What lenses to take for outside engagement photo session?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Steven, Jun 14, 2017.

  1. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    So, I have agreed to take some photos of an engaged couple. I have not done this sort of photography before, so I am not sure what lenses to take and use. I don't want to overload myself with gear I won't use.
    This will be in an urban area, NYC/Manhattan. I have not yet confirmed exact locations, but probably parks, like Central Park, maybe something along the riverside .
    I was thinking of taking these:
    Pana 12-35mm - not great for subject isolation , but I guess I need something wide to include the scenery, which is a probably a big part of what people want out of these photos I assume? Good all-arounder in case things don't go as planned.
    Olympus 45mm/1.8 - the workhorse for closer portraits probably. good isolation and some scenery too I guess.
    the kit EM5.2 flash(my only flash), just in case, though not planning on using it.
    this is where I hit the wall. Not sure what else to take, if anything. I have the following I can also take along, but not sure if I should.
    Olympus 75mm/1.8 - possibly the best lens, but I don't know if it will be too long. I guess I should do some close-up portraits, or should I just take a few steps forward with 45mm/1.8? Leaning toward taking it.
    Pana 25mm/1.4 - I am of the camp that thinks this lens is something special , especially for people's faces. But I am already covering this focal length with 12-35mm. Would it be too much to keep swapping lenses to try to get some PanaLeica magic in there?
    Using Olympus EM5.2 as main cam and planning to bring Pana G5 as backup. Should I slap a lens on G5 so I could do different perspectives at the same time? Or will there be too much of an imaging difference between Olympus and Pana files? I don't use G5 much so can't be sure.
    Any other advice / options/ links very much appreciated :)
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  2. Christop82

    Christop82 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 10, 2016
    You could fit all that in a small backpack. Take it all. Use the 12-35 on one body and the other for primes. Bring the flash, sometimes fill from the flash can bring out warm colors and details. Shoot everything in jpeg and raw. Take lots of candid shots. Those make for the most genuine and fun pictures.
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  3. JamesD172

    JamesD172 Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 18, 2016
    James Dolezal
    While you certainly could take all four lenses and not be overburdened by the weight, sometimes having too many lenses can bring about "analysis paralysis."

    This was particularly true for me for the first couple of engagement shoots I did. I had all my gear handy but spent way too much time worrying about what lens was perfect for the situation, swapping back and forth between lenses. For the most recent engagement shoot I did for some friends, I only brought two lenses and it was the best session of this kind I've had: PL25 for environmental shots and the Oly 75 for better isolation and a more intimate feel.

    Your mileage may vary, and the focal lengths that will work best for you depend completely on your photographic style and vision. For me, 25mm is as wide as I'd want to go for shooting couples. Any wider and the focus of the photograph becomes more about the environment than the people.

    Bringing both the Oly 45 and 75 might feel redundant. In both cases, you're isolating your subjects from the environment. If you have the room, the 75 is a spectacular performer and would be my first choice between those two every time. You can step back with it and get some full-body shots as well:

    (RIP his hand)


    Most importantly, relax and have fun! I'm sure they will appreciate the photos no matter how you feel the session went. :)
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2017
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  4. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    Steven, if I were in your shoes, especially if this is a paying gig, I would grab a couple of friends (compensated with beers or lunch) and do a mock-shoot, working with all your options to determine what makes sense. I'd hate to be on the real shoot and be lacking a gameplan that I had some trust in.
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  5. ionian

    ionian Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 20, 2016
    Kent, UK
    Your lenses are just tools that allow you to get the pictures you want. So by asking what lenses you should use, you have things round the wrong way. What sort of pictures do you want to capture?

    Think about the end result, look for pictures online that you want to try to emulate, and then take the gear that will allow you to get those results.
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  6. RamblinR

    RamblinR Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Aug 16, 2012
    Qld Australia
    Bring a reflector.
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  7. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Go to a park, attach a white sheet with a smiling face to a tree and take all the test shots you need.

    You are outdoor, you can move around, so long lenses shouldn't be a problem. Unless you try to use the 75 for a full body environmental portrait where it becomes hard to talk/give directions to the subject. But you can do that too.

    The 45 and the 75, for the same body framing, give you different perspectives, in term of face features compression (but I wouldn't expect a huge difference here) and in the amount of background elements included because the FoV is different (with a long lens is like looking inside a tube). Your distance from the subject is reflected in the shots: the 75 makes them more "alone", the 25/45 will be more intimate (for the same framing).
    Try the same "couple sitting on the grass" shot with the PL25 and the 75 to see the difference between "right there with them" and "looking from afar".
    Using different lenses will give you more variety to your shots.

