Dear A&J,

I currently have a Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens and a Canon 24-105 f/4 lens. I’m thinking about making the leap to either a Canon 24-70 f/2.8 lens, or a 70-200 f/2.8 lens. If I buy either, I would probably need to sell the 24-105 due to finances. Which lens do you use most, the 70-200 or the 24-70? In your opinion, can I do without the 24-70 range while shooting a wedding?

Sincerely, 

MS

Dear MS,

Okay, friend, we ‘ve got LOTS of thoughts on this, but before we get to those, let’s take a step back so we can compliment you on three things that you did in this question that you probably didn’t even know you were doing that we’re proud of you for — and that we think others might find helpful, too:

1. You’re saving up and paying cash.

First, judging by the fact that you’re considering selling one lens to purchase another, it sounds like you’re not willing to go into debt or take out a loan to purchase this new lens. We think that’s key whenever you’re thinking about a business purchase. We’re huge fans of Dave Ramsey and built our business 100% debt-free. It took us a little longer to acquire all of the gear that we needed (and there are still things that we want!), but we never put shiny new things (like lenses) before future things (like retirement savings). In our 10-part series called Making the Leap, we talk about being debt-free as the first essential step toward going full-time, building your business on a rock, and setting yourself up for future, sustained, long-term success. You’re doing the same, so well done.

2. You’re seeking wisdom and advice.

We don’t have all the answers. You don’t have all the answers. And neither of us should, right? It’s never been — and it never will be — about being the smartest person in the room or knowing everything. It’s about being the wisest. We’re firm believers in seeking wisdom. Simply put: the more you ask questions of people who are where you want to be in all areas of your life, and then listen,  and then apply what they’ve told you, the more wise you’ll be. It’s a lot easier to learn from other people’s experiences and mistakes than it is to learn for yourself. We seek wisdom on a regular basis from people we love and trust, whether that be family, friends, photographers, pastors, business experts, financial advisors, you name it. The fact that you’re seeking advice before making a a big business purchase shows that you’re wise.

3. You’re putting your clients first.

This is an important point. You didn’t write to ask us which lens is our favorite, or which one you could have the most fun with. You wrote because you want to know which lens is going to be the most effective in helping you capture a complete wedding day for your brides and grooms. You’re asking the right question because the answers serves them. Sure, there are a few lenses you could get first that you might have more fun with. We mean, the 24-70 isn’t the most sexy lens in the world, you know? But it gets the job done — and that’s what matters. This point can’t be hammered home enough: the longer you’re in business, and the more clients you have, the more tempting or harder it’ll be to put your clients first and make them feel like the most important people in the world. This is a bit of a tangent, but don’t miss that. Always, always, always funnel every decision you make through this filter: is this best for my clients? Does it put them first? One of our recent grooms emailed us something yesterday that reaffirmed to us that, no matter how busy we get (or think we are), putting our clients first is best. Here’s what we wrote: Following you on Facebook, we can see that you are always super busy but at the same time made us feel like we were the priority. There is no better feeling than that.

So, which lens should you get first? 

Here’s the thing. It’s a tough call. We debated back-and-forth for a few minutes before coming to a conclusion. On one hand, the 24-70 allows you to get into REALLY tight spaces in the getting ready room and right in the middle of the dance floor action at the reception. You can’t do that nearly as well with just a 50mm. At the same time, are those the most important moments of the day? They matter, for sure, but we think our clients probably value the ceremony and bride and groom portraits the most (and family and bridal party shots, too), and we shoot ALL of those with our 70-200. It’s a incredible portrait and ceremony lens. But there’s a tradeoff, and we want you to be aware of it: if your widest lens is 50mm, you’re going to struggle in getting ready rooms sometimes and at receptions, too. You might get frustrated because you know you can get a killer shot, but you gear limits you. So, to make a long story short, if we had to choose, we’d go with the 70-200. This is at odds with the order in which we purchased our lenses originally. We got the 24-70 first. But, in hindsight, knowing what we know now and how important those ceremony and portrait moments are, we might choose differently.

