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Wanting to experiment with a variety of camera lenses means you're a curious and determined individual. It's helpful to familiarize oneself with camera equipment and to understand the pros and cons of using different kinds of tools. Such knowledge comes in handy during artistic conversations and general observations. However, it's equally important to make the most of the equipment you already own. Whether you have an overflowing amount of cameras or a single lens you've been using for years, you can take exceedingly impressive portraits.
Canon's 50mm 1.8 prime lens is a perfect example of an affordable yet powerful lens. Compact and lightweight, it can be taken to – and used in – any location. With a maximum aperture of f/1.8, it's capable of capturing great portraits in more challenging lighting conditions. Even if you don't use it with a full frame camera, it'll provide you with distinct and interesting results. If you expect great lenses to come with an intimidating price tag, you're in for a treat; at the moment, the 50mm 1.8 can be purchased for around $110.
Note: a 50mm lens on a cropped frame camera is the equivalent of roughly 80mm.
Every camera body and lens comes with a set of both appealing and disappointing features. In this article, we'll ignore the cons and focus on the many positive sides of the Canon 50mm 1.8 lens. If you're a portrait photographer who feels an urge to take impressive photographs with an affordable lens, read on!
Don't be intimidated by high ISO numbers
The 50mm 1.8 lens is amazing at capturing great photographs in the dark. Even if you're using a crop frame camera, your powerful lens will allow you to safely experiment with a wide range of ISO numbers. To successfully take well-lit shots in the dark, you need at least one source of light. This can be as practical or as imaginative as you wish. A few examples of handy light sources are:
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- a torch
- a phone
- street lights
- car headlights
Grain will inevitably find its way into your pictures as you experiment with higher ISO numbers, but it won't ruin the overall quality of your shots. If you're a fan of film photography, a generous amount of grain will satisfy you. If you're unhappy with the amount of noise in your results, editing programs like Photoshop and Neat Image will allow you to remove a significant amount, resulting in clearer and smoother shots. Whether you enjoy shooting in dark locations or not, experimenting with nighttime photography using a 50mm 1.8 lens will give you the opportunity to add refreshing photos to your portfolio.
Know that you have everything you need to enhance the simplest portraits
Simple portraits might seem quite boring at times, but don't let this observation prevent you from taking the best possible photos. If you observe the works of photographers like Alessio Albi and Anastasia Volkova, you'll notice the subtle yet intelligent ways in which they enhance a seemingly simply photograph. This isn't magic, even though imagination – when used to its fullest potential – is truly magical. These photographers make the most of easily accessible things like hair, leaves, hands, and even kitchen utensils.
But what do they do with them? They use these objects to create blurred foregrounds which complement their subjects' features and create ethereal-looking portraits. You have absolutely everything you need to create photos that are just as compelling as the ones mentioned previously. Here are a few things you can use that are probably already in your home:
- kitchen utensils, such as spoons and forks
Since the 50mm 1.8 lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.8, it's possible to create perfectly blurred results while keeping your subject in focus. Simply hold any object in front of your lens so that it partly covers it, and voilà! Your simple portrait will instantly look more interesting.
Keep your focus sharp to get dreamy results
An aperture of f/1.8 will allow you to take sharp portraits that stand out from their backgrounds. The closer you get to your subject, the dreamier everything will get. While closeups might seem unflattering due to lens distortion, it's possible to take visually appealing images, especially with a crop frame camera.
Taking photos of your subject from a distance will result in equally dreamy shots. The 50mm 1.8 lens has a flawless way of making the most of intricately decorated locations. Photographing your subject amongst branches or complicated patterns, for example, will result in blurred backgrounds that are reminiscent of vintage lenses. If you experiment with a variety of interesting backgrounds whilst keeping your subject in focus, you'll get eye-catching results all the time.
Embrace movement in your shots
Documenting moving people can be a challenge. As a portrait photographer, you might find it slightly intimidating due to how distracting certain movements can be. The 50mm 1.8 could drastically change your idea about this topic. As a fast lens, it's capable of freezing the most subtle movements to create enchanting portraits. This is particularly useful for photographers who enjoy taking dramatic portraits outdoors.
To photograph movements sharply, shutter speed must become your friend.
Shutter Speed: this determines how quickly your camera captures a movement. The slower the shutter speed, the harder it'll be to sharply capture moments in action. Slow shutter speeds are usually above a second (e.g. 1/4 of a second), while faster shutter speeds are a fraction of a second (e.g. 1/500 of a second). You can control the shutter speed by setting the camera to Shutter Priority mode, which will automatically change the aperture depending on the shutter speed you choose. An alternative mode is Manual mode, which will give you full control over both shutter speed and aperture.
For a compact and affordable prime lens, the Canon 50mm 1.8 is a valuable treasure worth working with for years. If you keep your imagination fresh, this lens won't cease to be a trustworthy and creativity-fulfilling companion. Remember to experiment with objects, apertures, ISO numbers, and shutter speeds as much as you can. As long as you don't underestimate the power of this handy little lens, you'll always get impressive results.
Further resources on Portrait Photography
- 7 Tips Your Camera Manual Never Told You About Portrait Photography
- Portrait Inspiration On LightStalking