Pixels and Wanderlust

21 Tips on How to Use Your 50mm Lens


A modern photographic lens with a 50mm focal length on a white background

Do you own a 50mm lens but unsure how to make the most of it?

Are you’re looking to buy a lens are wondering if a 50mm lens fits your needs?

If your answer is yes to either of these questions, you’ve come to the right place.

Here, we’ll delve into what makes 50mm one of the most popular lenses on the market as well as how to best use them.

Let’s dive in!

1. Don’t Get Too Close

All lenses have a minimum focusing distance. This is the shortest distance in which your lens can focus. 

Getting closer to your subject than the minimum focusing distance will render it out-of-focus and blurry. 

The minimum distance is calculated from the camera’s focal plane mark, typically found near the shooting mode dial.

Most DSLR cameras will mark this point with a line through a circle (pictured below). 

photography ideas 50mm

The Nikon 50mm f/1.8g lens has a minimum focusing distance of 0.45m/1.5ft from the focal plane mark.

For Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens, the closest focusing distance is 0.35m/1.15ft.

If you’re using a different lens brand, you should be able to find the minimum focusing distance labeled on your lens.

The location differs depending on the lens, but some common places you can look at are near the focus distance display, on the face of the front ring, or around the mount.

If you don’t find it on your lens, try doing a simple Google search to find out.

2. Check Your Camera’s Focusing Motor

A focusing motor is a feature in lenses and cameras that gives you the ability to facilitate automatic focusing. 

Some lenses have built-in focusing motors, but others don’t. This is a key factor to double-check before you shoot. 

The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and the Canon EF f/1.8 STM lenses feature built-in focusing motors.

If your lens doesn’t have a focusing motor, it’s imperative that you use a camera that does. If you have a camera with a built-in focusing motor you won’t need a lens with a focusing motor. 

Generally speaking, beginner cameras omit an internal focusing motor and you’ll need to use a lens with a focusing motor.

It is not always clear whether a lens has a motor or not. To be sure, look up the specs when you are purchasing or do a quick google search to confirm.

3. Shoot In Wide Open Spaces

photography ideas 50mm

When you’re using a 50mm lens, shooting in wide, spacious areas is often ideal. 

Even with a full-frame camera, a 50mm lens only allows you to work with a viewing angle of 46-47 degrees, which often makes shooting in confined areas difficult.

This gets even more problematic if you’re using your 50mm with a cropped sensor camera.

In this case, your viewing angle will shrink to 31 degrees, which is about equal to that of a 75mm lens used with a full-frame camera. 

So, when planning to shoot with your 50mm take the space of your location into consideration and make an extra effort to find open areas to photograph in.

4. Know Your Maximum and Minimum Aperture

Being knowledgeable of your lens’ maximum and minimum aperture is always helpful.

Your lens’ maximum aperture will determine how shallow you can make your depth-of-field, as well as how well the lens will perform in low light conditions.

While your lens’ minimum aperture will determine how deep you can make your depth-of-field and as well as how your lens will perform in bright conditions.

For the Nikon lens and the Canon lens, the maximum aperture is identical: f/1.8. 

But, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens has a minimum aperture of f/16; the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens has a minimum aperture of f/22.

5. Master Bokeh

Bokeh originates from the Japanese word “boke.” It is the blurry effect that’s produced in the areas of an image that aren’t in focus.

You’ll often see this type of visual effect used in portrait photography.

Portraits typically feature an in-focus subject with a subdued, soft background. 

Bokeh results from using a narrow depth-of-field or a low f-stop, generally around f/2.8 or lower.

Low f-stop values create wider apertures, enabling you to keep a subject in the foreground in focus with a blurred, delicate background.

As you increase your aperture, the amount and quality of bokeh will reduce.

You can create bokeh with larger apertures such as f/3.5 or f/5, but your distance from your subject will need to be farther.

At f/3.5 and f/5 your depth-of-field will be wider, thus to create bokeh your scene will have to expand beyond those limits.

A zoom kit lens like an 18 to 55m lens generally has a maximum aperture of approximately f/3.5. So, to achieve the bokeh effect, this type of lens isn’t ideal.

A 50mm prime lens, on the other hand, has a maximum aperture of f/1.8, making them ideal for creating bokeh. 

Mastering bokeh requires precision in focus as you work with a very shallow depth-of-field. 

If you’re seeking to create bokeh with a 50mm lens, take extra care with these composition elements:

1.  Distance: The Camera and The Subject

The distance between your camera and your subject will contribute to the blurred look of your background. 

Ideally, there should be as small a distance as possible between these two compositional elements. 

When your camera is too close to your subject, it may be difficult to achieve a clear focus.

But, if you’re too far away from your subject, it may be impossible to make the background appear blurred.

 2. Distance: The Subject and The Background

When it comes to the distance between your subject and your background, you want it to be as big as it feasible.

Your background will be more blurred if it’s further away from your subject.

3. The Size of Your Subject

The size of your subject matters too when you’re seeking to achieve bokeh in your image. 

The amount of blur in your image will typically be different when you photograph a large subject compared to a small one.

In particular, larger subjects will typically require a narrower aperture than smaller subjects.

As such, the amount of blur in an image will be less on larger subjects than smaller subjects. 

6. Don’t Limit Yourself to f/1.8

Don’t drop your aperture down to f/1.8 simply because it’s available to you .

I know that it’s tempting to do so, but it won’t always benefit your composition.

An aperture of f/1.8 creates a very narrow depth-of-field.

This means, achieving sharpness on the elements that you want in focus will require great precision on your part.

This can be time-consuming and problematic. 

When shooting portraits, for instance, you’ll likely end up with a set of pictures where parts of the face will be in sharp focus, but the eye that you wanted in focus may be blurred.

If you intend to create bokeh, I recommend starting at f/2.8. This still allows great bokeh but is not as challenging to work with as f/1.8. 

7. Choose the Right Aperture

Your choice of aperture is never right or wrong. But, depending on your subject and desired effect, certain apertures will be more successful than others.

For instance, in portrait photography, you may want to focus on strictly the eyes using a wide aperture.

Using an f/stop of 2.8 will keep the eyes sharp while leaving the remaining parts of the image somewhat blurry.

Landscapes and architecture, on the other hand, generally benefit from wider apertures.

Although vast landscapes isn’t a strength of 50mm lenses, you can effectively use them to capture beautiful scenes.

Just remember to use a narrow aperture to capture the landscape in sharp detail.

8. Watch Where You Place Your Focus

When you’re working with a shallow depth of field, you’ll need to pay close attention to where you focus.

The subtlest change in focus placement will have a huge impact on the resultant image.

For example, when you’re photographing human subjects you’ll likely want to place your focus in their eyes.

photography ideas 50mm

However, if they are positioned in a way that their eyes are not on the same plane, the eye that’s a lesser distance from the camera will be clear and sharp, while the eye further from the camera will be somewhat hazy.

