A good lens is more impor­tant than a cam­era. Yes, the cam­era, of course, affects the amount of noise, but it is the optics that is respon­si­ble for what kind of pic­ture the view­er sees.

Why take a por­trait? What is a “shirik”, and how does it dif­fer from a tele­pho­to? Are there uni­ver­sal lens­es? We tell you what types of lens­es are and which one is bet­ter for a begin­ner to choose.

Col­lect­ing a whole “staff” of lens­es is cost­ly and not always jus­ti­fied for a begin­ner. It’s best to start with one lens based on pho­tog­ra­phy pref­er­ences / Source: unsplash.com

Types of lenses

Cam­era lens­es can be clas­si­fied accord­ing to dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics: body and lens mate­r­i­al, man­u­fac­tur­er, atti­tude to ama­teur or pro­fes­sion­al optics. For exam­ple, the key point is what is in front of you: a “fixed” lens or a zoom.

Fixed or zoom: which lens to choose

  • A “fixed” lens, or fixed lens, is an optic with a fixed focal length. Sim­ply put, you can’t zoom in or out with it, there­by chang­ing the fram­ing and view­ing angle.

Often these lens­es have a high­er aper­ture ratio, which allows you to shoot in dark­er times and in poor light­ing con­di­tions. On the oth­er hand, they won’t give you as much cre­ative free­dom as zooms.

For begin­ners, a fixed lens has both pros and cons:

+ you get bet­ter and faster optics and improve your pho­tog­ra­phy skills: you will have to think about the com­po­si­tion right away and move around the loca­tion to line up the frame;

- a fixed focal length does not allow a begin­ner to “feel” dif­fer­ent view­ing angles. You will not be able to shoot wide (a wide-angle lens that cap­tures a large num­ber of objects), and then with a slight move­ment of your hand turn the lens into a tele­pho­to lens (a tele­vi­sion lens with super-zoom; allows you to pho­to­graph objects that are far away close-up).

In the case of fix­es, exper­i­ments will require a whole set of pho­to optics or you will have to buy adapters / Source: unsplash.com

Read also:

5 adapters that expand the capa­bil­i­ties of a fixed lens

  • Zoom lens­es, or zoom lens­es. These are “glass­es” that can change their focal length — increase and decrease the view­ing angle. So, for exam­ple, in a reportage, you can first cap­ture the entire scene as a whole, and after a moment shoot large por­traits.

But a zoom lens also has pros and cons:

+ this is an ide­al option for begin­ners or ama­teurs who do not want to spend mon­ey on a set of expen­sive and heavy lens­es;

- such lens­es often have a low aper­ture, and sharp­ness (when com­pared with fix­es) and a blur pat­tern on the back­ground — bokeh may also suf­fer.

Now con­sid­er how lens­es are divid­ed by focal length or, more sim­ply, the width of the view­ing angle. The con­nec­tion is as fol­lows: the small­er the focal length, the wider the view­ing angle, which means that more objects fit into the frame.

wide angle lens

Wide-angle lens­es are lens­es with a wide field of view that cap­ture a lot of space in the frame. The focal length of such “glass­es” is from 6 to 35 mm. Many zoom lens­es shoot in the wide-angle range: 18–135mm, 18–55mm, 24–70mm.

Fish­eye deserves spe­cial men­tion. This is an ultra wide-angle lens that inten­tion­al­ly dis­torts the pro­por­tions of the frame. For exam­ple, it cre­ates the effect of a bulge that “bulges” the pic­ture on the view­er, or turns a square frame into a round one — as if the image was placed inside a glass ball.

Due to the design, the view­ing angle of the fish­eye can exceed 180 degrees / Source: unsplash.com

What to photograph with a wide-angle lens

  • land­scapes. Due to the wide view­ing angle, the whole scene is cap­tured, which allows you to con­vey the beau­ty of the land­scape. But for objects that are far away, it is bet­ter to have a tele­pho­to lens in the kit.
  • archi­tec­ture. The whole build­ing will fit in the frame, and the pho­tog­ra­ph­er does not have to move far from it. But keep in mind that a small dis­tance from the cam­era to the sub­ject can great­ly dis­tort the per­spec­tive and pro­por­tions of the build­ing. In this case, you need to move fur­ther or pre­pare to edit the per­spec­tive in post-pro­cess­ing.

Read also:

3 easy ways to fix per­spec­tive in Pho­to­shop

  • Inte­ri­ors. A wide-angle lens is indis­pens­able when shoot­ing indoors. It allows you to cap­ture the entire room as a whole, even if the space is very small.
  • Report­ing. With­out wide-angle optics, it is impos­si­ble to con­vey the scale of events. Only a width can accom­mo­date a hun­dred peo­ple in a frame.
  • Por­traits. With a wide-angle lens, you can get unusu­al, deep por­traits. They show what sur­rounds the hero of the pic­ture, where he is. The main thing is not to dis­tort the pro­por­tions of the body: watch the angle and dis­tance from which you pho­to­graph the mod­el.

Kit lens and stock lens

Reg­u­lar, or nor­mal lens­es are “glass­es” that show the pic­ture as the human eye sees it. Their view­ing angle varies from 40 to 55 degrees, which equates to 40–60 mm in terms of focal length. That is why the 50 mm lens (or “fifty kopecks”) is con­sid­ered a clas­sic. It is these lens­es, all oth­er things being equal, that will give min­i­mal dis­tor­tion — in the pho­tographs you will not get round­ed walls or a pro­trud­ing nose, as with widths, but at the same time you will not have to go to the oth­er end of the street, as is the case with tele­pho­to optics.

It is uni­ver­sal. It can be used to pho­to­graph objects, peo­ple, reports, nature, archi­tec­ture.

