I think most photographers would agree that, when it comes to equipment, using quality lenses is key. Having an amazing camera body is awesome, but in my opinion it's much better to shoot on a cheap camera with a great lens then a great camera with a cheap lens. I shoot on canon cameras so I'll be listing canon lenses here, but if you're a Nikon shooter it's pretty easy to find the Nikon equivalents to the lenses listed below.
Want to upgrade from your kit lens?
If you're a newer photographer looking to trade in your kit lens (18-55mm is standard,) my first recommendation would absolutely be the 50mm f/1.8.
Known as the "thrifty fifty," this lens is, in my opinion, still the best value you can find on the market right now. It's made with plastic and inexpensive glass, but being able to go down to a 1.8 aperture (though I would stick to 2.2 and above if you want a really sharp focus) will give you the shallow depth of field - read: those fab "blurry" backgrounds - that make images look soft and romantic.
The low aperture also makes this lens ideal for low light situations.
Those looking for higher quality glass can upgrade to the 50mm f/1.4 for an extra few hundred dollars, though I'll be honest and say that I've experienced focusing issues with the 1.4 and actually prefer the 1.8.
Cost: $110 on Amazon
What's the best "all around" lens for wedding and portrait photography?
When someone tells me they're looking to invest in a lens that will be super versatile for them, I will always point them to the Canon 24-70 f 2.8. I say invest because this lens is not cheap.
It's sharp, fast, and when you have your aperature opened between 2.8 - 4 you're going to get shallow depth of field for really romantic looking photos. This is the lens I use to photograph most ceremonies, because being able to go from 24mm (very wide angle) to 70mm (telephoto, close up portraits) means less moving around and disturbing the moment.
If versatility is more important to you than wide apertures, you might want to check out the Canon 24-105 f/4. This allows you an even longer zoom and is much cheaper than the 24-70.
Cost: $2,299 on Amazon.
What lenses do I use?
Other than the 24-70, I have two prime lenses I switch off of frequently when shooting weddings and portraits. I LOVE the look of prime lenses (prime means the focal length is set and you can't zoom) and almost always prefer them to zooming lenses.
35mm f/1.4 is my go to lens during most portrait/engagement sessions. It's made with "L" glass (that means the good stuff.) The 35mm focal length, at least for me, is that perfect sweet spot where you can get amazing wide angle shots or move in for beautiful portraits with minimal distortion.
Shooting on a prime lens means you have to be your own zoom. You have to run back, forward and back again to get the different shots you want. If you want a portrait, you have to get right up in the subject's face. I LOVE that. It lets me create a stronger connection with my clients which I think shows through in the pictures.
Those wanting a cheaper option would also be satisfied with the Canon 35mm f/2.
Cost: $1479 on Amazon.
My new all-time-favorite lens for portraits is the 85mm f/1.8. This lens is SHARP, which means you can have your aperture wide open at f/1.8 or f/2 and still have a really sharp focus. Love that! The photos I take with it are bright and contrast-y which means less editing in post.
The absolute best thing about this lens, however, is the PRICE! It is cheap as far as lenses go and gives you an awesome bang for your buck.
Cost: $379 on Amazon
I hope this helps a few of you out with your hunt for lenses! I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about cameras, lenses and the like in the comments section.
What's your favorite lens?
She Snaps is an ongoing series about photography and the business behind it. While most concepts can apply to both men and women photographers, this series is written with the female photographer/entrepreneur in mind. Enjoy!