This is true even if the difference in their distance is a single centimeter.

If you want both eyes to be equally in focus, you can opt to use a higher aperture setting or position your subject so that both eyes are on the same plane. 

If you’re shooting multiple people, using a higher f-stop number is a good choice.

This keeps one human subject from being blurry while the other is in precise focus.

9. Experiment Shooting Under Low-Light Conditions

photography ideas 50mm

50mm lenses perform well in low-light conditions.

These lenses have wide apertures and can allow more light to enter the camera compared to other lenses. This leaves you   with more room to achieve proper focus in low light conditions. 

If you are unable to achieve proper exposure by adjusting your aperture, I recommend experimenting with your shutter speed.

To avoid camera shake when using slow shutter speeds, use a tripod. 

I recommend the Manfrotto Befree Carbon Fiber Tripod .  This tripod is sturdy yet lightweight and easy to use. 

You can also reach proper exposure by adjusting your ISO. However, this is often not the most ideal.

While raising your ISO can help increase the brightness in your image, it also increases the appearance of noise.

When shooting in low-light, experiment with your aperture and shutter speed first before increasing your ISO.

10. Find the Perfect Background

50mm frame mistakes

Even a bokeh can’t save an image from a distracting background. 

If you’re shooting outdoors, identify visual elements to eliminate from your background, such as bright objects, people, trash bins, etc .

In the case of people and cars, wait for them to move out of your frame.

Even when blurred, having people on your background can distract your audience’s attention away from your main subject. If you can move an object out of your frame, do so.

You may have to take some time to explore multiple angles to exclude unwanted objects from the background, but this is often much easier than removing them in post-processing.

11. Chase the Light

Schedule your shooting times thoughtfully so that you’ll be in ideal lighting conditions. 

The middle of the day isn’t typically a good time to shoot because the natural light is harsh, making for intense shadows and uninteresting shots.

If you’re photographing portraits, aim to shoot a few hours following sunrise, then a few hours before sunset.

The golden hour can lead to beautiful pictures, but the light changes too quickly, which is often problematic when doing photographing portraits.

The ambient light during the golden hours also tends to be saturated, which can be distracting for portrait photography.

By shooting a little bit past sunrise and after sunset, you’ll still enjoy a soft, warm ambient light without the issues mentioned above.

This makes for a simpler, stress-free and more successful shooting process.

12. Explore Fast Shutter Speeds

photography ideas 50mm

Another great benefit of being able to shoot at low apertures is the ability to experiment with fast shutter speeds.

This is especially helpful when you’re taking handheld images.

The rule of thumb for handheld photography is that your shutter speed should be one divided by your focal length. 

With a focal length of 50mm, you use a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second or faster. 

However, in many lighting conditions, setting your shutter speed at 1/50 or faster will render your image underexposed. 

In such cases, being able to set your aperture to a low f-stop value, such as f/1.8 can be beneficial.

That is wide apertures can provide you with a way to compensate for the diminished exposure from using fast shutter speeds.

Another example where using wide apertures can be hugely beneficial is when photographing moving subjects. 

To capture moving subjects with sharp details, you’ll need to use faster shutter speeds.

Similar to low-light conditions, using a wide aperture in this scenario can help make up for the weakened exposure caused by a fast shutter speed setting.

Keep in mind, in most cases, raising your ISO to achieve your target shutter speed will be a better bet than using f/1.8. 

Although a high ISO will lead to more noise in your image, a photo that’s in focus with some noise is better than an image that is out of focus.

Often, you’ll be able to adjust and minimize noise with post-processing software; the same is not true for out-of-focus photos.

13. Focus on Details

Focusing on small details provides you with more unique and interesting compositions. 

While the 50mm lens isn’t a macro lens,  but you can generally work with minimal distance between the camera and your subject to hone in on specific details.

Details can become the star of your shot when you employ certain methods. These include focusing on specific colors, textures, and patterns, among others.

14. Shoot Candid

50mm lenses are great for candid photography. These small, fast lenses enable you to achieve a high-quality image in high action scenes.

Generally, your subject will appear more natural and at ease when you’re not pointing an enormous lens straight at them. 

Because of their compact bodies, you can cut down on the distance between you and an unknowing subject without making them feel uncomfortable.

Because they are also much faster than zoom lenses, allowing you to shoot candid moments with fast shutter speeds without having to increase your ISO.

Candid photos are some of the most fulfilling compositions to see as a viewer. And using a 50mm lens is a great way to keep you from missing them. 

15. Zoom in With Your Feet

A 50mm lens has a fixed focal length, so any zooming will have to be accomplished by physically walking closer or farther from your subject. 

Use this to your advantage. Vary your position continually and try to come up with more creative solutions to get your desired compositions. 

This may take more time and effort than when working with zoom lenses, but it presents you with a great opportunity to better your understanding of composition and perspective.

Practicing photography with prime lenses will force you to think outside the box and teach you to find new and creative ways to work around compositional limitations.

When shooting handheld, secure your camera by using a camera strap or wrist strap. 

I recommend the Peak Design Slide .

Unlike most camera straps, it does not get in the way while shooting. It is also easy to attach and remove. 

If you don’t want to use a camera strap another option is to use a wrist strap . Peak Design makes a great wrist strap that is secure and easy to use. 

16. Use the Right Metering Mode

Different photography scenarios require different metering modes.

Spot metering is excellent if you want to use small areas or subject as your basis for exposure.

This is my choice of metering for portrait photography.

Spot-metering ensures that my primary subject is correctly exposed and captured with maximum detail. 

Matrix metering mode is excellent for vast scenes because it will consider the entire frame and average out the exposure.

It produces images that are evenly lit and maximize details across the whole frame. 

I opt for matrix metering when I am shooting landscape photography. It is important to note that matrix metering does not perform well for scenes with uneven lighting or high contrast. 

The center metering mode will give priority to the center of your scene when exposing the image.

This metering is great if you place your subject at the center of the frame.

It can be useful when you want to consider both your subject and background but place primary emphasis on your subject when exposing your image. 

17. Use filters

ND filters are a great way to reduce the exposure of your shot without changing your exposure settings. 

This will allow you to use longer shutter speeds and wider apertures without overexposing your image. 

ND filters are most useful when shooting during daylight. 

A common problem when shooting portraits, for example, trying to maintain a shallow depth of field without overexposing your image. 

For instance, let’s say you have settled on your aperture and shutter speed settings  f/3.5, and 1/50, but even at ISO 100, your image is still three stops over-exposed. 

To solve this issue, you can use a 3-stop ND filter to reach proper exposure. 

I recommend a variable ND filter, such as the Tiffen Variable ND Filter . 

This high-quality filter ND filter allows you to adjust the intensity of your filter by two to eight stops.

Another useful filter you can use is a CPL.   

CPL’s are great for eliminating distracting glare and reflections. 

