Choosing Your Lens With Purpose

September 21, 2010

in Photography Tips, Photography Tutorials

Post image for Choosing Your Lens With Purpose

Have you ever looked at an image and wondered how in the world they got it to look that way? Aside from how they got lighting that makes the heavens sing, an angle that even you never would have thought of and an angelic expression from a child that makes even mean old Uncle Harold cry like a baby; their images just have a certain look to them. “The look” that makes the image complete.

When I first started photography I had no idea why I wanted certain lenses…well aside from the price and just wanting what everyone else had. I had no clue as to what any of the numbers on the lens meant or the effect that each lens could give.

What the heck does 24-70mm mean anyway? Then you add on the 2.8 and I was a goner.

But, now that I know. It’s pretty simple.

Whether you are Team Nikon, Canon, Edward or Jacob all lenses are the same. They have the focal length, (Ex: 24-70mm, 16-35mm, 85mm and 135mm), which we are talking about today, and they have the widest aperture (fstop) the lens will go (Ex: 2.8, 1.8 and even 1.2 mmmm sigh), which we will go over next time.

Focal length in a nutshell…

  • The smaller the number the wider the lens.
  • The wider the lens, the more of the environment you get into your image.(Ex. of wide angle lenses: 15mm, 35mm, 24-70mm)
  • The wider the lens the more distortion you get the closer you are to your subject.
  • The larger the number the more narrow your focal length becomes. (Ex. of narrow focal length lenses: 85mm, 135mm, 70-200mm)
  • The more narrow your focal length becomes the more “magnified” your subject are.

So how do you know when to use which lenses? Pictures help…

I like to use wider angle lenses for fun…

(lens: 24-70mm, Focal length: 24mm)
How to Choose Your Camera Lens with Purpose

for laughter…
(lens: 15mm Fisheye, Focal Length: 15mm)
How to Choose Your Camera Lens with Purpose

for playful…
(lens: 24-70mm, Focal Length 24mm)
How to Choose Your Camera Lens with Purpose

for uniquely bold…
(lens: 24-70mm, Focal Length 24mm)
How to Choose Your Camera Lens with Purpose

for movement…
(lens: 24-70mm, Focal Length 24mm)
How to Choose Your Camera Lens with Purpose

I like to use portrait lenses (longer focal length lenses) for romantic…

(lens: 85mm, Focal Length 85mm)
How to Choose Your Camera Lens with Purpose

for softer…
(lens: 85mm, Focal Length 85mm)
How to Choose Your Camera Lens with Purpose

for beautifully bold…
(lens: 85mm, Focal Length 85mm)
How to Choose Your Camera Lens with Purpose

for…I don’t know…just a nice pretty picture :)…..
(lens: 85mm, Focal Length 85mm)
How to Choose Your Camera Lens with Purpose

Want something in the middle? Try the 50mm.
(all shot with 50mm 1.4)
How to Choose Your Camera Lens with Purpose
How to Choose Your Camera Lens with Purpose

Next time you are out shooting, pick your lens with a purpose. Plan your shot and make beautiful pictures.

Becky Earl is a hobbyist photographer, but more importantly a wife and mother to three beautiful children. Becky loves to create ART in her spare time (aka when the kids are busy) and loves learning new things about photography (aka when the hubby is busy). She offers Blog Your ART Templates at an affordable price to photographers who want to spice up the look of their blog. You can find her hanging out on her blog THE BLOG and on Facebook.

Get the latest IHF news!

Sign up for our brand NEW mailing list to get the latest news on our upcoming workshop, freebies (yeah, we’re working on some good ones!) and more exclusive offers. Fill out your name and email below or in the form on our sidebar.

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Lina July 10, 2014

Great post, clear my mind a little bit. But just a BIT. Still confuse what to choose… I have 50mm already. Don’t know what next :/

Reply

Alicia Johnson @ Tampa wedding photographer September 27, 2013

What a great article! The pictures were very helpful. I’m happy so many were posted as examples.

Reply

Bella September 24, 2013

Thanks for sharing your choice of lenses. What I do not know, is whether you refer to a Full frame camera or not, which would mean two different things…

Reply

business casual women boots April 21, 2013

Hey! I simply wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the great info you could have here
on this post. I will probably be coming again
to your blog for more soon.

Reply

Carol Blakeley May 10, 2011

Unless I missed it, I didn’t see what camera was being used, and sensor size would play a part on the image the lens would get, full frame sensors being true to size.

Reply

Tamara Curry January 19, 2011

@Becky: Thank you! I get the numbers to an extent, but the images really help it sink in.

@Paul: That’s a great explanation for why this lens instead of another depending on the camera body. That kind of info people usually give, but it’s as useful as the basic “this is what this lens is good for shooting.”

Reply

Yolanda January 12, 2011

Do you have the aperture article ready for us to read?

