Getting More Mileage from Your Lenses


Lenses can get addictive and once you have one lens you want another. As they say in potato chip commercials, bet you can have just one. There are many “families” of lenses, you can be hooked on zooms and then discover primes, or visa versa. Or you can love the wide angle look and then find out how much fun and trouble high powered telephoto lenses can be.

One thing I notice though is a lack of use of some of the lenses we already have. Wide angle and standard primes or zooms can give us more than one look and once discovered the different looks one lens can deliver they become more interesting gear in our bag.

In the picture above, I use a 35mm f/2 Nikon lens on a D3X to get a wide picture while being close to the subjects in a small bedroom that was the preparation area for a bride.

Using the same lens, and knowing the closest focal distance, I was able to get a close-up shot of a note the groom left for the bride to find on her wedding morning (I brought the note with me and snuck it there for him). Same lens, a different look:


Using the same lens for another 2 different looks makes the lens now to handle additional jobs or “looks”. The get a wide view I used a normal distance and this allows the viewer to see a sampling of what is happening around the room:


Getting boys together for a quick portrait grab would normally mean using a 50mm or an 85mm lens. But still using the 35mm lens and dropping the f stop to the biggest it will go (f/2.0) and doing a “press”, meaning I get close to the subject, allows the look of a portrait without having to change the lens. The back is defocused which moves us away from a point & shoot look, but the subjects are snappy sharp giving the same look as if I used a portrait lens – but I didn’t :)


Using any lens at it’s extremes allows a different look than you would normally get using the lens in a normal way.

If you take a normal lens and even use an f stop of 3.5, you can blow out the focus of the background by pressing in close and keeping the background as far away as possible:


This was a simple exercise in manipulating your existing lenses to get different looks from them by using them at widest f stops or by pressing the subject in close to you and keeping the background objects far to create the look of a more expensive lens.

Peter Gregg