When I was contemplating buying my first lens, I thought I knew what I wanted. Something light, with a great zoom for those far away shots.
So, of course, I walked out of Best Buy with a fixed 50mm.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my 50mm. Two years later and it’s still my pride and joy. Perfect for portraits, super light, and inconspicuous enough to travel with. My arsenal of lenses is slowly growing, but the 50mm will always be my favorite.
So what exactly does a fixed 50mm mean?
If you aren’t familiar with photography lingo, fixed pretty much means what you think it means – it doesn’t zoom. At all. What you see when you look through that little window is what you get.
Practice through trial and error
One of the first times I really took my new lens out for a spin was when I studied abroad in Quebec. I was in Montreal and trying to capture all the beautiful buildings, but they were so close together. Since I can’t zoom in or out, if I’m not standing in the right place or at the right distance, it just turns into an unflattering photo.
My travels around Europe haven’t been much different. While I have many photos I’m proud of, there are probably three times as many sitting on my computer taunting me with their overall blandness.
Here are a few:
Feel free to cringe with me.
There are many things I don’t like about those photos: the subject is so wide that the whole picture comes across as slightly blurry around the edges. The focus is all wrong. Oh, forget about the rule of thirds. Do those domes have tops or are they just chopped off? And don’t even get me started on cathedral photography. While beautiful in person, it’s hell to try to photograph with all of it’s perfect symmetry and dim lighting. I’m still working on that.
However, for the amount of times I’ve hit misses, it’s nice to find a photo or two that found the target.
So, here are a few tips if you’re thinking about taking the amateur photographer route with a fixed 50mm.
When other people take a picture with my camera, they hold stock still like the perfect photo is just going to appear on the screen.
I’m not afraid to get my pants dirty. In fact, I’ve waded into a few pools and leaned over bridges to get the best picture. That, or you can find me lying on the ground.
Don’t hurry that perfect shot
Not specifically for the 50mm, but, everything changes while traveling. People move, cars drive by, light changes – the world is on full speed ahead and all you want is one good photo. I’m not an exceptionally gifted editor yet, so I have to have the exact shot I need before putting the camera away. There’s no fixing much of anything post-op!
I will stand there and take 30 shots of the same thing until I’m sure I’ll be satisfied with at least a few.
Zero in on your subject
Even landscape photos need something to focus on. But if you’ve found yourself in a place too big no matter how much you dance around, find inspiration in the details.
No room for a tripod? Improvise!
Unless I was traveling specifically to take photos, I wouldn’t even think about packing a tripod. One, it wouldn’t really fit in my backpack (but I guess you can carry it) and two, it’s heavy. My camera is heavy enough. Plus, with all the exploring and city dwelling I like to do, moving a tripod around every time I wanted to take photos would be tedious.
DSLRs attract a lot of attention in certain cities. Even if you’re not a tourist, everyone will assume so. And since I love street photography, the least amount of space I take up and the less people notice me, the better.
I’ve used ledges, tables, pews, and even a friend’s shoulder as a tripod. However, I’m starting to learn that tripods do have their uses. Like I said, baby steps.
Sunset is prime time
They don’t call it the golden hour for nothing. It’s my favorite time of day to take out my camera. The light is perfect for those few precious minutes every single night. Who cares about Photoshop?
As far as lenses go, a 50mm is on the cheaper side. It’s the perfect investment that won’t break the bank for someone who wants to take a step away from their kit lens and into the world of photography. I’ve used mine for all it’s worth and plan to use it for as long as I can. 10/10 would always recommend.
You can find it on Amazon here.
Do you have a 50mm or do you swear by another lens? What are some tricks you’ve discovered to mastering it?