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Photography Question 
Stacy A. Allen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/16/2007

Lens suggestions for photographing young children

Hello! I am interested in getting a good lens to use with my Nikon D50 that will allow me to take some great shots of my new baby. I have been told a macro lens might be best, so that way I can capture the cute baby feet while using depth of field to blur the background. I would like some recommendations as to if I should get a lens that is set at a specific range, or get a lens that covers a wide range. Suggestions on manufacturer would be greatly appreciated as well!

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12/20/2007 6:44:09 AM

Alan N. Marcus   Hi Stacy,

Your Nikon D50 is packed with features. Likely the kit lens provided will serve all your needs for a long time. My advise, unless you have deep pockets, stick to the kit lens for now. It will photograph you kidís feet and you can even zoom in on just the toenails, you donít need to buy anything extra.

You camera was likely sold with a (kit) lens which is a zoom with a range of 18mm ~ 55mm. Your camera performs much like a 35mm film camera with a zoom operating in the range of 27mm ~ 82.5mm.
Those numbers donít mean much to most so:
Normal for the D50 is 30mm
Wide angle for this camera is 23mm or shorter
Telephoto for this camera is 90mm or greater
Portrait for this camera is 70mm or greater
How derived: This camera sports an imaging chip that is smaller than the venerable 35mm camera that old-times know and love and like to use as the basis of comparison. The D50 with its smaller imaging chip requires a conversion factor or crop factor (dam I hate math) to make this comparison. This value is 1.5.
The normal lens for a 35mm film camera is 50mm so we can divide 50 by 1.5 to see what is normal for the D50 = 33mm round to 30mm. Wide angle for the 35mm film camera is a 35mm or shorter so 35 divide 1.5 = 23mm. Telephoto for a 35mm film camera is 135mm or longer so 135 divide 1.5 = 90mm. A portrait lens for a 35mm film camera is 105mm so 105 divide 1.5 = 70mm. Conclusion the kit lens sold with the D50 centers up on normal. At the short end it provides moderate wide angle coverage. At the long end, itís disappointing as to telephoto. Additionally the speed of this lens is f/3.5 at wide and f/5.6 at long, not particularly impressive. The countermeasure is a vast array of lenses are available that cover every possible situation.

As to photographing kidís feet: The kit lens provided will perform this task nicely. You need not purchase a macro. What is a micro anyway? Originally the term macro applied to lenses designed for photomicrography. Today the term is loosely used for close-up photography. Your D50 already has a close-up mode that could be called a macro mode. This mode negates the need to purchase a macro lens. Donít get me wrong, a macro lens is a thing of beauty, every serious photographer should have one if close-up work is their forte.

All lenses have imaging defects. The defects generally go un-perceived on a computer screen views or even when viewing paper prints 8 x 10 inch size or smaller. Defects materialize when making big over mantel prints and posters. A general purpose lens is corrected for distant vistas. Defects creep in when taking close-ups. A macro is corrected for close-ups; defects creep in when taking distant scenes.

Alan Marcus (truly marginal technical gobbledygook)

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12/20/2007 9:20:46 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Heres whats in my Camera bag:

I find it best to work with my 200mm
when doing portraits 100-300 is recommended, you do not want to be switching lens alot in a portrait sitting and you are working with a space that allows you little control of your background.
Typical "portrait" lenses are therefore between 90 and 135 MM long.
most professionals use 70-200/2.8 or 80-200/2.8 zooms as portrait lenses,
or better yet 100 or 105 macro.
A lot depends on where you want to start and you pocket book.
I hope this helps,
Debby Tabb
* In my reg portrait sitting camera bag I have:
Nikon D200 and Fuji S2
Nikon 24-120mm 1:3.5 Vr Lens
Tamron 28-300 AF 1:3.5 macro lens
Tamron 28-200 AF 1:3.5 macro lens
on site extras:
Polarizes, soft focus and Centre Soft and asst. other filters depending on the job.

** More on Studio Photography and childrens Portraiture in the 1-23 threads:

I hope this helps,

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12/20/2007 9:49:21 AM

Alan N. Marcus   When teaching which focal length is best, the road is not easy. A late good friend and accomplished scenic photographer recently told me the he didnít care much for the rules regarding focal length choice; instead his credence was on his own sense of composition and perspective. I believe that to be the true and the correct approach.

All we can do is lay down some of the principles and let the artist follow his/her heart because this business is mostly art and in art there is no norm..

Letís talk portrait. This art deals with reproducing the human face. Now when you get right down to it, the differences between one human and another is trivial. We all have a nose and eyes and ears the like. One thing I can tell you; is when making a portrait, you can easily go astray.

Too short a lens and you will naturally work in too close. Working too close will result in reproducing the nose too big and the ears too small. You client may not recognize the subtle distortion but they often say ďI donít photograph wellĒ or ďthe camera sure liesĒ. If your lens is too long your subject-to-camera distance will be extended. The results are a flatting of the face whereby the nose and ears are rendered compressed i.e. the face seems fattened.