Reply

crystal January 7, 2011

Is there an expensive way to get a fisheye pic without a fisheye lens?! They are so pricey and i just cant afford one right now but would love to know of an alternative!

Reply

竹内康正YasumasaTakeuchi September 25, 2010

Have you ever wondered how in the world they got it to look that way? RT @petapixel: Choosing your lens with a purpose: http://j.mp/9DCa16

Reply

Paromita Deb Areng September 25, 2010

Do you choose your lens based on what you are photographying ? Why? And Why not? http://fb.me/yi2c3GmH

Reply

Becky Earl September 24, 2010

@Jessie, that’s my sweet daughter. :) I used my 85mm 1.8 lens for that shot.

@Paul, wonderful explanation and advise!

@Juan, my fisheye is for sale :) :) :) lol

Reply

Laura Merritt September 24, 2010

RT @marcoramaNL: Good read. RT @petapixel: Choosing your lens with a purpose: http://j.mp/9DCa16 #photo

Reply

Paromita Deb Areng September 24, 2010

Do you choose your lens based on what you are #photographying? Why? And Why not? http://fb.me/yi2c3GmH

Reply

windygallery September 24, 2010

RT @2how: Choosing Your Lens With Purpose | I Heart Faces – A Weekly Photography Challenge & Photo Tutorials http://t.co/uT5XoCl

Reply

PhotoAsia September 24, 2010

Choosing your lens with a purpose: http://j.mp/9DCa16 /via @petapixel

Reply

Sherri PerryMitchell September 24, 2010

Note to self: Next major purchase… a fabulous camera and lens! RT @petapixel Choosing your lens with a purpose: http://j.mp/9DCa16

Reply

Kevin Thornhill September 24, 2010

RT @Ithili RT @petapixel: Choosing your lens with a purpose: http://j.mp/9DCa16

Reply

stacy ericson September 24, 2010

RT @petapixel: Choosing your lens with a purpose: http://j.mp/9DCa16

Reply

Sherri PerryMitchell September 24, 2010

Note to self: Next major purchase… and fabulous camera and lens! RT @petapixel Choosing your lens with a purpose: http://j.mp/9DCa16

Reply

Henry Jue September 24, 2010

RT @petapixel: Choosing your lens with a purpose: http://j.mp/9DCa16

Reply

Paul September 24, 2010

@Jody, the single-most best thing you can do for image quality is your glass, always invest in lenses that are the best optically. There is no choice, the 24-70mm is the clear winner, the image quality is outstanding. The f/4 series are very good lenses (17-40mm, 24-105mm) but they aren’t stellar, that why they cost so much less than the 2.8 versions. I know, the 24-105mm costs nearly the same as the 24-70mm, but that’s because you’re paying $500 more for Image Stabilization on the 24-105… That means glass-wise it’s only a $600 lens. Walk, no, RUN to the store and get the 24-70mm. I wouldn’t get caught in the IS crutch either, you have a 5D which means you can crank the ISO up to 1600 or even 3200 if necessary, thus gaining you the three stops. Crop sensor cameras get ugly after ISO 400, our full frame sensors are stellar in low light, so get the lens that you won’t grow out of! The 17-40 worked well on my 5D, but when I got the 5D2 the lens couldn’t resolve enough and images suffered. I got the 16-35/2.8 and the WOW returned. Same goes for the 24-105mm, if you ever upgrade to a 5D2, the 24-105mm won’t cut it. That’s why it’s a kit lens on the 5D2. 😉

Reply

Barry Chignell September 24, 2010

RT @petapixel: Choosing your lens with a purpose: http://j.mp/9DCa16

Reply

Nasuha September 24, 2010

great article. definitely recommended for beginner like me. :)

Reply

Stefan Maaß September 24, 2010

Great article for buying new lenses (beginner): Choosing your lens with a purpose: http://j.mp/9DCa16 /via @petapixel

Reply

Juan September 24, 2010

Awesome Article. Really handy for people that may not know the difference between the effects obtained by different lenses. My favorite is the 10-22mm. Dying to get me a fish eye though.

Reply

Michael Zhang September 24, 2010

Choosing your lens with a purpose: http://j.mp/9DCa16

Reply

Jessie September 22, 2010

Thank you for the great article. I would love to know what lens was used for the first image of the beautiful little girl?

Reply

t3r3sa September 22, 2010

I love these articles!

I’m still struggling with all these numbers, but these articles always help in one way or another!!

:)

Reply

giozi September 22, 2010

Oh I don’t understand this yet, but I get the tips, I’m going to read it again later. Now I have only a lens 😀 . I’m starting.
Thanks for sharing.

Reply

Dawn Camp September 22, 2010

Beautiful images!

