Learn how you can make your images more artistic.
What is a Nifty Fifty?
A nifty fifty is a 50mm Prime Lens, also referred to as a normal or standard lens, as it is similar to what our eyes see. It is a fixed-length lens.
Here’s a sunset I shot on my daughters 17th birthday. I knew the sunset was going to be awesome with those high clouds but I resisted the urge to pack more than one lens – only took my 50mm. Shot using a wide open aperture f/1.8 (the opposite of what I normally do for landscapes because of the shallow depth of field) aiming to focus on the waters edge as the wave rolled in, getting down low to the wet sand to show more of that beautiful reflection. Notice the distant blurred surfer coming back out of the water?
Why create with a Nifty Fifty?
For many of us, it is the first lens we purchase, as they are usually very good value for money (although there can be some expensive ones too). The 50mm lens is also very versatile and you can shoot just about anything from landscapes, to portraits, nature to food photography. It is great for low key, high key and long exposures. It also has a really good shallow depth of field.
Using a 50mm lens allows us to remove a lot of the technical decisions, as you don’t need to consider what focal length to use. Using a wide-open aperture frees up our brain to be more creative with our images.
Tips for getting the most out of your Nifty Fifty
By using only a 50mm lens (or equivalent on a cropped sensor ie 25/35mm), and removing all the technical aspects allows you to focus on the creative side of things, concentrating purely on the composition.
- Try shooting in Aperture Priority mode and really take advantage of the lenses shallow depth of field.
- Put your shutter speed and ISO in auto mode and free your mind from all the technical settings.
- Consider your main Point of Interest, what is the ONE thing you wish to capture and focus on? Try to keep things simple, don’t overload your image.
- Don’t forget to check out what else is in your frame, you want to remove any distractions. Also consider adding supportive elements.
- What perspective do you want, low or high? Do you want to shoot from a birds-eye view (up high) or from a bug’s eye view (down low)? Or perhaps you strictly want to stick to eye level? Move around within your scene and capture your subject from the best possible angle or vantage point.
- Finally, think about your depth of field. Do you want it shallow (wide open aperture) or deep? Why not take advantage of the Nifty Fifty’s shallow depth of field?
Performance Artist after Sunset
I noticed a group of performing artists starting to juggle and twirl close to where we were enjoying a few sundowners. It was a perfectly still evening and that afterglow from the sunset was still visible on the horizon.
Of course I have my camera with me and only one lens – my nifty fifty. I asked permission to get a couple of pictures for my BootCamp Challenge – silhouette of them twirling.
Shot in aperture priority mode – f/2.8, one stop under exposed for the silhouette. My shutter speed was 1/40th second which shows movement. I made sure that my camera was very low to the ground to silhouette the grasses against that beautiful light and give the impression of a powerful performer.
I like this shot the most because of his body language and the expression on his face – of full concentration.
How can you make your images more artistic?
Consider adding filters for an artistic effect like long exposure. Consider your time of day to shoot, or adding in-camera motion. Perhaps consider extension tubes and shoot macros, or try your hand at light painting at night?
Another tip for your Nifty Fifty is trying street photography. Not for everyone and not everyone can currently get out and about. But it is great to experiment. Try different shutter speeds, experiment with intentional camera blur. Consider reflections and traffic movements, always fun to experiment with.
If you can’t get outside, consider getting creative with what you have at home. Try working with food, a 50mm lens is terrific for food and drinks, especially with a shallow depth of field. Capture some nature in your own backyard or local neighbourhood.
Slow down and enjoy the creative process. Decide on your main point of interest and shoot intentionally.
Photo BootCamp Magazine
Let’s have a look at what our BootCamp members have created with their Nifty Fifty.
And be sure to check out how you can join BootCamp at the end of the magazine!
Below is a small sample of what’s in this magazine…
Join The Fastest, ‘Funnest’ Way To Improve Your Photography!
- Discover exciting new skills
- Rekindle your passion for taking photos
- Improve fast with helpful feedback
- Experience enjoyment and progress
Inside BootCamp Magazine
Let’s take a look at this month’s magazine. Here is our featured artist of the month, Leila Gonzalez Sullivan, from the United States.
