Starting with the very beginning, to be a photographer using a single focal length such as a 50mm lens would be beneficial for several reasons such as mastering a single lens and/or focal length, learning and mastering the manual focus of that focal length and always knowing how to frame the composition in the right and easiest way. But there is more about it.
How can you become a 50mm photographer? The first step would be to own a 50mm prime lens for your full-frame DSLR or 35mm for DX sensor DSLR. Learning and practicing with the same focal length not only would improve the look of your portfolio but aid to master photography much easier.
This just said. I don’t want to give mixed impressions and information, therefore, I will section this post and include everything I know about how to be a 50mm photographer. I am a 50mm photographer, own and use only a 50mm lens with manual focus and aperture for my full-frame camera.
How to be a 50mm photographer
A 50mm photographer belongs to a sub-niche in photography, 50mm photography, where you are using only the 50mm focal length. It is well known that the photographs taken with this focal length on a full-frame camera are similar to what we see with our own eyes.
The first step to becoming a 50mm photographer is to pick this as the main niche for your photography. Although these focal length niches do not fall under the same category with the well-known niches such as landscape photography, portrait, macro, astrophotography, and many others, these niches can blend well.
As an instance, you can be as specific as a 50mm landscape photographer or 50mm fine-art photographer. Some work better, while some do worse. As an instance, 50mm astrophotography wouldn’t be that much recommended in many cases, where 50mm sports/wildlife photography would not work at all.
Now the question is: Are you going to have a specific sub-niche or your aim is to be a general 50mm photographer?
50mm general photography
Me, personally, I can fall under this category because I own a 50mm lens as my main lens but I am a bit diversified when it is about picking my subjects or scenes to photograph. Sometimes I do 50mm portrait photography, while sometimes I do landscape but mostly, I love to do fine art with my 50mm lens.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing 50mm general photography?
- Learning and mastering a single focal length for all types of photography you are doing
- Being diversified in what you are going to choose to photograph
- Everything you capture will look natural
- Cutting an investment price where you won’t have to buy many lenses for several niches. You work with what you have, and this would be a 50mm lens.
- You are not mastering any other niches such as landscape photography or portraits.
- Sometimes, with some niches, 50mm focal length will simply not work well.
- This may be monotonic to use a 50mm lens everywhere and for everything.
- You need a very good investment into a good quality 50mm prime lens in order to cover as much as possible (e.g. some 50mm lenses would have better autofocus, wider aperture, work better during the night, nicer bokeh, less chromatic aberration or distortions).
50mm sub-niche photography
When considering to take a sub-niche, a very specific niche such as 50mm portrait photographer, 50mm street photographer or any other where a 50mm lens would blend well, you don’t only start to master the 50mm lens in time but the niche as well. As a good example, you can master how to create better panoramic images from a series of landscape photographs taken with a 50mm lens.
But before deeping more into the 50mm sub-niche section, I want to share with you the advantages or disadvantages in this case:
- Mastering in time not only the focal length but the niche of photography you chose
- Have a better chance on going up the ladders of the best photographers under that section (e.g. 50mm street photographer) as there would be less competition
- Your portfolio would look neat and smooth!
- You are limited in picking niches with this very specific focal length.
- Also, you will limit yourself in mastering this focal length to only one photography niche.
Furthermore, I want to share with you a list with top 20 photography niches where 50mm focal length may or may not work, and why. Therefore, if you want to be a 50mm photographer, I would definitely recommend on checking the next section.
Types of photography
- Architectural Photography – In the case of architectural photography, you may need a wider lens but this is not always the case. For interiors, indeed you need a wider lens but depending on the focal distance and the structure you are photographing, outdoor architectures may benefit from the 50mm focal length. If you are strictly into architectural photography, I would not recommend buying the only 50mm focal length but a zoom lens to cover multiple focal lengths.
- Astrophotography – Astrophotography would definitely benefit more from wider focal lengths, and in fact, in most of the cases, you may want a lens as wide as possible in order to capture the night sky as a whole. Furthermore to this, a 50mm lens may have it’s benefits into astrophotography, in special if you are aiming to photograph constellations or parts of the night sky. For more information, you can check our other guide “is a 50mm lens good for astrophotography?“
- Candid Photography – Although I don’t have much experience with candid photography, upon my researches I could say that a 50mm lens would be very beneficial for this type of photography.
- Close-up Photography – 50mm would be a very good focal length for close-up photography in special if the lens has a short focal distance focus to be able to focus as close as possible but not that close to getting into macro photography.
