple. Especially with the busy mural of the bottom image, if the mural in the background was sharp, it would be very difficult to see the couple.
This lens is a powerhouse of portrait-y goodness and rarely leaves my camera because it continuously delivers stunning images. Take note that I have the f1.8 version of the lens rather than the f1.4 version. The reason is because the quality of the f1.8 is so good, that there is no need to spend the extra bucks to get the f1.4. The f1.8 version is almost half the price!
Below are the links for the 85mm f1.8 lens. It seriously is the lens that I use the most, and is so affordable.
Below are some images shot with a 50mm lens.
Notice in the images how I am able to include more of the background which helps to enhance the image. If the background doesn’t enhance the image, don’t include it and don’t shoot with a 50mm lens.
This lens is the prime lens I recommend that people purchase first, as it is so good for such a fabulous price. Depending on the brand of camera you shoot with, this lens costs somewhere between $125 to $225.
If you are just starting out in photography, this should be the first lens you purchase. Period. And once you have it, shoot with it almost exclusively to help you become a better photographer.
For an engagement session, it will enable you to capture beautiful lifestyle images of the couple enjoying each other. A great compliment to the portraits that you catch as well.
Below are links to check out the 50mm lenses. I have included the f1.8 version of the lens and the f1.4 version, because both are excellent and not very expensive. The f1.8 version of the lens is wonderful so don’t feel pressured to get the f1.4 version.
Nikon 50mm 1.8 –—- Nikon 50mm 1.4
Canon 50mm 1.8 —– Canon 50mm 1.4
Sony 50mm 1.8 —– Sony 50mm 1.4
Below are some images shot with a 135mm 1.8 lens.
Notice on the above images the compression that is happening within the image. Areas that are far from the subject are blurred and brought closer; -things appear to be closer to the couple than they actually are. Especially in the bottom images, the columns appear to be closer together than they actually are in reality which creates a feeling of closeness.
This lens is the least important of the three, and should be purchased after the other two. If you find that you prefer the feel that a telephoto lens brings to your images, then the 135mm 1.8 will deliver.
Below are links to see the 135mm lenses. The Nikon and Canon versions are good lenses but not quite as fast as the Sigma Art lenses. Sigma does not currently offer a Sony version of the 135mm f1.8 lens, so only the Sony version is listed, which is quite expensive. The images above were shot with a Sigma Art 135mm 1.8 for Nikon.
Nikon 135mm f2 —– Sigma Art for Nikon 135mm 1.8
Canon 135mm f2 —– Sigma Art for Canon 135mm 1.8
After having shot hundred of engagement sessions in my career, I can tell you that choosing the correct lens for the shoot matters. Investments in quality lenses will have the greatest impact on your images and will help you to deliver pictures that your clients will love.
Beautiful depth of field coupled with intimate compression that captures wonderful emotion is what it takes for an awesome engagement session.
Hey there! Not sure if you’re able to reply to comments, but I was wondering if you are mounting these lenses on a full frame or APS-C camera body. I’m working with APS-C and am wondering if I need to adjust my kit accordingly to achieve the same focal lengths that you are describing here.
Great question! These are full-frame numbers, so you would definitely need to factor that in.
What body were these shot on. They’re beautiful!
I shoot with Nikon, so those were shot on a D750. I now shoot with a Z6.