Composition Exercise with a 50mm lens (Part 1)
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Composition Exercise with a 50mm lens (Part 1)

September 17, 2019


Here’s an exercise for you which i think will really make you stretch your creativity and think pretty hard about the pictures that you’re gonna take. What i’m going to ask you to do, is to set your lens to fifty millimeters and to leave it there and to not zoom. What i mean by that, so for example we’ve got an ocean liner over there, and on a day like this it’s really miserable and grey, but most often you would come down here and go oh, ocean liner put the camera to your eye zoom in and try and fill the frame as much as you can and take the a picture. I’ve only got a seventy mill lens on here, so that’s a bit rubbish anyway. But if your lens is fixed at fifty then the best you’re going to be able to achieve is going to be that, and as you can see the ship is very very small. So a shot like that really wouldn’t work, even if the sun was shining and everything was beautiful, you’d have to crop in a lot. part of this exercises no cropping
allowed you can put your pictures into the computer and brighten them a bit or darken them a bit or give the colours a little tweak but that’s kind of acceptable but no
cropping this is about learning to compose your shots in the camera in the view finder and to stretch your creativity with this fifty mil lens. why is fifty so difficult? fifties difficult because it how we see
the world with our eyes. if you look at a picture like this one which was taken using a two hundred
millimeter lens which has a very different way of seeing the world
to the way our eyes do, combined with a wide aperture which has given it a shallow depth of field the image is immediately eye catching. And it’s the same if you use a wide angled shot, it’s different to how we see the world with our eyes. So, to get interesting images with your focal length set at fifty millimeters is more of a challenge, but particularly on a very dull day like this, and i will erg you to try it out on a dull day, you might not come home with staggering pictures but it will really make you start looking and thinking about pictures you’re taking. how do you set this? well on your zoom ring all you have to do is turn the barrel of the lens until you hit fifty millimeters you line the little dot up and that’s fifty millimeters, so you’ve set it there, and you leave it there. if you don’t have the focal length of your lens written on
the barrel ring, because i know some lenses don’t, then don’t get too hung over, it doesn’t have to be fifty all i’m gonna do is suggest you zoom it out a bit and whatever is at it’s shortest, widest angle zoom it out a little bit and and and leave it at that, the main thing is, don’t zoom it. You’ve got a fifty mil prime lens, put it on because then it’s no question about zooming. if you think you’re going to be unable to control yourself because we
are so used to lifting our cameras up and zooming in and out, and you think that you’re not going to be able to stop yourself doing it, here’s a little thing, get yourself a roll of tape and just wrap a little piece of tape around it, set it to fifty mil and wrap it around it with some tape and then you can’t zoom it. Then you’ve gotta move yourself around and start thinking about your shots. So let’s go and have a little go, let’s go and find some. okay There’s a wide open scene and it won’t work on a dull day the thing to do is to sort of close down in and start looking at smaller detail, and i really rather like this, that somebody has sort of breaded a piece of string through some twigs and made this little thing for their beach hut, i kinda like i think it’s quite nice. So let’s have a look, because it’s quite different let’s see, let’s have a go at photographing it. So I’ve got my lens, my fifty millimeters as always and let’s think of different ways to take a picture of this. I can sort of look at it, at a sort of an angle, like this, now i like that straight away. I’m tilting the camera very slightly and sort of looking down, and i quite like the sea shell on the top actually, and oh i like that i like the post, running down here to the sea shell, and the string and the wood below it. So i’m going to sort of look down on it. I’m going to focus here on the sea shell fifty millimeters and nothing else, and just sort of go for a shot like that. and it’s just a bit different, a bit
interesting, let’s see one of the whole thing, to do that no zooming remember, you’re not allowed to touch that zoom. And so i need to get myself into a position to see what it looks like, line it up. Now most people would sort of look at something and go ‘ oh look’ isn’t that interesting and take that picture. which is absolutely boring and dull, and dreadful isn’t it? You have to think, you have to move yourself around a bit, so let’s see, i quite like the way these timber, these little pieces off wood here go from side to side. But we’ve got all of these up rights of the beach huts. So let’s see if i can get a shot looking along it so we can sort of see something beach hut-y but there’s also this little thing at the bottom of the shot, let’s just shoot down a little let’s get focused on that and onto the, it’s almost like a little native american totem sort of thing isn’t it. i quite like that, let’s go for that. Just about there, yes i quite like that. I could even get closer to it, and do another one looking along that way with the camera landscape instead of upright, this is all about experimentation this
isn’t one ways right and one ways wrong, it’s just experimentation. Let’s just focus on those let’s just try it a bit higher up, that’s nice, let’s go with one of those. i think that’s pretty cool

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  1. I've got a camera canon 1100D macro 18-55mm lens shall i keep it at 55 or zoom it to 50? I'm still a kid and my dad can't buy any other lens so just wanted to ask how to adjust my camera for this activity..
    I am learning this as my dad is taking me to Swizz..

  2. But will sensor size be a problem? Like, should i get a 25mm for my micro four thirds which is 50mm full frame equivalent?

  3. You don't tell us whether you're using a full frame or a crop sensor camera, and a 50 mm lens will give very different angles of view. On a crop sensor Nikon it'l be the same as a 75 mm on a full frame, and on my Canon it'l be like an 80 mm. In other words, if I'm going to do your exercise properly, should I still use my 50 mm lens, or should I attempt to set my kit lens at 31,25 mm which would be the euivalent of a 50 mm on a full frame? Or is it not important?

  4. Hi Mike. Watching you take photos, I have a question for you. Do you ever get eye blur taking lots of photos? If so how do you deal with it? I find that after taking a few photos my eyes are out of sync and I struggle to see properly. Is this a common problem? I don't need normal glasses but I do use glasses for reading.

  5. mike, I know this vid is 5 years back, but your message is still so relevant today, Im a dslr vidio bod, my 2 fav lenses ? 50m and 35m 1.8. scorsese recently said ? you can make movies now with a camera no bigger than a freeking door knob, BUT LEAVE THE ZOOM ALONE.

  6. I do like to have different focal lengths accessible to me, however my prime lenses have taught me to move my ass, in so doing have taught me to use my zoom lens better. being stuck primed may feel dreadfully painful, but it is a great work out for your brain

  7. Hello from 2018. I'm watching photography videos and thinking to maybe buy a good and expensive (for me) 60 mm prime telephoto lens for my smartphone camera :d I'll find myself in this constant excercise then.

  8. 00:15 or.. mount a 50mm prime lens in the first place, so you won't be tempted fiddling on that zoom ring 😉

  9. Always a great teaching class particularly I love the idea of explanation and your excellent English language, thank you so much indeed

  10. nice and infomartive video. it's just funny how you're always out of breath in your videos haha

  11. Excellent video, I learned a lot!

    Whenever I take a shot, I instinctively avoid standing tall. I crouch lower or close to the ground. Most of the time this gets me a unique view, but sometimes it doesn't. Whatever works, depending on the subject. It also helps to take shots at different angles.

    I bought a mid-level Nikon D5600 dslr with a vari-angle lcd. I'm enjoying it very much because I can get the camera close to the ground without lying on my back or getting my elbows on the ground. I can afford to buy a full frame camera, but seeing that it doesn't have a vari-angle lcd, I opted for the D5600 instead. For me, vari-angle capability is a feature I consider very important. The simple tilt screen capability of more expensive dslr is not enough for me.

  12. Can I ask for you to look at photography from a different direction you always find other ways be it leaning on something ot getting down on your knees but what about if you where dissabled can't get down on your knees and have to use crutches then find the best angles their you go your new project

  13. What is meant by, “normal,” in photo-ese? Well, what it is NOT talking about is angle of view. What it is talking about is the depth of field which includes the separation of objects in the foreground and background. A 50mm is not normal on a FF camera, it’s normal on any camera. A 35mm on an APS-C sensor will provide the same angle of view BUT NOT THE SAME FOV as the human eye. A 50mm on a medium format will provide a “normal” depth of field but also the same angle of view as a 35mm on a FF; and it what is meant when you hear, “that medium format look.”. If one happens to have an Olympus micro 4/3 camera then – unfortunately – to get the same image separation or NORMAL look and feel one has to settle for the angle of view of a FF 100mm lens. Clear a mud yet?

    Personally I like the NORMAL look but for the sake of size and weight I’ve compromised to a Fuji crop sensor. About the only time this is an actual advantage is with portraits. Don’t let anyone kid you, a portrait of someone that looks like the way the human eye sees is GOOD. So, with a 50mm on my crop sensor I can shoot with a NORMAL 50mm but have the portrait benefits of an 85mm. To anyone that has actually read all the way to this point, you have what used to be a NORMAL attention span.

  14. I actually tuck a lovely group shot today with around the 50mm and yes you can take some brilliant shots with a 50mm

  15. Love your videos. I am learning so much. I have a Nikon dx camera. Use 50mm lens for this exercise.? Or a 35? 35×1.5 = 52.5. Thanks.

  16. This is a nice example and it's important to practice this, but I noticed that you use a dx lens, wouldn't that make the 50mm field of view be more like 75mm?

  17. Hello Sir, thank you for putting out these videos – I’m learning a lot from them.

    “50 is difficult because it’s how we see the world with our eyes”. If the lens does not indicate 50mm, one can do an old-school eye calibration so that the size and scope of the image in the viewfinder/LED screen should match what you’d would see with your eyes. Voila!

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