i wrote this for a photog group my friend started and thought that i d just share it here with you all. just my personal view of learning photography. you should consider this, but then again, photography is about expressing yourself so dont be afraid to go against this and form you re own style. =) to other guys and pros, pls feel free to use this thread to share your views and shooting styles as well =) anw, here it is:
prime lenses are fixed focal length lenses theres no zoom to them. consequently, they re usually cheaper, have better optical quality and are quite alot faster(larger aperture). prime lenses are restrictive. and, event and press photography aside(those you almost need zooms for flexibility), are actually better than zooms- as a start point at least.
one of the main aspects of composition is perspective. if u take the same area/thing for example a flower, at 50mm and 18mm, you ll notice that though the subject is the same size, the whole feel of the image is different. the subject isolation, front/back separation, whats in the bg, depth of field are all different.
so heres the problem with zoom lenses. if you re new (i guess most of you are) and some thing is about 10-15 meters away, chances are, you ll zoom in and just snap. if its close, you ll just zoom out and snap. too far, just crop, too near, just compromise abit. so you understand focal length, but not perspective. dont worry, its normal, i ve been there. its ok if u just want to take a picture. and maybe one out of every 100 will have an interesting perspective.
a prime however, forces you to think how you want to fit the subject in the frame. take a few steps forward, afew back, see how the lens renders the scene, its subjective, but it gets you thinking and forces you to imagine what you want the shot to be like. and makes you think 2ce or 3 or 4 or5 times before releasing the shutter. and has made me just forget it and walk away cos its just not worth shooting.
anw, better practiced than read so ill list afew. i dun suppose anyones shooting fullframe or film, so i ll write in terms of cropped sensors =)
a 35mm translates(with 1.5X crop) to 50mm eqv field of view in other words, it gives the same field of view as a 50mm on film or fullframe cameras. its considered a 'normal lens' cos it matches the perspective of the human eye. now.. cos of that, it might be boring, ut if used correctly, can make a person feel involved in the scene cos its the same perspective. good one to get would be e nikkor 35mm af-s f1.8. i use a 1960s 35 f2.0.
50mm will translate to about 75mm eqv. now, though 50mms are the cheapest, and are really nice on film, due to the crop factor, they re abit not here not there. but, they re decent for street photography and half body portraits. also, they are relatively fast with f1.8 and 1.4. and wont really break your bank. good for low light applications. the 50mm f1.8 from nikon is only about $180 and is a v good start point.
moving upwards you have telephotos like 85, 105, 135, 200. i recommend the 100/105 as a second lens. this is after you ve spent a good 3-4 months with only the 50. a 100 will give you a closer crop, its not just about getting extra reach. now you have shallower depth of field, and you see less of the bg than if you were to take it with your 50mm. and it makes subjects seem closer together than we see with our eye. its 'tighter' so to speak. its a new perspective to get used to. better for head and shoulder portraits. most of them double up as macro lenses as well.. but macro is another long story. they re also nice for street photography.
going downwards, a 20,24 or 28mm would do nicely. wide angles exaggerate perspectives. making the foreground seem further apart from they background than what our eyes usually see(wide angle effect). dof is greater. wide angle photography is difficult. you have so much more in your frame, so much more to manage and compose. but if done well they re usually more impressive or impactful so to speak. this one you ll have to go experiment n see.
anyway, say now you ve got a 24,35 and 85/100mm and you know how to use them and the characteristics of not only the focal length, but also the lens itself(contrast, flare, sharpness and dof). then now you understand more about perspective and you ll be able to use your zoom lens more effectively. you ll find that you start using weird in between focal lengths instead of just the longest or widest setting. you ll be able to tell when to use 3.5 or 5.6 or 8. and you ll probably shoot alot better.
and you ll probably have more meaningful photos. not just pictures(i say pictures cos i think theres a difference between the latter and a photograph) that have nice colours because u managed to get it right in photoshop. but photos with interesting composition and carefully thought over perspective. pictures that don't need colour to look interesting and arent in black and white just to look cheesy or retro. photos that actually have something to convey or invoke a thoughts and emotion. and thats probably the desired end point.
just a note.. i m not fond of photoshop and i havent used it yet. i dont mean to say its useless, i understand the need for post processing and i post process my pictures with nikon view nx. but i dont agree when people turn to photoshop as the one thing to make a picture look good instead of practicing composition and other important techniques. in that case, they might as well be considered digital artists. such practice also seldom helps to improve ones skills as one might be inclined to say things like 'it ll be fine after photoshop'.
hope it helps =)