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Basic Photography | Tips & Technique | How To Get Sharp Images With 50mm Lens

© 2011 Wazari Wazir | Children Portrait Photography | 50mm | ISO 200 | f/2.0 | 1/1250

50mm Lens can be considered as the most popular portrait lens, I think most people have one in their camera bag. The reason is simple, 50mm lens is the most affordable lens with good quality glass. The most popular one is 50mm f/1.8, whether you are Nikon or Canon owner, this is the most affordable one and a little bit expensive one is 50mm f/1.4 or Canon f/1.2 ( Expensive ), at the moment of writing Nikon does not produce new 50mm f/1.2 manual lens, they only have 50mm f/1.2 manual lens, maybe they will have it in the future.

Another reason why 50mm is the most favorite lens is that, it is among the cheapest “Fast Lens” money could buy. Any lens that have an aperture from f/2.8 and below is considered as fast lens, big aperture allowed you to captured more light hence allowing you to use fast shutter speed and that’s why they call it “Fast Lens”. It is fast at allowing the light to hit the sensor panel, be it CCD or CMOS sensor.

Back to the original title of this post, how to get sharp images with 50mm lens? I believe most people who bought 50mm lens use it mainly to shoot portraiture and for most of the times, they will use it wide open, fully open at it’s widest setting or just stop down few stops, rarely those who bought 50mm lens use an aperture like f/11 – f/22.

There is nothing wrong with that depending on the subject of your photograph and I believe if you shoot landscape with this lens you will use small aperture like f/11 and above but it is rare for landscape photographers to use 50mm lens in the field because the focal length does not allowed the photographers to captured large are in the picture.

Now I want to focus how you can get super sharp images with 50mm lens when taking portrait with big aperture. The trade of the secret here is to use very fast shutter speed, it is not practical for portrait photographer who use 50mm lens taking portrait to use a tripod. It can look funny unless you shoot landscape.

Most of the times photographers take a portrait with 50 mm lens handheld and I get a lot of email asking me how to get sharp picture with 50 mm at wide aperture, they knew that I use 50 mm lens and they bought it and then get upset when they didn’t get the look that they after. They think that their lens is having a problem but the real problem is that, they does not know how to handle it well.

Now the question is how to use fast shutter speed? I believe that those who asked me are newbie, they don’t have basic photography background, I believe also most of them use Auto or Program Mode when taking picture and they doesn’t know or have little knowledges about the basic foundation of exposure and how these things will affect their picture.

Yes you can use Program Mode or Auto Mode but keep an eye on the shutter speed, if you want to use Auto Mode, make sure you choose “Tv” ( Time Value) for Canon User or “S” for Nikon User, “Tv or S” is a shutter priority mode, meaning that you choose the shutter and the camera will choose the right aperture base on your chosen ISO and depending on lighting condition, the camera will determine the right Aperture for well exposed shot.

The problem with this setting is that you have no control over the aperture, if you want to have that nice looking Bokeh, you will never get it if you choose Shutter Priority mode and later on the camera choose f/11 as the right aperture for particular photo shoot. Same if you choose to use Aperture Priority Mode, you have no control over the shutter speed that the camera choose, of the camera choose slow shutter speed, then you might get blurry picture if the shutter speed is to slow to handheld.

The Perfect solution is to use Fully MANUAL Mode, where you decide what ISO that you want to use, what Shutter Speed that you want to use and what Aperture that you want to choose. If you look at the picture above, I choose to use ISO 200 simply because I wanted to use very fast shutter speed, and I Use shutter speed of 1/1250 for that shot.

Some of you might think that, isn’t it too fast for such a portrait, just to let you know, my son is not a statue and he  is super active, always moving here and there, always keeps on shaking his body  and wanted to be free and why I get this shot is because I use very fast shutter speed, it looks like my son is sitting there unmoved like a rock statue which is not the case, for those of you who have a child like my son age, (he is almost four years old), will understand how difficult it is to photograph them.

Now here’s another tips, in order to use fast shutter speed, you need a lot of light, if the light is low, then it is hard or almost impossible to use fast shutter speed. The thing is, if you take a portrait picture, be it your family, your friends or your client, you are in control, as a photographer, you should be in control, unless you shoot an event or photojournalism related functions, where you have no control about the lighting and the location, that is another story, I’m talking about casual portrait photo shoot where you can planned.

So choose your location carefully, for me ususally when I took my family picture especially my son picture, I planned ahead, I always try to find a good location where there is a lot of light, so that I can use fast shutter speed where I can safely hand holding my camera without worried so much about camera shake.

usually I will try to get a shutter speed of 1/100 and above using ISO 100 or 200, if I can’t get that shutter speed, I will find another location. Some of you may say, I can always increase the ISO, yes, that was true but as everyone else know Low ISO is always the best ISO if the quality is what you are after. To get super sharp, fine details image, nothing can beat the quality of what Low ISO can offer. You may agree or disagree, but that is what I do to get super sharp image especially on my son eyes. As I said before you are in control and why don’t you strive for the best.

Common sense does comes into play here, use MANUAL Mode if you want to be in total control, you can control the Aperture to get that nice Bokeh, you can choose Low ISO to get the best image quality and you can choose fast shutter speed to prevent camera shakes, and not to forget, choose the location wisely to put everything into place and the end result is sharp images. Pretty simple, isn’t it…

safarinah - as usual, the best entry. thank you for the knowledge shared

ZarithZulkifli - yeah..stay tuned..ehehehe.. =)

hjsalim hjibrahim - very good tips. thanks.

zulfikar Abdul Rahman - Thank you for sharing this awesome tips…

Jeffrey K. Edwards - Waz –

I couldn’t agree more with your comments. I get frequently asked: “what’s the best first lens to get?” I always recommend the 50mm f/1.4 cannon or nikon. Next I never shoot in anything but manual for the reasons you outlined. I just can’t imagine giving up that level of control to the camera and so rarely does light remain consistently the same unless you are shooting in a studio, which I never do.

Great recommendations, keep em’ coming!

~ jeff in Texas

Amsyar 7 Month - Summer | Foto By Razali - […] learn, yet he give it for free. I shoot with 50mm f/1.8 at most of the time, Wazari can teach you how to get sharp images with 50mm lens. I hope you can learn something from […]

dian nais - it is one of the best fast-lens.. affordable and sometime do unimaginable wonders to portraitures.. definitely agreeable to the “planning ahead” on where to shoot (with a lot of light) as using fast shutter speed together with low ISOs would end up giving us underexposed photos…

thanks for sharing..
🙂

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