Can you shoot landscape photography with a 50mm lens? Well, obviously you can, but the real questions is why you would want to. You might just be surprised…
Most landscape photographs are shot using wide angle lenses. There are two main reasons for this. One entirely legitimate, the other less so.
If the photographer knows what they are doing, they will likely use a wide angle lens because it’s the only way to get everything into the frame that they want to include in the photo, or because they need to achieve maximum depth of field. In such cases, using a wide angle lens makes perfect sense.
However, if the photographer is less experienced, they may choose to shoot on a wide angle lens all the time purely because they think that the dynamic perspective the lens creates will make their otherwise uninteresting photos look cool. This is like a chef adding chemical flavor enhancers to a dish in order to improve the taste: it shows insecurity and a lack of confidence in their own abilities. Compensation for lack of creativity and skill is not a good reason to shoot on a wide angle lens – especially if a better shot could be produced by using a different focal length instead.
In some cases, then, a wide angle lens is not the best solution. Rather, the photographer might be better off producing their landscape photography with a 50mm lens. Or perhaps even one that is a little longer, like a 90 or 120mm.
Don’t get me wrong, wide angle lenses are a legitimate tool in the landscape photographer’s arsenal, and I use them often: when appropriate. But sometimes it can be tempting to reach for the wide angle purely out of habit, or laziness, when in actual fact a standard lens might make for a better shot.
What are some potential situations where you might want to ditch the 24 or 28mm and instead try shooting landscape photography with a 50mm lens? Let’s take a look.
7 Reasons to Shoot Landscape Photography With a 50mm Lens
There are several good reasons why you might want to shoot landscape photography with a 50mm lens. Here are a few situations in which I’d personally consider grabbing the nifty fifty.
01 – For Bolder Compositions
The primary reason for shooting landscape photography with a 50mm lens is to achieve a tighter and punchier composition. This is particularly the case when the landscape you want to photograph is very far away (for example, mountains on the other side of a wide valley), or when you want to emphasize more graphic or geometric elements within the natural landscape.
Shooting such a scene with a wide angle lens would likely leave leave the main subject lost within a sea of unnecessary information. Leading to a weak and confusing composition. Instead, by using a 50mm lens to exclude all superfluous elements from the frame, the photo will have much greater visual impact.
02 – To Include Less Sky
Sometimes the awe and wonder inspired by majestic subjects such as mountain ranges or cityscapes in real life can become lost or diluted when photographed. Often this is due to the inclusion of too much sky above the subject, or perhaps too much empty land or water below. Shooting this kind of landscape photography with a 50mm lens rather than a wide angle one – so as to cut out redundant sky – can often make for a much more powerful and imposing final image.
03 – To Reboot Your Creativity
As with any artistic endeavor, imposing technical restrictions on your photography can often be a great method of stimulating a new burst of creativity. If you’re someone who only ever shoots landscapes with a wide angle lens, forcing yourself to switch to a 50mm for a while will come as a revelation.
Approaching landscape photography with a 50mm lens instead of a wide angle will push you to take photos that are interesting for good solid photographic reasons – e.g. an intriguing subject, strong composition, and effective use of light – rather than gaining all their interest from the dramatic angle of the lens itself.cYou may struggle at first, but in the long run you will likely find it highly productive to step out of your comfort zone, forcing you to find new ways of shooting.
04 – To Increase Depth
Because wide angle lenses provide an inherently deep depth of field, it can be difficult to separate foreground elements from the background when using them. But with a 50mm, any objects such as leaves, branches, tall grass etc. that are close to the lens will be more out of focus.
Try framing a landscape with interesting foreground elements such as plants and trees, while using a 50mm lens for a narrower angle of view and a shallower depth of field. This technique can help to give your photos a greater feeling of depth, adding interest to otherwise one-dimensional scenes.
05 – To Provide a More “Natural” Point of View
Having said that, good photography isn’t always about the photographer imposing a strong personal vision on a scene. Depending on the story you want to tell, sometimes what’s required is something less dominant: a point of view that lets the subject speak for itself, without heavy-handed interference from the photographer.
A 50mm offers a perspective and field of view that is much closer to human sight than that provided by a wide angle lens. So by trading in the 24mm for a 50mm, the camera and photographer recede into the background. Allowing the viewer to take in the scene in an apparently more neutral and less mediated way.
06 – To Give the Subject Greater Importance
Some landscape photos are about showing a general view of the terrain; meanwhile with others you want to draw particular attention to one main feature of the scene before anything else. Shooting landscape photography with a 50mm lens is great for when you want to give your photo a clearly identifiable subject. For example, a mountain range with a cottage in the foreground; a long stretch of road winding through fields with a tree up front; or a seascape with a boat pulled up on the beach.
In situations such as these, using a 50mm lens will allow you to get the main subject larger in the frame than would be possible with a wide angle lens. This way you can create some real separation between subject and background without the need to open up the aperture for a shallower depth of field.
07 – For Maximum Sharpness
Due to their relatively simple optics, 50mm lenses generally tend to be very sharp. If sharpness is a top priority for you, then shooting with a 50mm will give you that extra degree of resolution.
As we’ve seen then, it’s definitely possible to produce good quality landscape photography with a 50mm lens. In fact, depending on your photographic goals, in some cases a 50mm lens may even turn out be the best piece of glass for the job. Indeed, just as with any area of photography, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to shooting landscapes. And although less common than photos made using wide angle lenses, in the right hands, great landscape shots can also be produced using a 50mm.