If you are shooting portraits near a window or your subject has skin glare, CPLs are a great way to remove them. 

You can also use CPL’s to enhance the contrast in your sky and make your colors more vivid.  

When choosing a polarizing filter, a circular polarizer works best. 

This will allow you to adjust it until you reach the desired effect. 

I recommend the B+W XS Pro Digital ; it is a high-quality CPL filter that has an ultra-slim design and is easy to use.  

18. Use Auto-Focus

Autofocus is generally my top choice for photography. This is true whether I am shooting landscapes or portraits, indoors or outdoors.

Specifically, I select single area AF when my subject is only moving horizontally and not vertically in the frame. 

Single area AF offers two advantages. First, if your subject moves, your image will remain in focus. Second, it allows you to recompose your image without the need to refocus. Your camera will follow the point you select and maintain focus. 

If my subject is moving vertically and not on a horizontal plane, I typically use continuous AF.

Continuous AF will track your subject and ensure that the subject you select is always in focus. This is great for capturing wildlife or sports photography, where it is hard to predict the movement of your subjects. 

For night photography or dimly lit indoor photography, I use manual focus. Autofocus systems generally won’t work well in low-light conditions.

If you’re not sure which to use, I suggest trying out autofocus first to see if it works. If not, manual focusing is the right choice.

It’s also important to make sure the 50mm lens is capable of autofocus. So before you purchase to make sure there is an AF on the lenses 

19. Use Back-Button Focusing

One issue with most cameras default settings is that the shutter button and focus button are dependent.

This means that the same button controls both functions.

For example, to focus, you must half-press the shutter button and then fully press and release the same button to capture an image. 

This is not ideal or efficient when you are trying to focus and recompose without capturing an image.

The solution to this issue is back-button focusing.

Back-button focusing separates the focus and shutter function by using a separate button for focus. 

Typically, the new focus button becomes the AF-On button located on the back of the camera.

But, not all cameras have a standalone AF-ON button; some models may require the programming of a button to operate as an AF-ON button.

If you’ve pre-focused on your composition’s subject and are photographing objects in motion, you’ll benefit from the back-button focus. 

I also recommend shooting in manual mode. Manual mode expedites the learning process as a photographer.

Test out different settings at their lowest and highest values, such as aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

You’ll learn and grown exponentially by experimenting with these settings.

20. Know Your Aperture Sweet Spot

All lenses have an aperture sweet spot, 50mm lenses are no different.

The aperture sweet spot is the aperture setting that produces the sharpest image for the widest depth of field.

The rule of thumb is that the aperture sweet spot is typically 2-3 stops aways from the maximum aperture.

For most 50mm lenses with a max aperture of f/1.4 that is between f/2.8 and f/4. 

However, the best way to figure out your aperture sweet spot is to test your lens.

Take a photo of the same subject using different apertures. Then examine the images using post-processing software to check for sharpness. 

21. Practice  

Practice cultivates instincts, making you more efficient at what you do.

By regularly taking photos with your 50mm lens, shooting with it will eventually become second nature.

You’ll develop “muscle memory,” enabling you to look at a scene and visualize your compositions without needing to look through the viewfinder.

The more familiar you are with your lens, the less time you’ll need to spend adjusting your composition and figuring out how to get the shot you want.

In this way, you’ll be able to maximize your opportunities to capture the best images in every situation.

Recommended 50mm Lens 

A 50mm lens is an exceptional tool for capturing high-quality images. It’s also affordable and easy to use.

No doubt this lens has earned its place as a favorite among photographers near and far. As a beginner or an expert, the 50mm lens should have a permanent home in your camera bag.

photography ideas 50mm

About The Author

Photographer. Explorer. Story Teller. For the past 5 years, I’ve voyaged across the world seeking the next great photograph. If you’re anything like me, you love to travel, capture beautiful moments, and live life to the fullest.

photography ideas 50mm

Great explanation! Thanks so much! I’m still getting used to my Canon 50 mm f1.8. I’m sure that your amazing lesson will help me a lot!

photography ideas 50mm

I’m glad that my article could help you as you get used to using a 50 mm lens. I love using my 50 mm lens, it is one of my favorite lenses. I hope you feel the same way as you continue using your 50 mm lens.

Vinci Palad

photography ideas 50mm

Hi, that was a seriously helpful guide – much appreciated – I am looking forward to experimenting with my first prime lens. Many thanks for this input.

I am really happy that this guide was helpful. Let me know how your experimentation with your prime lens goes.

For some additional help, you can check out my article on the benefits of prime lenses .

Best Wishes,

photography ideas 50mm

Thank you for the clear explanation on this great little lens. I have only had my 50mm lens a few weeks and am blown away with the difference in compression this lens makes to my photos – so much so, it’s now my favourite lens! Your guide is a great help, thank you.

I am glad you found this article useful. I felt the exact same way when I first used a 50mm lens, now I always keep one in my camera bag wherever I go.

photography ideas 50mm

great explanation. thanks!

photography ideas 50mm

I love your explanation it could not be more clearer. I have had me 50mm lens for a couple of months now and I’ve been carrying it in my bag afraid to use it. I feel as if I can just go out now and grab it and give it a chance thanks to you. It is trial and error so I am looking forward to using it more often again.

Thanks! Happy to help. Have fun with your 50mm lens 🙂

photography ideas 50mm

Your guide is just what I needed! I was gifted a 50mm lens last week as an early birthday present and wasn’t sure how to use it. Your info is clear and specific. Thank you.

photography ideas 50mm

This was a very helpful guide!! Would this lens be ideal for engagement photos???

photography ideas 50mm

Thank you sooo0oooo much! I’ve watched so many YouTube videos on my 50mm 1.4 and now I finally understand by reading your article . I bought it for taking live music which without knowing it found my sweet spot at 2.8 iso 1600 the distance was perfect, however taking pictures of my 7 lb dog is the biggest challenge, always there’s blur, I want a sharp nose and fur along with the eyes, I was obsessed with the 1.4 and I obviously stood too close to her, I will try a tripod and step back and try the 2.8 to f4. That was the best explanation, thank you!! Ps your Instagram is STUNNING!! You know your stuff:))

[…] the nickname. It’s versatile and you can shoot a little bit of everything on it, so remember these tips while wielding the […]

photography ideas 50mm

Superb article for a 50 mm newbie…

photography ideas 50mm

Whoa. I feel like I need to look at this lens with new eyes. Thanks for such clarity in your approach. I’m going to go play now.

photography ideas 50mm

Hello, thank you for this article! I have a question! I am planning on doing a photo shoot of approximately 12-20 people. I have a full gram canon camera and a 50mm 1.8 canon lens. Will that lens work ok? And what are some specifics I should have in mind when shooting with that lens?

photography ideas 50mm

to shoot with mostly 10-20 people you need a wider angle, i suggest you get a 12 mm or 16mm for it to capture everyone on it…

photography ideas 50mm

This was such a great read, so glad I found it! I test clothing patterns for companies and have to take pictures of my daughter modeling them. I’ve been loving the bokeh background I get but have been having a hard time keeping her whole body in focus. Can’t wait to try again and test out your advice. Thanks!

photography ideas 50mm

excellent account of how to use 50mm 1.8 and very useful tips

photography ideas 50mm

The piece was excellent. I just bought 50mm Canon lens. The article will help me overcome the difficulty I have in using it. God bless you.

