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The 50mm lens is one of the greatest lenses you can buy

Affectionately known as the “nifty fifty”, this portable powerhouse can shoot in a variety of challenging shooting scenarios.

What Is A 50mm Lens?

A 50mm lens is a fixed-length prime lens. It has a focal length of 50mm, which cannot be zoomed-in or out, unlike a kit lens, for example.

The 50mm focal length is often chosen because of the lack of distortion and the high level of compression. It is also said that the 50mm focal length produces images that look similar to that of a human eye.

The wide F/1.8 aperture (on most 50mm lenses, some may have an F/1.4 aperture, etc) lets in ample amounts of light, making this lens ideal for shooting at nighttime or in low-light conditions.

It is often referred to as the “nifty fifty”, thanks to its fast aperture and small design, making it easy to take with you if you don’t want to carry all of your camera gear around with you.

This lens is also relatively affordable too, coming in at around £100-£150 brand new on Amazon, both for Canon and Nikon models.

With all of these excellent features, the 50mm lens is a very versatile lens, ready for you to pick up and start shooting photos with.

But, if you’re struggling to get some inspiration or you’re unsure what you should shoot with this lens, this article will help you out.

In this article, I’ll go over 7 versatile uses for the 50mm lens and why you should take these photos.

If you want to learn a bit more about the 50mm lens, I have written some other articles on this site that go into a bit more detail. Feel free to give them a read and then come back to this page if you wish:

If you’ve read some of these articles or you’ve decided to skip them, now is the time to move onto the 7 versatile uses for the 50mm lens.

Let me know in the comments below what your thoughts are on these tips and tricks and feel free to tell me your experiences with the 50mm lens.

#1: Close-Up Shots

close up picture uses for 50mm lens

While I’m not talking about macro close-ups here, you can still get pretty close to your subject with this lens.

You can get a very shallow depth-of-field with the lens, thanks to the F/1.4-F/1.8 aperture, which lets in lots of light. This makes the difference between the subject and the background quite dramatic and this is essential for close-up photos.

If your lens is very close to the subject, you may struggle to get the camera to focus properly. In this case, I suggest you switch to using ‘manual focus’, just for that particular photograph.

To do this, look for the ‘mf’ and ‘af’/’m’ and ‘a’ buttons on the side of your camera lens. ‘Mf’ or ‘m’ will be the manual mode setting while ‘af’ or ‘a’ will be the automatic focus setting.

If you wish to use your 50mm lens as a macro lens, there is a way to do this. You can purchase a reverse mounting ring that will turn your 50mm lens into a macro lens.

While this will be more fiddly to set up, you can get some great-looking shots with this setup. You can learn more about the reverse lens technique here if you wish.

#2: Portrait Photography

While I have covered and discussed portrait photography on the 50mm lens in previous articles, I will use this post as an opportunity to explain the benefits in-depth.

If you’re looking to carry a camera around with you a lot of the time, you’re probably not going to want to lug around a bulky lens.

Maybe you want a sharp lens that can be there for you when you want to capture unexpected events with friends and family.

This is where the nifty fifty comes in!

The 50mm lens is ideal for candid shots of friends and family, whether they are group shots or portrait shots.

The focal length gives you an ideal field of view that closes in on your subject, while also ensuring you have space to adjust your composition.

The lens is tack-sharp and the wide aperture lets in ample light, ensuring your handheld shots are sharp and capture the essence of the moment perfectly. The focal length also minimises the chances of distortion, meaning the key facial features of the subject shall remain accurate.

The lens is also compact, taking up little space within a bag or a camera backpack. This means it is easy to take with you and makes photography less of a hassle.

I would also suggest taking or borrowing a few props with you when shooting your portraits. This will add depth and emotion to the image, turning it into a sort of mini-story. If you’re shooting at night, try a long exposure and get some lights. This way you can create a light streak, or even use the light to write out your name in the air.

