I am a pretty new "photographer" and will be shooting a couple weddings in the near future. I am currently using a Nikon D3100 and have the 18-55mm kit lens as well as the 50mm 1.8G. I am looking to buy a lens more suitable for wedding photography that is less expensive (possibly used for about $600 or less) but not something that I will quickly outgrow and regret buying in the very near future.

I am currently looking at the

Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED IF AF-S VR DX Zoom Nikkor Lens

What would you recommend?

Thanks in advance :)

  • 23
    If you have to ask this question, you clearly aren't ready to shoot a wedding. Please seek guidance from education materials and second shooting before attempting a wedding. Just the fact that you have an entry level camera and literally no equipment, makes this question read more like a photographers horror story then an actual question.
    – dpollitt
    Jul 10, 2012 at 0:42
  • 6
    Are you shooting those weddings as a primary or a secondary? If you are shooting as a primary, I have to agree with @dpollitt, and you should really take into account what you are actually offering for someones wedding. Those aren't just any old photographs...they are the type of photographs that literally have to last a lifetime, and should really be top-notch, quality photos that a couple could cherish for a lifetime. To be blunt, it is rather unfair for a novice photographer to take wedding photographs as a primary photographer.
    – jrista
    Jul 10, 2012 at 0:54
  • 11
    I meant to be blunt. You should be skilled enough to know what equipment you need or don't need before even "playing" a professional photographer at an event as important as a wedding. This question has so many different answers, any lens reccomendation in the book will likely be valid, as would a degree's worth of education on portrait photography.
    – dpollitt
    Jul 10, 2012 at 2:30
  • 7
    @ABPhoto - Don't take the blunt response as rude, it's actually very helpful. I've shot a wedding as an amateur and I can tell you that it's very, very, hard to do well and I, to be honest, have a lot more experience than you. I don't think you realize what you're getting into and, despite the best intentions of the couple to keep your ability in mind, this is a very big day for them and your images will be a big factor in their memories. Food for thought.
    – Joanne C
    Jul 10, 2012 at 4:03
  • 10
    Everybody has to start somewhere. And for some people, with wedding photography, its the friend who wouldn't have it otherwise. And if that's truly the case - you taking pictures vs them not having any, then its a win-win situation for both of you. This doesn't downplay JoanneC's or dpollit's comments - its just the reality of the situation. I strongly, strongly recommend a contract still though. Something that basically says you're doing it as a favor and you're not responsible for the quality, quantity, or critical nature of the images.
    – rfusca
    Jul 10, 2012 at 14:43

3 Answers 3


First I'd like to address the other comments. They are correct if you present yourself as a professional photographer. While it may sound "snooty," it's true that you can't properly do a wedding unless you have some serious glass. You should have a collection that gives you 17mm-200mm and f/2.8 along that entire range. Prime is always better, but a 17-55 paired with the 70-200 would suit nicely. If flash is allowed during the ceremony, I wouldn't use less than 3 speedlights. One is a must for any situation. There is also a reason that many wedding photographers are using full-frame cameras and not entry level. The lenses will only get you so far, the camera needs to be able to make up the rest with quality high ISO.

If you're not getting paid and it's a favor, then that's a different story and you should be finagling some rentals. I would recommend explaining to a bride the need to have the proper equipment and propose the couple fronting the rental costs of an appropriate lens.

Indoor Wedding

For $100, you can have yourself a couple lenses that give you wide apertures and you should toss in a hotshoe flash as well. This would give you the opportunity to practice with glass that is more appropriate for weddings, will net you the much needed faster shutter, and I'm sure the bride would appreciate it as well.

Outdoor Wedding

For an outdoor wedding, you'll be battling the opposite end of the scale: harsh sunlight. With impossible luck, you may have a very thin layer of clouds as a natural diffuser and not need anything else, but you'll more likely have to fight the sun with more equipment. I'd pick up a good book on outdoor lighting. "Captured By the Light" by Ziser is a great book on wedding lighting and explains in good detail what to do. The gist of it is needing a couple flashes for a ceremony with light stands and remote triggers. This will let you control the light while working with the sun. You'll still want a constant aperture zoom lens so you'll have your full zoom range without worrying about the effectiveness of your flashes.

Otherwise, if you're looking for a straight answer to your question, you won't find one. If there was a lens that could suit wedding photography for $600, there would be a lot more wedding photographers. For that budget, you're going in ill-equipped and 2 minutes into the ceremony you will be thinking of excuses for the bride. We're not being rude, we're just being realistic and are speaking from experience. With all of the equipment and time that goes into wedding photography, $1k/wedding is barely breaking even.