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photography ideas 50mm

50mm Photography: 5 Reasons Everyone Needs a 50mm Lens

A Post By: Lily Sawyer

reasons why everyone needs a (nifty) 50mm lens

Pretty much every professional photographer has used a 50mm lens at some point in their lives – and many of them still use their 50mm glass on a regular basis.

Because 50mm lenses are incredibly versatile. They can capture great photos in tons of situations, and they offer plenty of amazing benefits, too. I myself use a 50mm lens all the time , and in this article, I share my top reasons for doing 50mm photography.

So if you’re on the fence about buying a 50mm lens or you simply want to know whether 50mm photography is a good idea, then keep reading!

1. 50mm lenses offer impressive close-up capabilities

No, a 50mm lens doesn’t offer true macro focusing, but it can get you pretty darn close to your subject. Most standard 50mm glass offers enough magnification to capture gorgeous flower photos, insect images, still life shots, and more.

And thanks to the f/1.8 or even f/1.4 maximum apertures , you can open your lens up wide to create beautiful background bokeh . That’s how I captured this next image (look at those lovely blurred roses!):

50mm lens photography

Pro tip: If you do decide to shoot at f/1.8 or f/1.8, I’d recommend focusing manually . That way, you can pinpoint the exact portion of the image you want sharp, while the rest is blurred into oblivion. Make sense?

And if you want to focus even closer using your 50mm lens, you can always try extension tubes , close-up filters , or use the reverse-lens macro technique .

50mm lens photography

2. 50mm lenses are shockingly cheap (yet the quality is great!)

Most lenses – especially the latest mirrorless lenses from Canon, Nikon, and Sony – cost a pretty penny. You can expect to pay upwards of $500 for each lens you buy, and if you go for wide-aperture lenses, you’ll pay a lot more.

50mm photography lens

The exception, however, is the humble 50mm lens. Have you looked at the latest 50mm f/1.8 prices? At the time of writing:

  • You can buy the Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM for just $179
  • You can buy the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G for just $216
  • You can buy the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 for just $248
  • You can buy the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM for just $125

And despite the low prices, these lenses are impressively capable. You’ll get decently sharp photos, especially if you shoot at f/2.8 and narrower, not to mention all the other 50mm photography benefits I discuss throughout this article!

One caveat: While 50mm f/1.8 lenses tend to be insanely cheap, you’ll pay more for 50mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.2 lenses. But many shooters, especially beginners, don’t really need these lenses; in my experience, they’ll be perfectly happy with an excellent 50mm f/1.8 model.

50mm lens photography

3. 50mm lenses are great for portraits

Finding the right lens for portrait photography can be tough. On the one hand, you want to get that close-up perspective and beautiful background blur – but on the other hand, you want to be able to include the subject’s whole body in the frame.

A 50mm lens offers the best of both worlds.

At 50mm, you can create beautiful background bokeh and capture reasonably tight portraits.

But you can also take a few steps back and shoot full-body (and even group!) photos.

50mm lens photography

And 50mm is the perfect focal length for candid portraits, too. You won’t be so close to the action that you’ll spook your subjects, but you won’t be so distant that you’ll lose a sense of intimacy.

I use my 50mm lens to photograph my kids all the time; here, my goal is to capture natural moments, not create posed portraits. The 50mm focal length gives me enough wiggle room to capture the wider scene, but I don’t have to get close (and risk ruining the moment!) the way I do with my 35mm lens.

50mm lens photography

50mm lenses also help you avoid perspective distortion , that age-old enemy of portrait photographers. Wider lenses tend to elongate limbs and facial features that are closer to the camera, which can look very unflattering – while 50mm lenses provide a more natural perspective.

4. 50mm lenses are great for low-light photography

As I mentioned above, 50mm lenses tend to boast a maximum aperture of at least f/1.8 (and more expensive versions widen to f/1.4 or even f/1.2).

Such a wide maximum aperture comes with a few perks, including enhanced background blur and beautiful shallow depth of field effects – yet the biggest benefit for many photographers is the improved low-light prowess.

You see, the wider the lens’s aperture, the more light it lets in, and the better it can handle scenes with weak illumination. Specifically, a wide maximum aperture will let you create a bright, detailed exposure at night and indoors, without forcing you to lower the shutter speed to a ridiculous level or jack up your ISO to noise-inducing heights.

50mm lens photography

Here are just a few scenarios where a 50mm lens can be a lifesaver:

  • When shooting candid portraits indoors
  • When shooting on the city streets at night
  • When shooting nighttime events
  • When shooting indoor concerts and productions

Note that I’m talking about handheld photography. It’s possible to work with any lens in low light if you have a sturdy tripod – but handholding does offer far greater flexibility, especially if you want to photograph at a fast pace. Plus, even if you have a tripod, you’ll need a reasonably fast shutter speed to capture moving subjects.

Will you be able to handhold or shoot moving subjects in pitch-black conditions? No – but as long as you have some sort of nearby illumination, such as a street light, you’ll generally be fine!

5. 50mm lenses are highly portable

Here’s the final reason I love 50mm lenses:

They’re incredibly small and they’re lightweight, so you can take one pretty much anywhere without issue.

50mm lens photography

For instance, you can pack a 50mm lens away in a small camera bag and still have plenty of room for cameras, accessories, and other lenses. You can also mount a 50mm lens on your camera, then carry it around as you head out with your kids, go on a street photography walk, and more.

Plenty of travel photographers keep a 50mm lens as their primary glass, and many street photographers use a 50mm lens almost exclusively (including famous street shooters like Henri Cartier-Bresson!).

You can also shoot in certain public areas (such as sports stadiums) with a 50mm lens – whereas a long zoom lens may get you denied entry. And if you like to go for long walks or hikes, a 50mm lens won’t start to feel like a brick after a few hours.

50mm lens photography

Bottom line: The 50mm lens is the most inconspicuous, travel-ready lens you can buy. If you want a lens for walkaround photography, if you plan to travel frequently, or you simply like the idea of keeping a barely noticeable lens on your camera, then it’s a great pick!

50mm photography: final words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you know why I’m a huge fan of 50mm lenses.

