A wedding photographer's tools: The 105mm Macro lens
A macro lens? For a wedding photographer? Why do you want one of those?
I admit, it isn’t often that I photograph insects at weddings, but there are more uses for a macro than bees and butterflies!
Back in 2009 I was at the beginning of my journey as a professional photographer. Sussex-based, I was fortunate to have another income stream, and although I wasn’t rolling in money, I could build up my kit with careful, secondhand purchases.
From the off, I had the middle range covered happily and at a high standard by the 24-70 2.8. Within a month I bought a 70-300mm zoom because I was desperate for more “reach”. Then a few months later I bought the Sigma 12-24, to cover seriously wide angle needs.
Come August 2009, though, that cheap long zoom was frustrating me – both in overall sharpness but especially in the aperture and rather sad out-of-focus (OOF) areas. I shot weddings with my cousin Tim back then, and I coveted his 70-200mm f2.8 with its crisp detail and great bokeh. But it was way outside of my budget at the time. How could I get real sharpness at a wide aperture on a portrait length lens without breaking the bank?
My 105mm macro – the Sigma f2.8
For me the answer was the Sigma 105mm macro lens. Sigma is one of the best “third party” makes of lens – third party means “not make by the big camera companies” in this case. 105mm is a classic portrait length, f2.8 is a decent aperture, and the lens is sharp. Above all, at the time, £262 compared very favourably with the £1400 odd that the 70-200 cost, back then. It was one of my best buys in my photography career, and the lens is still in use regularly.
So, I bought the Sigma in the first place as a portrait lens. I use it less than I did to for that purpose but it still gets pointed at a few faces. Sometimes because it just happens to be on the camera, and sometimes because it is the slimmest and most unobtrusive lens that I have when viewed from the subject’s end – a real plus. Both the 70-200 and the 105mm f2 are far more dominating. Here is a selection of portraits taken with the Sigma over a 14 year span.
Occasionally I have used the 105mm macro lens just as a general purpose moderate telephoto, as in these examples taken during wedding services. This happens less these days. The 105mm f2 and the 70-200 rule the roost for shots like these, although when the lens is on anyway for the ring shot, it still serves me well for photographs like these.
It’s worth remembering that the 105mm macro lens will act quite differently on a crop frame body. On our DX Nikons the “reach” of the lens is more like 160mm on a full frame camera. This can be useful when getting really close for a ring shot (see below) is difficult.
This lovely picture was taken from the side of the bridal party by my son, Tom, while I worked the group from the front. The lens is the same Sigma, the camera body our old Nikon D90.
A wedding photographer's tools: The 105mm Macro for Rings
One reason that the 105mm macro still occasionally takes a shot like those during a wedding is because I have it on a camera for the rings.
Before the service I try to photograph the rings with both my macro lenses (more on the Laowa 15mm another time!) and then again with the Sigma at the moment that the rings are given/exchanged.
All shots here taken with the Sigma.
A wedding photographer's tools: The 105mm Macro for Details
Of course, as well as the rings, the macro lens comes into its own for all the other detail shots which make for good wedding photography coverage. Although I have bought several excellent lenses for different purposes since our move to Bromley, this wedding photographer still uses the faithful Sigma for details – which are often photographed by Sarah when we are working together .
A wedding photographer's tools: The 105mm Macro - Summing up
My Sigma 105mm macro lens is getting old. Focussing has got a bit intermittent on some bodies – though thankfully not on my big cameras, and I still trust the lens to take the ring shot, which is a pretty critical job. The £260 odd I spent on it has paid me back many times over. the lens is still available at about the same price (MPB), and of course there are newer versions from Sigma and other manufacturers with Vibration Reduction and all the rest. Perhaps when this copy dies, I will buy another one, or move to the Nikon VR version. I only know that as a wedding photographer I wouldn’t be without a 105mm Macro.