General question

  • August 11, 2019 at 8:03 am #4222
    Points: 16


    I am very new to photography having only really ever experimented myself, read magazines and done a few day courses so you will have to bare with me on this one! I am looking to extend my lens collection and am finding that I have no clue where to start. I’ve been advised that it’s a good thing to go second hand when first starting out enabling me to understand more about each lens and what it does for my camera before spending the big money. I’d really love to try a macro lens on my nikon d3500 however I feel totally lost when trying to find one which will fit and work! Any help would be really greatly appreciated in this matter. Thanks in advance 🙂

    August 11, 2019 at 8:44 am #4224
    Rachel ThornhillRachel Thornhill
    Points: 418

    Hey there @agesofdestiny , welcome to the Mastering Portrait Photography Community!

    What you describe is something I found tricky myself when I started… how do I know what kit is a worth investment? It’s good that you asking these questions now, before you invest! I think you need to start with asking. yourself – What do I love shooting the most?

    I love photographing people, so for me, my first separate lens purchase was a 50mm prime lens, that has a f of 1.8. It took me a while to get used to using my feet rather than the telephoto, but with such an amazing shallow depth of field, allowed me to play and start to experiment with style all for £95 new from amazon. It was a great option to get me started and actually I shot my first few paid shoots with it, before I invested in my Canon 5Diii, 24-70 2.8 and 70-200 2.8, which is my go to kit now.

    I don’t know much about macro lenses I’m afraid, that 50mm 1.8 is still in my kit for when I need to do detail shots for weddings, and I haven’t found the need for a separate macro lens yet.

    I’m not sure whereabouts you are based, but regarding second hand kit, here in the UK we have a couple of different places. The London Camera Exchange has shops you can go and visit, and that’s where I got my first pro body and lens from, part exchanging an older DSLR and kit lens to help finance it. I liked that I could go and talk to someone, and have a play in the shop before purchasing. MPB are also very good, and they sell and buy used camera kit.

    There are also Hire companies where you can pay to hire kit and put it through it’s paces, I recently hired a 16-35 2.8 wide angle lens for a corporate job for about £75 for 3 days. I liked chatting to someone on the phone about what I needed, someone who knew the kit and has relevant recommendations.

    I hope that helps so far, but we’d love to hear more about what you shoot and perhaps help with some more specific ideas for you!

    Speak soon,

    Rachel x

    In a world where we can be anything, be kind 💜

    August 11, 2019 at 12:20 pm #4226
    Points: 8,775

    Ah, that old chestnut.  Well (sadly) there isn’t really one answer – or at least not one that will ALWAYS be the right answer: as time passes, so do your requirements (particularly if you ever decide to step up to full frame from the D3500 DX sensor size.)

    So how to approach picking a lens.  Good question.  Firstly, let’s deal with the which lenses will fit the D3500 (which is a great camera BTW.)  You can use either DX or FX format lenses on there but the must have their own focus motors on the lens (the D3500 doesn’t have a motor in the body to drive older design lenses which is a shame as they can be a lot cheaper to buy and I do love some of the older lenses!)

    DX lenses will only work on DX sensors whereas FX lenses will work on both DX and FX.  What does that mean?  Well, simply put, you have a camera with the smaller DX sensor in and if you only buy DX lenses, if you ever decide to upgrade the camera to something like the ever-popular D750 or D850 full frame (FX) cameras, your lenses won’t work.

    However, FX lenses cost a bit more. But will have a longer lifetime if you upgrade.  Only you can know the answer to that.

    You haven’t said what type of image you like creating but, given this is a portrait-focussed (forgive the pun) site, I’m going to attack it from that view.

    For portraits, I like to work at effective lens lengths from 85mm-200mm.  This suits my style but I know plenty of photographers who like 24-70mm and some who stick to 50mm or 85mm. You can get some good value lenses in all these ranges second hand. I am a big fan of 2nd-hand camera cabinets in junk shops! Ebay is pretty good too. If you spend some time watching lenses for sale you can quickly get an idea of the price things go for and then wait for a bargain.

    In my kit bag, I always have a 70-200 f2.8 and a 17-35 f2.8.  These are my ‘money’ lenses i.e. the lenses I ALWAYS rely on while I’m working.  If I’m doing portraits, it’s nearly always the 70-200 on the front of the camera.  I have spares of both of these as they are so important.

    I also carry some old-school lenses: the 35-70 f2.8 and the 105 f2.  These wouldn’t work on your camera (they need a motor on the camera body) but they have both served me well over the years. I bought both of them second hand in camera shops.

