The Benefits of Using Prime Lenses in Photography | Jasmine Star

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The Benefits of Using Prime Lenses in Photography

April 8, 2013 - Gear, Photography

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Last July I hosted a photography workshop and had the pleasure of meeting Charlie Mai. Now, anyone meeting him will immediately be struck with his kind demeanor and soft humor, but over lunch together I was struck with his knowledge. Before pursuing photography professionally, Charlie researched and researched about the ins and outs and taught himself a great deal. During our conversation, I made a mental note to ask Charlie a few questions…well…my questions led to a blog post and I’m happy to introduce Charlie’s perspective on the benefits of photographing using prime lenses.

It’s Never Too Early for “Prime” Time
By Charlie Mai

When a friend presented me the opportunity a few years back to get into weddings as a 2nd shooter, I was just starting off and found myself relieved to see I had some of the same lenses he had – a 24-70mm, 2.8 and a 70-200mm, 2.8. As a fledgling shooter, I found comfort in being able to adjust the zoom to go from one focal length to another, by simply rotating a ring. However, I realized that my images weren’t particularly great; partly due to my inexperience, but for some reason something also felt lacking. After all, I thought that having gear similar to a seasoned professional would automatically work in my favor…. rookie mistake. Fortunately, I’ve always been all about challenging myself, and that extended to photography with a desire to become a better photographer from the get-go.

By chance, I had the opportunity in my first year to play around with a 24mm lens – I became instantly fascinated with shooting at a fixed focal length… but it also dawned upon me that the final image produced was hugely dependent on me to be an active participant, to explore different positions and angles. That single experience stuck with me until nearly a year after I began shooting when I made a conscious decision – it was time for me to dive into prime lenses.

Having shot primarily with them the past couple of years has really been a blessing to me – it has forced me to become really conscious and considerate about how I was shooting, because the viewfinder doesn’t lie when you’ve got no zoom ring to fiddle with. At that point, your zoom capability is reliant on those things at the end of your legs (a.k.a. your feet). What you may discover though is that your eyes are opened to a realm of possibilities that may not previously have existed.

If this is something you’ve been debating with yourself or whether you’re figuring out what lenses you want to invest in starting out, I’d recommend giving prime lenses a try… it could just be that kick in the pants that really gets your progress going from the start. Regardless of what you decide, it comes down to pushing yourself… if you’ve gotten this far, you certainly have that potential within you. It may take a little getting used to at first, but as with any skill or ability, “practice makes perfect.” Now repeat that to yourself five times fast….

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out a few additional things when considering prime lenses:
    1. As mentioned above, these are fixed focal length lenses and therefore in order to adjust the composition, you must be ready to become mobile at all times.
    2. Primes achieve some large apertures (ex. f/1.4, 1.2), which makes them a useful in lower light conditions, allowing you to keep shutter speeds up and ISO lower.
    3. Depth of field – with large apertures, the resultant effect shooting with a prime lens is a shallower depth of field, further isolating your subject from the background, creating potential for some gorgeous portrait shots.
    4. Primes often produce sharper images than their Zoom lens counterparts; I say ‘often’ because Zooms have also gotten better in their image quality over time, so they are no slouch.
    5. You don’t have to break the bank on a prime lens; though there are those on the higher end of the pricing spectrum targeted at professional shooters, there are plenty of great primes at a fraction of the cost. If you’re curious about will work for you, I suggest renting a lens and testing it out on your own before making an investment of any kind.

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Life is about to get a whole lot easier.  

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Oh, friend, it's time to start growing your business on Instagram.
  
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