Choosing the Right Lens

Near the Utah Nevada border north of Wendover. This scene beckoned for a telephoto lens to compress the layers of desert mountains. Used a 70-200mm telephoto at 200mm.
Choosing the proper lens for any photographic scene is an integral part of producing your vision as a photographer. Your lens choice can produce radically different images of the same scene. Wide angle lenses (ex. 16-35mm, 17-40mm, 18-55mm) tend to distort the image, making objects look stretched out and elongated; perfect for wide open landscapes, not so perfect for somebody’s nose. Speaking of people’s faces, if you’re into portraits the best lens to accurately portray someone’s face is 50mm. This focal length is the closest to how we see. If you put your camera, with the lens at 50mm, up to your eye and then take it down, the scene should look very similar. Cropped of course, but as far as distortion and size, it should be the same.* There are some amazingly priced 50mm prime lenses that give you fast glass at a classic focal length. My favorite being the Canon 50mm 1.8, sitting at a cool $107. I like to use anything 50mm+ when shooting portraits and will oftentimes use my telephoto 70-200mm lens with fantastic results. Telephoto lenses (70-200mm, 300mm) are great for compressing a scene and bringing foreground and background layers closer together. Seeing in telephoto may be a little difficult, and you can miss a potentially great shot if you’re not used to it. Something I do often is put the camera to my eye and scan the scene with my telephoto lens in search of nice compositions. I may not always see those shots in the beginning, but I’ve been successful using this technique and I think it is a great way to practice “seeing” in telephoto.
 I like to have a vision going into a scene, but if something unexpected unfolds right in front of me I’m going to want to be able to make the most of it. This is where knowing your lenses, and how they capture a scene, will set you apart from the crowd and keep you coming home with an arsenal of images.
Beautiful Ogden Valley at sunset. Using a wide angle lens allowed the fence in the foreground to lead the eye into the scene and wide open background. I used a 24mm tilt shift lens.

*Of
course, there is a difference when dealing with camera bodies that have crop
sensors compared to full frame sensors. Some photographers prefer an 85mm lens on a full frame body for
portraits, but the idea that the focal range between 50mm-85mm being similar to the eye is still
applicable.

 

Leave a Comment