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Why you need the 50mm f/1.8 and how to use it

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by David Em
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The 50mm f/1.8 or nifty fifty is an outstanding compact lens. It has a fast maximum aperture, which is great for low light and portraiture.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Canon 50mm lens on a wooden table.

What is the 50mm f/1.8 lens?

The 50mm f/1.8 is a versatile and lightweight prime lens. Whether you’re new to photography or have been doing this for years, the 50mm lens is one that you need to have.

Related: Best DSLR camera for beginners

If you buy a kit lens, it generally has an aperture of f/4 to f/5.6. Not only is the 50mm f/1.8 affordable, but it also lets in much more light.

This is important because you’ll be able to photograph in low light and have more range with the depth of field.

When to use it

Person sitting on a log in a field.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash

The nifty fifty is great for all types of photography, and you’ll see a noticeable difference when you compare it to the kit lens.

The following are situations where it’ll be a good fit:

1. Shooting in low light. Due to the large maximum aperture, it’s a great lens for low light. The ability to shoot in low light means that you can start your photoshoot earlier and also shoot later into the night. It’s also a good lens for shooting indoor portraits.

2. Shallow depth of field. If you want to blur out the background, this a good option. Its fast maximum aperture will create a shallow depth of field, which will capture a smooth and blurry background.

3. The ability to freeze motion. Since the lens has a larger maximum aperture, you’re able to use faster shutter speeds without worrying about underexposing the image. Faster shutter speeds will allow you to freeze movement.

4. Carry a lightweight and versatile lens. It’s a small and light lens. Therefore, if you’re traveling or want to carry light camera gear, bring the 50mm. The other option is to carry a zoom lens, which is generally larger and heavier.

5. Affordable quality. The 50mm f/1.8 can produce high-quality images that can be compared to professional-grade lenses at a fraction of the cost. If you don’t have a large budget to spend on a camera lens, this is the one for you.

Tips for using the nifty fifty

It’s common to think that better photos come from more expensive gear and using manual mode.

Although both things help, you can still take great photos without them. The following are tips to help you take incredible photos with the affordable 50mm lens:

1. Find lights in the background. If you’re shooting at f/1.8, including lights in the background will create beautiful bokeh.

2. Use large and small apertures. When you begin shooting with a large aperture, it’s easy to get stuck and comfortable with it. However, you must use a small aperture too. Becoming comfortable with both will result in growth as a photographer.

3. Try manual mode. Shooting in manual mode will give you more creative control. To switch to manual mode, turn the dial at the top of your camera to “M”.

4. Set your shutter speed to 1/60 or faster. To avoid blurry photos, set your shutter speed to 1/60 or faster. The general rule of thumb is to set the shutter speed so that the bottom number is equivalent to your lens’ focal length.

5. Place your subject in different parts of the frame. It’s tempting to place your subject in the middle of the frame. However, get creative and try placing your subject in different parts. An easy way to do this is to use the rule of thirds.

6. Focus on the eyes. When you’re shooting portraits, the best place to focus on is your subject’s eyes. With a large aperture, it’s easy to focus on the wrong spot, which results in a blurry photo.

7. Remember the minimum focusing distance. This is the minimum distance at which the lens needs to be from the subject to focus. If it’s too close to the subject, it’ll result in a blurry photo.

Top 50mm f/1.8 lenses

Nikon 50mm lens.
Photo courtesy of Adorama

Many brands make the nifty fifty at an affordable price, which makes it a great lens to have. The following are the best 50mm lenses:

Conclusion

As a simple and versatile prime lens, there’s no doubt that you need to have the 50mm f/1.8 lens. When you compare it to a zoom lens, you’ll also notice that the images will be sharper. It’s affordable and will immediately improve your photos.

More resources:

Featured photo courtesy of Unsplash.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and helpful advice to grow your photography business.

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