What’s my Favorite Lens? | F.A.Q. Number II

I often receive questions like this–what’s my favorite lens, what’s the best lens to buy, what equipment do I recommend for someone starting out, etc. Of course, there’s not really an easy answer to this.

It all depends on what you intend to do with your photography. Shooting a sports event will require something different than shooting macro shots of flowers in your backyard. And believe me, I’m not an expert on every lens out there. I can only speak for what I’ve used. And Nikon lovers–I’m afraid I haven’t used Nikon at all, so I really can’t offer any opinions there.

However, if I had to choose just one lens to recommend that Canon photographers buy, it would be the 50mm 1.4 lens. This is for several reasons:

1. It’s moderately priced–right now about $400 on Adorama.
2. It’s incredibly fast–1.4 aperture means great for low light.
3. It produces clean, sharp images.
4. And it’s lightweight–an easy walk-around lens to keep handy.

Now, Canon also offers two other 50mm lens models. There’s the 50mm 1.8 II that sells for about $120, and then there’s the 50mm 1.2L, which sells for about $1,450.

I also own the 1.8, and there is a vast difference between it and the 1.4. The 1.8 is completely plastic (except for the glass), and it’s not nearly as sharp as the 1.4 when stopped down to 1.8 aperture. If you’re going to get a 50mm lens, I would really recommend just going ahead and buying the 1.4. (I bought the 1.8 first and later bought the 1.4). As for the 1.2, I’ve heard nothing but good things about it, but I haven’t actually used it. I’m sure you can find plenty of reviews about it on the web.

And, since a post isn’t any good without a photo, here are a couple of my willing model, Astin, taken with the 50mm 1.4 lens.

See the nice bokeh it produces?

Astin: “I’m sure I saw a cat out there…”

My New Favorite Lens | F.A.Q. #2 Addendum » Pittsburgh Wedding Photographer | Birchtree Photography Blog - […] long after I blogged about one of my favorite lenses, the Canon 50mm f1.4, I actually stopped using it on a regular basis. It’s not that I didn’t like it […]

Caitlin and Derick | Pittsburgh Engagement Photos

They first met on stage–and perhaps with a twist of fate, she played his fiancée in “House of Yes”. Though, it wasn’t the stage kisses that sparked her interest–it was a scene where they were sitting quietly together.

Of course, I’m sure the kisses couldn’t have hurt! And, obviously, she said yes.

Caitlin laughed as she admitted she much prefers being Derick’s fiancée than playing it. And I’m sure Derick wholeheartedly agrees!

I met up with these two sweet people last Friday at Point Park in Pittsburgh and then Station Square for their engagement session, and I had an absolute blast getting to hear their story and photograph their love. I cannot hardly wait for their wedding in January!

Derick was telling the proposal story here. It involved multiple boxes…and eggs (sort of)..on Christmas morning. I love creative proposals!

I love Caitlin’s smile! So cute.

I asked them to show me some of their acting skills…this is what I got…

Love, love, love her shoes! And, you can’t see it here, but they are gray. Do you know how hard it is to find decent gray shoes?? Trust me, I spent awhile finding mine..

And yes, that dress has POCKETS! This is a girl after my own heart…

A big favorite…though it’s hard to choose.

Can’t wait to see you two again in January!

St. Mary of the Mount Pittsburgh Wedding | Caitlin and Derick » Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers | Birchtree Photography Blog - […] been looking forward to photographing Caitlin and Derick’s wedding for a long time, so when their day finally arrived last Saturday, I was pumped. Not only […]

One of the Things I Love About my Job… » Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers | Birchtree Photography Blog - […] been editing Caitlin and Derick’s wedding photos this week, and I just had to share that moment of pure joy. It makes me smile every […]

EmmaLou2484 - i think they are beautiful and they capture the whimsical spirit of derick and caitlin
i especially like the acting ones :)


The Mad Baker - Wow what breath-taking photos! You guys make a beautiful couple. So happy for you both. :)

Anonymous - Mary,

Thank you so much! Your photos are wonderful and we had a great time talking with you! Thank you for a wonderful afternoon and these incredible pictures!


Caitlin - Mary,
Derick and I could NOT be any more thrilled. Thank you so much for telling our story with such great photos. Your use of color is something we've always loved and your ability to capture moments that we can call ours is something we'll always treasure!

Thanks so much!

Anonymous - these are so incredibly beautiful- caitlin & derick are very good friends of mine- and i just have to say, you captured them, their deep love for each other, beautiful faces and ridiculous humor perfectly! their kids will love these!


