how to decide which lens to use

by Kristin Dokoza

What’s your favorite lens, and why?

how to decide which lens to use photo

For many photographers this is like asking which child is your favorite.

I have serious love for a couple of my lenses. Could I choose just one lens forever? Depends on the alternative! Which image speaks to you? What elements are included or excluded? All things to consider when selecting your choice of lens. These images were taken within a minute of each other. Just long enough to change lenses. All sooc crops on a full frame camera, and only bumped the exposure a little bit.

how to decide which lens to use photo
Canon 35mm L
ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/500

The 35L gives a nice sense of depth to this image. It is easy for the viewer to separate the far background where the large oak tree is, the middle focal plane where my subjects are and where the large tree is they are under. The foreground also gives additional space to the image and a sense that the viewer is observing, not necessarily in the subjects space. The grass has plenty of details, as does the trunk of the tree.

how to decide which lens to use photo
Canon 50mm
ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/500

The 50 includes plenty of foreground and background. The lines of trees at the horizon are only slightly oof. Details to the grass are noticeable. The sunflare is not included in the frame, so that extra space of sky is missing here in the upper middle of the composition. The space on the right is also eliminated. Now the frame ends where the tree is cropped. The large tree in the background is slightly more oof, and has given the viewer a sense that it may be closer to the subjects. The additional surrounding elements still give the viewer a feeling of observing the subjects, not necessarily being in their space.

how to decide which lens to use photo
Canon 100mm L
ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/500

Using the 100L has really brought the subjects front and center in comparison to the 35L and 50mm. You can also notice a difference in the lighting of the composition. Less foreground is included, the details to the grass are a little more oof vs. using the 35L and 50. The rim lighting is more noticeable and overall the subjects have a nice glow all around them. The large tree in the far background is seen less, but is now used to frame the subjects a little more. The overall image appears to be brighter, but using the 100L has only brought the surrounding areas that were in the sunlight into the frame.

how to decide which lens to use photoCanon 135mm L ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/500

You may only notice a slight difference between the 135L and the 100L. The foreground now is creating depth by being slightly oof and giving the image some pretty foreground bokeh. The focal plane, and where my subjects are placed are now in the middle of sparkly bokeh from the grass, and bokeh from the lines of the large oak tree in the background. The details from the tall grass that are on the same focal plane are seen and give a little bit of texture to the image. The line of trees in the far background have been eliminated, and you can just barely recognize the fence line. The large oak in the background now spans across the entire frame adding an interesting element. It is still giving a sense of distance, but not as recognizable as in the 35L or 50mm. What you may notice right away is how creamy and dreamy the bokeh and the surroundings have become. This is a common and noticeable look for the 135L.

So, which one is your favorite? What elements within the composition make the image your favorite? The atmosphere, surroundings, the light and change of perspective and depth should all be considered. Selecting which lens to use has become a part of my style and vision. I’ll be impartial and not say which image immediately speaks to me. But I was surprised at how much I loved one of the images from a lens that I hardly ever shoot with anymore!

how to decide which lens to use photoKristin Dokoza, California
CM Mentor
website | instagram | ask a pro | daily project
Kristin, formerly a competitive Quarter Horse exhibitor, happily proclaims that humor and laughter are a must in life, along with tall NF White Mochas and Anthropologie. This California photographer, wife, and mother of two boys fully embraces her clean, colorful, and thoughtful style both in her photography and in her love of design and decor. With a Canon 5d mark III and several choice lenses, Kristin states that “my personal style has definitely influenced my photography. I’m learning to appreciate the beauty in something simple, but always love a bit of color or sparkle added.”

Read all photography tutorials by Kristin Dokoza.

sponsored giveaway!

how to decide which lens to use photo

So, who wants to win a prize?  Adorama is here today and giving away a lens case to 10 different people.  That’s right, there’ll be 10 winners!  Simply comment below telling us what your go-to lens is and we’ll draw 10 random winners next Tuesday May 6th at 12pm CST.  We’ll announce all winners here on this post so make sure and come back to check if you’re one of the ten!

winner update!

Congratulations to the following 10 commenters!  I’ll email you shortly on how to obtain your prize.

