Every photographer, whenever they start or dip their toes in the proverbial waters, starts wondering about their gear, their work, and how to do things. And, in search of answers to questions – we start asking them. One of the classic questions is “What camera should I buy?” Another similar one is “What lens to get?” There are more (of course), but these are two of the most commonly asked questions I’ve had proposed to me (and that I’ve proposed myself in the past. The answer though, is a bit more problematic, because there are qualifiers to everything. More often than not, the answers start with the inevitable “It depends…” The reason is – it does!
For lenses, the “depends” factor relates to what you want to shoot because your subject matter will define the focal range that is best suited to your purposes. Here are some general rules of thumb to follow:
- Wide Angle Lenses
Wide angle lenses (in my opinion), are best suited to a few specific styles and subject matter. I’ve found that the wide angle of view is best suited to subjects like landscapes and architecture. Wide angles allow you to capture a greater sense of scale, where clouds, skylines, building lines, and other scenes like this. In general, the focal lengths that I would put in this category range from the low end of 10mm up to around 35mm.
- Portrait Lenses
These are the lenses that are really best suited for portrait work. Take someone’s picture with a wide angle lens, and the proportions can be very unflattering. Alternatively, taking portrait pictures with a zoom lens requires to to be pretty far away, which makes for less interaction. I like to really catch the details of people’s eyes, and be able to interact, so certain lenses work better for this. The ones that I like for portrait work range in focal length anywhere from 50-200mm. The 50mm (or nifty fifty) is the classic portrait lens, and when you shoot portraiture with one of these on a low aperture (f2.8 or lower), the results can be very appealing with some nice bokeh yet your subject is tack sharp. You can probably go up to about a 200mm lens, before you are just too far away (for my taste). Ironically, as you go up to the higher range of zooms, the higher focal range will compress things which can be more flattering, but you do so at the expense of being able to interact
- Zoom Lenses
The zoom lens is probably the most obvious lens type and function. Zooms are intended to take photos from further away than you normally would be able. This makes them ideal for things like wildlife, sporting events, and things of that nature. While preferences may vary, for me I would define zooms as anything above the 300mm level.
So, those are my general categories for lenses. So, when you ask me what lens you should buy, I’ll ask what you want to shoot. From that, these guidelines can help answer the lens question in better detail. So, there’s my answer to the question of “Which Lens?”…what do you think? Like it? Make sense? What are your categories? Got any favorites? Sound off in the comments, and share your own thoughts on the question of “Which lens”. Until tomorrow, keep those lenses open and Happy Shooting!
P.S. Tomorrow, the Guest Blogger series is back and we’re going across the pond – literally! So, be sure to tune in to Kevin Mullins, a wedding photographer from the UK. He’s got some great stuff to share so be sure to tune in then.