3 Must-Have Engagement Photography Lenses

The following is an excerpt from the Natural Light Couples Photography DVD, a comprehensive workshop on the planning, lighting, posing, and post production for engagement, or couples, photography by SLR Lounge and Lin and Jirsa

There are hundreds of reasons to love engagement sessions, otherwise known as couples photography sessions. Unlike a wedding, which can seem rushed and hectic, with an engagement session you have full control over almost all aspects of the shoot, from the location to the wardrobe to the lighting. This allows you to slow down and truly perfect each shot and each scene.

To properly execute and engagement session, you need to have the necessary tools, from a sufficient camera body to the lighting gear, and of course, a variety of versatile lenses. In the following article, we are going to discuss the must-have lenses for engagement photography.

Telephoto Lens (70-200mm)

Though this lens is great for a lot of reasons, the main reason this lens rocks for engagement photography is the concept of compression. When you’re zoomed in at 100-200mm, the background is “compressed,” bringing forward the background and creating a distinct, gorgeous look that you can’t duplicate with any other lens.

Here are a couple of examples:

In the picture below, notice how much those mountains in the background are “compressed,” creating a beautiful look to the bokeh of the image.

With portraits shot at 2.8 and zoomed in at over 100mm, notice how great the bokeh looks behind our subjects.

For walking shots, where you would like to pose your clients far away to give them a bit of privacy as you zoom in to capture the moment, the 70-200mm lens is great.

Wide(r) Angle Lens (24-70mm or 16-35mm)

This lens is going to take care of your wide, scenic shots. These are important because otherwise, you are restricted to tight crops, which can stifle creativity and limit your options. For this purpose you have two lens options: you can decide to go with ultra-wide lenses like the Canon 16-35mm F/2.8, or you can stick with the medium range lenses like the Canon 24-70mm f2.8.

Here are a few examples:

The wide angle allows you to zoom out and capture the beautiful trees in the background.  Without the ability to go wide, the scene and the trees lose a bit of their grandeur.

Notice the difference between the image below and the image we showed in the first section (the 70-200mm section).  This one is shot with a 24-70mm lens, while the other was taken with a 70-200mm.  The wider shot gives you a full, scenic view of the valley below while the image in the previous section focuses only on the subject and the immediate background.

With this medium range zoom, action and movement shots can be perfected in camera because you have the ability to zoom in and out to find the perfect crop.

Prime Lens (50mm or 85mm)

The 50mm 1.2, 1.4, or 1.8 are great lenses primarily for their ability to achieve a super shallow depth-of-field look. An 85mm would be an acceptable substitute in this situation. This lens will require more moving around than the other two, as you won’t be able to zoom in and out. However, when used well, you can achieve some really great results that make your subjects pop off of the background.

Here are a few examples:

Notice the bokeh start immediate behind the focus of the image, the books.

The bokeh in the foreground of this scene (the tree trunk) allows the viewer to focus on the subjects.

For detail shots of the props and details of an engagement session, the shallow depth-of-field is perfect.


Keep in mind that these must-have lenses are must-haves for our particular style. There are plenty of successful photographers that shoot an entire session on one lens. If that is your style, then by all means, go with it. However, we believe that in order to get the variety of looks and angles that our clients demand from us, we need these three tools. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Remember, if you would like to learn more about engagement session photography, check out our Workshop on DVD.


  1. BB. Gupta says

    While the 70 – 200 mm is a pretty good tele zoom range, a majority of these lenses are not very sharp at the 200 mm end.
    I use a 70 – 300 lens, and generally do not shoot beyond 250 mm. At 200 mm it is brutally sharp.

  2. DomD says

    I don’t mean to sound crotchety here, but I would disagree that these are “Must Have” lenses and it’s getting kind of old that just because a photographer(s) have a blog, they feel that because they use something, it should be what everyone uses, until of course, they realize that something they’ve not used becomes a better tool as their style evolves. I’ve been shooting portraits, engagements, people for many years and have done so with a different set of lenses. I guess my clients don’t understand that my style isn’t a “Must Have” kinda thing. Oh well, I’ll start refunding everyone.

  3. B says

    I’m pretty sure at the bottom of the blog they did say how that they were just the Must Have lenses for their type of shooting. I think it was a great blog post about how you can achieve their certain styles and it was kind of just and “insider” as to what lenses they used to achieve those looks. Everyone has their own preferences. If everyone shot photos the same, there would be no competition; which is healthy!

  4. BB. GUPTA says

    DOMD, you made me “LAFF”. While you had a point, most photographers have a set of lenses best suited for their “genre” of photography.
    But I am not a Pro, just a good amateur photographer enjoying weddings, family get-togethers, social gatherings, travel / street photography, architecture / landscapes & portraits.
    So here are my (3) perfect lenses: a) Sigma 10-20 mm, b) Tamron 28-75 mm f2.8, c) Sigma 70-300 mm.
    So all my bases are covered – or is it? What about the 20 to 28 mm gap. So here is how I fill this gap: with an 18-135 WR lens – great for a rainy day too, as my DSLR is weather resistant. And this lens is very sharp. But I take this lens out only in the monsoon season.
    Hey friends, especially DomD, do tell me if this collection is OK or not OK, for all kinds of general photography.