destination natural wedding photography

I am very excited to write the very first article of my blog and I decided to choose a wedding photography technical topic. I’ll be very happy to read your comments and don’t hesitate to ask me questions, I’ll be here to answer.

Today I’ll be sharing what lenses I use while shooting a wedding. This article will be organized following the different periods of a wedding day (preparation, ceremony, reception, etc). I’ll walk you through the process that is happening in my mind during a wedding day (minus the temptation of helping the bride to dress up, the tears I have to contain even after years of shooting weddings and the tendancy to dance all night) in relation to what I’m carrying in my bag and what I hide in my car. I normally have a large backpack with me that I hide here and there during the day. And I also use smaller bags to carry specific lenses that I will only need in some situations to avoid carrying the large bag every time which allows me to be discreet. I shoot from preparation until the end of the ceremony with two cameras and a Hold Fast strap to make sure I always have a wide angle and a tele at disposal immediately. Then I work with a single camera to avoid being over-tired because of weight and lose creativity in the late evening. I am working with Canon L series lenses.


In general, I first take care of the groom getting ready and then I document the bride getting ready or I go to the bride while my second shooter is staying with the groom.

I always make sure to have a wide range of lenses, and I always opt as possible for fixed lenses so I can shoot with wide apertures in low light situations (most hotel rooms and bedrooms have limited light) without needing to use my flash.
These are the lenses I carry with me and I normally use at this time of the day:
35mm f/1.4 – this wide angle lens is perfect for capturing the entirety of the room while the bride is getting ready and to take pictures of the bridesmaids in small groups as well.
85mm f/1.2 – this lens is traditionally used to capture portraits. You have probably seen many pictures of the bride as she prepares and her bridesmaids as they look on from a distance. The 85mm has a lovely photojournalistic appeal and I love standing at the farther point of the room and shoot with a wide aperture so that the bride remains in focus and people in the foreground are blurred. I love the 85mm, there’s something magical about the light it captures and the bokeh it produces.
50mm f/1.4 – this lens offers the same vision as the human eye. It’s not as wide as the 35mm (which sometimes gives you a hard time hiding the mess that is around), but offers more latitude than the 85mm. This lens is really the most versatile in my opinion. You can opt for a 50mm f/1.2 but I personally use the f/1.4 because it is way lighter for a good quality of image. With my 50mm I photograph everything from make-up, candids pictures, the bride getting dressed, and also details.
100mm macro f/2.8 – this lens is great for capturing small but very important details like the wedding rings, pearls on the dress, or small representative details on the invitation, gifts or letters.

Then I always carry my 24-70mm f/2.8 in my bag in case the situation gets too stressful if there is a big delay for instance. In this case I make sure to be very quick and get the pictures I need without having to change lens and I go with the flow.

I also carry one flash in my bag, just in case, but I really try not to use it.

Pre wedding Photography

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I arrive to the ceremony location about 30 minutes before it starts so I can take pictures of the location with no people, and no clothing and purses that would weaken the photograph. During this time, I also load my small bag with the lenses I’ll need to document this portion of the day and I make sure I have enough battery and space on my memory cards.
These are the lenses I carry with me:
70-200mm f/2.8 – this lens is my ceremony go-to lens for ceremonies in big churches or any ceremony with more than 100 guests. The goal is always to go as unnoticed as possible by wedding guests, so I try to remain at a safe distance from the bride and groom for most the ceremony. This zoom lens is great for portrait and close up photos as well as photographing the bride walk up the aisle as it has quick focusing abilities.
35mm f/1.4 – this is a great lens to picture an overview of the ceremony location and guests seated during the vows. It really helps set the scene of the ceremony so as a story-teller I really enjoy shooting with this one.
50mm f/1.4 – I keep this lens on me in case I see a beautiful light that inspires me a portrait of some guest. It’s also common to have the request of a quick family photo, so in these cases, I’m prepared with a lens that is great for need.

16-35mm f/2.8 – Most of the time I don’t use it but if you happened to be in a huge cathedral or a big natural setting in the middle of nature I am happy to make one specific and impressive shot.

