5 Tips for Noobs On How to Make the Most of Your New 50mm Lens

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 50mm f1.4 review product photos (4 of 4)ISO 100

Congratulations: you’ve moved up in the photo world. You’re past the kit lens and now you’ve got your hands on one of the most valued pieces of glass any photographer will ever want or have–the 50mm lens. On an APS-C sensor camera, you’ll get the equivalent of a portrait focal length; that is unless you go for something that will give the field of view of a 50mm instead. On a full frame camera, you’re bound to take full advantage of the 50mm field of view in all its glory.

But now that you have the lens, how the heck do you take advantage of it?


Don’t Get Caught Up in the Bokeh Trap

Felix Esser The Phoblographer Panasonic G1 + Revuenon 50mm f1.4 PK


Many people new to the photography world not only enjoy DSLRs and mirrorless cameras because of their larger sensor, but also because of the fact that they can then get what they often call, “The sharp image with the blurry background.”

This, my friends, is called bokeh. While the colloquial term refers to the quality of the hazy blur, the modern definition refers to the blur. Sure, its’ beautiful–but it’s a trap. Eventually, all of your photos are going to look the exact same.

You know that person on Instagram that overuses the tilt-shift setting. Taking all your photos with this blur is like doing the same thing.

Don’t be that guy.

Use a Flash

Chris Gampat the phoblographer comic con nyc portra 160 vc (1 of 1)

Your 50mm is capable of doing a heck of alot more than your old kit lens can. And when you utilize it to its fullest, you can get photos that really are taking advantage of everything that a DSLR and a good lens can do. One of the ways to do that is to use a flash. When you use a flash, your already sharp images will become sharper due to something called specular highlights.

In layman’s terms, specular highlights are details that are brought out in an image that your camera can’t otherwise see. When these details are brought out, it can look like your image is a super high resolution one. For example, you’ll sometimes be able to see pores on someone when you couldn’t without a flash.

To be more accurate, we recommend using your flash or a studio light off of the hot shoe.

Learn to Stop Down

julius motal the phoblographer sigma 150mm f2.8 image 07


Building on the idea that you shouldn’t get caught up in bokeh and also in using flashes, learn to stop your lens down. You might want to shoot wide open at f1.4 or f1.8 all day and night, but your images won’t be the sharpest. To get your images in focus, you’ll need to stop down to f4 or f5.6

How do you do that, you’ll need to adjust the setting on your camera that controls the aperture. The values look something like: f1.8, f2, f2.5, f2.8, f3.5, f4, f4.5, f5.6.

The pros often use aperture and depth of field (which is how much of an area is in focus) as a creative tool and really nothing else (except also as an exposure value of course.)

Learn to Use More Than the Center Focusing Point

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer 5D Mk II with Argus 50mm lens (5 of 6)


One of the most important things that you’ll ever learn as a photographer is to use more than just the center focusing point. While some photographers like to focus using the center and recompose, we don’t recommend it because it throws off the focusing plane–and therefore the spot that you had in focus before isn’t in focus anymore.

Instead, learn to manually select your focusing points and choose ones in the outer areas of the image.

We’re sure that you’ve also heard all about the rule of thirds. This can help you work with that rule even more.

Turn the Camera Off of Any Automatic Mode

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer canon 50mm f1.4 product shots (3 of 3)


And to take the fullest advantage of all these tips that we’ve shared with you, you’ll need to set your camera to manual mode. It will let you change your aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and more individually to whatever settings you want. This means that you’ll also learn the basics of exposure such as overexposing and underexposing. It will also make working with flashes easier and help you to unlock manual focusing point selection so you don’t always use the center point.

But the best part of all is that now you won’t just be pointing and shooting. Instead, you’ll be putting careful thought into every aspect of your images.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.