And if you’re ready to buy a 50mm lens of your own for travel photography, portrait photography, street photography, or pretty much anything else, here are a few of our favorites:

  • The insanely cheap Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
  • The high-quality Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G
  • The impressively sharp Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
  • The gorgeous (but pricier) Sigma ART 50mm f/1.4

Which 50mm lens do you plan to buy? What do you plan to photograph? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

50mm Photography: 5 Reasons Everyone Needs a 50mm Lens

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Lily Sawyer

is a wedding and portrait photographer based in London. Her absolute favourite past time is going on “mummy” dates with her kids and husband. Other than that, as a homebody, she is content curled up on the sofa, hot chocolate in hand, watching films with her family whenever she has a free weekend. Check out her work on www.lilysawyer.com Follow her on her fave social media platform Instagram .

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HOW TO... 50mm photography tips: 7 ways a ‘nifty fifty’ can boost your portfolio

Nikon Z 50mm f/ 1.8 S Review

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By Jeff Meyer


A 50mm lens is one of the staples of many photographers’ kit bags , yet ’50mm’ means different things depending on your camera.

Using a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera gives you a perspective similar to your own eyesight.

Human eyes have an angle of view that is roughly equivalent to 50mm on 35mm (full-frame format). This means using a 30mm or 35mm lens on an APS-C format camera, or a 25mm lens on a Micro Four Thirds body.

Put that same 50mm lens on an APS-C format camera and your effective focal length will be about 75mm.

  • When to use APS-C lenses instead of full-frame

And on a Micro Four Thirds camera, expect that 50mm lens to provide an equivalent focal length of about 100mm.

Using a lens with an effective focal length of 50mm enables you to compose images more easily in your mind as the framing is close to what we see.

01 Capture fast-moving subjects

Many 50mm lenses feature fast apertures of f/1.8 or even lower. Shooting at lower f stops (wider aperture) means you can achieve faster shutter speeds. This means a nifty fifty is an ideal lens for photographing fast-moving subjects.

Now, a fixed wider focal length might not be ideal subjects like sport or wildlife, but a 50mm lens is great for photographing kids or even pets.

02 Be aware of depth of field

The temptation is to shoot as wide as possible when you have that really fast aperture at your disposal, but you need to remember that shooting wide open means very shallow depth of field.

If your 50mm lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.4, for instance, then very little in your frame will be in focus. This can be great for dramatic effects, such as isolating a subject’s eyes. But it really depends on your subject.

Does the story you’re telling with your image need more depth of field to have impact? This is something to think about before dialling in your aperture setting.

03 Focus manually

One of the great benefits of a fast 50mm lens is that you can achieve that beautiful, soft background blur that sets your subject apart from the background.

Shooting up close emphasises this even more, but when shooting at close distance sometimes your AF system can struggle to find its target.

To this end, switching to manual focus and adjusting the focus ring until you get your subject’s eyes in focus is your safest bet.

04 Ideal for street photography

A 50mm lens is perfect for street photography. Its focal length allows you to get close to your subjects and fill the frame for more intimate images.

But it also gives you the flexibility to step back from a scene and capture a wider environmental context, which is often essential to street photography.

For this reason, a 50mm lens is also one of the best lenses to pack for your travels, and it’s compact size means it won’t take up much space in your bag.

05 Experiment with compositions

One of the benefits of using prime lenses is that their fixed focal lengths force you to move around and get creative with your compositions, trying angles of view you might normally bypass.

And because a 50mm, as we alluded to above, allows for tighter crops but also lets you step back to take a wider view, it’s one of the best prime lenses in terms of versatility.

06 Built for low light

An f/1.8 aperture is pretty typical for a 50mm lens, which means that all the extra light it allows in will help you shoot at faster shutter speeds in low light.

If you’re shooting street or travel photography, you probably won’t have a tripod with you, so this can make all the difference.

07 Affordability

There are all the reasons above that we listed to buy a 50mm lens for your photography, but the other great thing is that they are typically very affordable!

Whatever camera system you’ve bought into, you can usually buy a fast 50mm for less than £200 / $300. Why are ‘nifty fifty’ lenses so cheap? Because they are cheaper to produce, manufacturers don’t need to inflate the price to make their margin.

For this reason, a 50mm lens is the ideal ‘next lens’ to buy if you’re looking to graduate from your standard 18-55mm kit lens.


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  • Inspirations

Creative 50mm Lens – Benefits and Fantastic Photos

Creative 50mm Lens - Benefits and Fantastic Photos

Welcome to the world of the 50mm lens. This lens replicates the field of vision of the human eye, which is why it is called a normal lens. Due to this unassuming quality, it was a favorite for a number of legendary photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ralph Gibson. While most people believe that a 50mm lens is only good for street photography and portraits, it can be used innovatively to shoot other genres of photography, too!

Photos by Siddharthan Raman

Creative 50mm Lens - Benefits and Fantastic Photos

#1 Use Aperture Creatively

All 50mm fixed lenses available today are extremely fast, despite their low cost. Even, the cheapest 50mm lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.8. At such wide apertures, only a tiny part of your frame will be in focus. Rather than considering it is a hindrance, you can selectively focus on an important aspect of the frame. For example, your main subject can be out of focus in the background, with a subject in the foreground in focus. Alternatively only the eye of the subject may be in focus or you may capture repeating patterns using a very shallow depth-of-field.

At wider apertures, you will need to be careful about focusing. Switch to Single point auto focus, and carefully choose your focus point, since the depth-of-field will be extremely shallow.

Creative 50mm Lens - Benefits and Fantastic Photos

#2 Move in Closer

The best photographs come about when there is a close interaction with the subject. Do not hesitate to move in closer to the subject while shooting their mid-shots or close-ups. A smaller working distance helps you shoot more intimate photographs and will help you be a part of the sense yourself.

Creative 50mm Lens - Benefits and Fantastic Photos

#3 Shoot in Extremely Low Light

The 50mm’s wide aperture range can be your savior whenever the light levels are low. An aperture of f/2 at ISO 400 gives the same amount of light as f/5.6 at ISO 3200. A fast 50mm lens simply captures the light of your scene without needing a high ISO or long exposure.

Creative 50mm Lens - Benefits and Fantastic Photos

#4 You Can Shoot Macros Too

Dedicated macro lenses are quite expensive, but you can use your 50mm lens innovatively to shoot macros too. You will need to buy or make a reversal ring (an inexpensive an easily available attachment) that will allow you to mount your lens in reverse. You may not be able to use auto focus, but this is a great, affordable alternative if you wish to shoot flowers, insects or other tiny subjects.

Creative 50mm Lens - Benefits and Fantastic Photos

#5 Why Should I Use a 50mm Lens?

  • Learner’s Lens: Due to the amount of control it offers, this fixed lens instills great discipline and helps you improve your skills.
  • Cost: The Basic 50mm with f1.8 is the most affordable one.
  • Convenience: It barely takes up space in your camera bag, and is extremely lightweight.
  • Optical Quality: Despite its low price, it is optically superb due to its simple design.
  • Versatility: From portraits to street, macros to landscapes, the 50mm can be used for a number of subjects.

