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Monday, May 21, 2012

The Nifty 50

Oh Liv loves this shot!  And I think I love it even more than she does!  Don't you know this one is going on some wedding montage someday! There's not much better than showing a picture to your in-the-trenches-of-puberty-15-year-old daughter of herself, and she replies, Oh, I am so pretty, Mom! Oh yes you are!  You always have been!
So let's talk about the nifty 50 and all its glories. And let me tell you, a 50mm lens is divine!

My dad is a darkroom instructor.  Plain ol' film is the only way he shoots.  And he instructs all the students to start with a 50mm lens to learn the basics.  And we may not agree on everything, but I whole heatedly agree about this one!  You see he keeps telling me and all his students that a 50 mm will teach you all about your camera.  It will help you see light and makes the photographer concentrate on composition.  It's good stuff.  And it can do all this while getting fabulicious results relativity easily!  So I have to agree, if you can only have 1 lens, I'd make it a 50mm.  If you just got a DSLR and want to learn to do more than taking photos on the "auto" setting, I highly recommend spending just a tiny bit more money, take off the kit lens your camera came with off and put it away, and put on a 50mm.  It'll get you portraits, and if you step back it can get you a wider angle pics too.  It's not too close but not too far either.  And before you think it's a lens for beginners, it's also a lens that most professionals have in their bag, but use often.
OK, admittedly, this one isn't in great focus.  But I'm too busy to care enough to find a replacement.  But I did want to show you  that pulling back is a great option for the 50mm too.  
I was about 15 yards away from her when I took this.

The 50mm comes in several flavors.  1.8, 1.4, and 1.2.  The lower the #, the higher the price.  A Canon 50mm 1.8, the most affordable 50mm, can easily be found refurbished for under $100, so it's not gonna break the bank either.  I have a 50mm 1.4 that Papa got me for Christmas.  Papa, thank you my my sweet love bug.

Oh yea... and all those little numbers are also wonderful for taking pics in low light!  But wait there's more!  They can also help you get faster shutter speeds for those quickly moving kiddos!

I haven't re-touched, edited, or Photoshopped her eyes in this pic.  If you were to blow it up, you'd notice that her lovely eyelashes are still in sharp focus!  I also love the texture on the hat in this pic.

The first thing that most budding photographers ask me, shortly after they get their new DSLR out of the box and snap a few shots, is how to get that pretty blurry/fuzzy background, called bokeh.  But without getting into a whole 'nother post too much, lets just say that the 50mm does create that yummy blurry bokeh very well.  All those little numbers, the 1.8, 1.4, and 1.2, are what give the possibility of creating that delicious blurriness while the subject stays in crisp focus.  And that seems to be what we mamas first want learn to take photos of!  At least that's one of the things I want... great portrait shots of my kiddos of course!
I'm trying to get better using my 50mm lens.  It seems to be the lens I have to try the least hard to get good images. I hope I can keep learning more and more with it.

Oh, 1 more thing... if you want to impress you non-photog friends with your vast knowledge of photography, be sure to drop in words and phrases like "photog" and "piece of glass." They'll be so impressed!

26 comments:

  1. What a good little lesson you have put together : ) I sure do love my 50! I love that your dad still teaches film classes. That is fantastic!

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  2. Keep these coming! I'm currently shopping for my first DSLR and now know what lens I most want. So, YES, to the do you want a post about bokeh.

    If you've got advice on an affordable starter DSLR, I'd love to hear it. Mostly photograph my kiddos, of course, but one is a dancer so I need to get action shots. (well, with a toddler, I guess I have two who require action shots because I don't know about your Miss M but my little one is rarely still)

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  3. She is just gorgeous! And you took such lovely photos of her!

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  4. I'm really having a good time with my digital camera (non-SLR but more than point 'n' shoot)... but you're really making me miss my ol' Nikkormat FT2! I spent a lot of time with a 28-80 zoom on in, but well over half that camera's lifetime had it paired with a 1.4 50mm and that's what I cut my eyeteeth on & always had as my fallback lens. Gotta wonder if maybe, just maybe, there's still some life in the ol' gal (jammed into the back of a closet cabinet, but I know exactly where...) Hmmm...

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  5. Thanks for the information! I bought a DSLR several years ago but am just now starting to play with it. Of course, it's on auto with the original lens. But now I know what I need to do as far as my first lens purchase. Thanks Nancy!

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  6. Annika-
    Yes, I have some thoughts re a starter DSLR! But I don't have your email address. Can you email me and then we'll talk.
    nancyvnjourney@hotmail.com
    nancy

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  7. Ok, Julie---
    Do you want to get it off the auto settings? I could point you towards a couple easier ways to go "semi-manual" rather than going cold turkey.
    Holler if you want,
    nancy

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  8. I completely agree. I started with the 1.8 being my first prime. Love it- although I just upgraded to the 1.4 & I have to say, the distance shots are far more crisp. My 1.8 even when closed down to f/8 or even 10- were just not as sharp for say full body shots. This past week I just picked up the 85 & it's a whole new learning curve. I had my 50 mastered & knew I was going to get sharp as a tack shots. Now with the 85 I have to change a lot of things & learn all it's little quirks that happen to be different than the 50. The first test shot was spectacular- so now I just need to learn it so that it's the consistent standard that I know it's capable of.

