ARTICLE

Shooting bridal portraits with the Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens

Wedding photographer Félicia Sisco became one of the first photographers to shoot with the Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/1600 sec, f/2.0 and ISO1250. © Félicia Sisco

When wedding photographer Félicia Sisco is photographing people, she likes to completely forget about her camera. To do that, she has to have absolute confidence in her equipment. Putting the newly-released Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens to the test for the first time, has she found the perfect prime for portraits?

"I need the perfect tool, one that I can operate without thinking, so I'm not even aware I have the camera in my hand because it's a part of me," she says. "If I can trust my camera, then I can totally focus on my bride or my model. The most important thing for me is that they feel good."

Félicia, based in France and a Canon Ambassador since 2018, has used Canon kit throughout a 37-year career in wedding and editorial photography. "I think I was born a photographer," she says. "I have loved photography since I was a little girl. I have three sisters, and two of them are also photographers. It's in my blood." She is particularly known for shooting elegant, romantic, natural-looking images with ambient light.

She says that having the versatility to shoot both unposed, spontaneous images and editorial style setups makes her appealing to brides-to-be. "That's why a lot of them choose my work," she says. "They know that I do editorial and that for one special day they will be like a model, but most importantly they will also be themselves. When I speak with the brides before the wedding they say, 'I'm not photogenic, I'm ugly, [but] your pictures look like they all use models.' I say no, they are real brides.

A bride with a large flower in her hair looks dreamily at the camera. Photo by Félicia Sisco with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens.
Félicia says that brides often think that her portfolio images are shots of models, rather than normal people. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/800 sec, f/1.6 and ISO1000. © Félicia Sisco
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One of Félicia’s secrets to getting a flattering look in her images is shooting at her favourite focal length, 85mm. "With an 85mm lens I can do everything, close-up portraits and full-length shots," she explains. She has loved using both Canon’s iconic EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM and EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM lenses, but says the technological developments incorporated into the new RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens gives it several stand-out features that will further benefit her work.

Félicia’s long experience with Canon 85mm lenses meant that she was excited about trying out the new RF lenses on an editorial-style bridal shoot in a beautiful Paris apartment. The lens was paired with a Canon EOS R body, which she says is her "new love" and which she had already used to shoot several weddings.

A bride wears a sheer white fabric. Photo by Félicia Sisco with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens.
Félicia has years of working experience with the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM and Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM lenses, which made her the ideal person to judge the performance of the new RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/400 sec, f/1.8 and ISO500. © Félicia Sisco
A close-up of a bride wearing a veil and holding pink flowers. Photo by Félicia Sisco with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens.
This naturally-lit, editorial-style bridal shoot was the perfect test of the Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/400 sec, f/1.4 and ISO100. © Félicia Sisco

Shooting portraits with the Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens

From previous experience, Félicia knew that the apartment would offer plenty of attractive natural light. However, she was also aware that images shot handheld in some of the more dimly-lit, dark-panelled rooms, or outside in the evening, would be enhanced by the lens's wide aperture and the Canon EOS R's fast, accurate low-light focusing.

She says she particularly enjoys working in challenging lighting conditions. "For me it's not a problem, I'm very excited by it," she says. "I'm bored when the light is normal, and I hate using flash. I like low light and I like bright light – I like it when it's difficult.

“When I'm working with complete backlight, some people say you need reflectors or flash, but I don't need anything. As a photographer, it's my job to know the light and work with the light I've got."

A bride stands in a room and flicks her skirt up above her head. Photo by Félicia Sisco with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens.
“I like low light and I like bright light – I like it when it's difficult,” says Félicia. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/4000 sec, f/1.6 and ISO1600. © Félicia Sisco
A bride stands in front of a patterned wall. Photo by Félicia Sisco with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens.
Félicia had already worked with the Canon EOS R before this shoot took place. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/2500 sec, f/1.4 and ISO640. © Félicia Sisco
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Félicia chose to work with just one model, and the shoot took place over a 10-hour period, from 10am to 8pm on a single day in March. She used no flash or reflectors, just the Canon EOS R and the RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens.

