Tip – The Magical 50mm

While shooting our most recent ad campaigns I’ve been gravitating more and more to the 50mm. And while shooting our latest ad campaign Randy and I (meet the team) discussed just how versatile the 50mm is. Shot in the certain way it can look like a telephoto and shot in another way it can look like a wide angle.

With this last ad shoot I solely used the 50mm and was reminded of a great quote from Bruce Lee, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” I believe that if a photographer can master one focal length completely it will result in better photography at all focal lengths. So this post is about two things. First, the 50mm is an amazingly versatile lens. And secondly, shooting with just one focal length is both incredibly freeing and helps us become a better photographer.

The Versatile 50mm

They say that the 50mm field of view is the closest of the major focal lengths to the basic field of view of the human eye. This may be one of the reasons that people gravitate towards the 50mm. Additionally, it is the easiest focal length to technically produce because it requires very little in terms of bending light. So historically most of the “classic” photos we’ve been exposed to were taken with the 50mm. It’s kind of like vanilla ice cream. Not only is it great, it carries a bit of nostalgia in every bite.

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In both of these photos, the 50mm gives us the feeling of being taken with a 35mm perhaps. It has the “feeling” of a wide angle shot.

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Yet, both of these photos give the feeling of a telephoto shot. While these were taken at f5.6-f/8, by opening up to f/2 or so, we can give even more of a telephoto feeling.


Give Yourself the Freedom

By telling myself that I was only going to use the 50mm, I actually freed myself during this shoot. I wasn’t thinking about the gear, all I was seeing was the 50mm frame and all I was working about was the angle to shoot at. Next time you have a family shoot or an engagement shoot, give yourself permission to use just the 50mm. I feel that by doing this, my photography has improved over the last 6 months. I’m starting to master the 50mm and that mastery is bleeding into other focal lengths.

Here’s a little behind the scenes fun. Hope you have some fun this coming year.