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Why Shooting With a Prime Lens Will Change Your Life

Note the beautiful creamy out of focus background with the perfectly circular light “orbes” (no they are not anyone’s dead relatives) the wonderful clarity and sharp focus of the scarf, face and hair, and the semi out of focus extreme foreground…

We all know blogging has come along way since Live Journal. And one of the key essential elements that all successful bloggers have in common is strong and engaging photography. The photography industry has enjoyed a big uptick in sales of DSLR cameras with the rise of blogging and online ameture photography. Regardless of why you blog I am sure I am correct in saying we would all love to improve our photography skills. One my favorite bloggers is Garance Dore and what I love about her blog is her stunning photography. I could be wrong about this but I think she may be self taught, and it would be a dream come true for me if she ever held photography workshops I think I would die from the sheer thrill of it!

But in the mean time I am left to the internet, though I am still considering taking a class or two I have to say my photography has improved quite a bit over the last twenty months or so and much of it was trial and error and learning on the fly online. So today I would like to share with you a few things I have learned.

The first thing you will want to do before anything else is to invest in a prime lens. A prime lens is a fixed focal length lens which means it does not zoom, so you must mover further away or closer to your subject to get the crop you want. But what you get in return is much more engaging editorial looking pictures. And that my friends is due to a higher quality blurred background otherwise known as bokeh, which is Japanese for blur. A blurred background is achieved by using a large or wide aperture which throws the background out of focus and lets in more light. How beautiful that blurred background appears is what is known as bokeh, You can read more about bokeh here.

But if you can’t afford it then go for the f1.8. It will be the best thing you will do for your photography this year hands down.

So when you are looking at beautiful street style photography and wondering how they do it, you know they are shooting with a prime lens with a longer focal length at a wider aperature (3.5 or faster or lower number). And one of the best lens to start out with is the 50 mm lens, which is kind of middle of the road for shooting the average subject. For closer in portrait shots you may want to use a 70 or 85 mm lens. The longer the lens or higher the number the more cropped in you are to your subject. And the shorter the lens or lower the number the more set back you are from your subject with more of the background in the frame.

J Brand jeans H&M top (10)

The more affordable option with the 50mm lens is the f1.8, at roughly $120 it defiantly worth the money and this alone if you do nothing else will vastly improve the look your photos. The lens up from that is the f1.4 which is generally around $300. If you can spring for it, do so, the better image clarity, color resolution and bokeh is worth the extra expenditure. But if you can’t afford it then go for the f1.8. It will be the best thing you will do for your photography this year hands down. To learn more about why to shoot with a 50 mm prime lens check out TV Digital Rev.com. The commentator is fast speaking brit with quite the sense of humor and explains everything so that it make sense. I learned a lot from watching these videos.

shooting in AV mode at the widest aperture that your camera will allow is much easier then shooting in manual and even more surprisingly it is the setting that most professional photographers shoot in

Another thing I learned recently is to shoot in AV mode (or “A” for Nikon) instead of manual. I learned that shooting in AV mode at the widest aperture that your camera will allow is much easier then shooting in manual and even more surprisingly it is the setting that most professional photographers shoot in. It lets in the most light without camera shake and in this setting the camera automatically sets the shutter speed (the higher the better to compensate camera shake, understanding this setting can be tricky) for you. You can learn more about this here.

But if your photos are too dark or light to your liking when shooting in this mode you can also manually adjust the expose which is known as exposure compensation. How cool is that? You can read an in depth tutorial on this here. And look for the (A/V + -) button on your camera for Canon and “A” for Nikon. Knowing these three things alone will take your photography leaps and bounds to the next level. Yes I still have much to learn, but this one journey that I don’t mind taking. I hope this was helpful and stay tuned for more of these tutorials. 

Top image via Garancedore.com and second image by irusianaphotography.com via FashionOverReason.com


  1. Great post! Love your look!
    Love from http://www.trangscorner.com {a lifestyle, fashion, beauty, and food blog}

  2. This is very helpful information about lenses that will come in handy thanks.

  3. a prime lens is a game changer, I love mine.


  4. Yes! As much I like my telephoto lenses, I definitely prefer prime lenses when shooting jobs. Your photography will definitely improve the more you shoot!

  5. Hi Allie, I LOVE that you’ve highlighted this on the blog! I completely agree, prime lens can really be game changer! They are also fantastic for shooting in the dark as the large aperture lets in large amounts of light. Would love to learn what lens you like to shoot with!

  6. Beautiful photos.
    Many Kisses


  7. I am one of them who are trying really hard to improve my photography skills. Shamefully admitting that I am still using A+ feature to help me get the right lighting but hey, it works and I only have to edit very little. Great tips here, Ali, thank you!

    Shireen | Reflection of Sanity

  8. This is such a helpful post for so many bloggers Allie. I know I had to figure out what lens to get for my Canon SL1 and boy was it not easy. Too many opinions out there. I loved this post.

    Kia / KTS

  9. Hi Allie, great tips thanks for sharing, I saving for a new camera and a new lens, I already own the f1.8 and yes it is really good.
    I can’t wait for more tutorials.
    Glamoury Armory Blog

  10. These are indeed gorgeous shots! I will ask my photographer what he uses. When I rely on shots from my camera phone I used snapseed filters, and that helps, but they don’t look anywhere as good as these do. You, are right, it is in the lens! I cant imagine taking my own shots in my crowded city! How do you do it?
    xx, Elle

  11. This is so interesting! I’m saving up for a new camera and lenses, so I love these tips 🙂

  12. Such a great post! The right lens makes all the difference!


  13. This is SO helpful! I’m always looking to improve the photography on my blog. Thank you for sharing!

  14. Thanks so much for sharing this! My bf is a self taught photographer and only picked it up for my blog. We are trying to improve our photos and think we need to invest in better lenses!


  15. So glad you posted this, like you, I would love to take some classes. With my busy mom, and work life it’s super tough. So yes, I have resorted to the internet and other blogginng sites to teach me some tricks of the trade. I have so much more to learn though, and I’m actually doing photography on the side. You can call it one of my side gigs, haha! I’m doing one this coming weekend, which I’m so excited about…a baby shower! My 50mm 1.8 has given me some awesome results with my Canon. Now I’m learning to shoot on my SonyA7, and it’s challenging. I do love it though, and I’m constantly learning as I go along.


  16. Garance is my fave blogger too, mostly for her photos and beautiful layouts. I’d love to sign up to a class if she ever chose to do so too. Thanks for these lens tips. I find this process so difficult. I’ve been out of the game for so long now (I lost my DSLR camera a few years back) and recently going into store to enquire was insane! Everything went over my head lol! I’m bookmarking this page for when I’m ready to return again!


  17. Thanks for the tips 😉


    Mónica Sors



  18. I’d desperately need a new camera (mine is ten years old…and you can’t change the lens on this one). yeah, it does make all the difference. 🙂


  19. These are such great tips.I’m trying to improve my photography skills and I’m looking to invest in a new camera. Thanks for sharing.

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