Creative 50mm Lens - Benefits and Fantastic Photos

#6 Fantastic Photos from 50mm Lens

Creative 50mm Lens - Benefits and Fantastic Photos

#7 Conclusion

These techniques will help you make the best use of this lens. Affordable, simple, light and a lens of many talents – the 50mm lens will not only help you enjoy different kinds of photography, but also make a better photographer.

Don’t miss to check our previous Photography Tutorials:

  • 5 Things To Do On A Street For Every Street Photographer
  • Street Photography Tips And Techniques By Thomas Leuthard
  • The Importance Of Lines In Photography – An Overview With Superb Examples
  • Street Photography Tips, Techniques And Inspirations
  • Wide Angle Photography – An Introduction With Stunning Examples
  • Essentials For Post Processing In Photography
  • Cameras & Lenses
  • Learning & Tutorials
  • Photo Gallery
  • Photography Tips
  • Photography Tutorials


photography ideas 50mm

Great tips 🙂 keep sharing ! Dee..

photography ideas 50mm

it very useful to all & beginners very nice & wonderful thank to dedicate this very very great work hats of those people to upload 121 clicks team members to thank for the photography lovers great

photography ideas 50mm

Awesome photographs…. Ofcourse, I love my 50mm lens.

photography ideas 50mm

i also have one canon 1.8….but now it combine with my wide converter lens 0.45x ..do you hav article about wide converter technique….

photography ideas 50mm

Thanks for the useful tips. Yes I do have an f2/50mm Summicron lens and I use it most of the time

photography ideas 50mm

i will buy one

photography ideas 50mm

Gonna buy one for sure .. Nice share .. May be tip and tricks with 50mm wont hurt

photography ideas 50mm

Great article, and great advice. The 50mm is a very over looked lens these days, as a slow, crappy zoom is what comes with most cameras, instead of the 50mm that used to come as part of the camera kit. Besides the obvious benefits, such as size, weight, sharpness and speed, it actually teaches composition and how to fill the frame. If you require to zoom in or out, you have two feet. In my opinion, learning with a zoom is a disadvantage. Just look at the most iconic photographs of our time, most of them were shot at 50mm. Thanks for that, some very sound advice.

photography ideas 50mm

Its Grate & Excellent Help to Improve about 50mm lens Knowledge..

photography ideas 50mm

A good advice. Need to get one such lens.

photography ideas 50mm

i m buying 50mm 1.4 😉

Great tips (Y)

photography ideas 50mm

I used to shoot landscapes with a 50 on full frame. Now, I’m shooting with a Voigtlander 40mm/F2 Aspherical. I like the field of view better than the 50. It’s a spectacular lens without a doubt. There’s just something about the 40mm as being “just right”.

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Creativity beyond limits: top tips for 50mm lens photography

Photographer Ejiro Dafé photographs a woman in bright clothing with a Canon EOS R6 and a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens.

Ejiro Dafé shoots solely with a 50mm lens, so he was the ideal photographer to work with the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM first. "The 50mm focal length allows you to become more instinctive with your photography, but at the same time, because of the limitations it has in terms of its focal length, it challenges you to be more creative," he says.

London-based photographer and creative director Ejiro Dafé has a distinctive approach to his commissioned work: he only shoots with a single 50mm lens. His 50mm lens photography journey began as a cash-strapped student: "I was studying advertising and spent my student loan on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III [now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV] so that I could shoot my own campaigns. I fell in love with photojournalism too, and the photographers I looked up to all shot with prime lenses. So I got the affordable little Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens [now succeeded by the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM] and visited other countries to photograph stories on the streets. "I didn't intend to have that lens for long, but over time I got used to the angle of view. I liked the way that it came close to my field of vision and shooting with the lens became instinctive – I could look at something and know how it would line up as a shot. That gave me the confidence to shoot even more." As his paid jobs built up, Ejiro upgraded to the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, followed by the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens. His experience with and enthusiasm for the focal length made him a natural fit to become the first pro to use the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM, the most lightweight and low-cost standard lens in the RF range .

A portrait of a woman wearing bright pink lipstick and a mustard top, against a blurred background caused by a wide aperture.

Ejiro advises others to get out there and have a go at 50mm lens photography. "Take advantage of the fact that a lens such as the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM offers a wide aperture in a small form factor – take it everywhere to really get involved in the things that you shoot," he says. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens at 1/250 sec, f/5.6 and ISO100. © Ejiro Dafé

The Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM’s pocket-friendly proportions (at 160g and 40.5mm long), bright f/1.8 maximum aperture for creative depth of field and near-silent STM autofocus technology make it a discreet option, ideal for street photography, candid portraits and video. Despite the lens’s affordable price it’s also a strong performer in low light, and is the ideal partner for a Canon EOS RP or Canon EOS R6 . Its lens elements and coatings ensure shots are sharp from edge-to-edge, with superior image quality and colours. Here, Ejiro shares the results of his first shoot with the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM and offers his tips for creativity in 50mm lens photography.

A woman in a white frilly blouse turns her face towards the camera. Fairy lights in the background create a bokeh effect.

With its wide f/1.8 aperture and 7-bladed diaphragm, the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM can produce beautiful bokeh. "To achieve this effect, we hung some fairy lights on a clothing rail," Ejiro explains. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens at 1/125 sec, f/1.8 and ISO1250. © Ejiro Dafé

A model in a white frilly blouse poses in low light.

The Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM 's wide maximum aperture makes it a versatile option for capturing the mood of a dark interior. When the lens is attached to the Canon EOS R6 , it can also benefit from the camera's five-axis Image Stabilizer, enhancing its low-light performance. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens at 1/50 sec, f/2.8 and ISO800. © Ejiro Dafé

1. Shoot at 50mm-only for a while

By restricting yourself to a single focal length over a period of time, rather than just the odd shoot, you naturally become intimately familiar with its angle of view and more instinctive when it comes to framing up a shot. As a result of using only a 50mm lens, Ejiro explains: "When I'm moving around the subject, I can almost feel it in my legs when I'm in the right place without having to look through the viewfinder." He continues: "Obviously with a 50mm lens you can get really wide shots and you can take tighter portraits and close-ups. Given plenty of space to move in, it's a very versatile focal length, although it can be challenging to work with in a small room. But that in itself makes you really think about every element within the photo and how they interact. It certainly sharpened my composition techniques when I was starting out and made me hyper-sensitive to everything within the shot."

2. Immerse yourself in the moment

"One thing I've always loved about the 50mm focal length is that it forces you to get involved with your subject and experience the moments that you want to capture, whether it's an editorial shoot with a model who's standing there posing, street photography or even sports," Ejiro says. Though 50mm lenses such as the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM aren’t designed with fast-paced sports in mind, Ejiro has photographed dance and even football for brands at 50mm. He adds that what some may see as a disadvantage, he relishes. For example, "With street photography, I like the fact that if you spot something across the street, you usually have to cross the road to get relatively close to shoot it rather than being able to simply zoom in from a safe distance." This approach means he engages with his subject in a more intimate way, which is reflected in the framing and detail of his photographs. The compact size of the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM makes chasing the moment easy.

