Photography 101: Learning About Your Camera’s Lens

Your camera's lens plays a huge part in how your photos turn out — it can mean the difference between a crystal clear shot or a grainy one. To stay on top of your photography game, here's some insight to get the most out of your lens:

Two major things you want to address when you are purchasing a lens are the maximum aperture and focal length.

What is aperture?

If you forget what aperture is, you can read about it in our aperture guide post.

What is focal length?

Focal length determines the amount of magnification your lens provides. Lower numbers, such as 18mm, result in a wider angle, and higher numbers, such as 300mm, are more telephoto.

What are the different types of lenses?

Wide – Allows a wider area to be brought into frame and has a shorter focal length. Wide angle lenses for digital cameras typically range from about 8mm to 35mm.

Standard – A standard lens is one which is in between wide angle and telephoto. Standard lenses for digital cameras typically range from about 35mm to 80mm.

Telephoto – Allows you to zoom in on objects far away and has the widest range of focal lengths. They are very large and range from 80mm to 1200mm or more.

Fisheye – Has an extremely wide angle lens which can capture a 180 degree field view, causing a distorted photo, typically with a bulge in the middle giving a more creative photo (like a fish eye).

Macro – Any lens that allows an extreme close-ups.

Zoom – Allows zooming between multiple focal lengths.

Prime – Has a fixed focal length, and does not allow any adjustment (these are common in macro lenses).

But what lens do I buy?

It depends on what you want photograph, but I'd say most fashion blogging photographers can get away with the kit lens provided with your DSLR. If camera does not have a decent kit lens, you can usually find lenses that are between 18 and 55mm in the $100 to $200 range.

[Source: Photography 101]

[Image credit: Shutterstock]

Other helpful photography posts:

Know Your DSLR Dial

10 Tips To Clarifying Your Composition

Know Your ISO

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18 Responses

  1. Cynthia

    I would do one standard (often comes with the camera) and one zoom or telephoto – especially if you attend fashion shows.

  2. Erin

    curious about the what the best/most popular cam is these days? i’m considering a canon rebel. any input anyone? x

  3. Campus Sartorialist

    Not the best advice I’ve read about photography. While the standard 18-55 mm lens , usually called the kit lens, that comes with most DSLRs is functional and can take good photos, if your blog is highly centered around photography it will just not cut it. The beautiful bokeh(background blurring) you admire in street-style and portrait photography needs a different lens. Canon and Nikon both offer relatively cheap($200) prime lens in the 35 mm and 50 mm f/1.8 range and they’re just great for most bloggers’ needs.

    Erin, my advice is either go to a photo store and try similarly priced canons and a nikons out or rent one of each for a few days. I know lots of respectable photographers who swear by cannon and others like myself prefer nikon. I could argue Nikon lenses are better than Canon lenses in terms of sharpness and quality of bokeh but then again I guess I’m biased. Choosing a brand is important as it’s unlikely you’ll want to switch after you’ve bought 1-2 camera bodies and 5+ lenses.

  4. Nusardel

    From personal experience, I’d suggest an 18-200mm lens with a wide aperture instead. They can be slightly pricey if you want a really good quality one, but you’ll never have to change lenses. You can get really shallow depth of field without having to compromise being able to zoom up on things. PLUS! they’re great for photographing shows, and the wide aperture will do wonders what with the shit lighting at most runway shows.

  5. Diana

    I tend to use my 50mm 1.8 f stop with my canon 550D. I know Scott Schuman uses the 50mm too,I’ve seen him carrying one of course it must be 1.4 or 1.2( more expensive). I love my 50mm but if you are cramped for space,it could be problem so I keep my 17-85mm canon lens handy. You can see my blog here at and most pictures are taken by these 2 lenses

  6. Closetvoyage

    “you can usually find lenses that are between 18 and 55mm in the $100 to $200 range”

    Unless you have a DSLR which aren’t compatible with any of the nice and cheap EF-S wide angle lenses 🙁 Anyway I’m a huge believer in the 50mm f1.8 for all!

  7. Leila

    I think this a great post, I love how everyone has there own input. I honestly worked with Nikon, now but I want to buy a camera that takes a fresh & clean photos, any suggestions on either I should go with canon or stay with Nikon? Btw, check out my blog & tell what you think! I would love to hear from you guys.

  8. Sarah

    There’s a really great new lens by Canon that’s an 18-135mm – it’s such a great lens for capturing everything, and I got it as an optional upgrade from the regular kit lens when I bought my Canon t2i. It doesn’t provide the same depth of field that a standard 50mm f1.8 will, but it’s so handy that I usually have it on my camera instead (kind of weighs a ton with it, but oh well!). You can see all of my photos using both of my lenses at

  9. Maya B

    I own a Canon Eos 450D (I know pretty old now) but my lens is so great I don’t think there’s hardly any difference with a newer body (except I can’t film). I have a 18-200 Canon zoom lens and love it, it can go from pretty wide to very close-up shots so was definitely worth not going for the standard kit lens when I bought it few years ago. I’m opting to buy a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens now as an extra as it’s a great portrait lens and gives such a nice blur in the background. Anyone who can give me some tips if it’s really worth buying as an extra to what I have already?
    and yeah my photo’s are up on my blog:

    • Yasmeen (Castle Fashion)

      I literally just got my Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens yesterday and I’ve been shooting with it non-stop. I used to shoot with the kit lens for the Canon T2i (18-55mm, I believe) and I really loved it. But, despite not being able to zoom with the 50mm lens, I definitely prefer it to the kit lens. The colors are brighter and I love the blurry backgrounds. If you’re going to be in a cramped space, definitely don’t use the 50mm lens…you just won’t be able to shoot anything. But, for outfit photos, I think it’s great.

      • Yasmeen (Castle Fashion)

        PS: All the photos on my blog were shot with the 18-55mm lens. You can tell that the closer shots have better bokeh while the wider ones are a bit flat. I haven’t posted any images from my 50mm lens yet but you can probably google some examples.