Jan Hudson’s Photography Tips Number 8.

Jan Hudson w BanjoJan Hudson’s Photography Tips is our weekly  series  – aimed at helping the do-it-yourself musician to get better looking pictures for press kits and web-posting.  However any photographer shooting any subject is likely to gain some great tips.  (To read any of Jan’s previous tips, just use the “Search Feature” on the left sidebar).

Continuing with our series, I am answering questions from a few of our readers. This week's question is from Rhonda, who asks, "What kind of lens should I buy for my camera? I have a camera that lets me change lenses but I don't know what kind of lens to buy."

Well, Rhonda, to answer that is to question what kind of photographs do you typically take?

If you are photographing bands, people, and scenery, then you will want a lens that has several focal lengths built into one lens, also known as a "zoom" lens.

If you are photographing interiors or closed in spaces, you will need a "wide angle" lens. If you are photographing sports or nature, you will need a "long" focal length lens. Each situation has the need for a different lens.

Many times we can get most of our needs met with one simple zoom lens. so, let's talk about lenses.

When you first delve into buying a lens you might feel a bit overwhelmed with all of the numbers and sizes. But let's narrow down the focus and get to the nitty gritty of lenses:

Focal length: this is the size of the lens. The number tells you what the lens is going to do for you. The higher the number the bigger the lens...the closer it will bring the subject to you. Image634982608329587512

Macro lens: This is also known as a close up lens and is known for it's extreme close up focusing ability. It's great for photographing flowers, bugs, anything close up. They are a fixed focal length lens and are usually 50-100mm.

Wide angle: gives you a wider angle of view than what you see with your eyes. (think peripheral vision) They are normally 24mm and wider (12mm) (fisheye).

These are great to use when you can't back up far enough to get the entire picture in your viewfinder.

Let's say that you are photographing the inside of your living room and you want the entire room to show in the photo, but you're up against a wall and can't move any further back, well, a wide angle lens would capture the entire room without having to blow out a wall. =) Extremely wide angle lenses are known as fish eye lenses and give you an extreme wide angle shot...so extreme that if you aren't careful, your feet will be in the picture.

Wide angle lenses are great for tight shots, like the band in the bus, not only will you get the entire interior of the bus in your photo, but because wide angle lenses have great depth of field, everything will be in focus.

Standard or Normal lens: This lens is generally a 50mm lens. Image634982616266611484It gives you the same image that you see out of your eyes. It's great for regular photos of the band or your family or scenery.

Telephoto Lenses: Telephoto lenses bring the subject to you. When you want to bring something closer to you but can't physically move in closer, telephoto lenses will bring the subject to you. They range in focal length 80mm-600++ mm.

The higher the number, the closer the lens will bring your subject to you.

If you are photographing birds or sports, where you can't move closer to your subject, these lenses work great.

The longer the focal length, the heavier and larger the lens will be, so you will have to invest in a tripod.

Zoom Lenses: Zoom lenses are multi-focal length lenses. The easiest way for me to describe these lenses is to picture watching a television show and as you are watching the scene, the camera gets closer and closer to the subject...that's zooming in on someone. These lenses do exactly that. You have many focal lengths built into one lens.

They start out at a medium wide angle, go all through the normal and small telephoto focal lengths right into a telephoto, all with the flick of your wrist! No need to change lenses, just slap this one on and go take your photos. You will be able to shoot scenery, your full band, close up shots, and just about everything without having to carry a camera bag full of lenses.

Aperture: this tells you how much light the lens gathers for the photo. It is known as aperture, lens opening, f/stop.

Aperture should be thought of like the iris of your eye. When it's bright outside, your iris is small (f/22) when it's darker outside, your iris becomes larger and opens up to allow as much light as possible to pass through the lens.

Aperture is shown on your camera as f/32, f/22, f/16, f/11,f/8, f/5.6, f/4.5, f/4, f/2.8, f/2, and f/1.8. Each of these numbers are a fraction of the lens, thus called f-stops. The larger the number (f/32, 22, 16, 11) the less light is allowed to come into the lens and expose the image.

If you are using these apertures, you will need to be taking photos in bright light or have the camera on a tripod or be using flash. The smaller the number (f/5.6-1.8) the more light is allowed to gather and expose your image. So, if you are shooting in a lower light area, use a wider lens opening.

Again, think back to the iris of your eye...that keeps it simple. Lower light=wide lens opening. Brighter light=small lens opening. This keeps it simple. Imagine having your eyes dilated (f/4) and walking outside on a bright sunny day....ouch! Put those ugly sunglasses on (f/16) and you'll be fine!

When you are buying a lens, try to buy one with a LARGE maximum aperture (f/1.8-4.5). This means the most amount (maximum) of light possible will come through the lens. For most amateurs, an f/4.5-5.6 maximum aperture is the most affordable lens.

The price jumps tremendously for larger maximum aperture lenses!

Lens mount: Tells you what camera system the lens will fit on. ie: A Nikkor lens will not fit on a Canon camera. Make sure that you purchase a lens that fits with your camera system.

When you buy a lens, make sure that you tell the camera shop what camera you have. This information will also ensure that you have the correct format coverage. (it will work with your APS sensor).

Image Stabilization: You will see this on some lenses and it means that the lens helps fight shaking or motion. It's a good thing to have, but it's better if you learn to hold the camera correctly, so you don't have movement in the first place. =)

Auto focus/manual focus lenses: Most of the lenses that you will buy are auto focus, meaning that they focus for you. But, you do want to make sure that you have the manual focus override button on the lens, so that you can focus manually.

I have been in many situations, such as shooting a band live and the instrument's headstock was in the line of focus and the lens would focus on it and not the player. With the manual focus override button, you can switch into the manual mode and focus that way. Most lenses do have this, but definitely check to make sure.

Don't cheap out: Yes, those kit lenses look like a great deal, but many times, they are not. Usually the cheap lenses won't keep the focus, will break, or have uncoated glass, which causes lens flare. Go midway...not cheap, not too expensive. You won't regret it.

Bringing this home: The lens is important. It has as much to do with image quality as does the camera itself. Sit back and think about what you need in a lens, figure out your budget, and go shopping. If you are buying online, try reputable companies like B&H Camera and Adorama. Home town camera stores might be a little more expensive, but you can ask a ton of questions and that might be worth the extra expense.

If you have a question that I can answer for you, please let me know. Jhu2323@aol.com.

Thanks!   See you next week.


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