“What lens should I buy for boudoir photography?”
It is the question I have seen countless times over the years in so many forums. The question I get from friends. The never-ending question. There is only one problem — the lens you should buy really all depends on you! What lens do you love? How do you like to photograph? Where do you photograph? Do you have space to back up so you can use a long lens? What do you like?
A big deciding factor – what camera body do you have? My Canon 50mm f/1.2 lens on my 5D mkIII, which is a full-frame sensor camera, will work differently than it would on your Canon 7D, which is a 1.6 crop frame sensor. In other words, my 50mm lens would behave like an 80mm lens on the 7D. Two very different results!
Before I go much further – my apologies; I only know Canon gear. I’ll try to interview a Nikon photographer in the future to get tips on Nikon gear as well, but overall the same advice applies.
So how should you decide what to buy?
1. Look at what your current limitations are. Do you often find that you wish your lens could go wider? Or that you could zoom in more? My first camera came with a kit lens, so I couldn’t go very wide – and I found that when I traveled, I wished I could back up even more — so my first lens purchase was a wide angle lens. That was the lens which at the time addressed my most immediate need.
2. Do you often shoot in low-light situations? You might want to consider lenses with larger aperture openings. (The smaller the number, the larger the opening.) I photographed weddings along with boudoir work for the first 4 years of my boudoir business, so I have only lenses that are f/2.8 or even better, like the 50mm f/1.2 I mentioned above. That way, I could photograph in dark churches where no flashes are allowed during the ceremony. In my boudoir work, I don’t have problems with it being dark, but that shallow depth of field created by an f/2 or so can be luscious for isolating body parts. That said, the “Thrifty Fifty” 50mm f/1.8 is a great lens, and the 50mm f/1.4 was my workhorse lens for several years. Same with the 85mm f/1.8.
3. Do you plan to upgrade your camera body in the future? If so, make sure your lens will work with future camera bodies. That first wide angle lens that I purchased was an EF-S lens, which only works on the cropped sensor line of Canon cameras. Once I moved to a full-frame camera (the 5D), my beloved wide angle no longer worked with that body. For Canon gear, the EF lenses work on ALL camera bodies. The EF-S lenses are built for the crop-sensor camera bodies only.
4. Try before you buy! Look to see if local stores in your area rent camera gear. Network with local photographers and see if someone will loan you a piece of gear for you to test out. Rent from BorrowLenses.com to try out gear longer term. (They not only rent lenses but camera bodies, flashes, and a lot of other items!) This has saved me a lot of money over the years! I rented lenses from BorrowLenses.com that I thought I really, really wanted – only to discover that I didn’t love them as much as I thought I would. (Renting is also an excellent option for making sure you have backup gear when you need it.)
5. There is no such thing as right or wrong gear. Buy what works best FOR YOU. Sell it if it isn’t working. I started out with the 24-70mm and the Thrifty Fifty. For me, the 24-70 wasn’t my favorite lens, and I passed it on to my second photographer when I was still photographing weddings. I love the sharpness of primes (fixed lenses that don’t have a zoom capability – like the 50mm) at the time, but lately I’m thinking I want to give that 24-70 another try. With my style of boudoir photography and in my current studio space, it might work really well for me. I’ve had people tell me over the years that they can’t believe I don’t love that lens – and others have told me over the years that they don’t love it either. Do what is right FOR YOU.
6. Use Flickr to your advantage. When I first was acquiring gear, I would study photos that I loved on Flickr, and then I’d look at the camera EXIF data to see what gear was used. After awhile, I noticed trends – for me, it was the Canon gear (I love the Canon blue colors) and the 50mm lens. Those were my first purchases. Note: not all photographers share the EXIF data for their images, but if it is there there will be text just to the right of an image like the photo below. If you click on the camera type, it will show you all sorts of other data as well.
Use these tips, and I think you will be well on your way to purchasing gear that is perfect for you! Remember, it is NOT a challenge to see who can have the most gear. There is no “Winner” if you have thousands of dollars of gear and it is just gathering dust! Gear is expensive, and in order for your business to be profitable you need to be wise in your purchasing decisions. Hopefully this will help you make wise choices that are best for your business!
Disclaimer: Links in this post are affiliate links. If you purchase the gear mentioned by using these links, I will received a small commission from the companies. These are all companies that I use personally on a regular basis, and I was not paid to write this post.
Photo above by Robert S. Donovan and used under the Creative Commons License.