I’ve gotten some questions lately about my equipment … what I prefer, what would I suggest, what’s next, etc. I by no means consider myself an expert, but I am flattered when someone trusts my judgement when it comes to their photography. I’ve decided to start a new section on my blog with the hopes of helping other photographers or photography hobbyists. Most recently, I was with a client who loves taking photos of her family and friends, but she’s not too excited about the lens she’s using. I had this exact same problem when I started my photography adventure … so here was my advice:
When you’re buying a DSLR, you have two options. You can buy a camera body by itself, or a camera that comes in a set with a lens. These lenses are often referred to as kit lenses … and these are typically the first lenses that are replaced. When I bought my first camera, I definitely wanted a lens, so I opted for the kit camera kit. My Nikon D90 came with a Nikkor 18-105 f3.5-5.6 lens. To be completely honest, I didn’t really even know what all of those numbers meant at the time. Basically, the first set of numbers is the focal length of the lens. The lower the number, the wider the angle. On this particular lens, the focal length of 18 would be way zoomed out and wide, and 105 would be zoomed in. These numbers are really nice for a first lens. It gives you a big range of focal distances, which means you would be able to use 1 lens for more than one situation (landscapes or portraits). The second set of numbers is the aperture of the lens. This is the most important number while looking for a lens. The aperture refers to the amount of light that is getting through the lens. The lower the number, the larger the opening. Think of the aperture of the lens just like the pupil of your eye. When it’s really bright outside, your pupils get tiny … likewise, when you’re in a dark room, your pupils get huge to let as much light in as possible. When you’re taking photographs, natural light is the best, but since it’s best to stay out of direct, full-sun as much as possible, having a lower aperture lens is ideal. Am I boggling your mind yet? Stick with me. This post is about lenses … so for more about aperture, see this post. Basically, the kit lens that came with my camera has a larger aperture (f3.5) … which mean it’s not the best in low light. In order to compensate for the poor low-light performance of this lens, I would crank up my ISO (sensitivity to light), but that often results in tons of noise (grain) in the photo, which is a no-no. One last note about aperture: The lower your aperture, the more beautiful bokeh you’ll achieve in your photos. Bokeh is the gorgeous blurring that you often see in photography. The better the lens … the better the bokeh (if you’re in to that sort of thing). Again, for a more detailed explanation, see this post from The Pioneer Woman’s site.
Okay, So we’ve established that my first lens was not the best choice when it came to portraits. I wanted better low light performance and more bokeh … really, I just wanted to main subject to be the main focus of the photo. So, I did some research and discovered the Nikkor 50mm f1.8 lens. This is a prime lens, meaning it doesn’t zoom. It’s a fixed focal length … 50 mm is great for portraits. You have to be at least 1.5 feet from your subject, but it’s just a great lens. The best part of the lens is the aperture … 1.8. This means the ‘pupil’ of the lens can open up super wide and let in tons of light. You can use this lens outside, but you can also use the lens inside and still get some nice results. The lens only costs about $120.00, which is VERY affordable for a nice lens.
I love my 50mm 1.8 lens. I don’t use it as much anymore, as I’ve upgraded to it’s better, sister lens: The Nikkor 50mm f1.4. It’s essentially the same lens (focal length wise), but the lens opens up wider than the 1.8, letting even more light into the camera. Both of these lenses are great. I don’t use them in all situations, but for portraits, they are wonderful. The wider apertures make the skin seem smoother and the bokeh adds something to the photos. By the way … Canon also makes the 50mm lenses … so, no worries for all of you Canon users.
Here are the two lenses side-by-side … and yes, that might be my favorite Shootsac cover in the background.
I hope this posts helps! Please feel free to email me with any questions!!