How to Shoot With a 50mm Lens

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A 50mm lens is a versatile lens you can use in various photography applications, from real estate, landscape, and architectural photography to portrait and close-up photography. Learning how to shoot with a 50mm lens will help you determine the correct settings to use depending on the situation. 

How to Shoot With a 50mm Lens

A 50mm focal length is in the middle of a long focal length and a short focal length, making it applicable in situations requiring long and short focal lengths. Typically, a 50mm lens gives a natural view like a naked eye.

Canon 50mm lens

Considering that a 50mm lens is not specialized for certain applications, the quality of your photos will primarily depend on whether you know how to set it for different applications. Whether capturing portraits or shooting interior photos, you can use the following tips to shoot with a 50mm lens.

Use a Wide Aperture When Shooting Portraits

The main factors affecting the usage of any lens are the focal length and the aperture. Now that you have a fixed 50mm focal length, the only thing you can vary depending on the application is the aperture

Usually, 50mm lenses come with different apertures, ranging from f/1.2 to f/22. Keeping in mind that the lens aperture is the opening that allows light to reach the camera sensor, you can vary the aperture to produce different depths of field.

Use a wide aperture of around f/2.8 to produce a shallow depth of field and blur the background. Usually, this creates a beautiful bokeh quality that makes the portrait aesthetically pleasing. 

Pay Attention to the Distance Between the Subject and the Camera 

Since the 50mm lens is a prime lens with no zoom capability, you will get the right composition by moving further or closer to the main subject. Ideally, you might not get a blurry background and beautiful bokeh quality if you are far from the subject.

On the other hand, you might have issues with composition and focus if you move too close to the subject. Therefore, it is advisable to start from far away from the subject and move closer until you get the composition, focus, and bokeh quality that you desire.

Zoom With Your Feet

The main challenge when shooting with a 50mm camera lens is its lack of zoom capability. Usually, a video will require you to zoom in and zoom out to capture the details. Instead of setting up a three-legged tripod, use a monopod as you can hold and carry it with your hand.

Unlike a zoom lens mounted on a fixed tripod, walking around with a lens mounted on a monopod gives you flexibility, allowing you to continually change positions and come up with creative ways to improve the composition.

You can also secure the camera using a wrist strap or a camera strap when shooting handheld. Drag your feet and walk slowly to minimize camera shake when changing positions. You can also activate the camera image stabilization system to minimize the camera shake.

Person holding a DSLR with a 50mm lens

Use Manual Focus When Shooting Close-Ups

Since a 50mm lens is not specially designed for macro photography, you will need to use the maximum wide aperture and move the lens really close to the subject when you want to shoot a macro close-up. 

Usually, this will enhance the shallow depth of field and improve the contrast between the background and the tiny subject in focus. However, this can result in a focusing issue, especially if you’re using a low-end autofocus mechanism.

The best way to solve this problem is to switch from autofocus to manual focus so you can have better control over the focusing performance. You can also enhance its macro photography performance by getting a reverse mounting ring. 

Use a Narrow Aperture When Capturing Landscapes 

Unlike when shooting portraits where you use a shallow depth of field to blur the background, you want a deep depth of field for everything in the frame to be in focus when capturing landscapes. That means you will need to use a narrow aperture of around f/8 to f/11.

You should, however, remember that a narrow aperture means less light entering the camera resulting in darker images. Therefore, it is advisable to capture landscapes in broad daylight with sufficient ambient lighting. You can also use a slower shutter speed to give time for more light to reach the camera sensor.

However, a slower shutter speed requires a tripod setup as any camera shake can result in image blur. If you don’t have a tripod, you can amplify the light signal reaching the camera sensor by increasing the ISO. 

Pair the Lens With the Right Camera Sensor Size

There are two types of camera sensor sizes: crop factor and full-frame sensors. Full frame cameras have a camera sensor size equal to the traditional 35mm film, while crop cameras have a smaller sensor size.

Due to the crop factor, the focal length of your lens will change to 50 x 1.5 when paired with an APS-c camera, giving you an equivalent focal length of 75mm. 

Therefore, it is advisable to pair your lens with an APS-c camera when capturing portraits and pair it with a full-frame camera when shooting landscapes.

Canon 50mm lens

Consider Your Lens Aperture Sweet Spot 

Different lenses have different aperture sweet spots where they produce the sharpest images. That means as you adjust the aperture to suit the photography applications, such as blurring the background, you need to ensure the aperture is around the sweet spot.

In most cases, this aperture is around 2 to 3 f-stops away from the widest aperture. For instance, if your lens has the widest aperture of f/1.4, the sweet spot is around f/4 and f/2.8. 

Important Tips When Shooting With a 50mm Lens 

Although a 50mm lens is versatile, it might not be able to capture images like a wide-angle or a telephoto lens. However, you can use the following tips to improve the performance of a 50mm camera lens even when shooting in low-light conditions.

  • When using the lens for macro photography with the aperture wide open, it’s advisable to use faster shutter speeds to avoid overexposing the subject.
  • When you’re using the lens to shoot exterior photos, move closer and try different angles to see whether the lens gives a wider view like that of a wide-angle lens.
  • When shooting fast-moving subjects, use faster shutter speeds to avoid the motion blur effect. In most cases, you will need to use a shutter speed of 1/focal length, which is 1/50 
  • If you’re shooting in low-light conditions or capturing a moving subject with faster shutter speeds, it’s advisable to increase the ISO to brighten the image. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are My Photos Shot With a 50mm Lens Blurry?

In most cases, photos shot with a 50mm camera lens become blurry due to focusing issues. If a region in the foreground or background of the subject seems sharper than the main subject, it’s a focus issue. However, using the narrowest or widest aperture might also affect the image’s sharpness.

Which Is the Best ISO Setting to Use With a 50mm Camera Lens?

It’s advisable to use base ISO to prevent digital noise in your photos. However, you can increase the ISO to brighten the images if shooting in poor lighting conditions.

Final Thoughts

50mm lenses are one of the most versatile lenses that can shoot in almost all conditions. However, the quality of your photos depends on whether you know how to shoot with a 50mm lens. For the best results, use a wide aperture for portraits and a narrower aperture for landscapes.