A prime lens is the ultimate choice if you are looking to achieve sharp, high-quality images. It has fewer focal lengths to account for, which results in less chromatic aberration, vignetting, and distortion. They are a creative option for photographers who enjoy having complete control over the visual balance, flow, and direction of their photographs.
Since a prime lens is set to one focal length, it doesn’t simply zoom in and out. It covers one field of view that requires you to compose the frame by moving nearer or further away from the subject. And getting the perfect shot doesn’t come easy. It requires mastery and the know-how of using different types of prime lenses that many photographers find challenging.
However, in this post, we will show you how to shoot with a prime lens to get the best possible results. We’ll be covering the three main types of prime lenses: wide-angle, standard, and telephoto lenses.
1. Wide-angle lenses
A wide-angle lens has a focal length of 35mm or shorter, which gives you a wide field of view. A wide field of view means that both the relative size and distance are exaggerated when comparing near and far objects. Near objects appear gigantic, while faraway objects appear distant and tiny. The wider your field of view, the more of the scene you’ll be able to see in the frame.
The key concept is that the shorter the focal length, the more you will notice the distinct characteristics of wide-angle lenses. Let’s examine the three subcategories of wide-angle lenses in further detail.
Ultrawide-angle lens – These lenses have a focal length under 16mm and are considered specialist lenses. A good example is a fish-eye lens, which has a full 180-degree field of view.
Wide-angle lens – These types of lenses range from 16mm to 24mm and are mostly used by landscape photographers.
Standard wide-angle lenses – Their focal lengths range from 24mm to 34mm – perfect for wide shots without too much distortion.
How to shoot with wide-angle lenses
Using a wide-angle lens can be a bit tricky, but experimenting with the following four tips will help you make better use of your wide-angle lens:
- Consider the subject distance and get closer to the foreground to physically immerse yourself in the subject. These lenses offer a substantially smaller minimum focusing distance, allowing you to see clearly in confined spaces.
- To achieve a clear composition, carefully place near and far objects, since wide-angle shots often encompass a vast set of subject matter.
- Slight adjustments in camera position can have a significant impact on whether parallel vertical lines appear to converge. Therefore, you need to pay close attention to the geometry of the subject.
- Be conscious of the effects that edge distortion and barrel distortion could have on your subject. Edge distortion causes objects to appear stretched in a direction leading away from the center of the image. Barrel distortion causes straight lines to appear bulged if they don’t pass through the center of the image.
Wide-angle lenses are usually small and lightweight. They are great for:
- Large groups
- Real estate
- Street photography
- Travel photography
- Night sky photography
- Event photography
2. Standard prime lenses
A standard lens, sometimes known as a “normal lens,” provides an image that closely resembles what the human eye sees. Its focal length ranges from 45mm to 60mm (but the 50mm is the most common option) and has an angle of view of around 50 to 55 degrees diagonally, which offers a natural-looking perspective.
Due to their simple design, standard lenses are simple to manufacture, inexpensive, and pretty reliable. Manufacturers often produce a variety of standard prime lenses for all levels of photography, from amateurs to professionals.
How to shoot with a standard prime lens
- Control the maximum distance to an object in order to properly focus and avoid fuzzy photos.
- Learn how to properly adjust the shutter speed on your camera. The shutter speed is the rate at which the camera’s shutter closes. A fast shutter speed results in a shorter exposure, while a slow shutter speed results in a longer exposure.
- To avoid overexposing your photographs, make sure you’re using the correct minimum and maximum aperture settings.
- To get clearer images, play around with manual focus, especially when working with a low aperture.
- Get to know your lens’s maximum depth of field.
Standard prime lenses are wonderful all-rounders because they’re cheap, fast, and versatile. If you want to use it for wider shooting ranges, look for one that offers a wide maximum aperture. You can use these types of lenses for:
- Low-light photography
- Culinary photography
- Street photography
3. Telephoto lenses
A telephoto lens is a long-focus lens with a focal length that is less than the lens’ physical length. In other words, it has a narrower field of view and magnifies the subject for a closer view. Telephoto lenses come in three categories: short, medium, and super lenses.
- Short telephoto lens– 85mm to 135mm
- Medium telephoto lens – 135mm to 300mm
- Super telephoto lens – over 300mm
Telephoto lenses are suitable for photographers who can’t get near enough to their subject. They are remarkable at establishing contrasting focal points between foreground and background.
How to shoot with a telephoto lens
- To get the most out of your telephoto lens, choose shorter focal lengths for balanced sharpness between the foreground and backdrop of your shot.
- The camera shake that occurs during long-range photography might amplify any imperfections in your subject. Therefore, it’s essential to perfect your techniques before using telephoto lenses.
A telephoto lens, when used correctly, can depict all elements of a photograph in their actual sizes. This makes it a favorite choice for taking portraits and landscape photography to get a closer view of a portion of a very wide area.
Prime lenses are less complicated in terms of optics and technology, such as the autofocus mechanisms, compared to zoom lenses. Because you can’t zoom, you’ll need to reposition yourself in relation to the subject in order to get the best composition. Additionally, prime lenses typically have better optical performance, a larger maximum aperture, less weight, and a more compact size and price.
Using prime lenses requires the human element to take over the technical. They compel you to take a step back and focus intently on the task at hand. However, if you intend to buy a single prime lens, ensure it has a focal length appropriate for the scenes or subjects you intend to shoot.