best focal length for beginner photographers - Darah Soria

best focal length for beginner photographers - 50mm

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Focal length will regulate how much of any given area you are able to see through your lens. A number greater than 50mm is believed to be telephoto and will zoom into your subject, showing less of the area around you than what you can see with your eyes. A number smaller than 50mm is considered a wide angle lens and will expose a greater area than you can see with your eyes. Thus it is suggested that 50mm is approximately what the human eye can see. This is why, while developing technique, it is crucial to shoot exclusively at 50mm. Doing this also trains photographers to understand how to move their bodies in order to determine the best way to frame a photograph, rather than becoming reliant on altering the focal length which can effect lighting conditions and overall composition. Below is an example of how focal length alters the view of the photographer.

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determining what your camera actually thinks 50mm is

Now calm down there, young blood. Before you go out and buy that sweet 50mm 1.8 lens you must determine your camera’s crop factor. Understand that it compromises your camera’s focal length. The crop factor is the variable which multiplies your camera’s awareness of focal length. Chances are, 50mm does not actually = 50mm in your camera, it equals 50mm multiplied by your crop factor.*

Do a quick internet search for your camera’s crop factor. Odds on your crop factor is between 1.6x and 1.8x. More than likely you are actually shooting near 85mm, and to shoot at 50mm you would need to be somewhere between 24 and 35mm. 

To figure out what focal length to use on your camera use the following formula:

SOLVE FOR X
Y = CROP FACTOR
50 ÷ Y = X
X = THE FOCAL LENGTH OF YOUR CAMERA WHICH IS CLOSEST TO 50MM

*A full frame camera has no crop factor.
**Phone cameras usually shoot at a wider angle than 50mm.

And voila! You're now ready to start practicing techniques and skills.


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