Go-To Camera Lenses

Go-to camera lenses
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I get at least one email a day asking about lenses. What lens should I buy? What if I want to capture _______? We wrote an extensive series on camera lenses to try and help answer those questions. I know deciding what lens to buy can seem like a daunting task because there are so many options out there. One of my best pieces of advice is to narrow it down to one or two lenses you are interested in and rent those lenses before investing in them.

We decided to let you guys in on a secret…our go-to lenses. This is not to say this lens will be your go-to lens because as you can see they are all different, however, it gives you an idea of what we use the lenses for and if that is the look and style you are going for than maybe that is a lens you want to look into.

85mm 1.8D {Nikon} – Laurie Flickinger
The 85mm f/1.8D is my go-to lens for outdoors. I would use it indoors if I had the space. Hands down, this is my favorite lens.

1. I love the focal length for outdoors. The 85mm allows me to take a step back a bit, and still get a close shot. Or I can step back even further and take in the scene. It is the perfect focal length for me outdoors and is versatile for my needs, which tend to be candid outdoor images of my kids.

2. I LOVE the bokeh that this lens produces. The focal length combined with the a wide aperture lets me get dreamy backgrounds, even from a distance, which is a bit harder with shorter lenses. I typically shoot around 2.0 with this lens and love the effect that I get with it.

3. This lens is super sharp. I’m quite the stickler for tack sharp focus. When his lens is on, its ON! It is pretty fast to focus (something that I’ve noticed with the D series lenses over the G series) and the focus is amazing.
Go-to camera lenses - 85mm 1.8D
Go-to camera lenses - 85mm 1.8D

70-200mm 2.8 {Nikon} – Kelly Garvey
The 70-200mm 2.8 lens does an amazing job separating the subject from it’s background to help it stand out even more. I like to use it when it’s zoomed in as close to 200mm as possible to maximize the compression of the background. I bought it to use for weddings but it does so much more. It’s great for sports as well. Even though it’s heavy and bulky it is really fast and easy to hand hold but obviously works well with a tripod too. It doesn’t have to be limited to sports or weddings etc, I have used it on family sessions many times. It is especially helpful when a child is camera shy and doesn’t want me right in their face. It allows me to stand far away to give them their space and the results are beautiful!
Go-to camera lenses -70-200mm 2.8
Go-to camera lenses -70-200mm 2.8

35mm 1.4 {Sigma} – Melissa Noste
The Sigma 35mm 1.4 is my absolute favorite lens and it basically never comes off my camera. As I transitioned from having a business to now mainly taking lifestyle photos of my family I realized that the wider the lens, the more I liked it. In winter months most of my photos were taken indoors. We don’t have a lot room in our house and getting everything in the frame was made easier with this lens. Also having the wide aperture of 1.4 helps with the low light we experience in the winter months. Lastly the price was right. I couldn’t afford the Nikon version and with a lot of research I realized that the Sigma would suit my needs and still obtain beautiful photos.
Go-to lenses - Sigma 35mm 1.4

50mm 1.8 {Nikon} – Brennan Lanter
I turn to my 50mm 1.8 when:

1. I am shooting indoors. I LOVE shooting indoors. My 50mm is the perfect focal length for me to shoot successfully in my home-which is where I take 95% of my images. It is fast and sharp in low light.

2. When I want to include a lot of negative space in my images. I love including a lot environment when I my images, so once again, this is my go-to focal length for achieving that.

3. I have lens envy. The list of the lenses I’d love to have is long. But I’m cheap. When I start to covet one of the $1,000+ lenses, I put on my 50 (ok, I never really take it off!) and use it with my macro filters—which instantly allows me to push the boundaries of what this thrify-fifty can do!
Go-to lenses - 50mm 1.8

100mm 2.8L {Canon} – Allison Jacobs
Out of my line up of lenses the Canon 100 mm 2.8L is one of the most versatile. I love the focal length for portraits and the beautiful depth of focus I can get with it along with being able to get close up for those detail shots. One of my favorite things to shoot with the 100L is food. It is the perfect lens for food because I can take a few steps back to get the whole scene then step right up close for a macro shot of the food without having to change lenses. It can be slow to focus on fast moving kids but for portraits of people who are willing to stand a little more still, it is a wonderfully sharp lens. I have even used it for some landscape and environmental shots to compliment the portraits in an effort to help tell the story. This is a lens that will capture those small details like eyelashes or lines in a flower which greatly enhance the images. I love so many things about the Canon 100L and I can’t imagine not having it to use for food photography & portraits.
Go-to lenses - 100mm 2.8
Go-to lenses - 100mm 2.8

