When you commit to using prime lenses on your photo or video project, you need to develop a working style that is precise. Planning and precision will be your friends when you deal with fixed focal length style lenses. Authors Richard Harrington and James Ball discuss how to develop a style of working with prime lenses that fits your workflow.
- So when you commit to working with prime lenses on your photo or video project, you need to develop a working style that, the key word I think is, precision. I mean, planning and precision are going to be your friends when you're dealing with fixed focal length style lenses. - Yeah, you really have to think about what it is you're trying to accomplish. A lot of times when I'm scouting a location or I'm doing my initial setups and trying different positions I may attach a zoom lens like a 28 to 300 millimeter just to the camera body, so I can very quickly experiment with different focal lengths, and then fire off test shots that have the right composition get familiar with what I'm trying to do and then improve the quality of glass.
I can go to something that goes from a six-three aperture that now is all of a sudden at a one-two, and so by switching from the zoom to the prime I can get the results that I want, but I didn't have to guess, I just used planning. Speaking of planning, sometimes I'll use an app called Artemis View Finder, have you used that as well? - I love it. - So, what does it do? - [Man With Glasses] Well you basically can plug in whichever camera you're using, because there all there. And even the brand and set of primes that you're gonna use. And then you can actually see physical aspect ratio markings on your cellphone or your Ipad, and you can actually snap photos with all the information on the side and send those to every creative person or everybody who need to help make a decision, so everybody is on the same page.
Its like one of the best ways to create a picture that's worth a 1000 words, right? - Yeah, and they even have some combinations of snap-on lenses for iPhones that work with this system. It's not a cheap app, but it' meant to be a professional app, the idea being that using something like and iPhone or an iPad, you can quickly estimate with your device what type of lenses you're going to need for coverage. So, it really is a planning thing, you can't lug everything around. Another thing that I think is important is to grow and consider, as you expand your camera kit, not necessarily dumping your cameras as you get a new one.
A lot of folks invest in one system, so, maybe your a Nikon shooter and you're stepping up to a higher end camera, D400, D500 if your budget allows it. Well, you might have a 300 or a D7000, and those lenses are interchangeable. I often find that keeping those extra bodies around as a spare body or flexibility gives me that choice. - [Man With Glasses] Yeah I mean those are all very practical, sensible reasons to plan your lens choices and your working strategy very carefully. I mean, you've got two aspects, right? You've got those practical, workflow, you know, it's a business and you've got to stay on schedule, so you want to work efficiently.
And then you've got all of the more creative things, I mean, prime lens, fixed focal length means you can't just go chase stuff around unless your, you know, your mobile and handheld maybe. So, there is some creative things that need to be thought of too. I mean, blocking, lighting, you've got a fixed frame, you know, stuff has to sort of happen within an area, you've made that commitment to a little bit more precision, so its not so run and gun, per se. - [Man In Striped Shirt] And what I'll often do, since I add that shallower depth of field, is I'll switch to using a monopod for my photography work flow.
This is a great compromise, much less bulky than a tripod, you're not having to pick it up and fold the legs, rather you just walk to the next locations set it down and you're getting the shot. Its that little bit of extra stability, and as we start to see options like in camera stabilization, make sure as you start to expand your kit you consider adding a camera with that, that's gonna make it so much better, or some of the new lenses we mentioned like from folks like Tamron or Sony, putting built in steady shot stabilization on their primes. This is a cool option to have because its going to allow you to not have to shoot at as slow of a shutter speed to get the exposure that you want, which means sharper shots.
So, I think it really balances out. Anything else that really comes to mind Jim, as a working style final piece of Advice? - Just try and respond to the things that are the main elements of your production, locations, art direction, talent, I mean, access, if you can't physically pick up and move closer or further away from a subject you might consider mixing it up in terms of zooms and primes, or you might use multiple cameras, you're strategy might be, lets have a couple of cameras with different focal lengths, I mean, you've got to respond to what's going to be in front of you.
- [Man in Striped Shirt] And, I guess the last thing that I would say is that this really is a dedication or commitment to a working style. Mix it up a little bit guys, don't just get so set on one style of shooting. Now we've got one more piece of advise, and that sort of the way to think about building up your prime lens kit.
In this course, Rich Harrington joins cinematographer James Ball for a detailed look at the pros and cons of using prime lenses for both photography and video projects. Together, they look at practical implications of shooting with primes as well as creative opportunities and challenges.
- Understanding prime lenses
- Adapting lenses to specific cameras
- Identifying benefits and challenges when working with prime lenses
- Working with specialty prime lenses: macro and Lomography lenses
- Exploring options with a shallow depth of field
- Strategies for success with prime lenses