What is the correct focal length? It is a value based on viewing distance and we can calculate it and suggest a lens that centers up on this value. Generally viewing distance will be a function of print size. It is generally accepted that a good place to start for a portrait lens is one that is about 2.5 times the diagonal measure of the film or chip. Hollywood uses 3 times for close-up. We know that if a print, or computer screen or projected image is viewed at a distance equal to the taking focal length we will not have any apparent distortion, none at all. No one views at these short distances however:

Lets talk about a 35mm full frame using a 105mm portrait lens. 105mm = about 4 inches.

Consider a 4 x 5 print, to make from a 35mm frame, we must enlarge (magnify) 5x. If taken with a 4 inch lens, the viewing distance is 4 x 5 = 20 inches. About right for a 4 x 5.

Consider 8 x 10. We must enlarge the 35mm frame 9x. Now 9 x 4 = 36 inches.
Note most 8 x 10ís are framed and end up on the desk or dresser.

Consider a 16 x 20. We must enlarge the 35mm frame 18x. Now the viewing distance is 18 x 4 = 72 inches or 6 feet. Most 16 x 20ís are on the wall or over the mantel etc.

I know this seems like bull but maybe just maybe there is some truth to this?

A smaller digital with a 1.5 crop factor follows the same scheme. To make an 8 x 10 from the smaller imaging chip we must magnify 11x. Thus using a 70mm lens which is 2.75 inches x 11 = 30 inches viewing distance.

These are the facts! Use or discard at your pleasure.

Alan Marcus (off the wall marginal technical gobbledygook)

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12/20/2007 2:56:30 PM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
I have been a Portrait Photographer for many years and thie is what I use.
As seen in my Gallery.
And I hope this helps,

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12/20/2007 5:09:09 PM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  still being offended.i don't think that was the intent debby.technical not capture.the actual difference is what?
new members don't pose these questions,c'mon pose a question about dof and lens selection..still the being vague?
you tout selective aperture for selective focus,and then ask for lens selection?ooops.

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12/21/2007 10:27:02 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Hello all,

"...he didnít care much for the rules regarding focal length choice; instead his credence was on his own sense of composition and perspective."

Alan, this is probably the very best advice I've seen and should apply to many if not ALL photographers.

This lens, that lens, this DOF, that shutter speed, this color correction blah..blah..blah.

Too many photogs try to emulate or worse, copy the work of others; and of course we MUST have the same equip they have.

Hey; do your own thing!

Photography is so much more about art than it is about much more subjective than it is objective.

I've probably quoted this favorite analogy of mine a million times, but in case you missed it Stacy:

I love golf. I'm above average in the game.
Tiger Woods could beat me on his worst day with a set of K-Mart golf clubs..My clubs cost about $1,400. LOL

Use what you have for now. Understand what you have. Experiment and shoot like crazy.
With instant feedback,(no more wasting film and processing costs) digital photography should be producing some great photographers..oddly enough, that isn't happening..and the reasons are interesting.

all the best,


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12/22/2007 8:12:15 AM

Alan N. Marcus   Behind the great photographers are the not-so-great photo scientist and engineers. They design and make the films, papers, lenses, cameras, flash equipment, light meters, developing chemicals and machines, imaging chips, software, and hardware. This profession extends into cinematography, medical imaging, satellite reconnaissance, space probe imaging, periscope, and microphotograph, even CSI, wherever pictures add meaning. Did you know that chips are made photographically?

The portrait lens was the brainchild of Charles Chevalier who made one for Daguerre and in 1840, a doublet f/4.9. Next year, Josef Petzval of the University of Vienna produced the Voigtlander Portrait lens f/3.6. The Petzval design rates as the greatest achievement in the history of the photographic lens.

Now I want you to known that these guyís and most of the men and women in this field take snapshots, give lectures, teach, make slide and PowerPoint graphics. The images they make are just middling, few if ever win prizes for composition or beauty. However you benefit everyday because the goods they make are clever, bright and shiny highly functional.

Happy holidays to all
Alan Marcus

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12/22/2007 9:45:20 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Happy holidays Sam!
No, not offended at all.
Just stating that this is what I'm using and that the results are in gallery.
I would like others to know they don't have to run out and hock the farm for
"The Best" !
( the best changes monthly and depending who you talk to)
I have been using the same Camera and Lens for years, with wonderful results.
and make a great living doing so.
And Portraits I have taken( with the now $400.00 or so) Fuji S2 have been published in a few Nathional Magizines,ect.
So, really you don't have to run out and have the newest on the market.
I hope this helps,

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12/22/2007 10:30:49 AM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  so that one lens ,lets exclude who's behind it won't give the greatest photos?geez,well wait debby this lens controls the lighting?it poses??has a fixed range?
happy holidays,sam

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12/22/2007 9:40:29 PM

Stacy A. Allen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/16/2007
  Thank you everyone for all of your feedback, it is greatly appreciated!

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12/31/2007 10:07:26 AM

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