If you plan to shoot photos of parties, weddings, ceremonies, or concerts, your lens choice is essential. The right lens can be the difference between a failed shoot and a smashing success.
In this article, we share the 12 best lenses for event photography, including picks for Canon, Nikon, and Sony cameras. Whether you’re on a budget, just starting out, or looking for the best of the best, we’ve got you covered.
Best Lenses for Event Photography:
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1. Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art (for Sony)
The Sigma 24-70mm offers a perfect focal length range for event photography, and the f/2.8 maximum aperture is great for low-light venues.
The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art for Sony is the ultimate event photography lens, offering a flexible set of focal lengths, a wide maximum aperture, and a robust build – all for a surprisingly reasonable price.
First, there’s the incredible 24-70mm range. At 24mm, you can capture beautiful wide-angle views of a concert venue or reception hall; at 50mm, you can shoot candid portraits; and at 70mm, you can zoom in to capture headshots and intricate details.
Optics are superb across the board. The lens is sharp at every focal length and at all standard apertures, so you’ll have no problem capturing crisp shots of event performers and guests, even with the aperture set to f/2.8.
And speaking of that maximum aperture: If you want to photograph low-light events, a wide-aperture lens is a must-have. Fortunately, the 24-70mm f/2.8 fits the bill, allowing you to shoot in dimly lit rooms and concert halls without flash. Plus, the shallow depth of field effect looks amazing and offers a simple way to stand out from the crowd as an event shooter.
At first blush, the price might seem on the high side, especially for event photography beginners. But the lens actually costs far less than 24-70mm f/2.8 competitors from Sony, Canon, and Nikon, and for what you get – which includes solid build quality and a beautiful design – it’s a genuine steal.
2. Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM
The 85mm f/1.2 boasts superior image quality and excellent construction for professional event photography.
The Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM is a versatile lens that can be used for a variety of event photography scenarios. The short telephoto focal length is great when you need to be close to the action, such as at weddings or parties.
The 85mm f/1.2 also excels at low-light photography thanks to the huge f/1.2 maximum aperture. This will give you great control over your shutter speed, even in near darkness – and when paired with a high-quality Canon camera, it’ll produce stunning shots with no noise.
This L-series lens features a fantastic autofocus system; as a result, you’ll be able to focus quickly and accurately on moving people and objects. The 85mm f/1.2 also packs a floating optical system, which includes an aspheric element to reduce aberrations.
If you intend to shoot events at a professional level, this is one of the best Canon lenses you can buy.
3. Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G
The Nikon 85mm f/1.4 is another versatile prime lens that is great for indoor events with variable lighting.
Nikon camera owners should check out the AF-S 85mm f/1.4G, another premium prime lens with a versatile focal length. At 85mm, you can still hone in on details while also capturing wider shots, which makes this lens great for weddings, parties, and indoor events.
The 85mm f/1.4 boasts excellent optics, including a special coating to reduce flare and ghosting. As a result, you can expect beautiful images that are sharp from corner to corner. Combined with the maximum f/1.4 aperture, this lens will fare well in most low-light scenarios.
This lens’s autofocus motor is quiet, fast, and accurate, so you should be able to easily capture detailed shots of fast-moving subjects. And while the price is a little steep, you get a lot for your money.
4. Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM
The Sony FE 85mm is a top prime lens that allows you to easily cope with low-light situations and fast-moving subjects.
To complete the trio of 85mm lenses, we have the premium Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM; for Sony users, this is the best prime lens for event photography on the market. It has it all: a high-quality build, a versatile focal length, a large maximum aperture, and superior image quality. However, it is more expensive than its Canon and Nikon counterparts.
Sony’s GM lenses feature outstanding lens construction, so you can expect excellent image quality, sharpness, and clarity. Thanks to the special elements and coatings, your images will look fantastic.
This lens is fantastic for indoor events. The f/1.4 maximum aperture lets you work in low light, while the aperture allows you to create professional-level shots with beautiful bokeh effects. And the lens’s top-notch autofocus motor lets you work quickly and effectively during rapidly changing situations.
5. Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art (for Sony)
The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 may be pricey, but the wide maximum aperture makes it a must-have for low-light event photographers.
Want to capture beautiful scene-setting shots of concerts, wedding receptions, and more, no matter the ambient lighting? Then the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is the way to go.
While the wider focal length isn’t great for photographing distant details and close-up portraits, you can use it for gorgeous establishment shots of venues, as well as dynamic, energetic compositions featuring guests and scenery together in the frame. And optically, the Sigma 35mm delivers; wide-open sharpness is outstanding, which means you can capture crisp subjects surrounded by beautiful background bokeh.
This lens really shines in low-light scenarios. The f/1.2 aperture lets you do band and concert photography in ridiculously dim lighting conditions, and the lens’s autofocus manages to (mostly) keep up, so you can expect to shoot handheld in near darkness (while keeping the ISO to a reasonable level, too!). If you often find yourself working in low-lit concert halls or outdoors at night, then the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 is a must-have.
Unfortunately, the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 isn’t without its downsides – the lens is huge, heavy, and well over a thousand dollars – but if you’re serious about low-light photography, then it’s absolutely worth it.
6. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
The Canon 50mm f/1.8 is an impressive starter lens and is perfect for those who are just getting into event photography.
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is an incredibly popular budget lens, and it’s a good starting place for those who are just entering the world of event photography. It may not offer the same quality as the L-series lenses on this list, but it still performs great and is capable of excellent photos.
The 50mm focal length is great for events, and you can also use it for beautiful portraits. The lens is relatively small and lightweight, so it shouldn’t put any strain on your arms, even during events that feel like they’ll drag on forever.
While this lens is pretty basic, it does offer a great maximum aperture of f/1.8, which will allow you to get professional bokeh effects and shoot in low-light environments. Overall, this is a great lens for beginners who are starting to explore the niche.
7. Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G
The 50mm f/1.8G is a solid budget option for first-time event shooters.
The Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G is a fantastic budget option for DSLR owners who want to develop their event photography skills. It also makes for a decent kit lens and can be useful in a variety of situations.
This lens is perfect for events that let you get close to the attendees – so it’s great for weddings, parties, and other intimate ceremonies. It features a maximum aperture of f/1.8, which means you can create a bokeh effect that makes your subjects pop off the background. It also performs well in the nighttime and low-light settings.
The optics aren’t as good as top Nikon lenses, but the 50mm f/1.8G still delivers sharp images. You can also expect relatively fast focusing thanks to Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor system.
8. Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 lets new photographers take high-quality event photos on a budget.
To complete our trio of budget lenses, we have the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8, a lens that looks fantastic and features solid build quality despite its budget price. If you’re a Sony shooter hoping to get started in event photography, this lens is a great starting point.
It has a high-quality, seven-blade circular aperture that allows you to get great background separation and bokeh effects. The lens also features aspherical elements, which help to reduce distortions and make your images sharp and clear.
If you want to attend an event without much planning, this lens is a good choice. It’s incredibly lightweight and compact, so you can slip it into your pocket or bag, then go have some fun!
While the Sony 50mm f/1.8 may not hold its own against pro-level options on this list, it’s still a great lens for beginner event photography.
9. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM
The 70-200mm f/2.8 is a fantastic lens for professional outdoor event photography.
Short prime lenses are great for weddings and more intimate events, but telephoto zooms are what you want when shooting large festivals, concerts, and other outdoor events. That’s why the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III is such a good choice.
This telephoto lens has a hefty price tag, but the outstanding quality is certainly worth it. With a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, you can create beautiful bokeh effects, and you can also work in low light.
This L-series lens is impressively durable, so you can comfortably use it during outdoor events (regardless of the conditions).
And the image quality is exceptional. Expect corner-to-corner sharpness and zero distortion at every focal length.
This lens has a tripod mount, which comes in handy when photographing the action. Mount this bulky lens to a tripod or monopod, track your subjects as they move, and capture some stunningly sharp photos!
10. Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR
The 70-200mm f/2.8 is one of the best Nikon lenses for outdoor event photography in low-light situations.
The Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR is another amazing professional lens that’s perfect for outdoor event photography. Thanks to the 70-200mm focal length range, you can work in a variety of situations and come away with incredible shots.
This lens packs plenty of useful features for event photography. For starters, it’s weather sealed; it also has a tripod mount, which will help you handle its sheer bulk. You even get built-in image stabilization so you can shoot handheld in low light.
Then there’s the constant f/2.8 aperture. It’s perfect for creating beautiful background bokeh, and it’ll also help you capture well-exposed shots in low light. Overall, this is a superior lens that was designed to deliver stunning, professional-grade photos.
11. Canon RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
The RF 70-200mm f/4 provides a flexible focal length range for outdoor events.
If you use one of Canon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras, then consider grabbing the Canon RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM. There is an f/2.8 version of this lens, but the f/4 version is much cheaper and doesn’t sacrifice significantly on features or quality.
The 70-200mm f/4 features outstanding optics, and images have pro-level, corner-to-corner sharpness. It also packs an excellent autofocus system, and as a result, you can track people as they move across a stage or a field.
This f/4 version won’t match the prowess of the f/2.8 version in low-light situations, but it’ll do great in well-lit outdoor venues (and you’ll pay a lot less!).
12. Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S
Thanks to its expansive set of features, the Nikon Z 70-200mm is perfect for outdoor event photography.
The Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is a premium telephoto lens for Nikon mirrorless cameras; its versatile focal range, constant f/2.8 aperture, and fast AF system make it perfect for outdoor events.
The lens is very well built, so a bit of nasty weather shouldn’t cause any damage. It also has a tripod mount, which helps compensate for the bulky, heavy design.
The Nikon 70-200mm is great for nighttime events, especially with the aid of that f/2.8 maximum aperture. And thanks to the built-in image stabilization, you can shoot handheld and capture sharp shots even in low light.
If you want to create professional photos of outdoor events, this Nikon Z lens is certainly a fantastic choice.
Buy Your Event Photography Lens and Start Shooting!
The best lens for event photography depends on your needs. Consider what events you will typically be photographing. For example, if you specialize in fast-paced or low-light events, a zoom lens like the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art or the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR will help you capture tack-sharp shots.
On the other hand, if you’re simply getting started with casual party or wedding photography, a budget lens like the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 is a great pick.
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