Favorite Lens Choices for Documentary Photography

When I really think about it, there is one lens that almost never leaves my camera. It’s not because other lenses don’t do the job, but this one lens is so versatile that it allows me to execute my shooting vision almost every single time. So which lens is it? My 50mm 1.8. I adore this baby and it’s hands down my favorite lens. I used to love my 85mm 1.4 lens, but found myself frustrated when I would have to back away from my subject to allow the lens to focus. When I would back away, then my composition was lost. Maintaining my tighter frame and staying fairly close to my subject allows me to get the details I love. Add in the fact that backing up just a little will let me sneak in a little of the scene and environment for storytelling… it’s heavenly and truly the best of both worlds during documentary photo sessions.

Of course, there are also situations where other lenses trump my trusty 50mm. So here are my 3 favorite lenses in my bag. My 4th favorite would have to be my 100mm 2.8 Macro lens, though I never use it as often as I’d like.

Keep this handy ~ Pin it. 

favorite lenses for documentary photographers



Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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  • Thank you! I’ve been wondering about lenses! I have a 50 that I love, but I am worried that it won’t work for indoor shots. It’s great for close ups of course, but sometimes I feel that I am backed up to a wall and still not able to get the shot that I want.
    Does that happen to you? Do you change lenses for certain shots or pretty much keep the same lens on for the entire shoot?

    • Hi April!

      Yes at times the 50mm isn’t wide enough for a full scene when inside. I love photographing details and not getting a wide angle most of the time. If I need more space, I will use my 35mm and that usually does it for me. During the day – a 24-70mm at 24 is also fabulous inside. It doesn’t give you as much light in low light with its 2.8 aperture. I usually have my 50mm lens on most of the time, but will adjust as needed if I have any creative thoughts that come to mind where I may need another lens 🙂

  • Good choices. But for me i like a 35mm prime 1.4 . Along with a macro 80 or 90mm. With this pair i can cover the subject in their location using the 35mm even in low light. And using macro for detail and portraits. Also lightet than big zooms. Also a quality lightweight compact like lumix lx100 for backup and less conspicuous shooting.