Recommended Lenses for Beginners

One question I get asked a lot is what lenses I recommend. There is no easy answer to this question, but hopefully I can help you figure out what you may want to buy next! In this blog I am going to share what I would recommend for people just starting out in photography. They are good lenses that are also fairly inexpensive (for a lens!). The great thing with lenses is that they last, and when you invest in a good lens you should never have to replace it if it is taken care of. The other great thing is that the resale value of a lens is very high so when you are ready to upgrade you will be able to get a good chunk of your money back!

Canon & Nikon 50 1.8


If the only lens you have right now is a kit lens that came with your camera, the very first lens I would buy is a 50 1.8. The aperture on most kit lenses only go down to 3.5-5.6 which makes it more difficult to work with in darker situations. You also aren’t able to get as much depth of field with the kit lens. The 50 1.8 will allow you to shoot in lower light, have a shallower depth of field, and will also help you learn to move around to create interesting compositions rather than just zooming in and out. My favorite thing about this lens? It is only around $125!

Canon 50 1.8:

Nikon 50 1.8:
Make sure your camera supports the auto focus on this lens. If it doesn’t, the auto focus is supported on all Nikon cameras for the following lens, but it is about $100 more.

Tamron 28-75 2.8


If you already have the 50 1.8 lens and are wanting to add to your repertoire, there are several options for you to purchase next. What you decide to purchase is going to depend on what you plan on using the lens for. To start with, lets look at the most diverse lens, the Tamron 28-75 2.8. Tamron is an “off brand” that makes lenses for a variety of brands of cameras. When you buy a Tamron lens you need to make sure that you are purchasing the lens made specifically for your brand of camera. Even though Tamron is an off brand, it is still a very good product! When I was first shooting weddings I used a Tamron lens and loved it. The main difference that you will notice between the Canon/Nikon lenses and the Tamron is that the Tamron is not quite as sharp and moves a little slower. Also, the 28-75 will not go as wide as the similar Canon 24-70, but it will zoom in more. The other difference? About a $1000! The Tamron lens runs around $500 compared to around $1500 for the Canon or Nikon. This is a great lens if you will be changing from shooting wide to zooming in quickly and want a lower aperture than what your kit lens has.

Tamron for Canon 28-75 2.8:

Tamron for Nikon 28-75 2.8:

Tamron 17-50 2.8


If it is more important for you to have something wider than a 28, the Tamron 17-50 2.8 is a great choice for around $500. However, you can not use this lens on a full frame camera such as the 5d Mark III.

Tamron for Canon 17-50 2.8:

Tamron for Nikon 17-50 2.8:

Canon 100 2.8 Macro & Nikon 105 2.8 Micro


My final lens recommendation for people just starting out is the Canon 100 2.8. This is a prime lens like the 50 1.8, but you don’t have to stand as close to your subject as you do with the 50 1.8. It is also a macro lens which means that you can do super close up shots that you can not do on the 50 1.8. This is a beautiful lens that lets in a good amount of light and is perfect for things like nature photography! The lens runs around $600 for Canon and closer to $900 for the Nikon equivalent, but you can often wait for a rebate to get it for a little less. This lens is very quick and sharp, and I love it!

Canon 100 2.8 Macro:

Nikon 105 2.8 Micro:

I hope this will help you make a decision on what lens to purchase next! I always recommend upgrading your lenses before you upgrade your camera, because a good lens will make great photos no matter what kind of camera you are shooting on. I will post a blog in the future with some additional recommendations for those of you who have a larger budget and are ready for top of the line lenses!

-Whitney Carlson

Did You Know

People began retouching photos and making them “color” in the 1840s for the first time by actually painting in watercolor on top of the photographs.

“In the United States, four major methods were employed in the coloring of daguerreotypes: (1) applying paint directly to a gilded (gold toning enhanced appearance and stability) daguerreotype; (2) applying a transparent protective varnish over the plate, then hand coloring with paints; (3) applying transparent colors to specific areas of the image and fixing them by passing an electrical current through the plate with the aid of a galvanic battery; and (4) heating the back of the plate with a spirit lamp, instead of a battery, to fix colors that were selectively applied to the front of the plate.”

