How to choose your next focal length to shoot with

How to choose your next focal length to shoot with

One of the most important skills any photographer should have is knowing how to choose the right lens and focal length needed for the shot.

With all the different makes, types, focal lengths, and mounts out there, it can be an overwhelming task for beginners. The same goes if you’ve been shooting with one lens for a long time and want to diversify with a new lens to try.

If this sounds like your current predicament, we think Pierre Lambert’s quick guide above can help.

General rules when choosing a focal length

In his video, Lambert and his travel maker friend Alex Qian, mentioned the usual route they take when choosing a lens for their shots. As travel and street photographers, they often need wide-angle lenses to capture as much detail as possible. These lenses are also ideal for capturing the wide sense of scale of the sweeping vistas, so viewers can also feel they are there.

They both go the extra mile by using zooms like the 16-35mm to be extra flexible or versatile with the scenes and subjects they can shoot. It also has the added benefit of being less bulky, as you essentially have multiple focal lengths in just one lens.

However, if you’re shooting portraits, it’s best to shoot with primes with classic focal lengths like 50mm or 85mm. These lenses tend to produce the most flattering images for people, unlike wide-angle lenses that create significant distortions that most people aren’t fans of. Prime lenses also have the advantage of allowing images with a shallow depth of field, creating a nice separation between the background and the foreground so that the subject really stands out.

Quick trick with Lightroom Classic

Now, if you’re using Lightroom Classic, Lambert also shared his quick trick for evaluating what focal length he usually shoots at. By looking at the Metadata column under the Library filter, he can see how many photos he’s taken with all of his lenses. It immediately showed him that he shot most of his shots with his favorite 16-35mm lens. By further narrowing it down to focal length, it turned out that he mainly shot at focal lengths of 16mm and 17mm.

This trick is actually interesting because, as Lambert pointed out, it can give you some ideas of what lens or focal length to practice with next. See it as an opportunity to learn and expand your photography. If you’re tired of your current wide-angle setup, see if you can get your hands on a portrait or macro lens and check out new gear, new styles and new genres!

Do you like this quick tip? Don’t forget to check out Pierre Lambert’s YouTube channel for more of his photography tips and tricks.

Screenshot of the video