  1. Linda who said, “My very favorite lens is my Nikon 50mm f/1.4!   Perfect for low-light conditions.”
  2. Jennifer Carr who said, “Wow, what an amazing giveaway! My go-to lens is the Nikkor 24-70.”
  3. Shawna who said, “Only have one lens so far… I’m a newbie. It’s the nifty fifty.”
  4. Erin Peters who said, “I just have my kit lens & a 50mm. I’m thankful for both and the great pics I can capture. The 50 is my favorite, as I love the light it brings into a frame.”
  5. Lisa who said, “My go to is my 50 1.4…so lightweight and just an all around great lens!”
  6. Terri who said, “Thanks for the comparison Kristin! I think my favorite from the examples above is the 100. It creates a nice sense of intimacy but still includes enough detail in the surroundings to tell more of the story. Unfortunately I don’t own a 100 ;) so my go to lens right now is my 85mm 1.8.”
  7. Melissa Ives who said, “I love my 85 mm right now!”
  8. Becky who said, “My go to is my 50 1.4 but I am saving up for the 135L! <3″
  9. Maja who said, “I switch between 35 and 85mm on a crop sensor. Once I save up for a FF camera, I’m also getting the 135mm.”
  10. Yuneisy who said, “My go to lens would be my 50mm 1.2L ! ♥”

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130 Responses to “how to decide which lens to use”

  1. Michelle F
    May 04 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    Right now I love working with my 50mm 1.4

  2. May 04 2014 at 10:58 pm #

    My go to lens is always my 50 1.4

  3. Jeff
    May 04 2014 at 11:09 pm #

    My go-to lens is my 50mm, mostly because it’s the smallest and makes it easier to throw my camera in the baby bag!

  4. Courtney Bracy
    May 04 2014 at 11:40 pm #

    Nikkor 35mm 1.8

  5. May 04 2014 at 11:42 pm #

    Definitely my 50mm 1.4. It’s small enough to put in my purse and let’s me get fast shots.

  6. Esther Chanie Dushinsky
    May 05 2014 at 12:01 am #

    My go to lens is the 100mm canon Macro lens. I love it for outdoors (nom nom bokeh) and for indoor newborn shots whenever I can use it.

  7. May 05 2014 at 12:20 am #

    My Nikon 35 1.4… used for everything.

  8. Mandy
    May 05 2014 at 12:46 am #

    I love my 50mm 1.4

  9. May 05 2014 at 1:59 am #

    My go to lens is my 50mm….also because it is my only lens. Hopefully that will change soon (though I suspect I will always hold the nifty fifty near and dear to my heart aka camera body).

  10. May 05 2014 at 6:36 am #

    Just bought the 50mm and I’m loving it. Small enough to carry around and great shots. Don’t know why I didn’t bought it earlier!

  11. Erica A.
    May 05 2014 at 6:54 am #

    Love my 50mm. Love the bokah it creates, and its usually always on one of my cameras

  12. Kari
    May 05 2014 at 8:07 am #

    I loooooove my 50mm!

  13. Gina
    May 05 2014 at 8:08 am #

    Has to be my 50 1.4. My go to lens for both indoor and outdoor.

  14. Rachel Thornley
    May 05 2014 at 9:36 am #

    I have 50mm and two lensbabies, and while the focusing is a bit hard for me with the Edge 80, I have to say I prefer the images of this lens over the others, which surprises me bc I always thought I would prefer a wide angle lens!

  15. Melissa
    May 05 2014 at 9:50 am #

    Right now I am in love with my Canon 85 mm!

  16. May 05 2014 at 11:57 am #

    I love my 50mm, but I really love the 135mm image here, it is just beautiful!

  17. Kim Peterson
    May 05 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    Oh my, hard to say, but I have my 100mm 2.8L on my camera much more often than my others. I do have a new Sigma 35mm that is competing with it now though…

  18. May 05 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    My Sigma 35 1.4!

  19. May 05 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    Loving my 85mm 1.8 right now. It gives me the perfect amount of that gorgeous bokeh and draws focus to my subjects!

  20. Sarah S
    May 05 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    I love shooting with my 85 1.4! It creates such pretty, dreamy images.

  21. Erin
    May 05 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    I love the 35 as well as the 135 for different reasons! I love the framing you get with the 35 and the closeup detail from the 135

  22. Nicole H
    May 05 2014 at 10:29 pm #

    I just bought a 50mm 1.4 and I’m learning and playing with that!

  23. shawna
    May 05 2014 at 11:31 pm #

    Only have one lens so far… I’m a newbie. It’s the nifty fifty.

  24. Noemi
    May 06 2014 at 5:20 am #

    My go-to-lens is 50mm f1.8 – thanks for the chance to win! <3

  25. Question
    May 07 2014 at 10:01 pm #

    Hi! Where do we see the list of winners? thanks!

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