the lens that changed my life & business

by Mary Jane

Post image for the lens that changed my life & business

I spent a good half of my career trying to find my style. And if you’ve been in the business at all or are trying to get into it – you know what I’m talking about. It’s the question that echos relentlessly through every photography forum or any worthy photography workshop.

What’s your style? Have you defined your style? Or in my case, Do you have ANY style?

Actually, I think I spent half of my career resisting the whole “style” thing. I thought maybe, just maybe, I didn’t have to have just one style. Maybe I was the exception. Maybe I was a woman of too many visions and too many talents – haha, riiiiiight?!?!?!?!??! Or maybe I was being lazy. Or just plain stubborn.

Everyone finds their style in a different way. And I’ve learned over the years (at least for me) – that someone’s style really just comes down to confidence. Confidence I tell you! When you have true confidence in yourself and your art – then you have style. When you have the confidence to say,“These are the types of photos that I take and I know exactly how to create them – every.single.time.” That is style. That is confidence.

When the 50mm 1.2 lens entered my life 6 years ago – I found my style. Never limit where, when or how you might discover or find your niche. I never really thought a lens could help define me or my business – but it did!

The 50mm 1.2 became my eye to world. It enabled me to tell the stories that I wanted to tell. 50mm was the perfect focal length, it allowed me to include elements in the story that were essential (to me) and simultaneously exclude elements that I didn’t want. It wasn’t too long or too wide for my vision. It was perfect.

But, what I really loved was the freedom that it gave me to shoot wide open. My sweet spot falls at about f1.8. There is nothing I love more than a backlit portrait at f1.8 mixed with a healthy dose of some raw emotion. That’s my style. And I can create it and do it – every single time. I have confidence in that.

I love the buttery, soft look that I can create with my 50mm 1.2. It has become a big part of my vision and what I love to capture. But, as much as I love that soft, buttery look – there also has to be something in the photo that is 100% completely tack sharp – even if it just the eyes. So I guess I’m someone who has to have a little bit of both – that’s not asking too much is it? A little soft romance, with some clarity on the side…

I can honestly say that for my wedding and portrait shoots, I use my 50mm 1.2 lens 85-90% of the time. Now, at weddings I will have a second shooter getting close-ups, wide shots, etc. (to make sure that everything is covered). But, I have come to know that my strength is in what I can capture with the 50mm. So why fight it?

Sooooo…I have to ask?!?!?? What’s your style? And how did you find it? Or are you still looking (because that’s o.k. too)?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Karina April 12, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Thanks so much! You’ve inspired me. My 50 mm is the one that always gets left behind in the bag. I never cared for the fixed focal length…but I know I’ve lost out on that very cool 1.8f as a result….but now, because of your post I’m going to force myself to try it again. I’m going to stick it on my camera and not take it off until we’re friends :).

Mary Jane April 17, 2012 at 3:59 am

Oh good! Once you decide to LOVE it – you’ll become a fixed lens snob (just like me). 🙂 Let me know how it goes!

Erin G May 2, 2012 at 6:16 pm

A friend recommened a simmilar lens (50 mm, 1.8) to me prior to my son being born. I love it and love the results! However when I bought it, the man at the Store mentioned it works better when using it in Aperture Priority mode, so that is what I have been doing. Can I use it effectively in maual mode? Why did he tell me this?
Thanks and I LOVE your blog!

Mary Jane May 2, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Hey Erin! The lens will work equally well in any mode – he probably just thought aperture priority would be easier. And it is a great place to start when you’re learning your way around the camera – but I would definitely give manual a try! Let me know how it goes!

Abby August 6, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Hi Mary Jane,
I use my…(lemme make sure I know which one I’m talking about)…50mm 1.8 lens mostly, as well. Love the shallow depth it provides. I often have trouble getting absolute sharpness on my focal point (probably from repositioning, but not always from that). Any suggestions?
This morning I just discovered back-button auto-focusing. I imagine that will help a fair bit. Thoughts?

Mary Jane August 7, 2013 at 2:07 am

I actually don’t use back button focus – but I know a LOT of people that do! Some people swear by it, so it’s worth a try. 🙂 Are you shooting wide open a lot? Honestly, when you’re shooting an active little subject at 1.8 – a lot of your shots are going to be out of focus. The focus range is so small, that it’s really tough to actually grab the focus. So I always shoot some at 1.8, but if my subject is running or playing or moving around a lot – I will close down to around 2.8 – then my ratio of in focus shots always goes up. Let me know how it goes!

Sherri May 25, 2015 at 4:22 pm

Thank you for the information about the fixed lenses and the f stops you use. I have been taking photos but I’m always disappointed in myself because I can’t get that blurry look I am looking for. I get it with my long lens but that is not always possible to use with a large group. Would an f2.8 keep my people in focus with them being blurry too? I guess some of it is just wanting to spend my money wisely on the correct lens that will help me attain what I am looking for in a photo. Your understanding explanations help me feel as though I’m not really dumb but just that I learn in a different way. Seeing the photo and reading the way it was taken really help! Thank a bunch

Rebecca June 1, 2015 at 2:30 am

Thanks for all your helpful, easy to understand tips and tricks! I have a renewed excitement and interest since reading your posts. I am not familiar with the 50mm lens and was wondering if you could post some shots that you have taken with it? Thanks again!!

Leave a Comment


Previous post:

Next post: