Olga Levien
New Zealand Artist | Mentor | Mum

Olga Levien wedding | documentary family photographers Blog

Personal projects and documentary-lifestyle photographs taken by Olga Levien photography artist - wedding and family photographer in Auckland, New Zealand and international.

What to consider when choosing a lens focal length - photographers education | tutorial {Auckland photographer}

Choosing a lens focal length is important to get results that you like - to translate your Voice and Vision in a photograph that will be speaking to the heart.

Sometimes just an as simple thing as lens choice can make a huge difference!

Let's talk about a few factors that can be important when you are choosing a lens for the specific shooting situation:

1. Crop camera or Full frame. Your camera can have a huge influence, as crop camera making image looks slightly closer. For example, if you are shooting with 50 mm 1.8 on a crop camera {I shot with Nikon D7000 for a year when being starting out} it looks like 85 mm lens on a full frame camera and can feel very tight in a small space.

2. Your space. Indoor or outdoor. If you limit in the area, I would recommend going with 24, 35, 50 mm lenses. It's your personal choice what works better for you and your space {some photographers also love 20 mm focal length}. If you have a big space or would like to compress the space then 85, 135, and even 200 mm can work {depending on space that you have}. 

Outdoor can provide you with more space to move around so that you can choose longer lens as 85, 135, 200 etc.

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3. Compression. As you see long lens can compress the background and make subjects feel closer. Many photographers choose long lenses for the ability to see this magical creamy background. 

4. Aperture. There lenses with 1.2, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8 minimum aperture and others with 2.8, 4.5 5.6 etc. Depending on your shooting style and desired picture effect {say low aperture number allows you are creating the beautiful creamy background, ability to put attention to details, while higher number making your foreground and background looks clear}. Also keep in mind low aperture number allow to let more light in the lens, so if you are used to shooting in low light dark spaces 1.2-1.8 aperture is for a win!

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5. Distortion. Keep in mind some lenses as 16, 18, 20, 24 mm et. can give you some distortions and cause some deformation {you can fix it in post-processing with Auto transformation in LR, just make sure there a space on the sides of your frame to play around}

6. Prime or Zoom. This is a crucial point and can be your personal preference. Zoom lens gives you amazing variety in one go and perfect for different shooting situations, when prime lenses have a fixed length and allow you to move around and see more, while zoom can potentially make you a little bit lazy  Sometimes I choosing to shoot wedding ceremonies or receptions with 70-200 mm with ability to shoot unobstructed from far and 35 mm for all other time, combining with different focal length {as 135 mm} as I shoot with two cameras. I already mentioned I use my 35 mm and also 24-70 mm for shooting clients sessions and my kids. I love the art feeling of 35 mm, but also the variety of 24-70 {i love to shoot landscape shot at 24 mm and zoom in at 70 mm if I need to get closer from further distance}. When I go travel, I love to have zoom variety and taking my 24-70 mm. I would like also get 16-35 mm and shoot wild wide shots.

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7. Elements of the frame.  Be mindful what you want to include in the frame. If you are shooting a subject on the fantastic landscape - go wide! My favourite length for this purposes is 24 mm; it's making a huge difference to the picture and give wow factor that sometimes can be missing with 35 mm. If you want to delete distractions from the frame, or just get closer when you can't physically move - tele lens works just perfect for these purposes!

8. Weight. Oh, yes, some lenses are extremely heavy while others nice and light. I worked with 135 mm and 70-200 mm, and that's a massive beast, but I love the compression and quickly get used to this weight with time. {need to mention if you are shooting a long time shoot a wedding, you will need to shake your hands at the end of the day}! My 35 mm very light and handy, I took it everywhere I go to capture my lifestyle moments with kids and family. {I used 50 mm 1.8 before and its just dream - so small and light!!!}

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9. Personal preference. Check out the lens before buying it. You may found that something that other photographers loves just not works for you and you are fully in love with entirely different length! For example, I got 135 mm lens, and while it is creating a beautiful creamy background, it's still heavy and not allow me to feel the same as with my 35 mm.

10. Your photography genre. Portrait, lifestyle, documentary, macro, landscape, street, sport, dance etc. Depending on what genre, photography style you choose different lenses can suit differently. For example, documentary photographers love to shoot with 20-35 mm length, while portrait photographers love 85, 135, 200 {just in general, of course, we all are different}. The macro genre has own macro lens or macro tube extensions that can suits you too. I'm as a wedding photographer with variety of genres all through the wedding day shooting with all range of lens and love it, ability to fast decide on the space and situation what length to choose {keeping in mind what your second photographer shooting with as well}, while I love to shoot with 24-70 mm range my lifestyle moments and sessions. I prefer to be in the moment!

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11.  Your shooting style {connect to the previous point} - how do you like to shoot - are you a person who prefers to stay at the back or prefer to be right in the spot, as close as you can? Then you can choose tele lens {85+} or wide ones {16-35 mm}. 50 mm is a comfortable length that looks like our usual vision {thats why I usually not shoot with this lens, as prefer to create more point of interest; but at some situations indoor its just perfect - when you can't use 85 mm {as space too small}, but at the same moment can't get closer {something located between your and your subject}

12. Creative opportunities. You can choose to get creative and go with Lensbaby range {I have Sweet 35 mm and love it! There also 56 and 85 mm options and they are looks just amazing!}. If you want to go freelensing, I would recommend choosing light lens that easy to hold close to your camera while doing creative shots. Helios lens can give you amazing lens flare. If you are after a bokeh - you can check a Sigma Art series, and variety of another lens with 85+ mm focal length.

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13. Money. The cost is significant for all of us. Sometimes better to save some money for your dream lens {and we know one is never enough, I always set up another goal whenever I get a new lens, guilty!} or get a universal lens that is cheap and do the job {i already mentioned I long time been shooting with 50 mm 1,8 lens and even won some awards with those pictures as well as with my 18-140 3.8-5.6 kit lens.

14. Brand. Lens brand can be cost-effective. There always options our there as Sigma, Tamron etc. that are not belong to a particular mother brand {as Canon, Nikon etc.}, but do a similar job. You can only test these brands out and decide for yourself what do you prefer. It's your personal choice! I'm shooting with Nikon and Sigma lens and happy with both!

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15. and anything else that you feel important for you. For example, when I been choosing every next lens I carefully been considering what focal length i need to cover for shoot in different shooting situations and scenarios, what focal range is missing atm {my personal order was: Nikon 50 mm, Lensbaby Sweet 35, Sigma 35 mm 1.8, then 24-70 and 70-200 mm at the same moment for shooting weddings, 135 mm, to be continued ...  }

There so many other factors to consider when you are choosing a lens, hope this quick tutorial with tips can help you! Let me know if you have any questions and share what you shoot with.

What is your favourite focal length, I would love to know!

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Screenshots taken from my Daily Project {with all camera settings}, tutorial also published on Clickinmoms forum {with different images}

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