Starting Photography – Choosing a Lens For Your SLR Camera

When it comes to choosing photographic lenses there is no secret. In fact it’s simply a matter of thinking about what you want to photograph, how often you photograph it, and what lens you need to do it. You can get quite confused about different manufacturer’s lenses when trying to pick the right one.

Let’s think about someone who takes portrait photographs for a living. This kind of photographer is probably not interested in macro lenses, fisheye lenses or any other very short lens simply because it won’t cut it in the portrait world. It’s no different for you. If you are shooting mainly landscapes, or nature scenes such as waterfalls or even the night sky at dusk, then think about what lens will give you the best clarity.

When I am teaching people photography I often used this analogy; you’ll lens is like your camera’s eye. For example if you are shooting portraits you don’t want a lens that is too close because you don’t want the nose to be too big. On the other hand if you are shooting birds in a tree then you certainly want to be as close as you can. Also if you are shooting general scenes such as your favorite beach or a pretty garden then a ‘standard’ lens will suit you best. Any lens must be able to transport you into the scene as clearly as possible.

It’s true what they say that the more money you spend on a lens the better clarity and sharpness you will get in your photography. Your lens is the thing that gives your photography clarity and sharpness. This does not mean you need the absolute top of the range lens. You can get great results with standard lenses such as an 80 mm to 105 mm.

Here is a simple way of illuminating confusion as to what lens to buy. So let’s look at what lens does what.

Portrait lenses — 105 mm to 200 mm

Landscape or nature scenes – (wide angle lens) 24 mm to 35mm

Astrophotography (wide angle lens) 10 mm to 24 mm

Wildlife photography – (telephoto lens) 100 mm to 600 mm.

So you can see that each lens does a different job.

This is just a rough guide as to what type of lenses does what. If you want ‘expansiveness’ then a wide-angle lens is what you need. If you want to shoot wildlife such as a bird in a tree, then a telephoto lens may just be what you are after. A wide angle lens gives you more peripheral view and a telephoto transports you closer.

You might also want to invest in UV filter for the front of your lens. A UV filter is not a specialized color filter, nor does it give you special effects. It is a clear glass filter that screws onto the front of your lens to give protection from dust, sand etc. It protects your lens from the environment around you.

Don’t be too overwhelmed by the photography brochures or catalogs all salespeople. Do your research before buying anything. I do recommend that you buy your lenses new when you are just starting out photography simply because you may not know what you are buying if you buy second hand. Once you become skilled in photography and buying photographic equipment then you can buy secondhand lenses confidently.

Good luck in choosing your lens and you feel free to e-mail me if you need help. Happy shooting!