How to use the "Nifty Fifty" camera lens

May 12, 2015

My sister asked me months ago to take her pregnancy photos and I was honored she would want me to do so. Photography has been a hobby of mine long before the blog, but blogging kind of helps that along since it’s a constant doing what I do. I don’t share many of my personal photos here but I’m really proud of these – and it gives me an opportunity to share one of my favorite photography tips!

We went out last week and used my favorite lens for the entire shoot. The Canon 50 millimeter lens is such a fun one – I’d use it for every photo if I could:

Canon 50 mm lens


It creates the most beautiful shots! The difference with this lens is that you can’t manually adjust it. You have to use it in the auto focus setting and it does most of the work for you.

With the “nifty fifty” you have to be able to get way back from your subject, which can be hard when shooting in the house. Where you would need about five feet of space with your regular lens, you’ll need about double that (or more) with this lens.

But it is so fun to use! It allows you to create more depth in the photos. You can focus on anything in the picture – just push down on the shutter button and it will focus on the part of your photo that you want. Sometimes you have to play around with it a bit but I can usually get the area I’m aiming for.

It puts the subject in focus and the rest fades away:

pregnancy photos

Isn’t she the prettiest mama ever?

I find I get the clearest shots with this lens, which is funny because at least half of the photo is usually blurry:

pregnancy photo ideas

I don’t have a lot of camera lenses – just this one, my basic one that came with the camera (I use a Canon Rebel) and a wide angle lens. This one is known as the nifty fifty because you can photograph so many different ways with it.

You can use it for wider shots too – it still does a nice job. I took this photo from last week with my 50 mm: outdoor fireplace

It’s also a great one to use in low light which is nice for interior shots!

With this lens I could have focused on the basket, the plates or the wreath. Everything else would be blurry. The photos I like best are sometimes those that focus on something in the background, not the foreground. Usually those are taken by accident. :)

It’s especially fun to use for nature shots – but your subject needs to be able to hold fairly still. It’s not great for action shots (at least that I’ve found). I love it for babies, nature and beautiful pregnant sisters who can stay still on command. ;)

If you’re looking to change up your photography, this would be a great investment.The great part is, it’s incredibly affordable (by lens standards). Have any of your tried this one? I highly recommend it to fellow bloggers!

By the way, I still haven’t been able to fix the Blogger issue with my photos being slightly blurry. Some of these I loaded through a hosting site, so that helps. But it takes a lot of extra time so I’m not able to do it for each one. So if you are seeing that it’s not the fault of the lens or the photographer, I swear. ;)

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  1. The 50 is a great little lens. Some side points though, you can absolutely manually focus this lens. Auto focus is not a necessity, although many prefer it. Also, you pick where you want your focus by choosing your focal point (the red dot that shows up in your viewfinder when you press the shutter button). Play around with the focal points to get the look you want. That blurry creaminess you like is called bokeh and it's amazing :) You can really see it in the photo of your sister looking at you. I don't know what mode you use your camera in, but watch the aperture on this lens. Sometimes it'll stop down to 1.8 which is too narrow, usually, for what you're shooting. You'll end up missing focus which is a pain. You should check out the 40mm pancake lens. For some reason, I love it a little bit more than the 50.

    1. Thanks Gracie! I will check out that one! I meant you can't manually adjust the zoom on it like you can a standard lens. But yes, you are right, you can adjust the focus. I only use it on auto because of that. And I forgot to mention the bokeh at Christmas too! I'll have to edit the post and add that. :)

  2. You can set the focus to manual on the outer part of the lens and focus with the outer ring. I love this lens for portraits!

  3. My Photography instructor showed us a cool trick with this exact lens. You can get an adapter ring for it at any photography store. Then you actually turn the lens around and screw it on backwards and take amazing macro shots with it! I have yet to try that, but she took some really cool pics of bugs and other tiny things with it!

  4. Love doing maternity shoots. These are cute.

  5. I have a Nikon & loooooove my 50!!!

  6. Awesome! I have a Canon Rebel, but know very little about it and don't often use it because my little brain gets so confused when I try to learn how to use it! :P What wide angle lens (I think that's what I need!) would you recommend? I need something that will be good for baseball and soccer games when my boys are far away from me and I'd prefer a photo of them not a huge field with a boy that looks to be the size of Stuart Little! ;)

  7. Thank you for this description! I have this lens but you sure made it sound easy. Makes me realize I've been making it too hard.

  8. I was just researching these lenses today! I'm still very new to photography, and I'm working on improving my blog pictures. I decided to treat myself to a class first (Photo 101 from Nicole's Classes) and then work on the lens. These are great practical uses for the 50mm and it makes me want one even more! Any tips on embracing the manual setting?

    1. Lauren, once you learn all, well, most of the features your camera has, you will love how much control you have over your own images! Get the basics down first and then go out and practice!

  9. All I have is my stock lens, but I'd love to have more. I've borrowed my bil's 50, and loved it. Your photos are beautiful.

  10. I haven't read through all of the comments, but I am a professional photographer and have found that when I save images as a PNG file, they usually stay crisp when posting online. I hope this helps!

    1. Totally agree! I have to do this for my images especially those with a lot of white. If you use Picmonkey etc., especially for images where graphics are added, always save in the PNG file mode and they pop and are true to color, otherwise (especially in Blogger I notice this), they can have a darker, gray appearance.

  11. I may have to invest in this lens, I've been searching for something more to add to my blog photos :)

    xoxo, SS

    The Southern Stylista

  12. These photos are stunning. You know how to handle a camera.

  13. Loved reading this..I just bought the Sigma 30mm 1.4 and was tossing up about this one as well. Everything I've read about it says it's wonderful (and the price is so perfect it's hard to almost say no). The low light photos do turn out beautifully clear and well lit. You've done a great job!

    Megan ||


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