A Great Lens for Bokeh
December 13, 2012
On Tuesday night I was having a nice chat with some blog friends (Marian, Maria, and Cathe) at Marian’s book signing in my hometown and we were discussing blogging and photography, and the consensus was a that a 50mm 1.8 lens (or the more expensive 1.4) is a great blogger tool for those desirable beauty shots.
The 50mm is a fixed focal length (or “prime”) lens with wider aperture capability (refer to this post for a more in depth explanation on aperture.) I bought my 50mm lens last December as an early Christmas present because I wanted the ability to snap pretty close-ups and to take Christmas tree bokeh pictures like this. The ones with those pretty twinkle light orbs!
This image was taken with the little bowl of ornaments 7 feet away from the tree of twinkle lights and me positioned another 4 feet away from the bowl. Camera settings with 50mm lens: f/stop 1.8, shutter speed 1/40, ISO 800.
If you don’t know how to use or change the Manual setting yet, get ready to learn how with these fabulous online videos for visual learners that I’ve mentioned before offered by Shoot Fly Shoot. Once you know how to change the aperture (or f-stop) to a wider setting, you’re all set to take great holiday bokeh shots, but it only works when you have a lens with that capability.
Kit lenses don’t go below a 3.5 f-stop, so you’ll achieve beautiful bokeh and shallow depth of field when you invest in a lens that allows you to go to a wider aperture of 2.0 or lower numerical setting. A really nice affordable version is the 50mm f/1.8, offered for both Nikon and for Canon and for less than $125.
The lens isn’t just great for those pretty orbs in the background at Christmastime, it’s perfect for all those beauty shots where you want to achieve shallow depth of field beyond your subject matter (where the background or foreground beyond your focal point is blurred).
I use my 50mm for many of my tablescapes and closer room shots.
The 50mm f/1.8 is also really nice for food photography.
The only thing you have to adjust to with the 50mm is the fixed focal length. You can’t zoom in or move out with a fixed 50mm prime lens, you have to physically move back and forth, up and down, and around your subject, but with practice you can grab some lovely images with this lens.
And for fun, I tried out this custom bokeh technique to make heart and star bokeh and it worked! I didn’t make a cover for my lens, but here’s what I did do. I cut out the heart and star shapes on pieces of black cardstock. I set my camera with the 50mm lens at these settings: f/stop 2.0, shutter speed 1/13, ISO 640. After I focused on the ornament, I held the cutout over my lens. It actually turned the bokeh effect into little hearts and stars, how cool is that?
So for those of you who want to move beyond your DSLR kit lens and start taking some beauty shots, especially the ones from 1 to 8 feet away from your subject, consider the affordable 50mm! You might want to put it on your Santa List this year. :)
Other Photography posts from 2012 you might enjoy: