How to Use a 50mm Lens

by Richard Klopfenstein

50mm lenses are often the first non-kit lens purchase of many photographers. It is called a "prime" lens, which describes a lens that cannot zoom in or out. While this may seem like a big disadvantage, prime lenses are sharper and have much shallower depth of field than a zoom lens. "Depth of field" is the amount of blur in the background and foreground of a photo. So, while you will have to physically move the camera to get closer, the images it produces will be much higher quality. The trick with a 50mm lens is making sure the focus is exact.

Attach the lens to your camera and remove the lens cap.

Open the aperture up as much as possible. The aperture, also known as the "shutter," is the small adjustable opening that lets light enter the camera. The wider the aperture is the greater the depth of field will be. The exact steps to this depends on your camera. Typically, the widest most 50mm lenses go is between f/1.8 and f/1.4.

Place the camera close to an object or person and look through the viewfinder. If your camera has autofocus, use it now. If not, slowly rotate the focus ring of the lens until the desired feature is in focus. Take the photo.

Now head outside. Close down the lens aperture, since the outdoors tend to produce too much light for f/1.8 or lower. A size such as f/4 or higher should suffice.

Look through the vewfinder again and focus on an element either manually or automatically. Take the photo.

Repeat this process with any subject you wish to photograph. Because you can't zoom, you may need to place yourself in some interesting positions to get the shot you want.


  • check If your camera has a "Live Preview" mode, use it to ensure the photo is in focus since it may allow you to zoom in on the image.

Items you will need

About the Author

Richard Klopfenstein began writing in 2009 as a political editorialist for "The Independent Florida Alligator." Klopfenstein's expertise includes improvisation, comedy, design, photography and television production management. He recently graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism.

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