Camera Tips: How to Make the Most of the Kit Lens

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I hear a lot of photographers who have been shooting for many years give flack to the kit lens. And I can understand why – with an arsenal of high end, thousand dollar lenses, why would you shoot with the kit lens? I haven’t touched mine in months, personally – but I remember a time when it was all I had, and for the people who are going to be getting their first camera this season, it may be all they have to start with, too. So let me help you create beautiful portrait images with the kit lens, regardless of how new you are to photography.

Here are some useful tutorials for beginner photographers:

And if you plan to open your own business, these tips may help you along the way:

Creating the illusion of depth of field

Sometimes you want to have that creamy bokeh, but with a kit lens, it is hard to get most of the time. Adding a lot of activity to your immediate foreground and background can assist with that. This image was shot at f~5.6, ISO 200 and 1/1250. The wildflowers and grass in my immediate view are blurred so well with their distance to my camera, creating the illusion that I am shooting a little wider open than I am. It allows for this image to have a nice depth of field, despite being shot at 5.6.

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This image, shot at f~5.6, ISO 200 and 1/500, brings together an even better perspective of a wide aperture with the large amount of flowers in the foreground.

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Enhance a golden hour shot with sun flare

Another way to enhance an image without doing a whole lot to it is using sun flare. You may not have a super blurred background, but you can take the focus off of it with a little bit of creativity and back lighting. This image, taken at f~5.6, ISO 200 and 1/125, is almost over flooded with the sun flare, but it lights it up with a beautiful golden look and enhances the depth of the image.

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This is another image shot at f~4.2, ISO 200 and 1/30, that is enhanced by a subtle, but still beautiful, sun flare coming out of the woodwork in the gazebo.

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Use an interesting texture or story in the background

It goes without saying that you want your subject to be the focal point in your image, but if you fill the background with an interesting texture, you can enhance it without needing a huge depth of field. The leaves in this image below, shot at f~16, ISO 400 and 1/10, add an interesting feel to the image without overwhelming it. The focal point is still on the beautiful subject, who, in her light grey jacket and bright scarf, stand out really well.

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Adding a storyline to the background is another way to enhance an image. Capture who the person is in the photo, and it won’t  matter as much that your depth of field isn’t shallow. This photo, showing a girl who is a country girl that lives on a farm, explains who she is with the handmade fence and tractor in the background of the large field.

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Go artistic with your shot

Create something on the artful side. Don’t just make the photo about your subject, make it about what’s around them. Tell an interesting story with your image. This image, shot at f~11, ISO 200 and 1/15, has a vintage feel, with the old building behind him, but for those who know the senior, it shows off who he is and really brings out the raw nature of his personality.

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This is another image of the same senior that also tells a story about his personality. F~6.3, ISO 200, 1/100.

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Summary

There are a lot of ways to utilize the kit lens to the best of nearly any situation. Learning how to work with aperture, shutter speed and ISO are the first steps, and learning how to manipulate the foreground and background to work with your subject are the next steps. It’s also important to remember that it isn’t the camera that takes the shot – it is the photographer, and you can learn how to create beautiful images no matter what kind of equipment you have.

Jenna Schwartz is a baby and family photographer in the Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada areas. She also travels to shoot high school seniors in the summer and fall each year in Ohio. You can find her on Facebook or her website.

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This post was written by a MCP Guest Blogger. If you would like to contribute to the MCP Actions Blog, check out our Guest Writers Wanted page.

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1 Comments and 0 Replies



  1. 1
    Patty says:

    Love this article. I have been shooting with my kit lenses for 3 years! Many times other photographers ask me what I shot a particular image with and they are schocked to hear it’s a kit lens. It all depends on HOW you compose your shot. I do have a 50mm 1.8 as well, but I find myself shooting with my 70-200mm kit lens now. It creates beautiful bokeh. If you’d like to see some of my images let me know and I’ll be glad to link them.
    Go to my fb page to see more of my recent work at http://www.facebook.com/PatriciaMartinezPhotography

    I am based in the Dallas, Texas area and I love your articles.



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