Music photography lenses: 3 of the easiest for beginners

Matthew James Oxlade
Updated on

These are the music photography lenses for beginners that I would recommend. Gear isn’t what makes a photographer great. Practice makes perfect, but the right lens for music photography will make your journey a lot less demanding than it otherwise would be.

I first started photographing music using some of these lenses, and I still use some of them now. Not every amazing lens comes with an eye-watering price tag. Finding the right lens for the right price is all that should matter to you, especially when you’re starting your journey.

Do I need the best music photography lenses?

Once I met a kid who had $15,000 worth of gear, but there were other photographers out there that were taking better photos than he was with gear that cost 10% of what he spent. I asked the kid how much he was making with music photography, and he said nothing.

I’m not surprised he was making nothing – many beginner music photographers earn nothing and do it for the love of it (that’s another topic for another day: how much should you charge for your photography), but I couldn’t believe his investment against his earnings of $0. Meanwhile, others were producing better work on less expensive gear.

It really doesn’t matter what gear you use, it’s how you use it (or however that saying goes, but it’s applicable here, I promise). You should note that I am using Canon, but all lenses have a Nikon equivalent I’ll link to if the manufacturer is Canon

Dune Rats - Music photography lenses

What makes a lens ‘beginner-friendly’?

As a beginner, your biggest enemy is going to be the light – or lack thereof. You’re going to need to make the most of the limited light available to keep your shutter speed fast. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a reminder of the exposure triangle.

exposure triangle for music photography
Image from Photography Life

To keep your ISO down (and your photos sharp), and your shutter speed fast (so you don’t have any motion blur), you’re going to need a wider aperture (the amount of light let in).

But aperture is not the only factor you need to consider. You need a lens that will autofocus quickly, because musicians generally move around and so will you and your desired focus point. Sure, you can focus manually if you want, but given you’re a beginner I am going to assume you would rather not.

The music photography lenses I recommend for beginners

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

50mm 1.8 II

A classic lens that will produce images with a slightly soft look, but has the ability to create wonderful bokeh thanks to its large aperture. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II is most similar to the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4, and while the f/1.4 opens a bit wider than the f/1.8, I find it to focus slower than the f/1.8.

This is one of the most popular music photography lenses because of it’s low price tag, super-wide aperture and how easy it is to find in stock. They’re everywhere and for good reason.

Sigma f/1.4 EX DG HSM Art

Sigma Art 35mm 1.4

The Sigma f/1.4 Art is a super nice piece of gear. It’s probably one of my favourites for the price point. The price point is higher than the other music photography lenses on this list, but I believe it’s worth it. It is insanely sharp, has a good build quality and focuses really quickly. This is the lens I use most of the time.

Side note: I prefer a 35mm focal length than a 50mm focal length. That’s personal preference, but if you are using a crop sensor camera you’re going to see closer to a 50mm focal length using a 35mm focal length lens anyway. People say that 50mm is closest to what the human eye sees, but I disagree and feel 35mm is what the human eye sees. Or maybe I just see wider than the average human.

If you prefer a 50mm variant, Sigma offer that too for an extra $100.

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Pancake

EF 40mm f 2.8 STM

I bought this lens on a whim many years ago, and didn’t expect much from how small it was and how inexpensive it was. The Canon 40mm f/2.8 is a beast and arguably one of the sharpest music photography lenses I own. It’s super light and looks kinda funny on the front of your camera body. This lens focuses slower than the other two music photography lenses I’ve recommended because of the specific way they have built the internal autofocus motor. Even still, I still find it quicker to focus than some other more expensive lenses out there.

This lens is marketed as a video lens or a street photography lens, but I use it for music photography too. It’s really versatile and at around $200, it’s a good buy.

Violent Soho - Music photography lenses

What I would buy if I was a beginner

While any of these music photography lenses are a good buy, I would go with the Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4. It’s the lens I choose if I can only have one, and I always forget it cost me less than $,1000 because I feel it competes with the music photography lenses I own that cost twice as much. If your budget can only stretch a couple hundred dollars, either the Canon 50mm or the Canon 40mm recommended on this list will be great music photography lenses too.