While I now prefer prime lenses for wedding photography, when I first started my photography business I looked to what other photographers were using and decided that if I wanted to be as good a photographer as them, then I needed to have the gear they were using. Of course I now know that having a particular piece of equipment doesn’t make me a great photographer just as having a top of the line Fender wouldn’t make me a great guitarist. Its not what you have but how you use it and I was fortunate to discover early on what worked for me in terms of camera gear to create the images I love and ultimately, my couples also love.
Shortly after doing a workshop with one of Australia’s best children’s photographers I bought a 24-70mm f/2.8 because that was what everyone at the workshop had, including our teacher. However no matter how much I used the lens I didn’t get the images that I saw in my head and I realised that I would instead gravitate towards my prime lenses over the zoom lenses in my bag. Today, I have only one zoom lens in my bag because the truth is that I prefer prime lenses to give me the images that I love and here are a few reasons why:
Prime lenses give me a sharpness that I could never get with a zoom lens. When I looked back at the images captured from a portrait shoot I could tell instantly which was taken with a zoom lens because the image was just a little soft – and not in a good way. I found that working with prime lenses gave me a preferred level of bokeh (or bluriness) behind my focal point that I couldn’t achieve with a zoom lens.
Having a lens that zooms in and out makes for a lazy photographer – at least it did for me. I found that instead of exploring alternate angles or positions I would just zoom in and take what was given. When I use a prime lens I am forced to move to get the photo whether it be to the left or right or backwards or forwards. The image through the viewfinder won’t change until I move my position when I use a prime lens and this encouraged me to explore and move more.
Prime lenses have less moving parts understandably which allows them to have a wider aperture such as f/1.2-2.2. Shooting around f/1.6-2.2 is often my happy place when shooting portraits so a zoom lens just won’t give me that level of aperture as they typically start around f/2.8.
Honestly if I am working with a zoom lens and standing a few metres away from a couple, I can zoom in for an intimate photograph or detail shot and they wouldn’t know what I am focussing on. There is a distance between us with them in their space and me in my space however when working with a prime lens we are there together, in the same space. We’re talking talking and interacting as I photograph them because its hard to be that close and not acknowledge each other. This brings an intangible element to photography where you can break down barriers and get amazingly relaxed portraits which might be one of my favourite reasons I use prime lenses.
So my advice to you my friend is to not get too caught up with what other people are doing. Whatever you are doing, experiment and find what works for you and excel at it!