    Background distance plays a big role in the amount of blur, so you can control this by just picking the right place/angle. Like on the grass with the trees very far away, the long tele will make them bigger and blurrier, but isolation is not the main thing I would worry about.

    I would use only primes with staged shots, you should have plenty of time to pick the best lenses. I'd bring the 12-35 just in case. I expect you are going to direct them like: "ok, let's take a few sitting on the grass" and not "act like I'm not here and let's see what happens).

    Shooting outdoor you may have too much light to use those lenses wide open, choose the right time of the day but with 1/8000 or even 1/16000 e-shutter you should be fine.

    About the Oly/Pana differences, take a few test shots and see how they look after you processed them with your own processing tools/skills.

    Make a list of the shots you want to take: sitting on the grass, walking from the back, playing around the trees, embrace, silhouettes, on the birdge, etc. Scout the location and notice where the sun will be. Check the weather forecast. I like shots from above or below, maybe there is some opportunity for this.
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  8. wlewisiii

    wlewisiii Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 16, 2011
    Hayward, WI
    William B. Lewis
    I'm in the prime camp anyway, so for something like this I'd put the 25 on the main body and the 75 on the other. Have a flash and reflector handy for fill light and be set.

    I do like the idea of going out with a couple of friends ahead of time to practice the shoot.

    Never forget that they aren't going to necessarily want knife edge sharpness. Rather a romantic glow. Ever done the vasiline around the edge of a uv filter to get a soft focus effect? That could work well here. Cliches have become that way for a reason
    Don't shoot everything the same way but don't be afraid of trying the old school either.
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  9. bbarnett51

    bbarnett51 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 23, 2015
    I've done an entire wedding with just the 12-40 and 45 1.8.

    This will give you what you need and not have you thinking too much. You want a variety of shots to give them and the 12-35 will be perfect for environmental portraits. Every shot doesn't need to right portraits with blurred backgrounds. Those are awesome and you need them in the gallery but you also need some environmental portraits.
    For engagements, I often sneak shots in throughout the shoot while they are just interacting. Some of my best shots are the non scripted interactions between couples. Most of those have been captured with my 12-60swd or 12-40pro.
    Good luck and enjoy!
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  10. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
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  11. Hal Knowles

    Hal Knowles Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 3, 2015
    Hal Knowles
    @Steven@Steven some great advice has been given here. Sounds like a fun and special opportunity to make images of your friends! My personal favorite types of photography are sessions just like these as friends and family have modest expectations, are always grateful for the attention, and are surprised by the results.

    One additional option beyond those already posed might be to put the 12-35mm on your G5 (since only the lens has OIS) and the 75mm on your E-M5.2 (since only the body has IBIS). Then you'd have a 2 body, 2 lens kit that is fully stabilized, ready for any situation (wide to tele), and requires no fiddling around with changing lenses in the moment. While the 25mm prime would absolutely be great, I often find myself kicking my aperture up to 2.8 or smaller for my wider shots anyway. So in that case, there may be little benefit to the 25mm prime anyway.

    The added distance between you and your couple and the added compression that comes from the 75mm portrait telephoto means you can likely keep the aperture around 2.0 and still sufficiently keep both of members of your couple in focus when doing more environmental style portraits. For head shots, I almost always prefer my 75mm over any other lens as it is really perfectly designed for portraits with shallow depth of field...especially those outdoors with ambient light and lots of distance to move around. When I bought my 75mm I was worried it wouldn't get used enough because of the focal length being too long for everyday situations and too short for telephoto situations where you need the reach. Now, a couple of years later, I looked at my Lightroom metadata and I've made more images with the 75mm than any other Micro Four Thirds lens I have ever owned (including the 20mm which I've had since day 1 when I bought my original E-M5 back in 2012). So whatever you ultimately pack for the photo session, be sure to stick the 75mm on your E-M5.2...I have a feeling it will be your go to combo!

    Good luck and happy snapping!
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  12. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    Thank you to everyone for the advice and help.
    An update. The bride wanted photos in smaller urban spaces, so with a heavy heart I ended up not taking the 75mm. I used the 12-35mm for the architectural shots and 25mm/1.4 for most of the rest, with some use of 45mm/1.8. Only used the EM5.2, switching lenses wasn't too much of a bother. I did not use the flash, but in the future, I would like to learn flash technique and buy a proper flash to improve the portrait game in uneven/bad outdoor light. Clients were happy, but after reviewing some other people's photos and tutorials that's definitely something that could've been better.
    Here are some of the photos. Comments and critique welcome :)










    Inspired by the great @Hamsong@Hamsong photography :

    Last edited: Jun 27, 2017
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