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Best Focal length for formal portraits/ Lighting

Mary McHenry , Mar 20, 2004; 02:43 p.m.


I am shooting a wedding in a few weeks and would like to get a general take on what focal length people like to use for their formals. I shoot 35mm documentary style, using 2 canon a2e's. One loaded with B&W and one with color. I generally prefer zooms to primes but would consider renting a prime to try to out with the formals. Also- we are shooting the formals outdoors as the sun is setting -any tips there? I like to limit the amount of flash gear- so are their any suggestions for a very simple set-up? I use a proT bracket already with a 550Ex.

Thanks, Mary McHenry


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Peter Kervarec , Mar 20, 2004; 03:15 p.m.

Hi Mary, you cant beat a good prime - I use 50mm standard and 85mm a lot - especially the 85 for bride and groom, the 50 also has a nice natural perspective for a BG portrait. The fast apertures of primes also gives the added advantage of capitalising on post sunset lighting(without flash) Unless you have a top of the range zoom, reproduction quality wont be nearly as good as a system prime.For most other shooting I use a 35-70 2.8 with an ultrawide zoom in my kit also. As for sunset shots - this is a broad question. Regards Peter(Australia)

Marc Williams , Mar 20, 2004; 04:09 p.m.

Hi Mary, could you be a little more specific? Formals can, and usually do, include the whole wedding party. If indoors at the alter, there are different problems to solve than with portrait shots of just the bride and groom.

Peter Kervarec , Mar 20, 2004; 04:47 p.m.

Mary, what lenses are you using at present? Everyone has a different style, concept and perspective on wedding photography. My previous answer was referring to a specific part of the wedding. At the altar, once again a fast wide prime or a fast zoom to take advantage of the ambience.These will also take care of indoor/ outdoor formals. If you are using two bodies then you could have a wide on one and a short fast zoom on the other. The decisions you make will have a lot to do with your budget as well. Peter (Australia)

Mary McHenry , Mar 20, 2004; 06:06 p.m.

TO be more specific, the wedding is outdoors on the beach. THe ceremony and portraits will all be outdoors. I am shooting a lot of portraits but the biggest group shouldn't be more than 10 people. My current lens are zooms 24-80 and 35-105, both of them slow. (yuck) BUT, I have a great rental place here that has every lens canon makes and they are reasonable to rent, so I was planning on renting the lenses for this wedding because I'll really need something fast. I avoid using flash whenever possible and am working up towards purchasing my own fast lens but want to try out a few before settling on which one to buy. Hope this clears it up!

Mary McHenry

... Timber ... , Mar 20, 2004; 06:39 p.m.

Just use a 50mm normal lens. For the group shot, you could use a 35mm slight wide angle.

Steve Levine , Mar 20, 2004; 08:59 p.m.

Im with Timber here.I use a 55MM & a 80MM on my 645 camera to shoot entire weddings,these of course are equal to a 35MM & 50MM respectively in 35MM photography.

David Prouty , Mar 20, 2004; 09:10 p.m.

If your guy has it, try the 50mm 1.0 lens! As fast as you can get and gives you a lot of ability after the sun gets low! The review I saw says very fast and really sharp! Very versatile!

Peter Kervarec , Mar 20, 2004; 09:21 p.m.

Hi Mary, those zooms would suffice - no problems. Beach photos are great in the sense that you really have a great theatre of light and this would be the best place to be when light is at a premium.I would be packing some Fuji 400 / 800 because there are great shots to be had just after the sun goes down. Do you own a tripod - I would take it too. I think your focal lengths are well covered with what you have got - maybe you could go for a straight 20mm for an expansive view or for something different a big tele like a fast 200mm. It boils down to your choice! Variety is the spice of life and this may be a great opportunity to help straighten that learning curve. Peter

Eric ~ , Mar 21, 2004; 01:25 a.m.

portrait formals; go with 85mm for full body, and 105 mid body and 135 for headshots.

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