$300 or lower lens for people photography

Vic Vinegar

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My best friend asked me to take photos of him and his fiance all of next year before their wedding and I'm great at landscapes, but I am not the best with people. My lenses are for landscapes. What is a good small, IS lens for taking sharp photos of people? I was thinking something like a 50 mm which I already have but it's not IS. Maybe something with a bit of a zoom feature but not something long that will be a burden to carry around.

What other advice would you give me? I'm not horrible with people, it's just not my expertise and I'm self taught. I'm actually not that bad but I need a lot of guidance here.

Camera is 40D
 

jaomul

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Longer focal lengths ( to a point) flatter people better. I'm not sure what you mean by all next year, is it multiple shoots?
A good 50 is nice but if it's a couple maybe a 35mm might be better due the distance you need to step back. Prime lenses are good but in your case I'd definitely look at something like a tamron 17-50 f2.8 or a sigma 17-50 f2.8 os, or indeed Canon's own 17-55 f2.8.

Have you a flash unit?, have you reflectors? Actually what specific lenses do you have?
 

weepete

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What about a Canon EF 85mm f1.8 USM? B&H have it for $350 which is slightly more than you want to spend but you might be able to get a deal on it somewhere or a used copy will probably be in budget. It's not got IS but you'll probably want to keep your shutter speed quite high anyway if you are shooting portraits.
 

jaomul

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85mm f1.8 is a lovely portrait lens, but on a crop sensor like a 40d and taking couple shots, you'd need to be about a quarter of a mile away to fit them in the frame :)
 

JoeW

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I'm a Nikon shooter not a Canon so I won't recommend a specific lens. But let me talk about wedding photography: you need some fast glass for this. Unless you can shoot at ISO 1600 with no grain or noise, the reality is that most wedding venues have lighting that just plain sucks. Often high ceilings (so you can't bounce a flash up and down). Often low lighting or artificial lighting with terrible WB issues (think of most of the churches you've been in). And let's not even get to receptions.

So yes, something like an 85mm is more flattering for portraits. But unless you have two bodies AND can shoot a lot of portraits with a speed light or tripod, I suggest you get yourself the fastest lens you can afford for under $300. I know Nikon has a DX 35mm f1.8 for under that amount--maybe Canon has the same? You want something for groups (so a wide angle) and it needs to be fast so you can capture key shots where a speed light isn't going to be an option. For instance, shooting without a speed light (unless it's a bright day or a big window setting with incredibly light), I think an f2.8 isn't going to cut it.

Now....for instances where you can use a speed light and you can control the backdrop (like formal portraits after the ceremony and before the reception), you can live with a much slower lens b/c you can shoot with the speed light or even on a tripod if need be.

I think you should check out the space (at the time of day you'd be shooting) and identifying good spots to shoot AND lighting nightmares. And the larger issue to me is just shooting weddings. Good wedding photographers specialize in this. It's not rocket science but you absolutely benefit from experience. There are a bunch of threads here on shooting weddings...checklists of "must have" shots, equipment to bring, how to prep, etc.
 

jcdeboever

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I just picked up a Canon film camera and have been looking at all the available lens tech for it. However, you are using a 40D and I am thinking this would be perfect and within your budget. Keep in mind it's a prime so your feet are the zoom.
Canon Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard AutoFocus Lens
2515A003


Have you thought about renting? You could probably rent this lens for $30 for a weekend.
 

petrochemist

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On a crop sensor 50mm works out pretty well for individual portraits. IS shouldn't be particularly necessary. A slightly wider FOV is helpful where you want to show the location too, but your unspecified landscape lenses might be enough for that. Though if your landscape lenses are on the lines of a 10-20 that would be somewhat wide IMO.
The kit zoom that comes with most cameras is actually a good focal length range for these sort of shots. They're not top tier lenses but you wouldn't get one of those for $300. I've generally been impressed with the results I get with any of mine.
Cheaper zooms do tend to be a bit restricted in aperture, so if you're planning low evening shots showing the environment a faster prime in the 28 to 35mm region might be enough to flesh out your existing lenses.

Of course it might be that some of the locations you meet over the course of the year require a considerably longer lens - perhaps up to 300mm for shots of the couple off alone in a boat... If you have enough notice renting might be the best option for that sort of occasion.
 

petrochemist

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I'm a Nikon shooter not a Canon so I won't recommend a specific lens. But let me talk about wedding photography: you need some fast glass for this. Unless you can shoot at ISO 1600 with no grain or noise, the reality is that most wedding venues have lighting that just plain sucks. <snip>
The OP referred to the year before the wedding, and didn't specify if the wedding itself was included. If you're not experienced at portraits I recommend you don't do the wedding itself. They are high pressure situations that require you to really know what you're doing. I wouldn't shoot one!
 

JoeW

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I'm a Nikon shooter not a Canon so I won't recommend a specific lens. But let me talk about wedding photography: you need some fast glass for this. Unless you can shoot at ISO 1600 with no grain or noise, the reality is that most wedding venues have lighting that just plain sucks. <snip>
The OP referred to the year before the wedding, and didn't specify if the wedding itself was included. If you're not experienced at portraits I recommend you don't do the wedding itself. They are high pressure situations that require you to really know what you're doing. I wouldn't shoot one!
So if you're not shooting the wedding, just lots of portraits and candids leading up to it....you want something that will give you a narrow DoF....I personally think f2.8 may not be narrow enough for some candids. A prime lens is good. It's probably going to be more important that you have some poses/concepts/locations in mind, that you have a good reflector, and that they get comfortable with you being a third wheel while they're off doing stuff (b/c some of your best work isn't going to come at a "portrait" session but of the two of them hanging out in the park when the leaves have changed, or wrapping presents for the holidays, or having a casual meal at home, or sitting on the sofa reading the Sunday paper.
 

jaomul

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I do think that even when shooting with a fast prime it is often stopped down a bit anyway. A good fast standard zoom coupled with a faster 50 if required could do a lot with the right poses, locations and lighting
 

spiralout462

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I use a 55-250mm IS STM for most portraits. The 85 1.8 is definitely on my wish list. If I can't control the light the 50mm 1.8 STM is nice to have. That being said, it's very important to be able to control the light if you want to take good pictures of people! A Canon 430exII might serve you better. Right now it can be had for under $200! Which is a great bargain in my opinion.

ps: don't forget the tripod.
 
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Vic Vinegar

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I have a 18-135mm IS lens which is nice. I've taken photos of people with it. I'm not going to take many night photos of them so I might not get a flash right now since I would only be using it for this project and our big thing was that I'm not going to spend much money. On 18mm the lens goes down to 3.5 f/stop which is pretty good for getting in more light.
 

spiralout462

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I use flash more during bright sunlight than I do at night. Look up "fill flash" if you're interested. A simple reflector can accomplish similar results. The 18-135mm can make a perfectly acceptable portrait lens, especially on the long end.
 

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