Lens Series | The Wide 35mm and the Tight 85mm

If you’ve followed our lens series, then you’ve read the order we’ve recommended you purchase your first lenses. First we suggested the 50mm 1.8, because it’s your biggest bank for your buck with its versatility and ability to shoot in low light. Secondly, we suggested you purchase a full frame camera and thirdly, a versatile lens like the 24-70mm 2.8.  In this post, we are going to be explain two very different, very awesome lenses with specific purposes.

35mm 1.4

This lens is considered a “wide lens”. When you look through the viewfinder, you see a very wide perspective. For example, this lens is excellent for large group photos, because it's able to capture a wide space. This is the second to last lens we purchased, and we purchased it for one reason: group photos. It’s an incredible lens with it’s low aperture of 1.4. However, this also makes this beauty an expensive little thing! In our opinion, we covered this wide perspective with the second lens we purchased, the 24-70. Remember how wide that lens can range? Right, but we adore prime lens for their low aperture (1.4 versus 2.8), and I tend to prefer a fixed lens versus a zoom. Just a personal preference! While I use the 24-70 for most all candids of the reception because of its versatility, I prefer to shoot my group shots with my 35, because I trust myself to stay consistent with my distances. This helps me in post processing. 

Below are two images I captured of the wedding party at our last wedding in Boerne, TX.

35 mm 4.0 ISO 400 1/400

35mm 40 ISO 400 1/800


85mm 1.8

This lens is considered a “telephoto lens”. When you look through the viewfinder, you see a tighter, more zoomed perspective. This is the fourth lens we purchased, and it was the #1 most recommended lens to us when we would hang out at Wolf Camera. It took ma a while to be sold on it, because at first, it felt so uncomfortable for me to use it because of how zoomed it felt. Now I have to laugh at that memory, because it is SUCH a dream. Ned at Wolf Camera told us, it’s called a “cream machine”, because of how creamy this lens compresses its background. The bokeh is unreal. For that reason, we took Ned’s suggestion and invested in the 85mm 1.8 and saved a pretty penny. So far, we have happily never looked back.

Below are two portraits from the Mahoney wedding. In the first image, I was a good distance from the bride for me to have captured her full body, but sometimes, that's my favorite to do when I have my 85 on my camera! I let my feet do the zooming (running back and forth!). The second is more typical of an 85mm image.

85mm 2.5 ISO 400 1/640

85mm 2.5 ISO 400 1/640

When I Use Them

This is where you can make your own decision on which lens you'd like to purchase first and how you want to use it. For us, both lenses were beneficial for wedding photography, but they weren't first on our list. On a wedding day, I use my 35mm to take wide shots of the ceremony and reception, a few getting ready shots, and family and wedding party photos.

Similarly, on a wedding day, I use my 85mm to get tighter, more zoomed shots of the bride and groom during the ceremony, portraits of the bride & groom and maybe tighter shots of expressions during toasts or guests dancing at the reception without being too close. I absolutely adore the 85 lens for portraits. If I only had one lens to use to shoot portraits, I'd use my 85mm, hands down! They don't call it the "cream machine" for no reason! 


If you’re a portrait photographer, this is where your decision can be made: are you working with kids and families? If so, I highly recommend the 35mm. I always choose to use my 35mm when I have a family, infant, toddler or kiddo in front of my camera. The wideness of this lens allows for you to catch quickly-moving children, capture large families and get neat perspectives looking down on stationary babies. However, if you’re a portrait photographer and find yourself pulled more toward seniors, couples or any client who’s old enough to sit still and listen to directions well, I’d recommend the 85mm. This is the lens I use about 50% or more of the time during my engagement or senior sessions. Oh, the bokeh from this glass! It’s so sharp and truly dreamy.

So it’s up to you. These are two fixed lenses that serve very different purposes and are incredible to have in your lens bag for portrait or wedding photoography needs. 

Which lens do you think would fit your photography needs? The wide 35mm or the tight 85mm?

85mm 2.5 400 ISO 1/1000