  • 3
    +1 Yep. Having shot a wedding, under protest I might add, I can only agree here. There is a minimal set of gear you need (oddly, you mention the two zooms I had for this), but none of that means anything without the sense and skill to direct the people to where they should be. I sucked at that, but my wife was good enough at it to get some decent shots.
    – Joanne C
    Jul 10, 2012 at 3:58
  • 2
    A fill light helps a ton. If it is sunny, you need a fill to soften the light. If its is raining and dark, you need the strobe as the fundamental light. Get an umbrella and stand for the light. You can rent it all. Go read Strobist.com for info on lighting. Jul 10, 2012 at 4:37
  • 1
    @ABPhoto I updated my answer to include outdoor photography. I pulled the book I mentioned off my shelf and looked through it again. It's perfect for your situation.
    – AndyML
    Jul 10, 2012 at 4:47
  • 1
    @ABPhoto As for the flash, you'll want it sooner rather than later. Get a flash, get it off the camera, and you'll be floored by the difference it can make. I'd almost go as far as suggesting this being your next purchase and rent the long range when needed.
    – AndyML
    Jul 10, 2012 at 4:54
  • 4
    Nice answer. I agree that renting is the way to go here. I would recommend renting for at least a few days before the event to get a basic understanding of the equipment though. But if renting lighting equipment, you likely will need more then a few days to get the basics down. Joanne also brings up a good point, you can have all the great glass and photography skills in the world, but you still will need other techniques that are more specific to wedding/event photography.
    – dpollitt
    Jul 10, 2012 at 13:39

The main issue with most wedding photography is the lack of available light. While some scenes may look bright, you will find there isn't enough light. For example, churches tend to be "dark."

Assuming flash is not permitted during the ceremony, the 18-200mm lens likely won't pull in enough light to give you a great exposure. You will find most of your photos probably underexposed. Even raising the ISO on your D3100 may not be enough (raising it too high will introduce a lot of "noise" on your photo).

The better bet is using your 50mm 1.8G or buying/renting a 50mm 1.4 or maybe 85mm f1.4. Then shoot at around f2 and f2.8 on the bride's eyes. Be sure your ISO is as high as you are comfortable with.

Also, it is important to tell people here whether this is a professional assignment or a favor to the friend. People who ask you to do a favor are generally aware that the photos won't necessarily match that of a professional.

  • Thank you for your help, the entirety of both events will be outdoors and over before dark. What would you recommend in terms of off camera flash in this instance? Thanks for the tip on asking questions! My husband is pretty active on stack overflow and just told me about this site today :)
    – ABPhoto
    Jul 10, 2012 at 4:33
  • 1
    Always go with off camera flash. OR get something like: lumiquest.com/store/products/LumiQuest-ProMax-System.html Try to get a buddy to help you, moving the light stand as you move. Its really too much to run the camera, finding all the proper aunts and uncles to photograph, and moving the strobe/umbrella/stand. Jul 10, 2012 at 4:39
  • ABPhoto: With your budget, the quick and dirty off-camera flash solution is one speedlight and a TTL sync cord (ask the camera store if such a cord exists for the D3100, as I don't know anything about the D3100). Basically, one person holds the speedlight off-camera. (You can buy a small softbox for the speedlight to soften the light further.) The TTL cord connects the camera flash hotshoe to your speedlight. This allows you to get TTL flash with the speedlight off the camera. Using TTL flash is a separate discussion, so you may need to do some extra reading on this.
    – Stephen
    Jul 10, 2012 at 16:50
  • 1
    The D3100 doesn't have a TTL port - you'll need an adapter than translates your hotshoe into a port.
    – rfusca
    Jul 10, 2012 at 16:56
  • 1
    Something like amazon.com/RainbowImaging-Camera-Remote-Flashgun-replaces/dp/… perhaps
    – rfusca
    Jul 10, 2012 at 17:15

Wedding photography is very demanding on equipment and skill, but with the right combination of both and experience it is certainly a rewarding experience.

Not everyone shoots a wedding the same way. You need to determine if you prefer zoom lenses that allow you to stay in one position and more under the radar, and give additional flexibility. Or if you like the added capabilities of a bag of prime lenses, with wide open apertures and extremely sharp options.

As others have pointed out, on a budget under $600USD you may be best renting equipment until you have enough money to invest in the more expensive glass. This is somewhat tricky because you want to be familiar enough to be effective, but you only have a limited time with rented equipment. To know the true characteristics and limits of a lens, personally I have to own it at least for a few months.

I will point you in a few directions for additional information, as this is a very wide topic that I cannot give justice to in a single answer.

  • 1
    Incidentally, the second most popular answer for the first question does recommend a 18-200mm zoom for a tight budget.
    – ab.aditya
    Jul 10, 2012 at 16:34
  • 5
    @ab.aditya - It is about the most lens you can get for under $600. Personally I wouldn't even consider walking into a church or reception venue with a f/3.5 lens, let alone a f/3.5-5.6.
    – dpollitt
    Jul 10, 2012 at 16:37
  • @dpollitt I understand it's not optimal for low light situations, but if the entire wedding is outdoors, it seems like it would be acceptable....?
    – ABPhoto
    Jul 10, 2012 at 18:04
  • 3
    @ABPhoto - the 18-200mm might be 'ok'ish for the specific circumstance you're in (although its reportedly fairly soft at the relative extremes as are most superzooms which would turn me off for professional work) . But it definitely doesn't fit your criteria in the question of "but not something that I will quickly outgrow and regret buying in the very near future."
    – rfusca
    Jul 10, 2012 at 18:36
  • 4
    @ABPhoto the 18-200 outside, at somewhere near f8 might sort of work, but besides the softness, it might focus too slow for the candid people shots you're looking for at a wedding. Jul 11, 2012 at 10:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.