Another Option

However, for you, we think there might be a third way. Don’t buy either. We know, you might think we’re crazy, but hear us out. To purchase both lenses you’re talking about, it’ll cost you about $5,000 give or take. Right now, your 24-105 gets you super wide and it gets you tight enough (honestly, it does) to shoot portraits and ceremonies well. You might not have the aperture that you wish you had, but you also won’t miss anything. And, at the end of the day, that’s what your clients care about most (and, remember, it’s about serving them). Most people couldn’t tell the difference between f/2.8 and f/4, not that it’s not important and not that it doesn’t make a difference, but we’d always opt for latitude in focal range over latitude in aperture depths. What if you, instead, rocked your two lenses for right now. Save up. Work extra jobs. Offer mini-sessions. Do whatever you have to do to get $5,000 as fast as possible. Buy the 70-200 when you hit your first $2,500 and buy the 24-70 when you hit the second $2,500. Then sell your lens. If we were in your shoes, that’s probably what we’d do.

Thanks so much for the question, friend! It was a long answer, but we hope it helped!

Good luck!

A&J

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More from the Dear A&J Series…

 

Alisa

5 comments
filed in: Education

    Richard Bremer

    This answer is the best I have come across on the whole internet. I also really like your approach on not getting into debt. It is so hard in this world to resist al that temptation, hearing a different tune is really refreshing. Thanks guys!

    Amy & Jordan

    Wow! Thanks, Richard! That really means a lot! We're huge Dave Ramsey fans, so we've just stuck to those debt-free principles in every area of our life. It was really encouraging, though, to hear Mark Cuban on Dave's show last year confirming what Dave teaches. Mark said he'd never recommend entrepreneurs take on debt in their businesses -- especially at the beginning! So we're all in good company :)

    Amber

    Hi guys, I have been reading your advice & you really give great advice - I also have similar questions to 2 you have answered for others, however I am predominantly portrait shooting/ in people's homes.
    I have the canon 50mm 1.4 lens & the canon 100mm 2.8 macro. I am constantly using the 50mm inside people's dark houses trying to get family shots of 2 adults, and often 2/3 kids in focus & I struggle. I find shooting
    Shutter of 125/2.0 generally gets only half my subjects in focus, yet bumping my aperture up to say 4.0 - and in manual my images are quite dark & I am just not sure what can improve my images. I am constantly doing head swaps on family members to get a sharp family image of everyone. & often people's houses are dark and small - even shooting in a bedroom with nice light is dark at 4.0 and 125.
    I also shoot in auto ISO - wondering now if I should override this setting?
    So my questions are- can I achieve my crisp family shots with this 50mm lens and I just need to adjust my settings or would I be better off with a wider lens?
    I admit/ 50mm is a pain, I am constantly standing on chairs, pressed up against walls etc - and I am becoming frustrated,
    I also wonder about investing in the 24-70mm 2.8 canon, but will this help me? Yes it's wider, but it's 2.8 appetite - will I still be struggling for light?
    Last question - as I don't have any news E detailed portrait lens, I use my 100mm Macro to shoot outdoor portraits, I've gotten pretty good, but with no zoom I get frustrated and obviously miss moving subjects at times.
    I know the 70-200mm 2.8 is my lens of choice, but obviously the hefty price has kept me making do with the macro.
    Would love some advice on lens recommendations - even another inside lens option, perhaps a 35mm prime lens with a low light aperture?
    Please help. Amber

    Amy & Jordan

    Hi, Amber! Thanks for reading! If you can send your questions to info@amyandjordan.com we can direct you to the right resources to answer your questions. Thanks!!

    Paul Butenko

    Great post! Agree wholeheartedly with everything stated here! Although I use both the 24-70 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 extensively, the 70-200 is my go to lens for so much of the wedding day. I couldn't imagine photographing a wedding without it. One suggestion would be to rent both lenses to test out for yourself - there are many great, affordable rental agencies to choose from. Do this while you're saving to purchase. If and when you do decide on purchasing the 70-200 2.8 - be sure to go for the version with image stabilization! I'm amazed by how low I can go sometimes in shutter spread and still get sharp images.