- Pros of Kit Lenses
- Cons of Kit Lenses
- How to Take Good Photos With a Kit Lens
- How to Get the Most Out of a Kit Lens
- Use a short focal length for any wide-angle photography.
- Normally, you would use a wide-angle lens for landscape and architecture photography, among other types. So, when you’re using a kit lens to shoot something you would otherwise want a wide-angle lens for, you need to use the shortest focal length possible.
- If your kit lens is a 18-55mm, crank that bad boy down to 18mm if you’re taking pretty pictures of Roman architecture in Italy.
- Use a long focal length for portraits.
- When you’re using your kit lens to shoot portraits, use a long focal length and shoot at a wide aperture, like 55mm and f/5.6, respectively. While f/5.6 isn’t exactly a huge aperture, it’s the largest available on most kit lenses when zoomed in. Besides, on a crop sensor camera, your kit lens has an effective focal length that’s much longer (i.e., 88mm on a Canon camera), so you get some nice compression that’s flattering for the subject.
- Use a tripod (as often as possible).
- You definitely need a tripod (or at least some other means of minimizing the camera’s movement) if you’re going to be shooting night scenes (kit lenses stink at low light photography, as we discussed) or if you’re shooting landscapes (maximize the sharpness in your photo, which we also discussed).
- Use natural light whenever possible.
- This is just plain good advice for your photography career as a whole, but it’s especially pertinent when it comes to a kit lens. Use natural light to your advantage (and your camera’s advantage) by buying a collapsible reflector kit and bringing it with you to photo shoots.
- Shoot RAW.
- Just don’t shoot in JPEG. Please, just don’t do it. You can’t fix your inevitable errors (and your lens’s shortcomings) in post-production if you don’t have an entirely editable file. RAW is the way to go!
- Use Filters.
- Using filters with your kit lens will get you better results each and every time. A Haida circular polarizer, for example, reduces glare, boosts contrast in the sky, improves saturation of plants, and minimizes atmospheric haze. The result? Much-improved landscape photos! Adding a graduated neutral density filter is also a good idea, as it helps balance out the brightness of the sky with the darkness of the landscape to get a well-exposed image throughout. If you want to get really creative, invest in a solid neutral density filter, which blocks out light and allows you to extend the shutter speed to get beautifully blurry movement of clouds, water, and other features.
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Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash
This is going to be a crash course in all things kit lens.
For those of you who don’t know, the term “kit lens” can refer to any starter lens that probably doesn’t add much value to a camera kit’s price. Hence, the name. It’s a lens that comes in your camera’s kit.
Kit lenses are usually 18-55mm. Kit lenses act as a beginner’s guide to photography most of the time, but they also have a lot of pros for even the pros.
I’m going to walk you through some pros and cons of kit lenses, teach you some quick tips on how you take good pictures with a kit lens, and finally suggest some updates to your old kit lens.
Table of Contents
Pros of Kit Lenses
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The number one pro of a kit lens is that is extremely versatile. I’m talking, “If I had to pick one lens to take to a deserted desert island,” versatile.
Kit lenses (like the one shown above, right) allow you to zoom up to take portraits, zoom out to take landscape photos, and they do so with decent precision, too.
Kit lenses also offer more freedom.
Fixed focal length prime lenses are great when you need them, but it wouldn’t be my first choice if it were going to be the only lens I could use for the rest of my dried out, sad desert island life.
Kit lenses do a bit of the walking for you when you can’t. Sure, you’d always zoom in with your feet in an ideal world. But, unfortunately, this isn’t an ideal world and unless I want to fight a security guard at the Picasso exhibit, I’m going to need a camera that can do some of my leg work.
Kit lenses in 2019 also possess most of the capabilities of the most expensive lenses from under a decade ago. Many are image stabilized, have improved optics, and other goodies that make them much better than they were years ago.
For example, almost all Canon kit lenses come with Canon’s Image Stabilization. This new update to kit lenses allows you to circumvent one of the biggest cons of kit lenses that professionals complain about… the inability of a kit lens to shoot in low light situations.
Canon’s image stabilization in its kit lenses means you can have a slower shutter speed, let more light into the camera, and do so while holding the camera without as much worry of camera shake becoming a problem.
Get more details about kit lenses in the video above by Nicole S. Young.
Cons of Kit Lenses
As I just mentioned, one of the biggest issues with kit lenses are their inability to take good shots in low-light situations.
While manufacturers continue to improve this issue with kit lenses, most still cannot even begin to compete (with Canon as a rare exception). See how you can get low-light shots with a kit lens in the video above by Jared Polin.
However, there are workarounds for this issue. Long exposure shots with a kit lens can be nearly as good as with a more expensive lens. Slowing down your shutter speed (if you’re using a tripod) also does the trick.
A lot of kit lenses also lack sharpness.
However, a lack of sharp photos is really nothing considering most photographers nowadays are used to shooting on an iPhone or Android and sharpening the images in post-production anyway.
Kit lenses also tend to suffer from chromatic aberration, or color fringing. While this problem will probably persist at least for the next few years of kit lenses, it’s a super easy fix in Lightroom and most newer kit lenses barely color fringe. See how to do it in the video above by Scott Kelby.
How to Take Good Photos with a Kit Lens
Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash
Here’s a quick checklist to get you the best-quality photos with a kit lens:
How to Get the Most Out of a Kit Lens
Photo by ShareGrid on Unsplash
A 24-70mm lens offers similar versatility when compared to an 18-55mm, plus the added telephoto capabilities of this lens are great for wildlife photographers and photojournalists.
These lenses are also similarly durable to your old kit lens. A 24-70mm is essentially just a step up the ladder of your photography career, particularly because they often have much larger maximum apertures for improved low-light shooting capabilities.
One reason you may not have added to your lens collection yet is that you’ve heard how pricey some 24-70mm lenses can be. While this is true of some lenses in the 24-70mm range (I’m looking at you, Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR), Lensfinder has some good, cheap options for a small upgrade to your kit lens.
I use Lensfinder for all of my lenses because their community was built by photographers, for photographers. I’ve found that sellers are knowledgeable and have taken care of their gear, and that’s a definite bonus when buying used.
I also live in a small town and travel all the time so it’s almost impossible for me to find a good camera store near me with many options.
Lensfinder allows me to find other camera enthusiasts who are willing to ship their old equipment right to my door and I just need to pay shipping (the cheapest shipping option available, unlike some other online dealers...eBay).
For the largest selection of upgrades to your kit lens, check them out.