Putting your Kit Lens to Work – Getting Great Images on a Low Budget
Everywhere I turn online and offline, photographers and amateurs alike are giving flack to the kit lens. I can see why – there’s such a large availability of low aperture, crisp lenses, from cheap primes to expensive zooms. It’s easy to get caught up in the lens hype and let your little kit gather dust, or sell it on Craigslist. But what if you don’t have the budget for a new lens, or don’t want one? You can use your kit lens to get gorgeous images without a lot of work, so don’t fret if it’s the only thing attached to your camera. If you are a MWAC (Mom With A Camera), this article is even better for you – you can capture great images of your kids, and seem like you know more than you do and are shooting with a fancier lens.
Every image and example I am going to show you in this article is from 2012, back when I was out of school and starting my business, and didn’t have a prime lens yet. They are all shot with the Nikon D40 and an 18-55 kit lens.
Depth of Field Illusion
If you want that creamy depth of field but don’t have a 1.4 prime, you can fake it til you make it with a kit lens! Shoot where you have lots of things in the foreground and background. When you have something like, in this image, weeds in the immediate foreground, they get blurred out, and it makes it seem like there is a lot of depth of field that really isn’t there. Something in the background far away to get blurred out from both depth of field and lens compression adds even more to it. Sharpen your subject just a tad to bring them out even more. This image was shot at f~5.6, ISO 200 and 1/1250.
Have a field of wildflowers? You’re in luck! Like weeds, you can use them to get different levels of focus and make your images look more like a prime lens image than a kit lens image. This image was shot at f~5.6, ISO 200 and 1/500.
Golden Hour to Your Benefit
Many photographers know they can shoot at golden hour for the best light, but did you know how well a good sunflare can enhance your image? Sometimes it’s less about the bokeh and more about that gorgeous, creamy yellow light. This image was taken at f~5.6, ISO 200 and 1/125. It’s overflowing with all of that gorgeous light, so when you look at the image, you see her beautiful backlit figure and a beautiful sunset.
Play with Textures and Storylines
Textures make a photo interesting, similar to many other art forms like sculpture and painting. Place your subject somewhere that will give them a nice texture in the background, so that when you see them, you see them placed against something interesting. Just keep the texture micro, or uninteresting – you don’t want it to pull away from the subject. So you could use a pattern like below, dead fall leaves, or you could use big black and white stripes on the side of the building – one is a small texture and one is a large pattern, but they both aren’t interesting enough to draw attention away from the subject, but add to the image instead. A bright graffiti ridden wall with interesting storyline might detract from your subject more, so that would be something to avoid. This image was shot at f~16, ISO 400 and 1/10.
Storyline can also add an interesting feature to an image. Get to know your subject. Who are they? What do they like to do? This senior lived on a farm in the country, so to add that aspect to her photos, she’s in her boots and flannel shirt, leaning on a handmade wooden fence with a shed and tractor in the background. It may not all be super blurry, but it adds to the story and really makes it interesting overall.
Get Creative and Artistic!
Try different angles and editing techniques to make a shot more interesting. Playing with the above rules on texture, I’ve placed this boy against old brick, centering him in a wooden old doorway. I added an artistic edit to it, lowering the saturation and upping the contrast. It gives a dirty, grungy feel, which matches the subject’s personality perfectly. Getting to know your subject will help you figure out how to shoot and edit them. This was shot at f~11, ISO 200 and 1/15.
Playing in with being creative, I shot this pose to add weight to the left with the tree, and dead space on the right to balance it out. He’s facing the empty space with his body but his head is turned towards the camera, and his stare at the camera draws attention to him, but the dark leaves and the tree bark texture give the peripheral vision something interesting to be drawn into. There’s lots of green and yellow color and texture, but you are still drawn in to the subject. The moody feel also adds to the subject’s personality. F~6.3, ISO 200, 1/100.
Don’t feel bad that you own a kit lens, and don’t be afraid to use it! A kit lens can open the door to your future creativity with better lenses. Until you get enough money, time, or education to be able to know what prime or zoom lens to buy that will assist your niche, you can use these techniques to practice with the kit lens and better your craft. As a hobbyist or amateur, this will help you gain a one up edge on your day to day photography, but for someone serious on learning to be a business, this will be the foothold to you learning how to use your kit – all techniques here work on all lenses, and will help you have a better artistic eye when you start shooting with bigger and better equipment.
Guest Blogger: Jenna Schwartz
Hi! I’m Jenna Schwartz, a 7 year veteran of newborn, child, family and portrait photography. I have over 65 awards, international publication and “Best of” city awards for 2013 and 2014, and I’m ranked in the top 10% child photographers in the world and the top 5% of the US. I work from a residential studio in Henderson Nevada and travel to Eastern Ohio several times a year for sessions. When I am not shooting, I’m hanging out with my two cats, my husband and my stepson.
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