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Cocktail + portraits + group pictures (family, cocktail candids and love session)

Most of the time this period of the day is very intense because it is when you will shoot the bride and groom alone, then you’ll make group pictures and at the same time you need to get the vibe of the cocktail avoiding people eating. And often this period also corresponds to the moment in which you absolutely must pee and the line to the female toilet is endless 😉 So it is pointless to tell you that you have to know exactly what you want.The main goal for me during this portion of the day is to be everywhere, see everything and be ready for everything. I always try to have a planning made with the bride before the wedding day for the group pictures so that we go through it more quickly than if shooting it randomly and it also helps to make sure to have everybody on the pictures. I get ready with two different lenses on : my 24mm and my 35mm so I am ready for big groups and small groups. Then when it comes to the love session, I use the 50mm, 35mm, and 85mm as they reflect perfectly my style and vision.

These are the lenses I carry with me:
24mm f/1.4 – this is my go-to lens for groups. It is awesome for large groups. Any group with more than 10 people is documented with the 24mm, although I must caution to allow space at the edges of the photo because of the distorsion.

35mm f/1.4 – I really enjoy shooting with this lens and it works well for groups ranging from 2-9 people.

50mm f/1.4 – I use this lens for portraits ranging from 1-3 people. It’s great for bride and parent combinations, as well as groom and each groomsmen combinations, and it’s a must for bride and groom portraits.

85mm f/1.2 – That’s the perfect lens to captures candid moments in case of a second shooter while placing the groups for the formal photos. That’s how you capture a stolen look from the bride to the groom, the flower girl playing under the veil, or the ring bearer putting his finger in his nose thinking that nobody would see him.

To see a complete list of all the situations I shoot on a wedding day, please click here

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wedding photography lenses8-2

Reception + cake + party

Prime lenses are again my best choice for the reception because you will often have to work in low-light situations. I usually shoot a mix of photos : some flash filled pictures (more descriptive) and ambient light photos (showing the atmosphere). Personally I go for ambient lit photographs because it has a more natural appeal and gives you an authentic vibe of the reception. I also have an off-camera light set up ready for use (a small soft box that I adapt to my cobra flash). I don’t always use it but it can save your life in case of very low light. If you guys are interested in the subject just tell me in the comments and I’ll write a specific post about lighting.
These are the lenses I carry with me:

35mm f/1.4 – perfect to give you an overview of the place. I do these pictures while people are still drinking the cocktail so that the place is clear and tidy. The waiters are often working already so you’ll have to ask them to collaborate without disturbing their work too much.

I also use the 35 for the groom and bride entrance to show the atmosphere, which is usually happy guests cheering them on. I also use this lens for a portion of the first dance for a wide angle of guests watching the couple.

That’s also the lens I use at the moment of the cake. Everybody is gathering around the spouses and I want to see everything with no distorsion.
50mm f/1.4 – I use this lens quite a lot to shoot details (head table, individual tables, flowers and centerpieces, the wedding cake, toasting glasses, dessert bar,…). I focus a lot on these details because most of the time the bride and groom put a lot of time and energy in it and after the wedding it disappears so the pictures are the only to remain. The 50mm is also great for the first dance when I want the focus to be on the bride and groom.
85mm f/1.2 – This lens allows me to stand at a distance in low light and still capture what I want. So it is golden during the first dance, the father and daughter dance and during all the speeches. After the first dance I say goodbye to my 85mm friend to feel lighter and I often stick to my 50mm for a while to regenerate.

70-200mm f/2.8 – I use it a lot to shoot the details on the tables and after that I’m normally finished with it until the next wedding.
24mm f/1.4 – this is my favorite lens for capturing party pictures. It is dancing time so let’s make dancing pictures. By that time of the day you normally have all the portraits you need so you can stick to the dance floor and have fun.

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wedding photography lenses10-2

While people are dancing I don’t forget to check if I find some interesting night lights and often propose to my couple a last quick portrait before I leave.

Well this is an overview of what’s happening in my head during a wedding day. Of course every wedding is unique and I am very flexible about it. But what I tried to do here is to share my favourite choices and my way of thinking and seeing. I hope you’ll enjoy !


Aurore Martignoni

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