- Fine Art Photography – I had created a full post about this and explained largely why I personally consider that a 50mm lens would be essential for a fine-art photographer, in special if the lens has a very wide aperture. If you want to read more, you can check our other article “how to do fine-art photography using a 50mm lens“
- Food Photography – In food photography, there are multiple focal lengths photographers use it, but in general, a 50mm lens works fantastic with food photography
- Landscape Photography – Many photographers prefer to have wide lenses for landscape photography, such as 14mm, 18mm, 24mm and so on. Not many use a 50mm in the landscape but it may have its role. If you own a 50mm and you want to take wide landscape photographs, I would recommend applying panoramic stacks from multiple photographs of the scene.
- Long Exposure Photography – During long exposure photography, focal length does not matter as much as other factors, therefore, a 50mm lens would work just fine as long as there are subjects and scenes you can frame with this focal length.
- Low Light Photography – Taking handheld photographs during low-light situations are advantaged by wider lenses where you are able to capture a scene or subject with longer shutter speeds and less motion shake captured due to hands movement.
- Macro Photography – Macro photography is not advantaged by a 50mm lens, and for this, you will need a macro lens such as Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro.
- Nature Photography – Using a 50mm lens in nature will make the photos look natural due to the unique focal length, therefore, for nature photography, I would strongly recommend using a 50mm lens.
- Night Photography – In the case of night photography is very similar to low-light photography. You are able to take handheld photographs during the night with this lens although wider lenses are recommended. Do not forget you have a 50mm prime lens with a wide aperture. I had written a full topic about what settings to use for 50mm night photography.
- Photojournalism – If you want or you are a photojournalist, you may want to focus more on a zoom lens such as a 24-70mm which will benefit more from different focal lengths you may need at a quick turn of a ring rather than only a prime lens. Prime lenses are good as long as they are in 85-105mm focal range for capturing the subject from a bigger distance with shallower depth of field.
- Portrait / Family Photography – Well, well. I don’t know how to start this rather than a 50mm lens is the most recommended for portrait photography because of the natural look and the wonders you can do with a wide aperture in portraits. I have a full topic covering “how to use a 50mm for portrait photography” if you are interested.
- Sports or Action Photography – I used a 50mm in sports photography and I can say that is not the lens you want to focus on. You probably need a 70-200mm lens to bring the action closer to you. In the case of action photography, the opinions are split. If you are very close to the action, a 50mm will do fine. If you are part of the action, you may want a GoPro.
- Still Life Photography – All focal lengths can benefit from still life photography but a prime lens would be the best choice with the focal length over 50mm. a 50mm would be also good but you may want a macro approach as well for miniature subjects.
- Street Photography – a 35mm and a 50mm would be amazing for street photography. Although many photographers prefer 24mm to 35mm, I love to take street photographs with my nifty fifty. Yes, I do recommend a 50mm lens if your aim is to do street photography.
- Travel Photography – There are advantages and disadvantages of using a 50mm lens when traveling. In fact, this is the only lens I used lately when I traveled, therefore I do recommend it. But before to jump to a final conclusion, I would recommend you to pop an eye on our other post “is a 50mm lens good for travel photography?”
- Wedding and Event Photography – Many photographers prefer to shoot a whole wedding with a single camera and a single lens: a 50mm. There are millions of wedding photographers and all with different approaches and gear but I am amazed by a wedding photographer project to shoot weddings with a 50mm lens for one year (External Link)
- Wildlife Photography – No. a 50mm will not work with wildlife photography. You need a telephoto lens here.
Why a 50mm photographer
There could be many reasons why you want to be a 50mm photographer. Some people will choose this because it’s an inexpensive way to approach photography, some other love prime lenses and the 50mm focal length, it’s easier to master one focal length than a dozen other, etc.
But being a 50mm photographer will get you easier recognized in this over-crowded world where everyone is a “photographer” with their cellphone or point&shoot cameras.
Initially, before I got to own my favorite 50mm lens, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 manual focus, I had a dozen and a half of other lenses, always interchanging zoom and prime lenses on both of my camera, a thing which was annoying. I bought the above-mentioned lens, and later, I fell in love with it. Sold everything else, and now I have only two lenses left with two cameras: Nikon D750 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 and Nikon D500 + Sigma 105mm Macro lens.
The D500 with the sigma got a lot of dust over the years after I bought my 50mm lens. I wanted to be a 50mm photographer because I simply loved it, the lens, the manual focus, the quality, the aperture. Those things got me started very seriously in 50mm photography. What is your starting point and why do you want to be a 50mm photographer? Answer yourself this question and if you have a good and strong answer for it, you are on the right track of becoming a 50mm photographer.