#3: Travel Photography

travel photography uses for 50mm lens

No surprise that the 50mm lens makes a great lens for travel photography:

  • The lens body is compact, making it easy to carry around with you
  • The wide F/1.8 aperture lets in large amounts of light into the sensor, regardless of the scene
  • The lens is affordable, making it easier for beginners to get into travel photography
  • The focal length is neither too wide nor too narrow, making the nifty fifty ideal for almost any picture.

This means the 50mm lens will be able to handle almost any scenario well.

Whether you’re shooting portraits of the locals, close-ups of the patterns on the skyscrapers or even pictures of the idyllic coastline, you’re sure to come out with an amazing picture you’ll cherish for years to come.

#4: Architectural Photography

A personal favourite of mine, architectural photography is a breeze to capture on this lens. The compact design and sharp lens make capturing the finer details in grand buildings so much easier.

While you may struggle to fit in an entire skyscraper with this lens, you should have no problem capturing most other buildings.

If you did want to photograph pictures of entire skyscrapers (like say, the One World Trade Centre), I would suggest picking up a wide-angle lens. That would be your best bet.

The compression of this lens will help you to make the architecture stand out from the background, making your photo even better.

The 50mm focal length allows you to fill the frame with your subject, making for much better photo composition.

For these reasons, the 50mm lens is a great choice for travel photography and the compact build means it won’t take up much space in your bag.

#5: Low-Light Photography

An F/1.8 aperture is typical on a 50mm lens, making this an ideal choice for shooting in low-light.

All the extra light that the wide F/1.8 aperture lets in will make it far easier for you to shoot at faster shutter speeds in low light.

This makes handheld shooting easier and means that you’re not reliant on a tripod whenever you’re shooting in low-light conditions. 

This is handy for unexpected photos as you’re not planning for them and if all you want to do is shoot them on the spot, this lens is a good choice.

If you want to jazz up your night photographs, bring some lights with you so you can create a long-exposure light streak.

#6: Experiment With Different Compositions

composition ideas uses for 50mm lens

One of the key benefits of a prime lens is the fixed focal length. While this may sound weird, let me explain.

With a fixed focal length prime lens, you’re forced to move around, forward and backwards, to get the compositions you want. You can’t just zoom in or out anymore!

Being forced to move around will help you to get creative with your compositions, trying various angles and compositions you may otherwise bypass.

Like I also mentioned before, the 50mm lens allows for a tighter crop but it also gives you the ability to step back for a wider view. This makes the nifty-fifty one of the best lenses for versatility.

#7: Landscape Photography

Yes, you can even shoot landscape photography with a 50mm lens!

While this may not be a conventional thing to do, there are some key benefits.

Firstly, the focal length. Unlike many landscape pictures which are shot with a wide-angle lens, the 50mm lens has almost no distortion, meaning that landscape photos will look accurate and there will be no weird artefacts or distortion at the edges of your picture.

Secondly, the wide F/1.8 aperture. If you want to shoot at nighttime or in low-light conditions, the wide aperture will allow you to do so. This may not have been something you were able to do with a traditional wide-angle lens. But, with the nifty fifty, you have the flexibility of shooting in the darkness if you wish to do so.

Finally, the affordability. Traditional wide-angle lenses can cost well into the hundreds or even thousands of pounds. Save yourself a huge wad of cash and opt for the 50mm lens instead. 

It’s much more affordable and the glass is still manufactured to a high standard, meaning you’ll end up with tack-sharp photos on every photoshoot.

What Are Your Thoughts On The 50mm Lens?

As you can tell, the 50mm lens is a very versatile and capable lens.

I can guarantee you, you will have a lot of fun shooting with this lens. It can also be bought for an affordable price, meaning beginners or those short on cash can take advantage of all the features too.

What are your thoughts on this? What has your experience been like with the 50mm lens?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you.

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Joel Oughton is the Creator of Photoaspire. He likes to write about anything photography related and is more than happy to help out others with any photography-related issues

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