Do you own Canon kit?

Do you own Canon kit?

A portrait of a woman wearing a green suit and a blue coat.

The standard view captured by the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM and other 50mm lenses leads to more natural-looking results and flattering portraits. The perspective doesn't distort the subject in the way that a wide-angle lens can, or compress the scene in the way a telephoto might. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens at 1/320 sec, f/2 and ISO1250. © Ejiro Dafé

Photographer Ejiro Dafé photographs a woman in white boots and a green suit reclining on a sofa.

"When I'm working with a model, there's usually an initial warm-up period where it's really all about trying to establish the angles I'll be using, as that will inform the style of the shoot," Ejiro explains. The compact size of the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM helped him stay flexible here. © Gary Morris Roe

3. Play with angles

A prime lens pushes you to work for a shot, fine-tuning your compositions by moving the camera. That can help to keep you in shape – creatively as well as physically. "If you watch me shoot, you'll see me rolling on the floor or contorting up into a corner," Ejiro explains. "I'm always moving. I'm constantly turning and rotating my body to try to find the best angles. "Sometimes I don't even bring the camera up to my eye. Because I'm so familiar with the focal length, I know what I can get in the frame. So, I can hold the camera in these unusual positions and bend down or move around whatever I'm shooting to provide a perspective that people don't normally see. It's not that photography at eye level is boring – you can always make that interesting – but seeing what works with alternative angles can allow you to capture things in a new and exciting way." Of course, the vari-angle touchscreens on EOS R System cameras such as the Canon EOS RP and Canon EOS R6 means that you can manoeuvre your Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens into tight corners and unusual angles and heights without having to contort yourself too much.

A shot of a woman wearing a blue coat and bright pink eyeshadow, reaching her hand towards the camera.

"We shot [these images] in a warehouse space, and although I started out using artificial light in the beginning, I ended up working with the available light in the room and we got some really nice results," Ejiro says. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens at 1/160 sec, f/1.8 and ISO320. © Ejiro Dafé

A close up of the same woman wearing bright pink eyeshadow.

The Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM has an easy-to-grip combined focusing and control ring, and can focus down to 0.3m. Ejiro says he enjoys going in for tight crops such as this to create "almost abstract images" that add variety to a collection. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens at 1/125 sec, f/4 and ISO1600. © Ejiro Dafé

4. Vary from wide to close

Using a single prime lens can bring a cohesive quality to a body of work but finding ways to add variety will ensure that it doesn't look boring. "My approach depends on the subject and the location, but usually I start quite wide with an establishing shot and then almost chase down whatever I'm shooting in order to get as many different perspectives and angles as possible. If I'm working with a model, I'll ask her to move around so that I can establish a general composition and use that framing as almost a boundary or a limit. I'll then take a few steps closer and carry on working in from there.

A portrait of a model in a white jacket in front of a busy but blurred street.

The best Canon lenses for portrait photography

"I love taking wide shots where you can see everything in context, but I also really like intimate shots. With the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM you can focus [to 0.3m], so you can go in quite tight and create these almost abstract images. This type of shot works particularly well with dancers, where the viewer isn't necessarily sure of the context because of the movement and the angles and the attractive shapes within the composition."

A model in a white frilly blouse leans forward across a table, resting her head against her gloved hand.

Ejiro prefers to keep things simple and work with the available light, and the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM 's fast aperture makes it ideal in low-light situations. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens at 1/200 sec, f/2.2 and ISO800. © Ejiro Dafé

5. Keep your whole setup simple

To keep the discreet and manoeuvrable advantage of a lens such as the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM, it pays to strip back the rest of your kit to the bare minimum, advises Ejiro. "Too much choice can cause you to overthink things," Ejiro says. "Even a standard kit zoom lens offers such a variety of focal lengths that it can sometimes slow you down." The Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM's bright aperture means that you don't necessarily need to use flash when shooting in low light, something that Ejiro is enthusiastic about. While his portfolio is a testament to his ability to read the light around him, he doesn't want to make lighting a complicated affair. "I don't use artificial light very much. I find you can start to get a bit distracted with that extra level of control rather than working with the ambient lighting you've been dealt and using that to the best of your ability. "Even if it's using the available lamps in low-light situations indoors, I think that looks better than what you get with big bounces. Besides, working with natural light is more fun."

Marcus Hawkins

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10 Tips How to Use a 50mm Lens

By Tata Rossi 4 days ago, Professional photography

photography ideas 50mm

Beginner photographers on the lookout for a universal lens often opt for a 50mm lens, but few really understand what results it can bring. If you are also pondering on how to use 50mm lens, this article will surely come in handy.

I have prepared the most helpful tips on how to use such a lens to get fully detailed portraits, properly focused landscape shots, and correctly exposed nighttime images.

Have you read reviews of professionals and decided to buy a 50mm lens? Don’t you see any significant improvement in the quality of your images? Maybe you set your camera incorrectly, so your 50mm lens is of minor help. If yes, I highly recommend reading these tips.

1. Control the Maximum Distance to an Object

All lenses have a fixed minimum focusing distance and it is important to stick to it. If you exceed this value, your 50mm lens can’t focus properly and an object becomes blurred (manual focus doesn’t help in this case).

The minimum focal length of your lens is marked next to the focal length display, on the front ring, or around the mount.

The best 50mm lenses have such focal lengths:

  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8 - min focus distance 1.48 feet (0.45 meter);
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM - min focus distance 1.15 feet (0.35 meter).
  • Sony SEL 50mm - min focus distance 1.48 feet (0.45 meter);

You can simulate the macro effect with the reverse lens technique using a reverse ring .

2. Use 1/50 Shutter Speed or Faster

The time interval when a shutter remains open, known as shutter speed, directly affects the quality of 50mm photos under different lighting conditions. When using a 50mm lens, it is important to know how to adjust the shutter speed.

Use a faster shutter speed, e.g., 1/125 or 1/250 to photograph fast-moving objects such as cars or birds. If you want to get blurry motion in your photo, choose a slower speed, such as 1/60. (However, in this case, you risk making your image underexposed.)

If you shoot in dark or poorly-lit space, choose a shutter speed of 1/250 or faster. Besides, you need to stabilize your camera while photographing at slow shutter speeds,  so I highly recommend investing in the best tripod brand model.

3. Use Your Maximum and Minimum Aperture Correctly

Aperture affects the exposure (or brightness) and focus of your photo. The larger the aperture, the heavier the background blur and the brighter the exposure. The smaller the aperture, the slighter the blur, and the darker the exposure. 

To adjust the aperture, find the “f” value in the “stops” section of your camera's menu. Remember, the lower the number, the larger the aperture .

