Hands down, no doubt about it, my most commonly asked question… “What’s your favorite lens?”
So, here it is… a blog entry dedicated to my favorite lenses!
disclaimer: I’m far from the authority on lenses, I’m simply sharing things I’ve learned along the way.
I’m going to focus this entry on portraits only (as opposed to photojournalistic images).
I use only prime (or fixed focal length) lenses…. for those who aren’t photographers, that means the lens doesn’t zoom. When I tell our subjects that I zoom with my feet I can almost always see their brain thinking, “HUH?! My $200 point and shoot camera can zoom… why the hell can’t that big ol’ thing zoom?!” 😉 To read more about that, click here.
My “go to” lenses: 35mm 1.4L, 50mm 1.2L and the 85mm 1.2L. For portrait sessions, my assistant’s “go to” is the 70-200mm 2.8L… as it gives them the most versatility as a “second shooter.” After all, working around my big ol’ red head isn’t the easiest! On occasion, they’ll use the 135mm 2.0L as their main lens…. mmmmm….. butter!
You’re about to find out that all of my lenses have nick names. You might make fun of me for it, but whatever… I’m a weirdo and don’t care. 😉
Soooo, here we go!
Starting off with our personal favorite….
35mm 1.4L (AKA, “In it to Win it”)
I call it that because to shoot the way that I love to shoot with it, I’m usually sitting/laying/standing very close to my subject…. Sometimes being that close is a little dangerous… so naturally, “in it to win it” came about when I was photographing two people swinging…. and I nearly died 😉 (I’m also a weeee bit dramatic….).
I LOVE everything about that focal length. For me, it feels like the equivalent to how our eyes see. It feels intimate.
I rarely photograph just one person with it, but every once in a while it feels right. Oh, and another reason I love this lens is because I like being close to my subjects so that it doesn’t feel so impersonal.I especially love it for families. For family sessions, it’s my most used lens. 🙂It’s great for the groomsmen photo. I love symmetry… shooting with a wide lens helps with that. I love how this lens, when shooting really close, shows so much, yet feels like there’s nothing else in the image but what really matters. In the image below, I’m probably sitting a foot away from him…For me, it wasn’t the easiest lens to figure out…. I have to be really careful not to put my subject compositionally too close to the left or right edges as the lens has a bit of a pull. I especially have to watch for arms… put an arm too close to the left or right edge and boom, distorted chubby arms!
I rarely shoot with the 35 vertically. Though I’ve seen many photographers shoot it that way beautifully! Just not something I’ve mastered yet. 😉Did I mention that I love how intimate it feels? 😉 OH how I love this image!
50mm 1.2L (AKA, “Goldilocks”)
This is probably one of the most popular lenses in the world of today’s portrait photographers (at least in my observations). Many of my favorite images were taken with this lens. Though, of my three “go to” lenses… it’s my least used. Weird, huh? I’ve never really thought about that until I wrote this entry…. hmmmm….
I use the 50mm when the 35mm feels too wide or when the 85mm feels too tight. You know… like Goldilocks and her too hot/too cold porridge. It’s often jusssst right! Get it now? 🙂 You’re judging me now, aren’t you? 😉
Photographers often ask us what their first lens purchase should be…. my answer is always the 50mm as, in my opinion, the focal length is OH SO versatile! Not the mention the 1.8 version is super inexpensive ($120).I remember originally taking this image with the 35mm…. but it stretched Jason’s head, so I switched over to the 50….badaboom, badabing, perfecto! See what I mean? Goldilocks!Gorgeous!
And the last of my go to lenses…
85mm 1.2L (AKA “guaranteed money”)
Why “guaranteed money”? I use that term, “money” not to describe something as being rich or expensive, but instead to describe something as being awesome. If you’ve never heard it used that way, watch the movie “Swingers.” Or, I found a good definition on Urban Dictionary. 😀
This focal length takes amazing images… whenever, wherever!
The 85mm is a traditional portrait lens…. as opposed to say the 35mm which, traditionally, is used more as a photojournalistic lens.
If I’m on a major time constraint, and need guaranteed timeless images… it’s the 85mm lens on my camera! And for that reason, it’s my most used lens for portrait time on a wedding day.I shoot almost all of my bridesmaid images with the 85mm. As I mentioned before… I don’t love the distortion on the edges of the 35mm and what it does to arms (the 50mm has a bit of distortion, too). However, the 85 has zilcho distortion!Oh?! And the bokeh! DONE AND DONE! It’s a timeless focal length… and well… it’s guaranteed money!”
And two bonus lenses:
135mm 2.0L (AKA “butter”)
This lens I call “butter” because the images are just so creamy and well…. buttery!
24mm 1.4L (AKA, the “Jesh” lens)
Jesh deRox uses this lens (last I knew) almost exclusively… and he creates magic with it every time! I have a friend who isn’t a photographer but knows a lot about various photographers… he’d see an image we’d take and would say, “is that with the Jesh lens?” 😉 Said friend was almost always right 😀
Sometimes the 35mm just can’t squeeze everything I want it to squeeze into my frame… or I can’t back up any more (as was the case with the image below)… that’s when I go for the 24mm.
I often shoot the “big sky, little people” with this lens. I also love shooting this lens symmetrically (just like with the 35mm).
Okay… that’s it from me…. for now anyway… 😉
Much love friends!