Saturday, January 7, 2012

Becoming a Mom with a Camera - Volume 2 - Lens Lingo {Photography}

Again, let me start by saying I have had NO professional training and everything I know, I have learned from researching on my own.  Please don't hold me responsible for any mistakes in information I may make (even grammar... hahaha)  You can see my previous posts in this series here and here.

So let me take you back a few months...

Here I was with my DSLR, finally understanding the relationship between aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, starting to figure out white balance, and actually starting to practice on MANUAL!

My picture exposure was good, images were sharp, but my pictures were still just "ok".

I was frustrated.

We had invested in a good camera and I was following all the "rules".

Why were my images so blah?  Where was the blurry background (bokeh)?  Why was my subject not "popping"?

I wanted to give up.

But I was too invested now, so I kept reading.  I started coming across information about lenses.  Hmmmm... well why would I
need another lens?  I already have one that came with my camera.  (The previous two sentences show how absolutely clueless I was back then).

This is when I learned about the 50mm 1.8 lens or "nifty fifty" as many photographers call it.  It was supposed to be a great, affordable lens (around $100) to get any photographer on the right track.

I logged onto my Amazon Mom Prime account (I heart Amazon) and ordered my first lens.

When I tried it for the first time, I felt like I had struck Gold... it changed everything.  All the mom photography bloggers were right, definitely worth the money!

After falling in love with my nifty fifty, I started researching more lenses. It becomes addicting.  I now have three of them.   (I even sold some of my old clothes on eBay to buy my lenses, that's how much I couldn't resist them.  :)

Let me explain why I chose the three lenses I have. 

Nikkor 50mm 1.4 - After buying my 50mm 1.8 and using it for a few months, I decided I wanted to upgrade to the 50mm 1.4.  The 50mm lens is great for food photography, portraits and everyday use.  You will not be able to shoot a whole room of people with this lens, the focal point is too narrow.  All of the pictures I have posted so far, I have taken with this lens.  (Well except for my posts from 2010. Those images were taken on Auto with my kit lens and they are icky.  See what a difference shooting on Manual and using a new lens can make.  You can see those pictures here and here.)

Nikkor 85mm 1.8 - This lens is amazing for portraits.  The narrow focal point and low aperture will get you close to the subject, while blurring out any distractions in the background.   

Tamron 28-75mm 2.8 - This is my newest lens.  I wanted a lens with a wider angle (to take pictures at parties, during the holidays, etc.) and a more versatile lens that would zoom in and out.

(If you have a Canon DSLR, they make similar lenses for their cameras.)

What the numbers mean.
In the 50mm 1.8 lens - 
The 50mm is the focal length.  The lower the number the more that can fit in the picture. The higher the number the more narrow and magnified the focal length becomes.  

The 1.8 is the aperture.  Aperture controls the background blur (bokeh) in the pictures.  The lower the number, the less that is in focus and the more light that is let in.  The higher the number, more is in focus and less light is let in.  

Picking a Lens.
The first thing you have to ask yourself is "What am I wanting to shoot?"  
Landscape - you will want a wide angle lens (a wide angle lens is anything under 35mm).  
Portraits - You will want a 50mm or 85mm.  
Sports - You will need 300m or 400m for close up shots.
Weddings and Events - You will want a lens that zooms in and out giving you a wide angle for full room shoots and a magnified/narrow angle for close up.  
Don't take my word for it.  There is so much more to know! Do the research.  It is worth it when you are making such a big investment.  

Here are a few pieces of advice for those of you that are just starting out (take it or leave it):

A.  If you haven't purchased a DSLR yet, my advice to you is to buy the body ONLY (this means without a lens). Don't waste your money on the "so so" kit lens when you could use the extra money you saved towards a better quality lens. 

B.  Start with the 50mm 1.8 lens. You will not be disappointed.  The first thing you will do when you put it on, is try to zoom it.  It is a fixed (or also called prime) lens which means it stays at the 50mm focal point and does not zoom. With this lens, if you want to get closer, you have to move your feet! :)

C.  If you are an eBay person (like I am) start there for used lenses and cameras.  Every photographer wants to eventually upgrade and will sell their gently used equipment significantly cheaper than retail price.  All three of my lenses I have now, I purchased used on eBay (I would suggest only buying from sellers that are in the United States.)  If you don't buy on eBay, Adorama and B&H Photo sell used cameras and lenses.  (You can also check Craigslist.  I have seen lots of cameras and lenses on their lately.)  I made the mistake of buying my first lens brand new and was ready to upgrade two months later.  I would have saved money if I would have bought used in the first place.   

D.  Read this article from Darcy at my3boybarians.  She so eloquently explains the importance of investing in a good lens (I love her humor too).

Watch for my Future Posts:
Becoming a Mom with a Camera - Volume 3 - My Cheat Sheet
Becoming a Mom with a Camera - Volume 4 - Post Processing - Lightroom and Photoshop

If learning your DSLR is on your to do list, don't wait any longer.  There is no better time than now :) - A

I linked this post to

Home Stories A2Z


  1. This is such a great post, I so wish I had read this before I purchased my lenses. You are so right about it being an addictive little hobby, I love to look at camera equipment, and I will probably keep adding to my addiction ;) I also wish I had had a better camera and experience when my kids were younger, enjoy your little one, and take as much pictures as you can, because they grow up so fast. I'm your newest follower.

  2. Waiting for that cheat sheet girl! :)

  3. I found your blog on Pinterest and its fantastic. I too am a mom with a camera. I purchased my first DSLR when my daughter was 5months old. I felt an almost panic taking pictures of her with my point and shoot, that I was not properly capturing her growing up. I researched and went with a Nikon D3100 body and a Nikkor 50mm f1.8 lens. I wanted it for pictures of her after all. It is a great investment. My husband calls the camera magic. He feels every picture comes out amazing. With my new camera comes my obsession with finding all things camera related to research; HDR photography, baby poses, equipment, lenses etc. Pinterest is fantastic for this! I do want to start looking for a wide angle lens but have trouble sorting through all the info when researching. I live in Canada and am awaiting the arrival of the warm weather for outdoor photography!

  4. Do you use a full frame sensor dslr or cropped? I feel like I'm running all over my shoots and thinking I need to get a full frame.


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