My favorite portrait lens

This was my first wedding I ever shot in Port Washington, Wisconsin and I can take away so many great moments from this day and the excellent time I was able to spend with the couple: Adrian and Jesse.

This was such a sweet small-town wedding, which like so many weddings I shoot really exhibited that beautiful Wisconsin living.

Halfway through the 2015 wedding season I began experimenting with a new lens and the first wedding I ever shot with it was in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

The thing I can take away from this wedding was how I really used this day as a launching-off point of so much of my wedding portrait styles that I used for the rest of the season.

This may have also been the first wedding I used the Nikkor 85 mm lens with a 1.4 F-Stop, which is now my best tool in my toolbox for any wedding I shoot.

Pardon me for diving into a little bit of photographer tech speak.

I had heard many photogs at camera shops talk of the nifty 50 lens, which is a 50 mm lens with that same beautiful low F-Stop. I’ve heard from those same photographers, that many wedding photographers use this lens solely for weddings, not touching a single other lens the whole day.

Well, that seems borderline insane and scary to be stuck with one lens all day, but I was happy to try the nifty 50.

After shooting a couple of times with the 50 mm, I conferred with the head honcho at my go-to camera store in Milwaukee: Arts Camera Plus in Greenfield. He then told me that since I used a full-frame camera, to get that same effect of shooting with the 50 mm lens, I needed to use an 85 mm lens.

This was kind of a bummer, because when comparing the rental price and the retail price, the cost of 85 mm lens spiked to $1,500 compared to less than $500 for the 50mm lens.

Sigh, “straight cash, homie” as Randy Moss said.

But, now that I’ve tried for a few weddings, I absolutely love the results and don’t think I can ever go back to not using it for a wedding.

What I loved more than anything else were the portraits. This makes absolute sense, because it’s a portrait lens!

But, the shots of the bride and the groom and any other portrait where everyone is on the same plane away from the photographer, this lens absolutely does wonders!

Of course, the other thing about this lens is that it’s a fixed lens at 85 mm. Some people may like the flexibility of having a zoom lens, but no matter how small fixed lens will ALWAYS be better and higher up in quality. Simply, there are less moving parts in the fixed lens and thus things are going to be higher quality.

The only problem is using it to shoot more than one person. At. 1.4 F-Stop, more than one person shows a drastic change of depth of field where the other person is incredibly out of focus. I really have to crank up the F-Stop even when shooting two people and then even at that time notice that the other person may still be out of focus.

Of course, even when I move the F-Stop up high enough to shoot more than one person, then you’re losing a lot of the best features of the lens. For instance, lighting becomes a much bigger issue.

Also, I like to shoot a lot in auto-focus mode and using this lens can sometimes be a headache on the wedding processional or recessional. Since the depth of field is so narrow, I feel like by the time it actually autofocuses on someone moving toward you then that plane of field is then soon gone.

And, then you’re off by an inch, which can look like a mile.

My only recourse has just been to take way more photos of the processional than necessary just to ensure I get something usable and still every other one can be a little bit off focus.

Either way, the benefits far outweigh the risks and I’d recommend this lens to any wedding photographer.

Check out some of the shots I’ve gotten from it at a couple different weddings!

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