Do you ever look into your camera bag and wonder what lens to pull out?
From a creative standpoint, the lens you pick should be a very intentional decision.
Think of a lens as your camera’s eye. It’s how your camera sees the world. For example, wide-angle lenses see the world very differently from telephoto lenses.
Generally speaking, lenses are described by their focal length. The lower the focal length number, the wider the field of view.
Here’s a quick rundown of the best times to use each type of lens…
Common focal lengths are 10 to 35mm. Great for landscapes, architecture, night photography, and any time you want to take in a wide field of view.
Keep in mind that anything in the distance will look tiny with a wide angle lens. For this reason, it works best to include something close to the lens to act as an interesting foreground or leading line. The photos below use this trick.
Anything around 50mm is considered “normal” because it sees the world similarly to the human eye. Typically light and compact, these lenses are great for travel and documentary photography. They also work well for tabletop and still life scenes. Lastly, they are the lens of choice for stitching multiple shots together as a panorama since they produce very little distortion.
Common focal lengths are 100 to 600mm. If you’re dealing with a subject that’s far in the distance, a telephoto lens will magnify it. These types of lenses really shine for portraits, action sports, events, and wildlife photography. Also, if you want to blur the background, it’s much easier to do that with a telephoto lens.
Telephoto lenses also compress distance from front to back which can create dramatic effects. In the image below, using a telephoto lens makes the waterfall look extremely close to the person, even though there was more distance between the two in real life.
If you like to photograph close up, a macro lens is perfect. A common focal length for a macro lens is 100mm, so it can also double as a terrific portrait lens. The optical clarity of a macro lens is tough to beat, so details will really pop. They also have beautiful bokeh (background blur).
I hope this helps to answer the question of what lens to grab the next time you open your camera bag!