Throughout the day she photographed her model in a variety of locations in different rooms around the apartment. Then, at sunset, she went outside with the model and used street lights and shop window lighting to create atmospheric outdoor images.

She likes to shoot with fast shutter speeds, ideally around 1/2000 sec, so in lower light increased the Canon EOS R's ISO setting to compensate. For razor-sharp focusing she used thumb-tracking AF to choose an exact point of focus on the camera's touchscreen. She also used the camera's eye-tracking Eye AF. "It's very comfortable to use," she says. "You have to practise with it a little at first, but I think I will use it more and more."

A bride wears a white coat and hat in a city. Photo by Félicia Sisco with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens.
After the apartment shots, Félicia and the model took to the streets at sunset. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/400 sec, f/1.4 and ISO2000. © Félicia Sisco
A bride wears a white coat in a city. Photo by Félicia Sisco with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens.
“The Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM combines the bokeh of the EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM with the sharpness of the EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM,” says Félicia. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/1250 sec, f/1.2 and ISO2000. © Félicia Sisco

The new RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens has several stand-out features that benefit Félicia's work. "Like the EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM and the EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM, it's very fast and very sharp," she says. "It combines the best qualities of those two lenses – the bokeh of the f/1.2 with the sharpness of the f/1.4. The bokeh it gives to the pictures is just 'Wow!'

“But what I particularly love is the control ring. It's perfect for me." This ring, present on all the RF series lenses, enables you to conveniently control ISO, shutter speed and aperture. She personalised the ring so she could quickly change settings to underexpose or overexpose, for example when working with strong backlighting.

A bride wearing large flowers in her hair looks down dreamily. Photo by Félicia Sisco with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens.
Many of Félicia’s brides go on to later ask her to take their pregnancy pictures, and photos of their children. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/400 sec, f/1.8 and ISO640. © Félicia Sisco
A bride sits in a chair, kicking her legs out. Photo by Félicia Sisco with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens.
“When I take portraits with the Canon EOS R combined with the RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens, everything about the pictures, from the exposure to the skin tones, is correct without any post-production,” says Félicia. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/800 sec, f/1.6 and ISO800. © Félicia Sisco

There's something special about the relationship Félicia develops with a bride when doing these intimate one-on-one shoots. "When I arrive at a wedding I know I have to take some candid pictures when the bride is getting ready, but I also know she is waiting for me to do some editorial-style work with her. Then, when I have my bride in front of me, I treat her as if she is a model,” she says.

“Every little girl looks in the mirror and wants to look beautiful, and on the wedding day, in her bridal dress, her dreams come true with me. I play some classical music and say, 'You just have to listen to the music and look at me.' I don't speak any more after that. In the time we have alone together, the two of us are one. Those moments are incredible."

Félicia has strong feelings about getting the image right in-camera and says the combination of this camera and lens helps her do that. "Being a photographer is about taking pictures, looking at the screen on your camera and seeing the picture is good," she says. "You shouldn't have to do post-production to make it look good. Yes, you can take out wrinkles or blemishes, but the exposure has to be perfect on the screen.

"When I take portraits with the Canon EOS R combined with the RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens, everything about the pictures, from the exposure to the skin tones, is correct without any post-production. [This camera and lens] give me the control I need over the image, without needing to think about it. With them, I know I have the ideal tools for capturing emotions and forgetting about my camera."

Autors David Clark


Félicia Sisco’s kitbag

The key kit pros use to take their wedding photographs

Félicia Sisco’s camera and lenses on a table for a wedding shoot.

Camera

Canon EOS R

A full-frame 30.3 Megapixel sensor with impressive detail, ISO performance and Dual Pixel CMOS AF. "This camera is my new love," says Félicia.

Lens

Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens

A large aperture mid-telephoto prime lens, offering the ultimate performance for advanced and professional portrait photographers. Félicia says, "It’s very fast and very sharp… The bokeh it gives to the pictures is just 'Wow!'"

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