Creative ways to use a prime lens
Another article in our series of tips and advice on prime lenses...
Some people avoid using prime lenses because they mistakenly believe that they’re not versatile enough. To some extent that’s true, as you’re restricted to a fixed focal length – but the quality of the images that they produce make it absolutely worthwhile to work around this limitation. Think outside the neat little box your lens arrived in and you'll soon be hanging some incredible canvases on your wall and convincing people of your pro-photographer status!
Let's assume that you’ve just bought a 50mm f/1.8 for your DSLR. The first thing you'll notice is that it's small and light. The Canon version is affectionately known as the ‘plastic fantastic’ for this very reason. This is a real advantage for the roving photographer – especially the opportunistic landscape photographer.
Hang on a minute... landscapes... on a standard prime? Of course! Many of the finest landscape photographers have used primes as a matter of choice over wide angle lenses, so don’t dismiss this possibility! It's easier to isolate interesting parts of the scene and also means you don’t have to hunt around for an interesting foreground to the same extent as with an ultra-wide zoom.
Making the most of bokeh (blur)
Fast lenses with a narrow depth of field have many applications. Acting as a medium telephoto lens on a crop body, your nifty fifty makes a great portrait lens because you can isolate the subject from the background. That is far from the only way to utilise this feature though. You may attend events where most photographers can be seen concentrating on shooting wide – but getting up close and personal will often produce some much more interesting and unique shots.
A small, fast prime has long been one of the go-to lenses of the street photographer. They allow you to get close enough to the action to really feel part of the shot and are less intimidating than huge professional zooms.
So, as you can see, you don't have to be restricted by a fixed-focal length. Set yourself the challenge of shooting only with your 50mm prime for a week under all conditions and see what you can produce. You may find some keepers that'll look great enlarged on canvas!
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