Milla - Mary these are so natural and fun! I love them! Both locations were great… I love the ones on the fountain and lying in the grass at the park. Beautiful!

Anonymous - There are so many choices!!! How will they choose…LOVE LOVE LOVE your work

Kateri and Mark (+Rosie) | Engaged

They met in high school at the lunch table. Though, Kateri jokes Mark couldn’t have remembered it much because he slept through most lunches. Nonetheless, she must have made enough of an impression on him despite his naps because lunches eventually led to dating and finally to being engaged.

I met up with Kateri and Mark at Mellon Park in Pittsburgh–definitely one of my favorites for taking engagement photos. I knew we were going to have fun when the session started like this:

Um, are you kidding me?? I think this is now officially a puppy session…

Mark’s mom breed’s Boston Terriers, so as Mark put it, “Rosie” is an early wedding present to themselves.

Well, somehow we did manage to break away from Rosie for some photos while “Grandma” babysat.

But, we had to bring Rosie back because she’s just so darn cute.

Ouch, Rosie’s a feisty pup, and she has sharp teeth.

But who could really be mad at this girl?

I seriously wanted to take her home with me…(by the way, I think Mark’s mom has a few puppies left if you’re interested)

A fav…

I’m looking forward to photographing their wedding in November…

Pittsburgh South Park Wedding Photography | Kateri and Mark » Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers | Birchtree Photography Blog - […] have had just a gorgeous November so far…and it was especially so on Kateri and Mark’s wedding day. From the moment I first saw Kateri, she had the biggest smile on her face. The same […]

Anonymous - Veary nice!

theProvidentWoman - Those are great pictures!

Amy and Ian | Wedding 8/1/2009

I think Amy and Ian get the title of being my first blog couple–I introduced them to you way back in January. Then I got to post Amy’s bridal shoot here and here.

Well, last Saturday Amy and Ian exchanged rings in a beautiful ceremony at Pisgah Presbyterian Church in Corsica. Amy was gorgeous–but you’ve already seen that. They celebrated with friends and family at the Holiday Inn in Clarion, and DJ Jeremy Ganss kept the party dancing all night long.

I love the look on Amy’s mom’s face when she sees her in her dress.

Does it get any more sweet than this?

Um…YUM…the sky is even coordinating here!

This isn’t their church, but it sure is pretty.


So, not only did Amy have a bridal portrait, but they also had a groom’s cake–another lovely Southern tradition. (FYI, a groom’s cake is traditionally chocolate–yummy!)

Love this series…

Congratulations Amy and Ian–it was truly a pleasure getting to know you and photograph your wedding!

Sharon - Amy & Ian – my vote is in. Thanks!!!

Nicole Salvo - Love this wedding the best….!

Eirlys & Gary - What a beautiful wedding, and of course the flower girl was a beauty too…she is my grandaughter…many years of happines to you both.

Nancy Hettinger - Amy & Ian

A simply stunning couple

Pamala Speidell- Arnold - Congradulations!!! May God Bless every moment. Your pictures are so beautiful.

Elaina - Amy and Ian what a wonderful wedding was so glad to be a part of it :) May God Bless!

Bunny Conant - I have seen many a wedding photos even once working for a photographer.. These are truly the most beautiful photos and bride with her handsome groom I have laid my eyes on…. Thank you so for making this couple one of your top works…. Looking at your other works you are truly an artist of your gift.. I feel Amy and Ian are your best work.

Anonymous - Mary, Amy searched long distance from NC for her PA Photographer, I couldnt understand why she didnt just go with a local one. I am so happy her diligence found you. As Jess said, you were not only professional but personable and just felt comfortable to be around; not a stiff pose in the bunch. You captured the joy and happiness of Amy and Ian's dream day. Thank You.
Julie Simpson, Mother of the Bride.

Jess Simpson - Mary! Your pics are amazing and cant wait to see the rest! You did a great job and being there when you did amys bridal portraits as well you are so much fun to work with as well. You are very personable and professional yet when people are around you, you are like a friend!!! I love your work and everything you do…keep up the good work and I will remember you in the future if I know someone looking for a photographer!

Jess Simpson (Amys sister in law)

Milla - Mary, you are ROCKING that off-camera light! Amazing! I love it! Perhaps you should give me lessons, not vice versa? :) Also, I love the portrait of the bride and groom in that beautiful field. Beautiful!

Ashley Howard - I am wondering if you tell people about your grooms cake?!?!?! :o)

Lisa Piellusch - You've captured some fabulous moments. :))