All the magic hap­pens at 50mm

Digital Photograper - - Techniques -

The field of view from a 50mm lens is the sweet spot for still life pho­tog­ra­phy, in­clud­ing food. As your field of view goes wider, such as 35mm, you start get­ting per­spec­tive is­sues. The wider you shoot the closer you need to get, which can fur­ther ex­ag­ger­ate per­spec­tive. It also gets dif­fi­cult to con­trol the back­ground with a wider lens; you don’t al­ways want the rest of the room to be drawn into the frame.

Nar­row­ing the field of view with a tele­photo lens can be a prob­lem too. Longer fo­cal lengths, such as 100mm, will com­press the scene – you lose a sense of depth and the com­po­si­tions look flat. Longer lenses also cre­ate lo­gis­ti­cal prob­lems when work­ing in con­fined spa­ces, as you may not have the room to step back far enough for a shot. It all works much bet­ter when you start with 50mm.

If you’re shoot­ing on a full-frame sen­sor the other ad­van­tage to 50mm is that there are lots of af­ford­able primes on the mar­ket. An aper­ture of f2 is the sweet spot. It’s tempt­ing to use a 24-70mm f2.8 if you al­ready have one, but then you won’t be see­ing the full ef­fect of a prime at f2 and you have to deal with a clunky, big lens which can be a drag on your cre­ative process.

The equiv­a­lent lens for APS-C sized cam­eras is a 35mm f1.4, or for mi­cro four thirds the 25mm f1.4. The smaller your cam­era sen­sor the greater the depth of field you get at the same f-stop, so you may want to ex­per­i­ment all the way to f1.4 in­stead of f2 with the smaller cam­era bod­ies.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween f2 and f2.8 is sig­nif­i­cant for back­ground bokeh, and it’s even more pro­nounced at f4. Shoot­ing shal­low is about bring­ing at­ten­tion to one el­e­ment in the scene, and hence the de­gree to which you melt away the rest of the scene is es­sen­tial to your com­po­si­tion. Your DOF ex­pands as you step back from the sub­ject too, so the big­ger the scene you shoot at 50mm, the fur­ther south you may have to drop the f-stop to work the bokeh. Shoot­ing at f4 might look dra­matic when your frame is the size of a tea cup, but of­fers zero im­pact once you step back to cap­ture a full ta­ble set­ting.

Above left WIN­DOW SEAT In nat­u­ral light, shoot across the scene for colour, or shoot back into the scene a lit­tle bit to build con­trast and drama

AbovePEO­PLE AS PROPS Per­haps cap­ture some hands com­ing into frame, or step back and let a gen­er­ous smile add some­thing vi­brant to the mood Above right SCH­NEI­DER 50MM F2.8 PC-TS Tilt-shift lenses of­fer the abil­ity to throw your place of fo­cus at any an­gle you want RightSTEP BACK, TOO ‘Get closer’ is of­ten good ad­vice, but you may find get­ting too close sim­ply means you’re miss­ing more com­plex com­po­si­tions

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