Lens Buying Guide – Photography Style – Which Lens Should I Use?

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Photography Style… What kind of photographer are you?

There are more types of photography styles than we could possibly list here, but we’ve compiled a short list of the most common types and include suggested lenses and accessories you might want to consider.

Landscape Photography

Lens Buying Guide Page 5 - Photography Style - 1

© Chris Peura

Everyone loves a good landscape photograph. That’s why it’s worth exploring what equipment considerations are important to a scenic photographer. Weight is one, and it may contribute to the types of lenses you are willing to purchase. Chances are you will have to travel a distance to take your landscape photographs, so you should ask yourself: would you prefer a single zoom lens to cover a range of focal lengths or a fixed lens that achieves greater clarity but is restricted to a single focal length?

For stunning landscape shots with a focus on the foreground, a wide angle lens with a 20mm to 35mm focal length would be ideal. Keep in mind that wide angle lenses do tend to make the foreground dominate the photograph, as it will be disproportionately large compared to the background.
Wide Angle Lenses »

Sweeping landscape shots and subjects that are far off in the distance require entirely different lenses. Telephoto lenses come in varying focal lengths and are ideal for capturing mountains and scenery that are far off in the distance. If nature photography is what you prefer, you’ll find a telephoto makes capturing animals easy, since you and your equipment will not interrupt their natural movement.
Telephoto Lenses »

Have you ever considered the accessories that can help improve colour, intensity and exposure of your outdoor photography? On a bright sunny day, the colours of your scene may be vibrant and intense, but may require some extra control. Neutral density filters reduce the amount of light without changing the colour. The benefit is that they come in a wide range of densities and can help prevent overexposure. They can also help if you want to shoot using a certain f/stop or shutter speed and you need to darken an over bright scene.

Photographs of water may show unwanted reflections; by adding a polarizing filter, you can eliminate those reflections (an impossible task on digital editing software) as well as improve the colour and contrast of your image.

Colour-enhancing filters may help intensify your orange and red colours in the fall or cool down images of waterfalls and lakes. The sky is the limit with the many filters that are readily available.
Filters »

Assuming that you will be outside as a landscape photographer, you may want to consider investing in some weather protection gear for your equipment. Some lenses are built to be water-resistant and there are a variety of covers, bags, and carrying cases that can help you protect your investment.
Bags and Cases »

Wedding and Portrait Photography

Lens Buying Guide Page 5 - Photography Style - 2Capturing the joy of someone’s wedding day could require a number of different lenses, depending on your style of photography and the conditions at the locations. A single day could involve challenging outdoor shooting, portraits, indoor low-lighting, fast subjects, distant shooting and even close-ups. In addition, the increasingly popular documentary style or lifestyle photography may dictate lens and accessory choices, since it enables the photographer to capture candid moments on the wedding day when guests are at their most natural.

Outdoor

On a bright, sunny day you will be fortunate to have great lighting without the worry of rain! Use a wide angle lens (ultra-wide for large group) if you are doing portraits outside. Be sure to bring a reflector as it will fill in shadows and provide more even lighting of your subjects. Although white and silver are the standard colours for reflectors, there are special ones that are “warming” (gold or pinkish) that enhance skin tones. If it is too sunny, neutral density filters will help by reducing the amount of light without changing the colour. These filters come in a wide range of densities and can help prevent overexposure.
Wide Angle Lenses »
Reflectors »
Neutral Density Filters »

Indoor/Low Lighting

This can be the most difficult shooting situation for wedding photographers. To eliminate blur and underexposed images, a fast lens is essential. A lens with a f-stop lower than 2.8 is ideal for capturing the wedding party walking down the aisle and guests who are milling about. Keeping your camera on a sturdy tripod at the ceremony will not only reduce blur but will produce super sharp images. Again, a wide angle lens is great for close quarters as you will be able to capture a wider field of view than a standard lens.
Fast Wide Angle Lenses »

If you are permitted to use a flash during the ceremony and reception, you can add accessories like a Lightsphere to your flash to create softer shadows and studio-like lighting images in dark lighting scenarios. This is ideal for hand-held shooting, while a full lighting system would be ideal for portrait photography.
Flashes»
Lightsphere»
Lighting Systems »

Portraits

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© Asif Akbar

If your client requests portraits, a tripod is a must to ensure crisp images. Remember your final print and picture frame dimensions because it is inevitable that some of your images will be cropped to a certain degree. Allow enough empty space around the subject(s) to ensure important parts of your image are not cropped off during printing.
Tripods »

A short telephoto lens is ideal for head and shoulder portraits. The telephoto allows you to stand farther back from the subject (you would need to be much closer in distance with a wide angle) and, as a result, the subject can be more relaxed and comfortable without a lens too close to their face. It will provide a natural perspective and enough depth of field to make the face sharp and clear.

