The #1 question of all time I get when talking about DSLR’s is “I am going to xyz place…. what lenses should I bring?”. Because let’s face it, nobody wants to haul around a camera bag larger than a suitcase when on vacation. Especially if you are at a conference where you will be shaking hands, grabbing swag, eating delicious food, and taking notes from amazing speakers. So today I want to share my top secret – What Lenses to Bring to SNAP! or on Vacation.
Now I do have to add one caveat. While this guide will help you pick what is best for you, it is totally up to your individual style. Some people LOVE crazy, wide angle shots in crowded rooms. Some people just want to focus on the details. And some people like everything in between. Luckily, I have some great ideas for everyone- and it is as customizable as your own personal taste and luggage allowances!
I’m going to stick to just the most versatile lenses that are pretty commonly used by creative bloggers. You might have a completely different lens you love, so please add it down below! I’m also going for bang for your buck here- while some of the lenses listed are not my absolute all-time favorite, they help cut way down on the bulk of carrying multiple lenses and get the job done.
So first off, let’s talk the overall lens list. These are all the lenses I will cover for different situations below so you can see what the lens does, and why I’m recommending them for a certain situation.
50mm (1.4 or 1.8):
- Lens is closest to your actual vision- you can photograph things as you see them
- Great for food, product, faces, and details
- If you don’t mind moving to find the right composure, takes fabulous landscape shots
- Fabulous in low-light, indoors, and picks up beautiful colors
- No zoom in or out- you must move with your feet (this downside is very big for many situations)
- Does not get very closeup shots clearly (not a macro)
17-50mm (“wide angle” lens):
- Stand close to a subject and still get it all in the frame
- Be able to shoot an entire room without standing incredibly far away
- Fabulous for landscapes- get much more of the landscape in your shot
- Fairly expensive compared with lenses that do more
- Quite bulky and heavy
- Can make portrait shots look odd- distorts faces under 35mm
18-135 (or any other lens from the teens/twenties to the hundreds):
- Can take detail shots, zoom shots, one lens does most of the work of other lenses
- Inexpensive, lightweight
- Color is not always best on inexpensive lenses
- Very expensive for faster lenses over the entry level lens
- Not very good in low light/indoors
40mm (“pancake” lens):
- very inexpensive
- good in lower light
- great close-up (macro) shots
- great for details
- very small and lightweight, easy to pack
- has a learning curve
- have to move to get the shot you want
- no zoom in or out
There are many other lenses, but you can easily lump them into the groups above- fixed lenses (no zoom) or zoom lenses- both low and high focal length (the mm numbers.)
What Lenses to Bring to SNAP!
SNAP is full of so many wonderful things. There are bright colors, fabulous faces, delicious food, and amazing brands to meet with. I am not going to lie- there were many times in 2013 I just sat back in awe to take it all in. And I broke out my DSLR once. I am sad that I didn’t take more time to document the beautiful things around me, and will try to be more intentional in preserving memories this year.
To that end, I am also flying instead of driving, and will have little room for toting lenses. So in my camera bag you will find:
– My 50mm 1.4. It is my true love! I don’t care if I have to move- it helps me get around the conference, meet new people, and take some fabulous photos of friends. Since 50mm lenses are so small, they travel perfectly and are a good addition to have for taking great detail shots- you know there will be so many interesting closeups to snap!
– An 18-135mm. This is my all-around workhorse. I just upgraded to a faster, brighter lens, and it is one of the best lenses to have for any situation that might pop up. You can zoom in or out- get an entire room in focus, or zoom in on some of the beautiful mountains surrounding SLC!
– If I can reduce clothes and pack one extra lens- my 35mm wide angle. It would be so cool to get a shot in the back of the room with all the attendees! If I was driving, this would be a must-bring. Since I am flying, and it is a bit bulky, I may opt for my iPhone’s panorama option instead.
What to Bring for a Camping Trip/To Europe/Somewhere you want to take landscapes:
-An 18-55mm lens. Get any shot you need quickly- closeup or landscape.
-A 17-40mm (or prime lens under 35mm). Get amazing landscape shots- you’ll be able to document so much more of your surroundings without having to take multiple shots.
-A 40mm lens. This lens is SO incredibly small and lightweight, it is easy to slip in your bag for when you’d like a portrait or closeup of something spectacular like local dishes or intricate architectural details.
-A lens over 100mm. This extreme zoom is a necessity if you’re taking snaps of wildlife, birds, or details far away that you need lots of ZOOM for!
What to Bring When Visiting Family
-A 50mm lens. Great for family portraits, individual shots, and chronicling the details of your loved one’s home. Great for indoors since it works well in low light.
-An 18-135mm lens. Great to have for any situation that may pop up- including fitting a big family in one pic! I prefer 40-85mm for portraits, but let’s face it, sometimes you don’t care about having the perfect soft vignetting- you just want everyone in your picture- and in focus. This lens needs a little help with light (open those windows wide and let natural light shine in- or move your session to a shady area outside!!), but it is a great multi-tasker.
-An 85mm lens. Fabulous for outdoor family shots- like kids playing in the park. It’s a bit zoomed in, so you can take photos of people interacting naturally and make it look like you are closeup while actually being quite a bit further back.
A Baby Shower/Party
-40mm lens. Get super up close to the finest details- cake piping, baby clothing, party favors and decorations.
-50mm lens. Get beautiful shots of guests inside even if the light isn’t ideal.
So there’s my top picks… in addition to my iPhone, of course. I am SO excited to hear there will be a class on iPhone photography at SNAP- I will be in the front row taking tons of notes! Let’s face it- sometimes it is the best tool in our bag when we need a shot quickly!
For more information on lenses, please check out my Know Your Lenses guide on Sweet C’s Designs, or buff up on your manual or a/v mode shooting skills- or even learn all about what all the buttons on your camera mean!