Get Creative with DSLR Lenses

August 5, 2013

Chris Lavigne


The past several years have been amazing for camera technology. From the advent of the GoPro to constant improvements on the iPhone, it’s really incredible to have such powerful tools within budgetary reach. Creativity is no longer limited to those who can afford the most high-end tools.

One particular type of technology that has really upped its video game is the DSLR camera. When Canon released the 5D Mark II back in November of 2008, it marked the first DSLR that could also shoot incredible HD video at 1080p. This changed the world of video forever.

The advent of the HD-SLR presented the option to use different lenses. Switching between different lenses can help break down walls and foster creativity around every corner …  even inside your office.

Get the background out of focus

Unless you’re Don Draper, your office probably isn’t a movie set. When you’re shooting an interview, your shot may look pretty uninspired. Fake plants, a messy desk, an exotic car calendar hanging on your cubicle wall, all of this can lead to a pretty ugly shot. In this case, trying out a new lens can help inspire new shots and interesting angles that make all the difference.

A creative way to make a messy shot look less ugly is to blur the background and create what’s called bokeh. Bokeh is the out-of-focus area of a shot. The best way to get bokeh is to use what’s called a “fast” lens, with a super wide aperture.

Prime lenses are typically the fastest lenses with the widest apertures. For beautiful bokeh, stick to prime lenses like the 50mm, 85mm, and 135mm. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the Canon 50mm f/1.2 L lens, but at $1,600, it’s not the most affordable lens out there! If you’re on a budget, check out the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. Known as the “nifty fifty,” it’s a “thrifty fifty” that you can pick up for about $125.

A wide lens is your best friend

Shooting indoor spaces can make everything looked cramped. Using a wide lens creates the illusion that spaces are bigger than they really are. It can open up a bunch of different scene possibilities by enabling you to capture more of the environment in a single shot.

The disadvantage of wide angle lenses is that there’s a ton of distortion at edge of the frame. Although it doesn’t look too bad with inanimate objects, it can look ridiculous with people. Lenses like the Canon 16–35mm f/2.8 do a great job of getting a super-wide shot, but towards the 16mm end of the lens, the edges of the frame can look pretty weird.

On the other hand, edge distortion can sometimes be used for good! A really fun lens to add to your camera bag is a fisheye, which embraces edge distortion. My favorite is the Canon 15mm f/2.8, but if you don’t already have one, you might be out of luck! It’s been discontinued.

The fisheye is super wide angle lens, which gives your shot a distorted and stylized look. It also lets you capture things you just wouldn’t be able to see with any other lens. This is especially helpful when shooting B-roll in your office. It’s an awesome lens to use for rap videos and timelapse shots — not to mention people look really silly when you shoot them up close!

Experiment and get wild!

Nothing keeps your B-roll looking fresh like different lenses and different perspectives. Every lens has its own unique look, and will tell a unique story.

One lens that is in my bag is the Canon 100mm macro. It’s great for shooting things super close up, like a computer screen or hands typing on a keyboard. I also never leave home without my trusted Canon 70–200mm telephoto lens. This lens is pretty big and heavy, but it’s awesome for shooting people from a distance without distracting them by getting right up in their face.

A lens is an investment, so try before you buy. There are a bunch of rental houses (like Lens Pro To Go) that have awesome deals on lens rentals for the day, week, or even month. I’ve found it to be pretty helpful to rent a lens before committing to a purchase.

August 5, 2013

Chris Lavigne


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