I have been asked before what lenses I use… I have also agonized for days and weeks over lens purchases. Glass is quite possibly your best investment as a photographer. But it does not necessarily mean a large expenditure is needed to achieve great results.
Heather asked me about the lens I used in a recent portrait session I had posted. I wanted to answer her question with more than just a straight up answer so here we go…
The lenses I own are: Canon EF 50mm f1.4, Canon EF 85mm f1.8, Canon EF 24-105MM f4 L and Canon EF 70-200 f2.8 L. Those are not the only lenses I use as I rent lenses at West Photo when circumstance dictates.
Anyways, when people ask me about what lens they should buy I suggest they first discover what lens they need. What focal length do they find themselves shooting most of the time? Start there and if you really are so new that you are not even sure of the answer to that question, stop trying to figure out what you should buy as you are more than likely trying to mimic what you have seen rather than looking at your own creative side. In that case I just say stop, and instead, spend the best $100 you will ever spend on your photography gear.
The best place to start when you want to move beyond your kit lens (and I honestly believe this, especially if you are unsure what to buy) is to purchase the Canon or Nikon 50mm f1.8. If you aren’t shooting Canon or Nikon you most likely have an equivalent option. These lenses are fast, meaning great for low light and they are cheap. They feel like a toy but they are great pieces of glass to start out with. You can achieve bokeh in your imagery that you never could with your kit lens. But more importantly you will learn how to compose. You will not have the option to zoom in or out. You will either need to move in, or back out, in relation to your subject. It is an invaluable educational tool. As you work with it and use it you will eventually develop a feel for what focal lengths work for you. Maybe you wish you had something wider… maybe something longer. Maybe you will find that 50mm suits you best… many do.
I use all the lenses I have and I use them often. I painstakingly chose each one. I never chose one just because someone else uses one or just because I wanted to fill my camera bag. I urge all of you just starting out to not worry so much about what everyone else has or uses. This is really all about what you bring to the table. Figure out what works for you and move in that direction. Your path is the only one intended for you, walk it.
Rather than spend hundreds to find out you bought the wrong lens spend $100 and I am willing to bet you will never regret the purchase. It will benefit you in more ways than you will realize.