Owning a 50mm prime lens
As mentioned and spoke earlier about it, owning a 50mm prime lens would be the best choice, as if you are owning a zoom lens which covers this focal length, you are not getting by far close to the true and real experience of owning a 50mm prime lens for your DSLR full-frame camera (more on the next section).
There are many 50mm lenses on the market and this will differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. As an instance, for Nikon, there are about 5 main 50mm lenses that people are buying, and one specifically which is very cheap and any photographer could afford, delivering excellent image quality. I may not know much about other manufacturers such as Canon, Sony etc. (Sorry, I am not that rich to experiment that much) but if you have any questions about the Nikon lenses, you can ask me with a comment in the section below (as I did owned a couple of 50mm Nikon lenses).
Keep in mind that there are some other 3rd party 50 lenses made by other manufacturers such as Tamron, Sigma and some other.
If you want to buy a 50mm prime lens, please research and compare before you buying as you don’t have to experiment with a dozen lenses until you buy the right one but to pick what’s right for you.
When we are aiming to buy a 50mm prime lens, there may be some other reasons behind, other than the ones explained above. A 50mm prime lens is a prime, therefore, you will have a very wide aperture, which allows you to take amazing bokeh photographs and good performance on photographing with a 50mm prime lens during the night handheld. Another reason would be the speed and accuracy of the autofocus of prime lenses, where one another reason is the quality and sharpness of the photographs taken with a prime lens.
50mm on FX vs DX sensor DSLRs. Which one?
There is a difference between owning a 50mm lens on DX and FX cameras. DX image format has a crop ratio of 1.5x, therefore, 50mm will become 75mm.
DX is also known as a crop sensor and is often found in cheaper camera models such as Nikon D3400, D5200, D7200, same for many Canon models and some other manufacturers. With a 1.5x crop ratio, in order to reach the true 50mm focal length, you will need a 35mm lens, which, with this crop ratio you will have a focal length of 52.5mm
FX are full-frame cameras, therefore, the focal length remains the same uncropped. There only, a 50mm lens will remain and having a 50mm focal length.
If you are interested and you want to read more about this, I would recommend checking our other article 50mm on crop sensor vs full-frame sensor.
How to improve your 50mm photography
If you want to be a 50mm photographer for sure you want to improve your 50mm photography, therefore, I want to share with you the top 5 tips on how to improve your 50mm photography.
- Own a 50mm prime lens (full-frame) or 35mm lens (DX) and shoot only with this focal length and nothing else. By doing this you will train your photographic eye for perceiving the scenes and elements you capture with 50mm much better and it would be so much easier for you to master this lens than having a zoom lens or a bunch of other lenses.
- Think natural because 50mm is natural. As probably mentioned several times already, 50mm is more or less what we see with our own eyes, therefore, use your imagination to what you want to frame by storing the field of view of this lens in your mind. You will know how the photograph will look before you put your eye to the eye finder of your camera.
- Don’t forget to apply general photography rules. Having a 50mm lens is not a different type of photography, therefore, everything you know about photography will apply to this focal length, such as taking long exposures, HDR images, controlling the dynamic range of the scene, etc. Framing and composition are part of 50mm only and only and would be different for each lens and focal length.
- Own a filter for your lens. With a filter, either polarized or ND filter, you can do much such as improve the look of an image, reduce reflection and glare, improve contrast or be able to take long-exposure during the day.
- Learn how to shoot with manual focus. Training your manual focus skill with this lens will not only improve your manual focus but the focal length perception because you shoot in 50mm, right? When you use the manual focus you concentrate a lot on the elements from your frame and where to focus, therefore, you will progress better in learning 50mm with manual focus. I would recommend you to check our beginner guide into manual focus and/or 30-day manual focus photography challenge (free e-book provided) for more info.
There are many other tips I can write and guides to share about how can you improve your 50mm photography and how to be a better 50mm photographer, therefore, generalizing this, I would strongly recommend checking our expertised category of 50mm photography where you can find our never-endless-growing posts about 50mm photography.
Conclusion on how to become a 50mm photographer.
Being a 50mm photographer can be easier than you think and practicing within the 50mm focal length is the best approach for you to improve your 50mm photography and be a better photographer. If you love this, why not give it a shot?
That is amazing! I want to say thank you for remaining until the end of this post and I hope to see you around. Stay tuned, more posts will come. Take care and have a great day!
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