For a begin­ner, 50mm is the per­fect start­ing point. You don’t have to fight dis­tor­tion and look for an angle (as is the case with wide-angle ones) and go far to take a por­trait (as with tele­pho­to cam­eras) / Source: unsplash.com

Kit lens­es are the cheap­est man­u­fac­tur­er’s lens­es that come with the cam­era. They are not the best qual­i­ty, but usu­al­ly cov­er a wide range of focal lengths. The most famous of them are 18–55 mm and 18–135 mm. This allows a begin­ner to start pho­tograph­ing imme­di­ate­ly after buy­ing a cam­era, with­out break­ing his head over the choice of optics.

telephoto lens

Tele­pho­to lens­es, or tele­pho­to lens­es, are “glass­es” with a large zoom that allow you to take a close-up pho­to­graph of an object, even if you are far away from it. The focal length varies from 70mm to 500mm, 800mm and even 2000mm.

A sep­a­rate sub­cat­e­go­ry of tele­pho­to lens­es — por­trai­ture. These are any lens­es with a focal length in the range from 50 to 135 mm. It is believed that these are ide­al val­ues ​​at which the pro­por­tions of the face are not dis­tort­ed. In addi­tion, such lens­es cre­ate a beau­ti­ful back­ground blur.

Read also:

Bokeh effect: how to take a beau­ti­ful pho­to with blur

“Glass­es” with a focal length of 50 mm or 85 mm are con­sid­ered clas­sic por­trai­ture / Source: unsplash.com

What to photograph on TV

  • Details of land­scape, archi­tec­ture and inte­ri­or. Would you like to take a close-up pho­to of a bizarre stuc­co mold­ing on an old cathe­dral? The tele­pho­to will allow you to “catch” dis­tant details. But keep in mind that with­out a wide or stock lens in the kit, you can miss a lot of good shots.
  • Ani­mals. Ani­mal pho­tog­ra­phy is impos­si­ble with­out long-focus optics. It is with her that pho­tog­ra­phers and cam­era­men who shoot wildlife most often work.
  • Of peo­ple. Long lens­es cap­ture the pro­por­tions of a per­son­’s face well. But in order to shoot a por­trait on a tele­pho­to, you have to move far enough from the mod­el.
  • Reports, sports events, con­certs. The tele­pho­to lens will allow you to get por­traits and close-ups, being far from the sub­ject. This is con­ve­nient, for exam­ple, when shoot­ing match­es from the stands.

macro lens

A macro lens is an optic that allows you to pho­to­graph an object very close with­out los­ing focus. For exam­ple, with it you can take a pic­ture of an ant while stand­ing close to it, while with a tele­pho­to lens you have to move a few meters away. The range of focal macro lens­es is wide — from 25 mm to 100 mm.

What to shoot with a macro lens

  • Ani­mal world and plants. Thanks to the design of the macro lens, insects and flow­ers will take up the entire frame with­out los­ing qual­i­ty.
  • Por­traits and facial fea­tures are large. Espe­cial­ly in qui­et stu­dio envi­ron­ments where you can take the time to man­u­al­ly focus or wait for slow aut­o­fo­cus.
  • Details and tex­tures.
Wool, drops, pollen, iris — with such optics you can show inter­est­ing tex­tures / Source: unsplash.com
  • sub­ject pho­to. Macro lens­es are used for shoot­ing small objects. For exam­ple, bijouterie and jew­el­ry.

Tilt-shift lens

Tilt-shift lens­es (from the Eng­lish tilt shift — shift and tilt) — a lens that allows you to shift and tilt its opti­cal axis. This helps to elim­i­nate per­spec­tive dis­tor­tion, cre­ate panora­mas and get sharp­ness on objects that are at dif­fer­ent dis­tances from each oth­er.

It is because of the lat­ter prop­er­ty on tilt-shift that lens­es often turn out like toy land­scapes / Source: unsplash.com

What to photograph with a tilt-shift lens

  • Land­scapes, archi­tec­ture and inte­ri­ors. The lens will help you take a pho­to with­out per­spec­tive dis­tor­tion, where the lines will be strict­ly ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal.
  • Items. By shift­ing the focus, the entire com­po­si­tion can be sharp­ened. Oth­er­wise, you will have to shoot many iden­ti­cal frames with dif­fer­ent sharp­ness from a tri­pod and com­bine them in a graph­ics edi­tor.

Read also:

Tilt-shift lens: what is it and why is it need­ed

Bad light­ing on set: what to avoid, how to fix

High key: what is it, how to shoot, light­ing schemes

Results. Which lens to choose for a beginner

  • Con­sid­er a wide range zoom lens if you’re just get­ting start­ed with pho­tog­ra­phy or if it’s a hob­by for you that you don’t plan to spend a lot of mon­ey on by buy­ing expen­sive lens kits.
  • A kit or stan­dard lens is a uni­ver­sal clas­sic for a begin­ner. Suit­able for almost any genre, does not dis­tort the pro­por­tions in the frame. Few oppor­tu­ni­ties? Take a clos­er look at adapters that will help you make the angle wider or turn the lens into a macro.
  • Wide-angle and tele­pho­to lens­es are the next step. You can look at them when you feel that the capa­bil­i­ties of the lens and image qual­i­ty are no longer enough, or if you are aim­ing to go into a cer­tain genre from the very begin­ning. For exam­ple, archi­tec­ture, land­scape, sports, reportage or inte­ri­or pho­tog­ra­phy.
  • Macro lens­es, tilt-shift lens­es are inter­est­ing toys that will either amuse you and col­lect dust on the shelf, or help you fur­ther devel­op in pho­tog­ra­phy, expand­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties. Buy­ing them for a begin­ner can be an expen­sive and point­less invest­ment that he will not appre­ci­ate if he does not have enough expe­ri­ence.