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  9. Gina-
    I LOVE my 85 and truth be told, if I know I'm ONLY going to be doing portraits, then I'll use my 85. But you do have to stand back quite a ways to get full or even 3/4 body shots. But it can be pretty limiting. But I still think the glass on the 85 is sharper than the 50 if that's possible!
    nancy

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  10. I love the first picture too! Very pretty.

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  11. Love these shots of Liv!

    I agree with you that the 50mm prime lens is a great place to start. I recently upgraded mine to a 1.4G (like Gina) and am kicking myself I didn't do it sooner. After I bought my 50mm1.8, I knew I wanted an 85mm 1.4...those two kept me content for a while (because I wasn't shooting a whole lot! lol). Anyway, getting back into shooting more regularly, I wanted more flexibility (indoor and outdoor) and purchased a 35mm1.4....couldn't be happier! I'm able to pull back and get those wider shots I've been neglecting. ;)

    Oh, I'll be linking up with ya here. I've been shooting indoors so much with my 35mm, that I have to go back a few weeks to get reasonable shots with my 50mm. ;)

    Enjoy your Sunday!

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  12. I'm also loving my 50 1.4. I'm just learning how to capture my 8 month through the lens...witch is hard because she's so quick :) Any pointers on how to be fast enough to get those crispy pics?? Love your blog and you take amazing pictures of your beautiful children!
    Monika

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  13. Your girl IS beautiful :)
    That's exactly what I have, I bought my camera body and a 50mm 1.4. I do love it, but I'm ready to get a zoom now... drooling over the 24-70mm...

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  14. We just bought a new dslr at christmas. I mostly use the lens that came with it (18 - 55). I'm as green as they come with knowing how to use it, so any tips you have will be much appreciated. So far, it hasn't been off "auto" yet. :)

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  15. Monika-
    To get sharper focus ever fast kiddos you're gonna have to do a few things and get your settings right even before you start taking pics.
    1-Bump you ISO a bit higher so you can get faster shutter speeds
    2-Make sure your shooting with ample light. Quick kiddos and low light usually don't work for getting sharp pics.
    3-Make sure your f-stop/aperture is wide open. That mean smaller numbers. To control this, you can't be on auto mode. You'll have to either shoot totally manual or be in Aperture priority mode.
    4-Make sure your shutter speed is fast enough. With children, I try to stay at 1/125th or higher. Again, you can't be in auto mode to do this.
    5-You'll have to make sure you have good focusing skills.

    that's a lot to think about.
    Hmmmmmm... maybe some more blog posts are in order.

    hope that helps a bit,
    nancy

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  16. What a great post, gorgeous girly, and yes the Nifty Fifty is a thousand bazillion times over amazing!!! I want the 1.4 SO much, I have used the 1.8 for forever, and just this weekend the 85 1.8 became mine after working for it for earning it from a friend for helping her with a wedding! :) It was a true blessing to me!! But the 50 1.4 is my next goal to purchase <3

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  17. Nancy - great stuff here!! You have a real feel for the depth of field in this work - that hat brim and background against the crisp eye is really brilliant work! (Then again - a model as pretty as your daughter doesn't hurt - where did she get those eyes!) And yeah - you couldn't get that with a zoom!

    And Steph - go bigger on the zoom - it will be pricy but my "walk around lens" for a trip to the zoo or whatever is an 24-120 (I'm a Nikon guy). The downside is the lens is a sluggish f4, but the ability to widen or narrow the view is outstanding!

    hugs - aus and co.

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  18. First, yes, she is BEAUTIFUL and I'm glad SHE knows it too! The first image and the last 3 in the link I put up were taken with my 50 1.4 . It's always been my favorite. It was my first lens I purchased. Then a few months ago my dad got the 85 1.8 . My first 2 attempts at it were not that great. Then I began to crave that thing! Now I just picked up my 100mm f/2 on Saturday and I am IN LOVE. I don't want to ever take it off my camera....but I will when we go away this weekend to Tennessee and switch to the 24-70mm for convenience . I owned the 24mm 2.8 for a couple of years but never got to know it well. We didn't click together. I sold it. Great post Nancy!!!

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  19. I love her self confidence! Every 15 year old deserves to feel that way!!!

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  20. Love the photos, just gorgeous, def. want more bokeh details, whole posts would be grand!!!! Love photographing, will have to hunt up a pic of the kiddos from recently shot with my 50mm, hmm, which to pick.
    Thanks for the reminders of angle and height too, great ideas to use again soon.

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  21. That second last shot of Liv's eyes is amazing!

    I purchased my Nikon 50mm last December and I am only beginning to really test it out now. Because of the camera that I have (D3100) the autofocus on the lens is not compatible with the camera, so I have to manually focus every time.
    Truthfully I hate the thought of this, but it is already helping to improve my photography skills and it allows me to slow down a little and really think about my shot. A blessing in disguise I guess!

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  22. Hi again Nancy!

    Would just like to thank you for giving me some tip on child-photography :) Appreciate it! Will give it a try this weekend and I'm keeping my fingers crossed we'll do well ;)
    Monika

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  23. Nancy,
    Could you email me the 'semi-manual' settings? I'm interested in learning more but really don't have a clue as to what I'm doing.

    Thanks!
    Julie
    jmharri@rocketmail.com

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  24. Hi Nancy,
    Yes! I'd love for you to send me the semi-manual settings. I really want to learn to take better photos but just don't know where to begin.

    Thanks,
    Julie
    jmharri@rocketmail.com

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