To read more about the history and progress of color photography and retouching, go here.

Photoshop actually has watercolor effects to replicate this original process now.

Did you know?

Did you know that sexual stereotype dates back to the mid 1800s?








Julia Margaret Cameron was known for her different depiction of men and women in her portrait photography. A man’s portrait was only of his head, without focus on the background surroundings. By focusing on the head, it implies intelligence. For women, they are often facing away from the camera. This is to imply the passive nature of women. Though the stereotypes have changed greatly over the years, it gets you thinking how things might be different today if Cameron had not insisted on differentiation.

Tomorrow is the last Fall photography class, Lighting & Posing! Follow and the blog to find out when the next classes are scheduled!!

Did you know?

Did you know the daguerreotype was once known as the perfect form way to photograph a portrait?

As seen in this picture of Edgar Allen Poe, daguerreotype images were the most popular form of portrait in the 1800s. The photographs were unique, they could not be duplicated like Talbot’s negatives and positives. As the with the process, the image was mirror. The portraits displayed a person as others would see them, the way they were portrayed. Unfortunately, due to progressing technologies, the technique was only regarded briefly before overlooked to the changing times.

Tomorrow will be the last historic fact before the Lighting and Posing class! Be sure to sign up before it’s too late!

Did you know?

Did you know the definition of “portrait photography” has been a subject of debate for many years? 

To prepare for this weekend’s Lighting and Posing Class, we will be discussing the history of portrait photography! Inge Monath said a portrait “catches the a moment of stillness within the daily flows of things, when the insides of a person has a chance to come through.” In paintings, the portrait was a result of studying the person’s lifestyle and incorporating those elements in the image. With a photograph, those elements are captured instantaneously, in their every day nature.

Learn more about past portraiture in tomorrows post!


Did you know?

Did you know landscape photography came about when new lands were still being explored? 

The photographs allowed for the land to be scaled and bought buy the pioneers. Landscape photography created an ideal for land, which was not always accurate with the changing natural elements of a location.  Tourism photography became a popular way of glorifying the landscape. The photographer became known as “privileged tourist,” and tied the link between photographers and painters. A landscape painter’s work gained credibility thanks tourism photographers like Roger Fenton, who went around photographing the locations he had seen in paintings.

Learn more about city photography tomorrow!

Did you know?

Did you know that by 1840, an infinite number of duplicate images could be made from one single negative? 

The process was called calotypes and was developed by by William Henry Fox Talbot. After starting research in 1833, it wasn’t until 1840 that he released his found knowledge in response to Deguarre. Catotype was the first positive/negative photographic process. This same process is still used today with film photography. As years went on, the process kept improving becoming more detailed and crisp.

Learn more about the specific types of photography in tomorrow’s post!

Did you know?

Did you know the first image of a human being was taken unintentionally by Louis J.M. Daguerre?

In the process of capturing the a busy Parisian street, one man was standing still long enough to be captured. He was getting his shoes shined and became the only person in the photograph not to disappear from exposure. Daguerre went on to create the daguerreotype, the spontaneous reproduction of an image created with a camera obscura. Though due to long exposure times and lack of replication, the process was soon overlooked by new more advanced techniques.

Find out what those new techniques were tomorrow!

Did you know?

Did you know the first photographic images were developed by French chemist, Nicephore Niepce, from a polished pewter?

It was captured out his workshop window in Le Gras. He used a camera obscura, a box with a hole on one side that takes in the light of the scene and reflects the image on a screen within. The image itself was upside down, but the proportions and color was maintained. The camera obscura was left in the light for 8 hours before being processed with lavender oil and white petroleum. The discovery led to further explorations to improve the quality of the image.

Look out for a post Tuesday to find out who took the first unintentional portrait image!