Camera Lens Tips for Beginners

With these camera lens tips for beginners, we’ll be sharing some pearls of wisdom when it comes to choosing, buying and using your camera lenses for the best photography results. Let’s get stuck in!

Deciding how much to budget and spend

Our first beginner’s tip involves one of the biggest decisions you’re likely to make: how much to spend on your camera lenses. It’s a fact that with a good quality DSLR worthy for a lot of use, camera lenses are likely to become the biggest expenditure for a lot of photographers due to the different options which allow many different shots to be captured.

The main question is just how much you choose to diversify your lens budget. Do you spend a lot more on a single lens, or spend much less on multiple lenses?

Unless you’re specifically only interested in one type of photography (for example, portrait shots), then this isn’t so important. However, your interests may grow as time goes on, which is why it’s useful to have a range of different lenses to suit different shots. You just don’t know when you might come across an opportunity for a photograph and wish you had a suitable camera lens at your disposal.

This is why it’s recommended to at least have a handful of camera lenses which broadly cover different photography formats. For example, a macro lens, a telescopic lens, a wide-angle lens and a portrait lens, amongst others. If you can’t afford to buy all of these at once, then your first lenses should be better suited to your main interest at this point, and also come with mid-range apertures and focal lengths so they’re more versatile.

When it comes to expenditure on individual lenses, any beginner doesn’t need to worry about aiming for the high-end prices. Many camera lenses out there, especially those made by Canon and Nikon, come in at a lower-to-middle price range whilst still providing superb photography shots.

Sure, as time goes by, you might want to invest a hefty sum in a real beauty of a lens, but when you’re starting out, lenses around the £100-£400 mark will still give you great results.

There are cheaper options out there which will work nicely too, of course, but be sure to check customer reviews on the likes of Amazon for a bit of due-diligence. You can even check out our Nikon lens reviews and Canon lens reviews for our own expert take.

Tips on what type to buy

As a photography beginner, the various types of lenses can be a bit of a minefield. There are many to choose from with various numbers attached to them, so it’s important to have a good understanding of what they mean before you spend your hard earned cash.

Here’s our run-down of the main camera lenses to look out for:

Macro – Lenses which take extreme close up shots with tight focus. For example, an insect on a flower or close-ups of other subjects.

Zoom – These lenses, sometimes called telescopic depending on zoom length, allow you to zoom in closely on subjects from a distance.

Portrait – These lenses are quite versatile, but mainly useful for creating portrait shots where there’s a single subject of focus and the opportunity to blur the background for a crisp foreground.

Wide-angle – They simply capture a wider field of view, making them ideal for large landscapes and scenes.

Fisheye – These provide an ultra-wide field of view, much further than a wide-angle. The trade-off is that the image is distorted into a convex shape, but some photographers appreciate this aesthetic quality and often use it intentionally.

For more detailed information on these, check out our guide on types of camera lenses.

But what if you had to buy only one? What would be the first lens you should buy as a beginner? Not to worry, we’ve even tackled that question too!

Which brands to choose

Most well-known brands, including the likes of Canon, Nikon, Sony, Tamron, Sigma, Olympus, Pentax and others provide great quality camera lenses at reasonable prices.

We go into more detail in our best camera lens brand guide if you would like further information about the brands on offer.

Where to buy them from

When deciding where to buy camera lenses, we would recommend Amazon, as they offer one of the largest ranges on the web at some of the lowest prices. Plus, with many sellers using the network, you’ll benefit from good price competition which can save you money. The customer reviews also come in handy as they share first-hand experiences of some potential buys.

How to store camera lenses

  • Keep them in a suitable bag, box or drawer
  • Store them with the lens cover on
  • Keep them in a cool and dry place, away from sources of heat or humidity
  • Include packets of silica gel in the bag, box or drawer to trap moisture, and replace regularly
  • Never store them in direct sunlight
  • Allow for good ventilation, and if you store them in bags or boxes, open them regularly
  • In particularly humid locations, consider a dry box or dry cabinet

If you’re interested in purchasing any of the aforementioned items to help you store your camera lenses correctly, this dry box, this dry cabinet, and these silica gel packets are recommended.

Cleaning tips

The best beginner’s tip we can provide is to use a proper cleaning kit. You can read our reviews on some of the most popular camera lens cleaning kits here.

Beyond that, a slow and steady approach is key! It’s better to take longer cleaning a lens instead of being too rough or vigorous and causing damage. Always be gentle and use the appropriate tools, with many cleaning kits being relatively inexpensive. Some good lens cleaning fluid and micro-fibre cloths are a must.

Manual and auto-focus

Fortunately, pretty much all good quality lenses these days for Canon, Nikon and other DSLR cameras come with manual and auto-focus built in, so you have the benefit of both options. For the beginner, auto-focus can come in very handy to make good quality photographs easier to take, but also don’t be afraid to switch it off and try manual focus every now and again. The AF algorithms are not perfect, and may at times try to focus on an element of the scene where you need it to focus elsewhere. It’s a great way to sharpen your photography skills and get a feel for the art of focusing.

Have a read of our article on the difference between manual focus and autofocus to find out more about this.

Image stabilisation

As a beginner, image stabilisation (IS) is a handy addition to any camera lens. It steadies the shot, and is especially useful in lower light conditions with a slower shutter speed, as such situations can require a tripod for a crisp, blur-free photograph. It’s also useful when using telescopic lenses.

However, it’s important to remember what IS does. For example, it’s a common misconception that it will eliminate the blur of when photographing moving objects, as this is much more to do with the shutter speed (i.e. the amount of time the sensor is being exposed to the scene with the moving object). Image stabilisation simply negates the effect of hand shake.

To find out more, check out our article on Should I get a camera lens with image stabilisation?

 What to take with you

When you’re going out to shoot some photography, you have to strike a balance between taking everything you need and ensuring that you aren’t burdened by a heavy kit bag which limits your mobility. Carrying kilos of stuff around, especially during long walks, can get tiring and frustrating quite quickly, especially if you don’t even end up using most of it!

Here’s our essential list of what to bring:

Lenses – try and bring at least one type of each main lens. For example, a macro lens, wide-angle lens and a macro lens. Even if you’re going out to shoot a specific type of photograph, you just never know what you might come across. 2 or 3 to take with you is a good number, with more if necessary. If you’re travelling a long way, two very similar lenses can be a safe bet so you have a back-up of the main lens type you intend to use.

Extra batteries and memory cards – Be sure to bring more than you think you’ll need, and ensure that your batteries are fully charged.

Cleaning equipment – a small and portable cleaning kit is a must.

Filters – You may not have many, if any, filters as a beginner. However, if you’ve already bought some, throw a few in your kit. They’re lightweight and great for experimenting. One very useful option if you’re shooting outdoors is a UV filter.

Strap – A good strap with padding is a lifesaver if you’re out on the move with your camera all day.

We go into more detail on this in our guide on what to take with you during a photoshoot.