Since I upgraded to a full-frame camera last year, I only have two lenses: a 50mm and a 70-300mm. No wide angle. It makes the selection a little easier. I wouldn’t mind having to think a little more purposefully with more choices. :-)

Reply

lisa d September 21, 2010

great info, i’ve been thinking about a new lens. I appreciate this and the timing.

Reply

Anya September 21, 2010

I love this post!
Thank you!!

Reply

Kim September 21, 2010

I LOVE this post! Having the picture examples to go along really make the difference. I have read about lenses, but w/out examples to go along it was all just words. I have also considered lenses mainly on their fStops so this is more than helpful.

I definitely need a decent wide angle lens. It’s the lens I am definitely lacking.

Thank you! Looking forward to your next article.

Reply

carlotta September 21, 2010

Loved this post! And the Team Nikon, Canon, Edward or Jacob like made me laugh 😉

I’m considering getting the 50mm 1.8 lens. Except I have a Nikon D3000, and the 50mm doesn’t autofocus with my camera. Is it worth getting it and manually focusing? Or, if not, what lens would you suggest instead?
Thank you!

Reply

Amy Locurto September 21, 2010

Choosing Your Lens With Purpose http://t.co/vtxDyoi

Reply

Jodi September 21, 2010

Becky,

Thanks so much for the quick reply. I had heard that the 24-105 was just a tad sharper outside but that the 24-70 would be better for low light indoors, shooting rooms etc. I would love the 85 1.2 but I think being limited to one lens is not smart for me for where I am in my level of photography. I am definitely going for the 85 1.8….now just need to make the decision on the 24-70 vs 24-105!

Thank you!!

Reply

Becky Earl September 21, 2010

@Jodi, that’s a tough one. I have the 85 1.8 (which I love) but man, if I could own the 1.2, I might just cry. ha. I looked up the 24-105 and it looks like a nice lens. It only opens up to f/4, which isn’t horrible, but not super wide. You’ll still get nice bokeh if you have them far enough away from the background, but sometimes…that’s not an option at certain locations. Having both the 24-105 (or 24-70) and the 85 1.8 will give you more variety. You never know when you will need something wide. It all depends though on your style of shooting. A wide angle with fun distortion might not be your style, so a lens that goes down to 24mm might not be necessary. Make sense?

Reply

Jodi September 21, 2010

Your timing could not be any better, thank you. I just bought a used 5d and now want to invest in come lenses. Right now I am leaning towards the 24-105 and the 85 1.8. My questions are: is it worth it to just upgrade to the 85 1.2 (I wouldn’t be able to buy anything else)? Or keep both lenses in my bag 85 1.8 and 24-105? Also, I am debating on the 24-105 vs the 24-70, any thoughts on this? Which 85 do you have?

Awesome post!! I love this website, the sharing of information is like no other!

Reply

Becky Earl September 21, 2010

Thanks all! I am so glad it was helpful!

@Kristina, I love my 24-70 for family portraits because it is wide and I can comfortably fit them all in. BUT, it does depend on what “look” you are going for for the portrait. If you are wanting a more “dreamy” image with lots of pretty bokeh a portrait lens might fit better. You can shoot at 70mm (with the 24-70) and just about get that nice pretty portrait. HTH!

Reply

Kristina September 21, 2010

Great article and so timely for me. I’m heading to my local camera store today to look at lenses. I really want the 24-70mm. I keep seeing that one pop up on everyone’s list and maybe that is why I want it. :) Do you think that would be a good lens for family portraits? I have the 50mm 1.8 and my 28mm-135 kit lens but feel like I need something else for family shots. Thoughts?

Reply

Tracy September 21, 2010

Very helpful, thank you!

Reply

bridget {bake at 350} September 21, 2010

This is so helpful! For someone who has a point & shoot and is looking to upgrade to a “real” camera, this helps SO much!

PS…love this line “Whether you are Team Nikon, Canon, Edward or Jacob all lenses are the same.” Ha!

Reply

remodelingthislife September 21, 2010

RT @AngieArthur: There is a fabulous lens tutorial from Becky Earl Photography on I Heart Faces today. http://fb.me/GojQwB1e

Reply

Holly September 21, 2010

Thank you for this helpful article!

Reply

Helen September 21, 2010

Thanks for the post! The first lens I bought for my Nikon was a 35mm and I love it, but I feel like something is missing and I should have something “bigger”. This was helpful!

Reply

Jessica September 21, 2010

Thanks for the fabulous article! I am excited to hear more on lenses… I am wanting to get a new lens and I just didn’t know where to start. Know I have an idea of what to look for.

Reply

Suki September 21, 2010

Thank you for that wonderful article Becky!

Reply

Arden Prucha Jenkins September 21, 2010

Great article. Just traded in my 16-35mm for the 85mm 1.2… I hardly EVER used it… but bought it because I ‘thought’ it was cool. Not my style and a waste of $. So happy to have my new lens and worth the money for my photographic taste.

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: