Your 18-55mm Is Still a Great Choice!

My very first ‘serious’ camera (I say serious because it was the first camera that I owned with interchangeable lenses) came with all the starter essentials that I could hope for when I was starting out. I remember the smile from ear to ear when I opened the box to my brand new Canon 1100D DSLR and set it up with the lens that came with it. My camera came with a standard EFS 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS II, or more commonly recognized as the ‘Kit Lens’. As with many of us, off I went and began practicing, learning and photographing everything in sight.

Of course, after some time had passed and I got hired more frequently, it became necessary to add to my arsenal, but my 18-55mm was always within reach for different situations. Yes, you read that right, I held on to it, and have on occasion used it.

To clarify, this is in no way encouraging you to rely solely  on your 18-55mm. That wouldn’t be grabbing on to available resources to create stunning images with your photography. Your kit lens however, is still versatile and handy if you use it right. Before you pass over your 18-55mm as a choice, here are some reasons you should consider keeping it on hand.

A Great Start

One of the things that’s great about the 18-55mm, is that it is an inexpensive way to get started in photography without costing you too much. You can typically find the lens sitting in at around the $200 price point at a local retailer, or take a look at Amazon with secure shipping. That being said, remember that a lot of DSLR choices come with a lens in the box which typically is the 18-55mm, or as in the case of the Canon 80D, the 18-135mm, so check on what you have, before you hit that ‘buy now’ button.

The 18-55mm is a great way to get acquainted with how these lenses work, understanding aperture and challenging your knowledge and skill when it comes to taking photos. Especially when you are starting out, it’s a fabulous way to spend the time learning more about photography so you can hone your skills not based on equipment, but exactly that: Your skills, and experience. Read this handy 6 step guide on how to take sharper photos.

A Wider View

Something else about the 18-55mm worthy to consider is the versatility in the focal length. The 18mm end of the lens can serve as a wide angle option when you need it. So if you are drawn to things like, architecture, landscapes, or shoot live events or music this is a great option if you are limited in your wide angle lens roster. Here are a couple examples from when I needed a wider option to catch the moment and went with the 18-55mm as the choice.

Above photo settings: 18mm f/4.5 ISO 1250 SS: 1/125

The photo from above is from one of my very first weddings that I shadowed. The bride was to make an entrance from the upstairs to meet with her dad, before she walked down the aisle. I had a prime lens mounted, but I wanted to get the whole staircase  with her coming down to add a bit more of a dramatic look for this shot, so I opted for the 18-55mm, which was the widest I carried at the time for this one before the ceremony started.

Above photo settings: 18mm f/4.5 ISO 1250 SS: 1/125

This moment, was just before the ceremony started and the brides brother, was assigned to play some music just prior to the entrance of the bridal party. It was really special for them that he was doing this, and so again, I wanted to have a wider shot to catch him, and some attendees.

Again, this isn’t meant to tell you that the 18-55mm is the only option for a wide angle shot. It is still only a moderate level of wide angle for your photo, and there are other options out there if you need to catch more of the scene through the lens such as, 16-35mm, 10-18mm to name a couple. However, when the option that you have on hand is your kit lens, don’t panic. She’s still a great choice and you can still capture some pretty nice photos.

Zooming In

As with wide angle lenses, there are several choices on the market for zoom. A lot of wildlife/nature photographers keep a handy zoom lens on hand to capture some truly stunning images. Your 18-55mm however, can still provide you with some good, on hands training when utilizing your longer end. Sometimes, you will find yourself in a situation that you can’t quite get as close to your subject as you’d like for that epic shot, or for that moment you just don’t want to miss. That’s where the longer end of your lense will come in handy.

Above photo settings: 55mm f/5.6 ISO 200 SS 1/800

This guy was hanging out on the black sand beaches of Punalu’u Beach on The Big Island of Hawaii. If you ever make it out to this amazing part of the world, you should know that touching Sea Turtles is a major no-no. Even getting right up close, isn’t really encouraged. There are signs everywhere that warn you. So out came the zoom to help me out with this one. I had always wanted to see one of these guys up close and personal, and I just had to get a photo.

A Couple Things To Keep In Mind

We’ve talked about what you can do with your 18-55mm, and perhaps a couple reasons to keep it on hand, but there are some cautions to be had with this particular lens. The first one, that’s probably the biggest drawback is it’s limited aperture ability. The lens, at it’s widest aperture, sits at f/3.5, so if you are trying to achieve that smooth blurred out background or foreground to give your subject that pop, this maybe isn’t the best lens for that. You will have a good portion of your image in focus depending on your focal length, and it will fall short of that desired bokeh.

The other thing to keep in mind about your aperture is that as you zoom in on your subject, your aperture number will go up, or in other words you will be stopping down your aperture which in turn will give you a deeper depth of field. This shortcoming, will also hinder the ability of the lens to allow enough light through the opening, potentially underexposing your image. This could result in having to raise your ISO, creating a grainier, or noisier image than often preferred.

The Takeaway

Your 18-55mm is still a great choice and can serve to create some timeless moments and images. Easy on the budget, adaptable, and light, it’s a good alternative to a zoom, or wide angle lens without the premium price tag. That is especially helpful when you are starting out. The 18-55mm is a fabulous lens to really hone your skills as a photographer so that you are ready when the time comes to upgrade your kit lens. And if you are already thinking about upgrading, check out this article on why you need a prime lens!

Until next time classmates.