When I first picked up an SLR camera, I was rockin’ a kit lens and was parading that thing around town like I was the next Nigel Barker. It was a 28-135mm f/5.6.At this point, I knew nothing about how your lens can change a photograph entirely.
One day out of curiosity, I pulled out Pat’s 50mm f/1.4 lens because it was always just sitting in his bag unused. This lens changed everything I thought I knew and aperture clicked instantly. I’ve stolen it from him and refuse to give it back…until I get the f/1.2 anyway. Since then, I’ve added the 85mm to my arsenal and cry tears of joy when I take a picture with it.
Having a lens with a high aperture changed my portrait style completely. I now set the f stop around 1.4, depending on my distance from the subject, focus on the person’s eyes and let everything else soften in the background. It really makes the person the focus. In my opinion, I don’t need trees, sidewalks, random people in the background etc tack sharp in a picture. It only deflects away from the subject. If you’re photographing a group of people, you’ll definitely want a lower aperture so everyone is in focus. Like I said, it’s only my opinion and how I like to shoot.
We always start off photographing a client with longer lenses. Pat uses his 70-200mm and I use my 85mm. You don’t want to be in someone’s face when you initially start a shoot. Let them get comfortable in front of the camera and interacting with you. No one is comfortable if you pull out your 35mm and you get up in their grill in the first 5 minutes. Take your time with people.
Once everyone has gotten over their butterflies, I pull out my 50mm and Pat will be pulling out his 24-70mm f/2.8 that he’s waiting for in the mail. I do still want to be changing my lenses back and forth to be getting a different feel within the same pose.
For instance, if you have 2 people leaning in with their foreheads you can use a lens like the 35 or the 50 and get the bigger picture. That’s great and all but lets change it up from there. Move your position and then take out a lens like the 85 and the moment will feel much more intimate.
If you haven’t noticed, I like prime lenses and Pat likes zoom lenses. It’s a matter of preference. I don’t refuse to use them though, my next lens will be the 70-200 f/2.8 to use during wedding ceremonies.
Hope this was helpful even though it was long! There’s so much more to cover but I didn’t want to go crazy. Leave your own tips in the comments!
Here’s a photo I took this weekend in Boston at f/1.4 with my 50mm. See how the eyes are completely focused and everything else softens around the face. That’s what mama likes!