A prime lens, also referred to as a fixed lens, has a fixed focal length. That means it can’t zoom in or out, but it has a higher optical quality. This is a really fun lens to have in your photography kit. The shorter the focal length, the more bokeh it will yield.
Before we go any further, let’s talk definitions. Focal length is the distance of a lens or mirror to its focal point. In the photos above, I am shooting with a 40mm lens. Bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the blur created in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. It gives a great artistic punch to your photos.
Here are a few ways to put that prime lens to good use:
- Try shooting the same subject from many different angles. Subtle changes in height or depth can make for big differences. Don’t be afraid to stand on a stool or crawl on the ground. You may look crazy, but you’ll have a more interesting photo in the end.
- Wrap your head around the whole in focus / out of focus part. Depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image. The foreground and background will appear blurry. This can help you define your subject and draw the viewer in. Play around with different apertures to affect DOF.
- Look for distinct textures to photograph. When you mix the concept of depth of field with different textures and patterns, things get really interesting. The interplay of soft blurs and sharp focus can create an abstracted view of your subject.
- Prime lenses are great for shooting portraits. The wide angle prevents distortion and don’t forget bokeh– everyone looks better with a little blurring action.
- Experiment with lighting. Fixed lenses perform well in low light. The effect can be moody and artistic. Just be sure to have a good stance and steady hands. If you have a tripod, give it a go.