Creating Bokeh In Your Photos Comes At A Price
If you can’t quite remember what bokeh is, the quick explanation is that it’s the quality of the background blur in a photo. It results from a number of factors, including the use of a large aperture, shallow depth of field, and the quality of your camera’s lens. The better your lens, the better the effect. Most photographers who shoot people for a living prefer lenses with low f-stops, especially for weddings. Long island Engagement photographer, Jasmine says most photographers prefer prime lenses for detail shots (macro) and the 70-200 f-2.8 is ii for the ceremony. No surprise there but what was a surprise is how much she uses the 85mm 1.2
If you’re after soft and creamy bokeh (who isn’t?!), there are Canon lenses that do a better job than others. Unsurprisingly, each lens on our list is from Canon’s L series, the top-of-the-line pro lenses with the fancy red stripe around the end. Some of these lenses are expensive. Others are really expensive.
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Lens
By far the most expensive lens on this list, the f/2.8L offers excellent features that result in soft and smooth bokeh effects. Even wide open at f/2.8, the lens offers unmatched image quality. With Canon’s Image Stabilization, you can hand-hold the camera at slow shutter speeds and still get crisp shots. For sports and wildlife photographers that want to isolate their subject on a bokeh background, this is the lens to get.
Suggested retail price: $6,599.00
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 II USM Zoom (IS & Non-IS Version)
This is perhaps my favorite lens in the Canon line-up. Not only does it produce great bokeh but being that it’s a zoom lens it’s extremely versatile. If you took a peak into any professional wedding photographers bag you will very likely see this lens. Not only is it great for catching the bride walking down the isle but it’s an excellent portrait lens. Hell you can even use it in wildlife photography.
Suggested retail price:$1,499-$2,499 (one of my preferred lenses)
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Telephoto Lens
Regarded as Canon’s best 50mm lens, the f/1.2L has incredible optics that allow for on-point focus even when wide open. It offers excellent shallow depth of field as well. The massive aperture also allows lots of light into the camera, making for a great setup for silky smooth bokeh effects. Many wedding photographers have this lens in their arsenal for getting bokeh effects in no-flash situations.
Suggested retail price: $1,549.00
A more budget-friendly option would be the 50mm f/1.4 or 1.8 (thrifty fitfy) USM. Although it doesn’t offer the sharpness of the f/1.2L at maximum aperture, its price $149- $399.00 – might make it worth a look.
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM Medium Telephoto Lens
Perhaps Canon’s best lens for isolating the subject from the background, the 85mm f/1.2 has a circular aperture and high-speed autofocus that creates the shallow depth of field required for great bokeh. The blurred backgrounds it captures are pleasing to the eye while the subject of the image remains crystal clear.
Suggested retail price: $2,099.00 (great portrait lens with very smooth bokeh, arguably the be smoothest)
If the price tag for the f/1.2 model is too steep, give the 85mm f/1.8 USM lens a try. At just $419.99, it is a relative bargain that still offers good bokeh possibilities.
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Wide Angle Lens
Wide angle lenses are not typically associated with good bokeh, but this one is an exception. It produces sharp images, including at f/1.4, its largest aperture. The result is a lens perfect for wide angle shots in low-light situations that give you sharp focus on your subject and blurry bokeh perfection in the background.
Suggested retail price: $1,649.00
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of the best lenses for bokeh, it certainly represents the best Canon has to offer. If budget is not an issue, any of the L-series lenses on this list will help you get great bokeh effects. But if funds are limited, try one of the budget-friendly non-L-series lenses we mentioned for good results.
What’s in my bag may be completely different than other photographers so I gained some insight by contacting others in the field including Long Island wedding photographers and a few in Chicago. Most of them were hesitant to talk to me because they are secretive about every damn thing. God forbid you ask them about any locations they shoot at because you will get complete silence! However Jasmine was kind enough to speak with me in length.
Follow her on Facebook if you feel so kind: Facebook I’m a strong believer in being transparent and letting aspiring professionals know what we use without all the BS of saying we use something just because of sponsorship. Below is a video discussing the pros and cons of each lens so I encourage you to check it out. Soon I will make a post about what’s in my bag because it’s a hot topic on all photography blogs. We all have to know what others are using.