Photography Tips and Advice

Rediscovering My 50mm Lens

When I bought my Canon 6D a few years ago, the only lens I purchased with it was a 50mm. One of the cheapest lenses in the Canon collection, it was a necessary buy because all of my current glass was Nikon and I was making the switch to Canon. In the early days of shooting on my Canon 6D I absolutely loved my new 50mm, because it was a true 50mm focal length on the full frame sensor. But over the years as I added more lenses to my collection, the 50mm fell by the wayside, relegated to experiments in freelensing or the occasional portrait. I found that my 50mm, sometimes referred to by photographers as the ‘nifty fifty’ just wasn’t the focal length I was looking for most of the time. I preferred a wider view, and I found that my 50mm seemed to miss the focus a little too often (something I believed to be equipment error, but I realise now was likely user error).

When Oscar was born I suddenly had a beautiful little boy who I wanted to take portraits of all the time, and capture not only the magic light but the delightful bokeh that the Canon 50mm is known for in its budget class. With a bit of practice my focusing issue became entirely a non-issue, and soon I was rocking this fantastic powerhouse of a lens, which not only offers a great image but also a lightweight and small profile on the camera.

I thought I’d share a little bathtub session I did with Oscar the other day in our backyard, utilising my Canon 6D and my (potentially new favourite) 50mm lens. While some editing has been done (to convert to sepia/black and white) I have included the camera settings to give you an idea of how I captured the images.

Each of these photos was shot on my Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM lens. You can buy one of these new for around $150-180 AUD, which is incredibly cheap for a lens of this quality and a good example of how you don’t need a super expensive lens to capture really nice pictures.

The settings for this shot were as follows, with a little explainer as to why I chose that setting:

  • Shutter speed 1/400: Oscar was splashing and moving around a lot and I wanted to make sure I was capturing him very sharply and also getting the flying water droplets in the picture suspended in the air. To be honest I probably should have gone a bit higher with the shutter speed as the droplets are a bit blurred as they fly through the air.
  • Aperture f/2.8: While I love shooting on the 50mm ‘wide open’ i.e. at f/1.8 this would not have resulted in a sharp image, which is what I was looking for in this portrait. I stopped down to f/2.8 to ensure I was still getting a nice background blur while also capturing Oscar’s face in good focus. I didn’t want to stop down so much that I was getting the back of the tub in focus though.
  • ISO 125: I did an almost minuscule ISO boost to account for my higher shutter speed and the fact that I was shooting in the shade. Based on what I said about about the shutter speed needing to be a tad higher, I could probably have gone up more with the ISO as well to compensate.

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