Photography Tips: How to Get Sharp Photos with the Budget Friendly 50mm 1.8 Lens
The first lens I bought, after I got my DSLR with the included kit lens, was the budget friendly 50mm 1.8. It’s probably the most recommended lens to get the best photos on a tight budget. There are other, more expensive versions of the lens, and they are wonderful, but the 50 mm 1.8 is the one I’ll talk about here, as it’s a great choice for those who want a sharp lens at a very low price.
The 50mm 1.8 lens is not only budget friendly, but it is sharp and performs great in really low light. A lot of professional photographers would choose some version of a 50mm lens if it were the only one they could have in their bag. What’s not to love?
Today, I’m sharing some tips to help you get the sharpest photos with this little lens.
First, here are some of the advantages of the 50mm 1.8 lens (The “Nifty Fifty”):
- Affordable It’s very inexpensive for the results you can achieve. Extremely inexpensive in terms of lenses.
- Sharp It’s a prime lens, so the photos will be sharper than with a standard kit zoom lens.
- Great results in low light It has a minimum aperture of 1.8, so it does well, even when the light is quite poor.
- Bokeh The wide aperture provides the opportunity for blurred backgrounds and pretty highlights. You can make your subject pop out from the background, and your photos will look more professional.
- Small and light It doesn’t take up much room in your camera bag and adds very little weight to your camera.
- Flexible. It’s great for all kinds of photos, including blog photos and portaits.
Even funny, impromptu portraits of prom poses and swaddled dogs! I used f/4 for this photo, but f/2.8 would have given me an even blurrier background.
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Tips for getting great results with the 50mm 1.8 lens:
- To determine which 50mm 1.8 lens you should buy, you need to check to see if your DSLR has a focusing motor. Typically, beginner DSLRs are made without built in focusing motors, so the lens itself needs to have one, if you want to use autofocus. The Nikon 50mm 1.8G lens and the Canon EF 1.8 STM have the focusing motors in the lenses, so they will work, regardless of whether or not your camera has one built in. If your Nikon camera already has a built in focus motor, this Nikon 50mm 1.8D version is a great value, but it won’t work on many of the beginner DSLRs (unless you only want to manually focus!), so be sure to check.
- When first starting out with this lens, you might be tempted to use that wide open 1.8 aperture for portraits because you want those nice blurred backgrounds. Depth of field is tricky, though, and at f/1.8, it can be difficult to get everything in focus that you planned for. For instance, in portraits, you want the whole face in focus, not just the eyes. So, at first, starting at f/2.8 could resolve some of the depth of field frustration, and you can still get a nice, blurred background. An aperture of f/4 will get even more of the shot in focus, especially if there are a few people in the photo, not just one or two. If the group is more than just a few people, you may need to use an even narrower f/stop, like f/8, to get everyone in focus. You don’t have to use full manual to do this, simply switch your mode to aperture priority (AV on Canon, A on Nikon), and choose your own f-stop. That will give you control over the depth of field, which shooting on automatic will not.
- How close you are to the subject will affect depth of field, too; you might need to step back a little, and then crop the photo later. Try that, if you really want to use f/1.8. Also, place that focus rectangle right where you want to focus (for portraits, it’s usually the eye closest to you.) Single-point autofocus is the best setting for this.
- Because the 50mm 1.8 lens is a prime lens, you’ll be zooming with your feet, not the lens. For me, this actually helped me improve my composition because as I was moving, I was exploring different angles and perspectives. As you’re shooting with this lens, move about and use the fact that your feet are the zoom to your advantage.
If you’re new to photography, these tips might sound complicated to you, but you don’t have to overthink any of it, really. When I first got my 50mm lens, I was very new to my DSLR. I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about aperture or depth of field, or any of that, but some of my favorite photos were shot back then, with the 50mm 1.8 lens.
I hope these tips help you. The 50mm 1.8 lens is definitely a wonderful little lens that can make a nice addition to your kit lens, without breaking your budget.
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The 50mm is my favorite, but I have the 1.4. I once rented the 1.2 and whoa. That said, I think all three do wonders, and there's one for every budget.
I bet the 1.2 and 1.4 are amazing. In the Nikon lenses, I have heard that the 1.4 isn't much sharper than the 1.8, but I don't think that's true for Canon. I've only tried the 1.8, but I'd love to try out one of the others!
Pam,what a great post and very informative!! Thanks for sharing!! And thanks for stopping by and for your kind words!! I appreciate it!! Stay safe, healthy and happy!!
Thank you so much, Debbie! And, thank you for stopping by, too!
This was so helpful as I'm trying to take better travel pics. Thanks a mil!
Thanks for reading, Jessy!
I really love my 50mm lens and I used to use it all the time until my husband got me a zoom lens. He knows more about photography than me, so I just do what he tells me! Ha, ha. The photos you took with it are beautiful! Thank you for sharing this, I am going to pin it to my photography folder for reference since I need all the help I can get.
I have always been happy with the camera on my iPhone. However, now that I am getting serious about making YouTube videos and growing my YouTube channel, I would consider getting a better camera. Thanks for the suggestions.
Thanks for reading, Janice. Photography is one of my passions, and I'd be happy to talk cameras any time!
I have two 50mm lenses and I love them. I think the 50mm forces me to think about the composition. Your kitty looks so thoughtful there. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful post on Wandering Camera.
Thanks so much for hosting the link up. Your photos are amazing!