Lensbaby Composer Pro – Jen Bacher
When I want to create a dramatic image I reach for my Lensbaby Composer Pro lens. It gives a somewhat dreamy effect. It’s a creative lens that blurs the edges of your image in camera and leaves a small selected area (depending on which f-stop you choose) in focus. Sometimes the blurred areas of the image have a streaked looked to them as well, which gives the image a unique feeling of movement. The Lensbaby only operates with manual focus, which causes you to compose carefully and decide what you want to be the focal point. I like to use it when I see strong leading lines because the added blur/feeling of movement draws your eye even more to the focal point. I also reach for it when I have dramatic light to work with or a busy background that I want blurred.
Go-to lenses - Lensbaby composer pro
Go-to lenses - Lensbaby composer pro

50mm 1.4 {Nikon} – Liz Behm
Reasons I choose my 50 1.4:
1) I especially adore it on my FF Mark 3, the view of a 50mm on a full frame sensor camera, is equal to what our eyes see, so it’s a great way to document my life “as I see it”. (chicken feet picture)
2) Yummy bokeh! The bokeh on the 1.4 is well worth the extra price over the 1.8. And mine is nice and sharp wide open too! (baby caterpillar)
3) While it’s particular to your individual lens, I get the best lens flare with my 50 1.4. I’m a huge sucker for lens flare, so when I know that I’m going to be shooting near golden hour, I grab this lens and almost always come away with dreamy lens flare!
Go-to lenses - 50 1.4mm
Go-to lenses - 50 1.4mm

24-70mm 2.8 {Tamron} – Courtney Slazinik
I know some people are hesitant to buy third party lenses but when it comes to Tamron don’t be. The 24-70mm 2.8 is tack sharp. I don’t know how it compares to the Nikon version because I don’t have it but honestly, I don’t have a desire to compare the two because the Tamron version is fantastic and does exactly what I need it to do.

1. I’m a prime girl but this lens has worked it’s way into my heart. If I’m heading out for the day and can only take one lens, this is normally the one I put on my camera. I love the versatility of being able to shot wider shots at 24mm and zoom in for a more intimate feel at 70mm.

2. Great for lifestyle photography. I love to capture my children being children. I can easily do this with this lens because I don’t have to get right on top of them to capture the moment without intruding on the moment.

3. It’s great indoors or outside. I love shooting indoors and am most comfortable there but this lens works great in both. You can capture your little one playing baseball or sleeping. Since it has a fixed aperture of f/2.8 it works well in low lighting situations as well.
Go-to lenses - Tamron 24-70mm 2.8
Go-to lenses - Tamron 24-70mm 2.8-2

Now, it’s your turn.

Leave a comment below and tell us what is your go-to lens. Is is one of the ones we mentioned or do you have a different one?

Quick Tip: White Foam board Reflector

how to use a white foam board as a reflector

One of my favorite tools for shooting in the house when not having a lot of light to illuminate my subject is to use a foam board. These are basic boards you can find at any craft store. I like the one that are a tri-fold. This allows the board to stand on its own so I don’t have to hold it like a regular reflector. This is helpful when photographing younger children and you need your hands free to either quickly grab your child or to hold a toy to get your child engaged. Here is an example with my cute little man as a model. He is placed about 4 feet from a sliding glass door camera right. In the photo with the foam board, the board is placed about 3 feet camera left. These are SOOC and shot with a Nikon D700 and Sigma 35mm 1.4.

Without Foam board

With Foam board


The effect is soft and helps soften the shadows on him as well as brighten the rug he is laying on. I like them both and would definitely edit both. I like how the shadows on the non-board play to his facial expression and how using the foam board in the second shot boost the lighting to help give off the happy mood he is showing. I hope you try out this fun tip and if you do make sure to post your photo to Facebook so we can see!

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