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Digitisation has significantly affected, and improved, the photography industry. There are software packages to enhance digital photos, computer-based training to learn the craft, and you can upload and store your images into the photographic cloud.

Yet becoming a competent photographer requires more than just knowledge of the digital world – there will always be a need to learn about the different lens types, their specific and standard functionality and which lenses are ideal for photographing a particular situation. In this article, I will explain the vital camera lens types and when they should be used. I will also discuss and differentiate between natural and studio light, and when either is required.

Fixed focal length lenses – Prime Lens

A prime lens has no zoom capability because it has only one focal length, and it is fixed as well. Hence the term fixed focal length lens. The simplistic manufacture of these lenses (there are no moving parts and mechanisms to zoom in and out of a scene with) ensures they are both lightweight and fast to deploy, making them ideal for travelling. You can take very sharp photos using this lens, as they are designed to render everything within the scene in focus. These lenses are suitable for low light photography, and mostly indoors.

Telephoto Lens

A Telephoto lens is technically defined as a lens size greater than 50mm but is typically used to describe a lens beyond 100mm – if a standard zoom lens is not powerful enough for your needs, then the next step up will be one of these. Due to their size, they can be bulky, and their internal mechanisms are delicate requiring care. Customarily, a tripod must hold and support these lenses, so they are generally used by professionals who shoot sport or wildlife scenes. They need to determine an advantageous position to take photographs, set up the tripod and the camera with the telephoto lens, and be patient waiting for the right shot with which to take. One other drawback is that they can be expensive, and outside the budget of an amateur photographer.

Macro Lens

The Macros lens design is distinctive in that it has a powerful level of magnification. This type of lens is used to create clear close-up photographs, and nature is typically the subject when using a macro lens. If you have ever seen the close-up (almost) microscopic detail of say the eyes of a bee, or the scaly skin of a crocodile, then assume that a macro lens has been used for the shot. This lens will provide you with the ability to catch an enormous amount of detail within the one image.

Natural and Studio lighting

It’s best to define the two light sources before we differentiate between their types. Natural lighting is the available light from two sources – the sun and the moon. Studio lighting is artificially produced via an LED, your cameras flash, and studio lights.

Natural Lighting

• There is no need to purchase expensive lights, so natural lighting is cheap and free!
• To enhance your natural lighting, a reflector will be required, and they are cheap and easy to use,
• Beginners generally use natural lighting first when starting photography.

• Using natural lighting can be challenging if you are after a specific shot – when you need sunlight, it might be raining; if you need an early morning shot, you only have a finite amount of time to get it right,
• Moonlight will present even more challenges, especially if you require a partial to full moon outdoor shot.

Studio Lighting

• As studio light does not require natural sources, you can organise and manipulate the light to suit your exact requirements and take your time to maximise producing the right shot,
• Available any time of the day or night.

• Studio lighting can be expensive though, and the necessary accessories (like stands, light umbrellas, and strobe supports) all add to the cost,
• Premises will be required to set up your studio, batteries and electricity costs need to be factored in too.