If you use a 50mm lens and want to take landscape, architecture, or group shots, then choose an aperture of f4 or f5.6. Thus, you can take the whole picture in focus without blurring background objects.

If you work in low light conditions or want to take portrait/close-up images (for example, still-life shots), set the aperture to f1.4, f1.8, or f2.8.

Important ! Autofocus may not work properly at large apertures, so use manual focus.

4. Shoot in Open Area

Remember that a 50mm lens only allows shooting at a 46-47-degree angle, which makes photographing in confined spaces (for example, during a photo session at home) a challenge.

By choosing an open area, for example, by the ocean or endless meadows, you can emphasize the beauty of a model, without distracting attention by the background. That’s why one of the most efficient portrait photography tips is to shoot in the open area.

5. Organize Shooting Smartly to Get Ideal Lighting Conditions

Most newbie photographers trying to understand how to use a 50mm lens for portraits often think that this lens delivers the best results in abundant light. However, it is not. When you take photos at midday, the light is harsh and creates overly intense shadows.

More experienced shooters follow the rules of golden hour photography . This is usually several hours after sunrise and before sunset. Choose the most convenient time for you.

6. Use Lens Filters

Attaching special diffusion filters or neutral density filters to your 50mm lens, you can lower the exposure of your shot without changing the exposure settings. Therefore, you can use slower shutter speeds and wider apertures without overexposing an image.

Be attentive while using such filters. For example, if you set aperture and shutter speed to f/3.5 and 1/50 accordingly, but with ISO adjusted to 100, your image is still three stops overexposed. To solve this problem, you can use a 3-stage Tiffen 82VND filter. It guarantees proper exposure.

You can also use 5 main filters for landscape photography if you want to master this genre. Thus, you’ll get photos with vibrant colors, smooth water surface, and nice details.

7. Use Manual Focal Points

When working with low aperture (portrait/macro photography), you should make sure your camera is properly focused instead of letting it select focal points automatically. Take the following steps to change the focusing mode:

  • Move away from full AUTO, and switch to either the AV, TV, M, or P modes on your camera;
  • Then press the AF selection button; there should appear the AF point selection screen;
  • Choose Manual AF point selection. Now, only one focus point will be highlighted, which means it is selected;
  • You can now switch to any of the nine focus points available; use the dial or the cross keys for quick switching.

Thus, you can accurately focus your camera, which results in clearer images.

8. Learn the Maximum Depth of Field of Your Lens

If you know the sweet aperture point of your camera, you can get the maximum depth of field in the frame. For most 50mm lenses with a max aperture of f/1.4 that is between f/2.8 and f/4.

It is believed that the sweet spot of an aperture is usually 2-3 stops from the maximum aperture, but professional photographers recommend checking your lens by taking several pictures with different settings and uploading them to an editor where you can compare the depth of field.

9. Practice and Attend Courses

Once you understand how to use 50mm lens, you need to constantly practice to understand how such a piece of optics behaves in different shooting conditions. Thus, you can develop a "muscle memory" to go with a gut when it comes to analyzing the scene and visualizing your compositions without having to look through a viewfinder all the time.

It is also a great idea to choose a free online photography course to learn from experts, who will share their personal secrets of using a 50mm lens in different photography genres.

10. Don't Ignore the Editing Stage

Even the best portrait photographers take images that require further editing. That’s why they all use photo editing software for PC and Mac.

If you are new to the industry and are just learning the capabilities of 50mm lens, you can turn to the experts for professional color correction, acne removal, and other edits, so that your portfolio looks top-notch.

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50mm Portraits, My Style: Creating A Picture of a Memory

A 50mm prime lens is one of the most versatile lenses a photographer could own, and there are many reasons to love it. In this article, one photographer shares with us how he uses his 50mm lens to create images in his distinctive style, where each image suggests a scene straight from one’s memories. (Reported by: Taishi Arashida, Digital Camera Magazine)

photography ideas 50mm

50mm @ f/1.4, 1/2000 sec, EV +0.7, ISO 100, WB: Auto

Why I love using 50mm lenses

I love using 50mm lenses because of their weak, natural perspective effect , which makes it easy to create natural-looking images.

If I were to consider just the angle of view, a 35mm lens shows more background context. However, the perspective that it creates can look unnatural depending on the shooting distance or angle. At shorter focal lengths, there would be strong perspective distortion on the subject’s face. On the other hand, if the focal length is too long, the image could end up looking too flat.

In comparison, a 50mm provides a more consistent look—there still is a sense of perspective, but there isn’t much perspective distortion even when you tilt the camera.

When I shoot, I often aim to create an image that suggests that it is a scene from one’s memories. It’s easier to get the look that I want with the stable, familiar angle of view provided by a 50mm lens, especially if the lens also achieves the slightly soft look that resembles that of vintage lenses. The EF50mm f/1.4 USM is one such lens.

photography ideas 50mm

50mm @ f/1.4, 1/6400 sec, EV +1, ISO 100, WB: Auto

I was drawn to the sight of the shirt fluttering about in the sea breeze. This was shot with the camera tilted slightly downwards. I was careful not to tilt the camera too much, as that would cause visible perspective distortion especially in straight-line elements such as the balcony fencing. The moderate perspective of a 50mm lens gave me more flexibility to work with different camera angles than possible with a wide-angle lens.

Pro composition tips, Arashida style

photography ideas 50mm

50mm @ f/1.4, 1/3200 sec, EV +1, ISO 100, WB: Auto

1. Create a quiet composition by controlling the leading lines

Using leading lines to create a sense of perspective and guide the viewer’s eye works especially well with wide angle lenses , which inherently exaggerate perspective. However, it doesn’t work as well with a 50mm lens, which has much weaker perspective. I try not to incorporate any element that moves the viewer’s line of sight, which could distract them. Instead, I aim for an atmosphere that is somewhat “quieter”.

2. Use background and foreground blur to create layers and dimension

I don’t deep focus when I use a 50mm. I feel that having everything in sharp focus makes the image look flat, especially since the 50mm already has weak perspective. Other photographers may have other ways, but my style is to use a wide aperture and create background bokeh—or foreground bokeh if it fits the scene.

What’s your 50mm style? Share it with us on My Canon Story, or tag us on social media with #canonasia 

For more tips on making the most of a 50mm lens, also see: Professional Composition Techniques (3): Making Good Use of Lenses Standard Lens Techniques: Using the Point of View to Draw the Viewer In EF50mm f/1.8 STM: A Review with Useful Composition Tips

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About the Author

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques. Published by Impress Corporation

Based in Tokyo, Taishi Arashida photographs mainly families and urban scenes, provides images to local and overseas media platforms, and is also a photography instructor. He is the author of two books: Dejitaaru de Firumu o Saigenshitai [Replicating Film in a Digital Medium], and Kamera ja naku, Shashin no Hanashi o Shiyou [Let’s Talk About Photography, Not Cameras], both published by Genkosha.

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