Not being able to afford expensive lenses might be very discouraging for you. Even worse, it could be preventing you from approaching clients for fear of looking silly with your limited equipment. The world of expensive camera gear might seem like a sweet, impossible dream. But is having a ton of equipment really the only path to success?
The truth is that most of us are shooting on a budget. Despite what you think you should be shooting with, it’s possible to take incredible photographs of anything using affordable lenses. Though there are many inexpensive lenses out there, I’ll focus on the Canon 50mm 1.8 thanks to the tremendous impact it has had on my creative life.
The 50mm 1.8 was my very first “professional” lens. Not only was it light and portable, but it was also extremely easy to use in almost any lighting condition. As a portrait photographer who mostly shot indoors at the time, this lens was a dream come true. To this day, it’s the lens I continuously use during portrait sessions.
In this article, I’ll tell you why I love it so much and why I’d recommend it to every portrait photographer out there.
The 50mm 1.8 can be purchased on the official Canon website for $125.99. Compared to other lenses, this is as affordable as it gets.
The price says nothing about the quality of the lens, which is exceedingly impressive. For just over $100, you get a piece of equipment that will help you take portraits that are both sharp and dreamy. Though you won’t be paying thousands for it, you’ll earn a faithful shooting partner that will enhance your portfolio in unimaginable ways.
The 50mm 1.8 is known for its ability to gracefully capture light. As a portrait photographer, this fact is highly important to me. There are times when a shoot takes longer than expected, resulting in darker images. Other times, I’m simply shooting indoors with a limited amount of artificial light (a single lamp, for example) for the sake of experimentation.
To make the most of my shoots when light is in short supply, I increase my camera’s ISO number. This might sound intimidating, especially because high ISO numbers are usually associated with uncomfortably grainy images. However, most modern cameras are fantastic at controlling grain, so don’t be afraid of increasing that ISO number when you need it. Thanks to the 50mm 1.8’s quality, you’ll have sharp and well-lit photos no matter when or where you take photos. (Just remember to have at least one light source available!)
If you find yourself in the middle of an impromptu nighttime shoot without any ideas, here are a few artificial light sources you could use to boost your creativity:
- A lamp
- A torch
- Phone light
- Car headlights
Depth of Field
The 50mm 1.8 is ideal for taking soft yet impactful photos of others. Shooting at f/1.8 will give you a background gently decorated with bokeh. If you’re shooting out in nature on a sunny day (or at night in the city), the bokeh will make your portraits stand out even more.
Use depth of field to your advantage. When I take portraits, I almost always include foregrounds in my shots. This gives me pleasantly coloured results which, though simple, really make my portraits glow. Partly covering your lens with things like flowers and hands will create beautiful decorations for your portraits.
You can be as creative as you like with depth of field. As long as you experiment fearlessly, you’ll always get eye-catching and unique results.
You could say that the 50mm 1.8 isn’t impressive compared to the hundreds of expensive lenses out there, and you’d be right. However, I believe that working with such an affordable and portable lens is healthy for even the most experienced photographer. The 50mm 1.8 will compel you to make the most of your equipment, see potential in locations that others ignore, and most importantly, become your artistic companion for life.