What kind of lens do you use?

Posted on October 14, 2011


A relatively new photographer asked me yesterday what type of lens I use for my images, and then proceeded to ask me more about other equipment and reproducing some of the images I created. This isn’t a bad thing, and I don’t find this annoying like many other “pros” in the Indianapolis area.

Probably the first thing I tell anyone who is looking at purchasing a lens, buy the best glass you can afford. With digital, the camera sensor has a lot to do with your image, but your lens has even more. Prior to digital, your lens meant everything when it came to your image produced. I am not a real fanatic about brands, and will encourage people to look at other lenses that are similar that aren’t the same brand as the camera. I encourage people to try out the lenses they want to buy – either by renting them or borrowing one from a friend. You will be amazed at what you can find out from playing around with a lens for a short bit.

This still doesn’t say what kind of lens I use or how I created an image. As a photographer, you need to understand what different focal lengths and apertures impact the image created. I frequently drag my shutter, so knowing something about dragging your shutter is also important when analyzing my images. Focal length is important because it impacts flattening, distorting the image, and to some degree, depth of field. The aperture impacts your depth of field. You also have to know a little about your sensor or film size – the larger it is, the smaller the depth of field. The best way to understand this is to go out and shoot a lot. Be sure to try different apertures and focal lengths – don’t just stay shooting in one focal length or aperture. Most photographers develop favorites to shoot with both-try to stay away from yours when you are experimenting.

The last bit of this is learning how to use light. Know the difference between soft and hard light, controlling light that you do use, and when to use what techniques with the creation of various images. This will take some planning and not just going out to shoot without any kind of plan. If you keep a notebook of your plans, you will have a recipe book for future images and plans.

The best thing to understand about an image, you must light it correctly from the start. Yes, I make many changes to an image via Adobe Photoshop (usually very subtle changes), but changes all the same. It all comes back to having great images to start before editing. You will know you have great images taken when people who do see your unedited images ask why you are editing the images?

Edit: I need to emphasize that taking a good capture is what makes a great image. If you don’t have a good captured image, there isn’t any amount of photo editing that will fix this and make it into a great image. You might salvage the image – but it won’t be the best of images. Capture it right in camera.

Now, let’s see what kind of things you come up with in your experimenting and the images you create.