Get Great Portraits with a 50mm Lens
You can take your own photos using any of these lenses, but I like to use this lens for all my photography work because my 50mm lens is a great focal length – it’s not as wide as the 24mm equivalent, but still has plenty of reach on the edges when used properly. It does come at a higher price than the 10mm equivalent (though the 24mm equivalent is also very similar), so it’s definitely worth the higher $200-300/year.
Using this lens is also great for landscapes, which often require depth of field or foreground, so make sure to look at our guide about how to properly use 50mm lenses in landscape photography.
I will try to give you five tips on getting better shots of yourself with your 50mm lens, but there are probably more, such as when to tilt your lens and when to flip your camera. Make sure to check out the best cheap lenses if you want to save money!
1. Start small.
Many photographers find creating landscapes easier when shooting from afar rather than closer up close. This means a larger aperture makes for smaller depth of field, which helps you create dramatic lighting effects. But when shooting at night, you need a bigger lens to get greater optical clarity, so consider buying a 50mm lens or even a 35mm lens instead of a 50mm (especially when it comes down to choosing between 1.3x and 2.8x).
If you don’t have a lot of time, don’t worry about having too many features. If you’re shooting with one lens and one frame rate, then you should be able to get good enough pictures in an overall shot without having to change lenses. If you’re trying to shoot night portraits without flash or other lights, then you really can do some amazing things with only one lens, especially if shooting is not your thing.
2. Don’t waste your lens.
When the light meter stops, it usually means that you’ve taken the wrong lens. No matter what lens you’re using, you’ll be spending a long time on a lens that was never designed to be put into production. When I’m going through something, I always try to avoid switching lenses until I’m done with them. At a certain point in a photo, I can no longer justify keeping a lens I’ve already been given. These aren’t the best lenses for everything, but there’s nothing worse than taking a photo of something that could already be snapped with another lens.
The first image that comes to mind is from my 2012 trip to New Zealand, where everything was in a single filter that I had to switch over during each session. As I’d been shooting with various lens types for years before that point in the trip, I stopped using my main lens after I took it off its stand. Instead, I wanted to use a different lens for every photo I’d be taking, but when I switched to a compact format lens, it was hard to not pick up a new lens whenever I needed it. So even now I still pick up and test my lens every once in a while!
3. Use less and more often.
It’s difficult to feel claustrophobic when you’re shooting at an extreme range, but when you’re sitting at an average zoom, you’re supposed to feel like someone else is holding your hand. Just remember to be a little bit wary when using the 50mm lens in portrait mode to avoid making your body appear smaller than it truly is. Even though I’ve made a couple hundred trips to places where I knew I wouldn’t end up shooting with my 50mm lens, a lot of people find using them very helpful when shooting landscapes at a reasonable distance. If you’re shooting on a tripod instead of a lens mount, that gives yourself more freedom when shooting up close. Or if you’re shooting with two lenses, using one is actually a great way to minimize your risk of needing to replace lenses.
4. Don’t go straight for 50mm.
50mm is what most photographers choose, but it doesn’t make a picture. Yes, the 50mm lens can make high quality shots with great detail and sharpness, but it can’t make a photograph. In fact, with a 50mm lens you get smaller pixels than your mirrorless cameras can, so make sure not to get caught up in the hype either – that would be cheating yourself. The best way to get great portraits is sometimes to just hold back and let your eyes connect with the subject – this isn’t always possible when shooting at an absolute minimum. Also, think of 50mm as being like an eyeglass in that it can’t fix everything you see that a full 35mm can without a major issue that ends up looking awful.
When it comes to landscapes I try not to overshoot if there is something obvious in your shot. On days when there’s a lot of sunshine, I take longer passes when shooting. I also leave my 50mm lens open a little in case it needs a little tweaking or just isn’t up to scratch. When I get home, I swap out my optics and start again. Sometimes I find I need to adjust lens a few times, and it’s much more likely the changes are minor than major, which allows me to keep shooting for longer while also working around the inevitable lens issues.
5. Shoot at night.
There’s a reason 50mm is called the “nifty fifty,” as there are just fewer parts compared to 45mm. If you’re shooting under dark enough conditions, you won’t need the extra parts of 50mm, and you may not even need a lens hood. And when you do need a lens hood, it’s a good idea to get a 50mm like the 85mm equivalent lens. This is also where you really should get a 45mm lens. Most of these lenses are interchangeable, so I’m pretty sure that if we look at yours and a 35mm lens, they will both fit the same number of lenses. Plus, getting a 35mm lens also has a cool aesthetic value of being a step up from the 50mm lens.