3 Must-Have Lenses For Church Photography

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As a church photographer, capturing beautiful images can be challenging. A good camera can make it easier, but good lenses are significantly more important.

There are three primary lenses that a church photographer should have; a wide-angle lens, ranging from 16mm to 35mm; a standard lens, ranging from 35 to 85mm; and a telephoto lens, ranging from 85 to 400mm.

Keep reading as I explain how you as a church photographer can best use these lenses and why I didn’t include the “kit lens.”

Make sure to check out our Ultimate Guide To Church Photography Lenses.

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Wide Angle Lens

A wide-angle lens ranges from 16mm to 35mm; it has a wide field of view, making it perfect for capturing large spaces or groups. A wide-angle lens can let you shoot your church’s architecture or large portions of the congregation.

One advantage of shooting with wide angles is adding more context to your images. Context is added by giving the viewer more information to understand what is shown in your photo. Sometimes less context is better as it allows the viewer to make inferences which can be more artistic. Having a range of lenses, including a wide-angle, lets you control the context in your images.

Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR

This photo was taken with a 23mm lens; the wide angle allowed more of the landscape to be captured. Telephotos also work well for landscapes, but had this been shot on one; there would be significantly more compression. This photo was also taken on the Fujifilm X-T2; check out my article addressing the question: Is the Fujifilm X-T2 still a good camera?

Wide-angle lenses can help you when shooting in a smaller room; a wider field of view will help you capture more of your image without having to position yourself farther away physically. On the other hand, it also helps when shooting large spaces because you can emphasize the room’s grandeur or show the size of your congregation.

Standard Lens

A standard lens ranges from 35mm to 85mm; it has a tighter field of view than a wide-angle lens but more room than a telephoto lens. These lenses are highly versatile and are very flattering for portraits.

The reason these lenses are perfect for portraits is because of compression. Compression is an effect that compounds as your focal length tightens. The easiest way to think about compression in terms of images is the wider your focal length, the narrower your face looks. Notice how I said narrower, not slimmer, because it is not flattering. The tighter your focal length, the flatter and broader your face looks. Standard lenses are right in the sweet spot of looking the most natural, especially around 55mm.

Viltrox XF 56mm f/1.4

This photo was taken with a 56mm lens; notice how the background is blurred enough not to take focus away from the subject but clear enough to understand the context of the situation.

In church photography, these lenses can balance capturing context and detail. You can shoot wide enough to provide enough context for the viewer, but these lenses are also tight enough that you can capture detail in your images.

Telephoto Lens

Telephoto lenses range from 85mm to 400mm; these lenses excel at sports, nature, and worship photography. These lenses have tight fields of view and heavy compression, making them perfect for isolating your subject.

Heavy compression is something you want to avoid when taking portraits, but it can be a handy tool for other forms of photography. Compression helps contribute to those cool-looking blurry backgrounds that are so satisfying. I won’t get into the specifics of it, but, in essence, a longer focal length and wider aperture will be able to create blur in your backgrounds, called bokeh.

Fujifilm XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

This photo was taken on a 55-200mm telephoto lens at around 110mm. The tighter focal length allowed a close-up shot of the building to be taken from a distance.

Telephoto lenses are excellent for church photographers because they allow you to capture up-close and personal shots without being disruptive. You’ll be able to get close-ups of your worship team during service without disrupting the congregation.

What About The Kit Lens?

“Kit lenses” are the lenses that come bundled with your camera kit, hence the name “kit lens.” They are often 18mm to 55mm for APS-C sensors or 24mm to 105mm for full-frame sensors. There are two main reasons I did not include them as one of the three must-haves, and they relate to aperture.

The first reason I did not include the kit lens as a must-have is that kit lenses pretty much never have fixed apertures. This means that the tighter you go in focal length, the higher your aperture. This can make it challenging to shoot because the moment you zoom your lens in, not only your focal length changes but your aperture, causing you to have to change your ISO likely. This isn’t the end of the world, but, in general, photographers prefer fixed aperture lenses. The only issue is they cost a lot of money, usually more than the camera body itself.

The second reason the kit lens is not a must-have is that its aperture is not as low as prime lenses. A prime lens is the opposite of a zoom lens; it does not change focal lengths. Because of this, they often have low apertures, anywhere from f/1.8 to f/2.8 minimum apertures. As mentioned above, you can get fixed-aperture lenses, but they cost a lot of money. With a kit lens, you may get a minimum aperture of around f/3.5, which is not horrible, but vastly different from f/1.8.

Looking to build your camera kit? Check out my article that helps you choose the best camera for church photography.

Jeremy Goh

Jeremy grew up volunteering at church and has also worked in a church setting. Along with working as a freelance creative, Jeremy is studying for a business degree in finance and international business.

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