Special warming filters can be added to your lens that are specially designed for enhancing skin tones. Even special softening, soft focus or diffusing filters allows you to add a dreamy effect that is very popular in wedding photos.
Warming Filters »
Diffusing Filters »

For formal portraits, set up your studio lighting in a secluded space away from the reception so there is less distraction; that way your shoot will run smoother and you’ll make better images.

General

Zoom lenses will make it easier for you shoot hand held as you will be able to capture the wedding party and their guests in all their spontaneity. For informal images, like guests dancing and socializing to the reception line, a zoom lens is ideal since you can change your focal length at will without having to change the lens every time.
Standard Zoom Lenses »
Wide Angle Zoom Lenses »
Telephoto Zoom Lenses »

For speeches and cutting the cake, a fixed lens can be used in order to capture the sharpest image. Since you will be standing a fixed distance, a zoom lens is not required.
Fixed Lenses »

Other accessories to aid in your shoot can include brackets that provide a comfortable weight balance between your camera and flash and sturdy cases to protect your equipment in high traffic areas.

Product Photography

Lens Buying Guide Page 5 - Photography Style - 4Lighting is the biggest challenge a product photographer can face, so choosing the proper studio lighting and lenses is essential to capturing catalogue-quality images for your clients. Depending on the product, reflective materials can create troublesome stray light, and hotspots. Also, very light objects can be underexposed and appear washed out. How do you capture clear materials like glass and plastic?

Focusing – It’s important to ensure that the product is completely in focus. After all, the product is the “hero” of the photograph and your images must represent the item as it would be viewed by the human eye. It is recommended that you manually focus your camera/lens instead of using the auto focus function (if applicable). Most digital cameras capture large objects beautifully but have trouble getting precise focus of smaller objects. Setting your camera to spot focus mode will give you more control on what parts of the frame the lens is focusing on.

Lens Buying Guide Page 5 - Photography Style - 5Lighting – A large variety of studio lighting is useful for product photography. These include softboxes, strobe lighting, reflection umbrellas and more. That said, creating a custom studio for your needs is easy. It’s even easier of you use a self-contained studio – the kind that is designed for small product photography and with lighting and diffusion already arranged in one unit.
Product Photography »

Details – Capturing texture and details may be essential to your photography and you can choose a macro lens to ensure crisp, detailed photographs. Use a tripod and a shutter release to avoid camera shake. Tricky items that are made out of reflective materials can be shot in contained lighting structures (a Cubelite, for example). This gives you maximum control over the lighting. Placing your product on a different coloured base will help enhance the product’s colour instead of washing it out. If you want to achieve a more three dimensional look (shooting the object on an angle), consider using a shift/tilt lens as it will provide you better depth of field and control over it.
Tilt/Shift Lenses »

Sports Photography

Lens Buying Guide Page 5 - Photography Style - 6Capturing an athlete in action requires super-fast, super-steady lenses. At professional sport events, photographers are so far away from the field that they use large telephoto lenses on tripods to get their shots. Ultra telephoto lenses can capture subjects far off in the distance and bring them in closer. Using a focal length of 200mm or great is ideal. A super fast lens is essential for capturing movement without blur. An f-stop of 2.8mm or lower is helpful to capture your subjects as they run across the field.
Fast Telephoto Lenses »
Ultra Telephoto Lenses »

An extreme wide angle is great for capturing overview shots of the field or to show several players in action. Because sports photography is so fast paced, it might be necessary to set up more than one camera at once to cover the entire field in a split second.
Wide Angle Lenses »

Lens Buying Guide Page 5 - Photography Style - 7Remember to always have extra batteries and cameras on hand; the event will not pause for you, so be prepared! Sport photographers take several hundred photographs at any one event. That’s why you should ensure you have enough digital media storage to handle heavy shooting, since you will not have time to download your digital photos onto an external hard drive.
Camera Batteries »
Memory Cards »

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About Author

Woodrow Walden is a Toronto-based photographer and the Social Media Community Specialist for Vistek.