Numbers have never been my strong suit. Not that I don’t appreciate them but we just never really connected the way I would hope. That’s why when it comes to the things I shoot I like to keep my lens sizes simple. I know that each lens has a purpose and I know what purpose it has.
I’ve been working with three prime lenses for as long as I’ve had my business and they get the job done. There might be one or two others I’m saving up for but especially when you’re starting out or if you're just taking photos of your brand these three lenses will get you further than you dreamed!
Why Use Prime Lenses?
Let's start with why I choose to shoot with prime lenses. While it would be easier to shoot with a zoom lens (a single lens that allows you to change focal lengths) on adventure shoots in the mountains, the cost of high-quality lenses skyrockets. Sure you can get a cheaper lens that changes focal lengths. However, you get what you pay for. When it comes to your lens the glass that is used to make it is the essential piece of the equipment. Investing in your lenses will change the way your photography looks. This is why I stick with prime lenses. For the most part, I don’t have to change them often, and if I do, I map out which lens I want to use for which parts of the story. If you want versatility, then go for the zoom, but make sure you are buying the middle to top of the line lenses. The investment will make a difference as soon as you push that shutter!
24mm Prime Lens
To start with the smallest lens, I use a 24mm Nikon AF Nikkor lens. I inherited this lens from my Grandfather, so it has special mean to go along with it. This lens has one purpose and one purpose only, it sets the stage of the story I’m telling. I only use it for select photos to provide a wide-angle frame and that usually involves landscapes. The wider the lens frame, the more created distortion there is. It also doesn’t provide a nice compression of space. (Meaning that things in the distance look further away than they are.) Below is portrait I took with this lens and while I love the image that came out of it, it doesn’t give the proportions that most people are looking for in a portrait image. It serves its purpose for a specific reason.
This lens is so broad which allows it to let in more light. You don’t need as high of an ISO, as wide of an aperture or as slow of a shutter speed as you would need with other lenses to get the light you need. The only down side is that it also won’t create that beautiful blurry background we all love so much. When you think of a camera phone, the lens on there is a 16mm. That’s why the background is just as in focus as the foreground, the tighter frames (larger lenses) help create that effect.
50mm Prime Lens
My Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm lens is my go-to lens. This lens allows me to tell a wide-angle story by taking a couple of steps back or get up and close with my subject without causing a strange warping in the image. The 50mm lens is often where people start for portrait photography. It’s the widest of an angle you want to use when focusing on people as a subject. The great thing about the 50mm is that it also allows you to take amazing landscape photos. It’s wide enough to get the full story but can be close enough to provide the details. It also works well in a tighter space. When I’m in a shop or in someone’s home, I pretty much have to use the 50mm for all my images; Any more of a zoom and everything would be cut off.
85mm Prime Lens
The 50mm prime might be my go to, but my Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm lens is my bread and butter. I happened to have won this lens from Jasmine Star, and it’s changed my life. All my favorite portrait shots I’ve taken have been with this lens. The 85mm lens compresses your background making the mountains feel more prominent and the landscapes more intense. It doesn’t distort faces giving you the perfect shapes, and detail and the glass on this lens allow for the sharpest of images but can still give you that background blur that you dream of. I cannot speak highly enough about this lens. Here’s the downside, it’s a very close up lens. This means I can’t be too close to my subject and therefore, tight spaces make this lens impossible to use. So it has a time and place, and I know what both of those look like.
The Zoom Lens I do Own
I inherited a Nikon AF Nikkor 70-210mm lens from my Grandfather. It’s a slow lens meaning it takes awhile to focus and isn’t always dependable; the thing is over 20 years old after all. While I’ll break this out on occasion the only real need I would have for a lens past an 85mm would be to take pictures of wildlife or sports. Things that you can’t get too close to but still want to capture, that’s when you need a zoom lens. But here’s the thing, If you want to be taking photos of sports or wildlife you’ll not only need a great zoom (often well past 210mm), but you also need a great aperture. There’s a reason you see photographers with giant lenses out there. They come with all the bells and whistles to be able to successfully capture these subjects. For me, I’ll break out this lens if we go hiking and for special family functions. I almost never bring it out on a professional shoot.
The Dream Lens
There are two lenses I’m waiting to get. A 35mm and a 35-210mm lens. Here’s why. While my 24mm lens works great, there is a lot of distortion that wide angle creates, and the 35mm is the perfect balance that I’m looking for. It’s great for the landscape and nightscape photos I want to take but will also work wonders for commercial photography. I wouldn’t mind getting a fast 35-210mm that would make carrying camera gear on the mountain a lot easier. Not having to switch out lenses in the wide open where dust and dirt can get into my camera would save time and save weight. Both these lenses aren’t necessary with what I’ve already got, but everyone has to have a dream and these lenses on in mine.
Whether you are a beginner photographer or want to take photos of your products for your business these are perfect lenses to start with. If you purchase a DSLR kit, you’ll most likely get a 24-55mm lens that comes with it. This is a wonderful place to start and to learn. However, “kit lenses”, as they are called, are made cheap. The glass in that will not even touch the glass on any of these prime lenses. That’s why it’s a great idea to buy the body and get the lenses that you really want. If you have questions about camera bodies or any of these lenses I’d be more than happy to help (I will preface that I know Nikon best and a bit about some other brands). Leave a comment below or contact me and let me know how I can help you take the pictures of your dreams!