    2nd hand lenses are usually great value (and you can always sell them again at little or no loss) and also consider using other manufacturers rather than Nikon.  Tokina and Sigma both make excellent lenses and they tend to be cheaper especially second hand.

    I also have multiple versions of the 50mm f1.8 which is a great lens to buy as it is cheap and sharp.  I wouldn’t bother with the f1.4 version which is neither cheap nor sharp. But make sure you get the one with the ultrasound motor on it or you’ll be stuck with manual focus.

    There is no substitute for getting your hands on different lenses and actually trying them.  They are expensive bit of kit (they cost many times more the cost of your camera) and each photographer will advise different things.  Only you will know if it ‘feels’ right – only you know if it makes you WANT to create images with it.

    So best advice?  Make friends with a camera club or other photographers and maybe a local shop or two who will let you try different lenses.  Then go play!  Always buy the best possible glass you can afford! If you look after it, it will last far longer than your cameras do.  My Nikon 105 f2 AF-DC lens is now so old, that whenever it gets serviced they send me a note saying they no longer have access to all the spares they might require. One day it’ll have to be retired. Sigh.

    I hope that helps a little but shout if you want specifics about a certain lens.  I know this is geeky but I love my Nikon Compendium which sits here on our bookshelf! haha.  Such a nerd.




    Paul Wilkinson FMPA FBIPP FSWPP

    Be kind to yourself!

    August 13, 2019 at 9:41 am #4235
    Points: 16

    Hi Rachel, thanks so much for the reply!

    I love to take shots up close as I find the zoom on my camera isn’t brilliant so when taking shots of anything afar I almost feel that I can see better with the naked eye than I can with my camera?

    I love to shoot animals and landscapes, really.. most things. Ive never shot portrait as to be honest I hate being photographed myself and therefore feel that I have almost a real shyness of shooting others although maybe something that in time will change with experience and confidence!


    I find that I take a lot of my photos as an opportunist if anything so a lot of right place right time although now I am getting more time to spend on my love of photography due to a job change I am reading a lot more and speaking to a lot more people therefore broadening my knowledge and taste for different shots. I think this is really where my want to explore different lenses has come in and my realisation that I really have no clue at this point but this seems to excite me.. I love to learn!

    Im hoping this helps explain a little and we can continue to chat and I could learn from everyone on here! #

    Thanks again for your time replying and reading my message


    August 13, 2019 at 10:02 am #4236
    Points: 16

    Thank you so much for the brilliantly helpful reply! Its much appreciated.

    Since reading this I have been looking on a few selling sites and have come across something which Im sure you will be able to help put into simple terms for me to understand. When using a lens which would fit my camera thus meaning I cannot then shoot in automatic mode.. How will this really affect my photo shooting? The classes I have been to I have been advised to stay in manual on my camera to gain experience.

    I had found a good second hand Sigma lens on ebay and the man selling it said it should fit however will prevent me using automatic mode due to the motor, my question being how will this really affect me when taking photos of landscapes or close up shots of flowers, insects etc? At this point I am still very much finding my footing on my camera so will go for a walk and just see what I can see if that makes sense so as I said, slot of opportunist shots of wildlife or scenery I stumble across at the moment.

    I have been advised that a macro lens would be good for me to try out as I love to take close up shots however as mentioned before the zoom on my standard lens isn’t great so when I shoot scenery it seems better looking at it with the naked eye than through my lens as I actually loose detail.

    I have numerous books on photography and have enrolled in a two day course at the moment to which the second part is this weekend coming so I very much learnt a lot from those however when trying it out at home I feel very overwhelmed yet so excited to learn and try new things!

    Do you have any very beginner tips to pass? I am very much a doer and need to try things myself to learn so I am often out and about with my camera shooting almost anything and am very willing to listen to learn from anyone who has any advice or tips!

    Thanks again for such a useful and informative reply, I feel chuffed so far for the advice. 🙂

    August 16, 2019 at 10:03 am #4240
    Rachel ThornhillRachel Thornhill
    Points: 418

    You’re welcome, and one thing we definitely all have here is a passion for photography!

    I’d suggest working your way through the foundations on this site, that cover all of the basics from kit to lighting to editing.

    But the best tip I’ve learnt is to shoot shoot shoot… then look at what you’ve shot afterwards and work out what you’d change if you were to shoot it again.

    And then go back out and shoot some more 😊

    Thank goodness we’re digital now 😂

    Rachel xx

    In a world where we can be anything, be kind 💜

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