Another 50mm image from the New Jersey Shore: many houses have yard decorations that include a nautical theme. This driftwood piece with some anchors attached always catches Leila’s eye. Since it was close to noon, she thought a B&W format with a vignette would show off the textures best.
Comment: Greg Skehan – “Hi Leila
I really like the driftwood and the anchor, their positioning and the black and white effect. For me the pebbles on the beach in the background take away from the image – it is a very “busy” background. I don’t know any way that this can be altered other than a blurring of the pebbles using P/shop or LR.”
This month’s featured magazine cover image is by Greg Skehan from Sri Lanka. This fern frond has been gradually unfurling this past week and Greg happened to have his camera with him just after a small rain shower. He was really pleased to get the drop of water in a reasonable focus and yet still have some clarity with the curled up part of the leaf. It also reminds him of Fibonacci and Phi (The Golden ratio).
Comment: Denis O’Byrne – “Hi Greg. When I view this on full screen the water droplet really stands out and makes the shot. Well done.”
Let’s take a look at some of awesome images our BootCamp members’ created this month with their Nifty Fifty.
We’ll start with Dave Koh from Singapore. He does not have a 50mm lens so he was searching for his old manual camera and found that he has a 55mm lens but it is not autofocus. So Dave used it on his DSLR and turned it into manual focus and tried it out yesterday and it works but it couldn’t tell the aperture even when he adjusted to f/2.8. He went to the local park to play around shooting with some plants and flowers and here is his post for the month. A very simple image.
Comment: Denis O’Byrne – “Hi Dave. Very good shot of a bud waiting to flower. Nice and sharp against a soft background. The water droplets are really good and clear and give added value. Well done.”
Next, we have Nick Ellis from Australia. This is a Gardenia leaf, still playing with the extension tubes.
Comment: Wanda Lach – “Love this image. Love the high-key value of the leaf and the soft blurred effect.”
Peter Brody from Australia is next. Still alive but in the Covid lockdown with 5 km radius limit and Peter has to go past that just to get milk. So another photo from his deck into the late afternoon before sunset and used his Sony/Zeis 55mm f 1.8 (don’t have a fifty sorry) shot into the sun.
Comment: Laima Ratajczak – “Absolutely beautiful Peter, you must have some amazing sunset images of that beautiful backyard. The golden glow on the river is just lovely and creates the perfect leading line. Well done and I hope your lockdown ends soon.”
Then we have Anthony Cadden from Australia. He has taken the photo of his other cat and edited it to a high key due to her dark texture. This has allowed him to get the contrast to show on the face. The aperture was set at F1.8 to get a shallow depth of field and focus right on her eye.
Comment: Laima Ratajczak – “Absolutely beautiful Anthony, I would be framing this. I love how her face is so sharp and then the softness of her body blends gently into the background. You really created a wonderful image here! Well done.”
And finally, we have Eugene Brannan from the United States. A challenging month with a challenge within a challenge. Eugene realized that he didn’t own a “nifty fifty”. So he searched to find one at a reasonable cost. The second challenge was to find the time to think in the “nifty fifty” frame of mind. He was able to shoot this image of a portion of an antique pressing vat. The support beams of the press mechanism caught his eye and the transformed black and white image highlighted the textures and shadows found in the old wood that could no doubt tell many stores of times gone by.
- Nifty Fifty is a 50mm Prime or fixed lens.
- The 50mm lens is a very versatile lens, allowing you to shoot from landscapes, portraits, nature to food photography.
- It has a really good shallow depth of field.
- Using a wide-open aperture frees up our brain to be more creative with our images.
- It’s still important to get your composition correct.
Did you enjoy this article? Check out these related articles, too:
- Choosing Your Top Shots And Best Images From The Past Year
How to pick your very best photo’s – my 3 step system.
- Creating Triptychs With Your Photographs
Learn how to create triptychs with images
- Creating Cheerful, Artistic Photos With High Key Photography
What does HIGH KEY mean in photography?.
Do This Now
Please leave me a comment below – I’d love to know what you think. Brent