Now, don’t get it twisted: there is certainly a time and place for zoom lenses.
And because of their range and versatility, it can be tempting to just use zoom lenses all the time…
But if you’re looking to truly advance as a filmmaker, it’s important to get to a place where you feel comfortable leaving the zoom at home and shooting with only primes.
Why? Why is it so important to use primes?
Well, there are two main reasons:
1. Aesthetic beauty. Background blur, sharpness, contrast… all of these things look much more pleasing to the eye when shot with a prime lens.
2. It will make you a better filmmaker. Prime lenses require you to pay more attention to what is happening, because if you’re not paying enough attention you could miss a really great moment — you don’t have the ability to zoom when you spot something awesome happening. With prime lenses you’re forced to be more present on the shoot.
When should I be using prime lenses?
We are especially sure to use only prime lenses when we’re really trying to isolate a subject and take full advantage of all of our camera settings to get the most pleasing image. Not surprisingly, this is most of the time!
So in the example Justin gives us above, we were sure to use prime lenses to capture the bride’s gift opening scene so we could really focus in on her and the gift, and get that super shallow depth of field that you can only get with a prime lens.
Because the prime is at a fixed focal length, with a scene like the gift opening (where we don’t know for sure how she’ll react), we had to be really aware of all the sounds and action happening in the room, or we just wouldn’t get the shots.
Ok but… when is it good to pack a zoom?
As we said before, there are plenty of times when zoom lenses are necessary for capturing a full story. Live events like sports, for example, really require you to have that quick ability to change focal length and capture the little moments that make it exciting.
Justin’s 3 tips to start getting comfortable with prime lenses…
So, if you think you’re ready to really dive into a deeper relationship with prime lenses (and sometimes that just means buying one for the first time), we have a few tips for making that transition smoother.
1. Start with cheaper primes.
A lot of times us filmmakers think we’ve got to have THE BEST equipment in order to do something right. but we totally recommend going for a cheaper prime to get started. It doesn’t matter so much that you’re buying a really great brand — find something in your price range, and go from there.
2. Start when the time is right.
Shooting something for the first time with little or no idea what to expect? In that case, experimenting with new prime lenses might *not* be the best idea. When you’re first starting out with primes, use them for a shoot where you know you’ll be filming longer sequences — like the example of the bride getting ready. It always takes forever, and it’s not difficult to anticipate action.
3. Leave the zoom lens at home.
Just force yourself! Don’t give yourself the option of switching back to a zoom lens because it’s easier. We know it can be hard and kind of scary to leave something as versatile as a zoom behind, but this is often the only way to really get better acquainted with a prime.
Remember: you’re becoming a better filmmaker…
If you’re challenged by prime lenses that’s a GOOD thing — it’s only going to make you a better filmmaker to challenge yourself.
And if you’re still shooting with only zoom lenses, today we challenge you to put some of Justin’s tips into motion by getting a prime and leaving the zoom at home.
What’s keeping you from shooting on primes?
Think you can challenge yourself to leave the zoom at home?