SALE! Start your year with EBSQ for just $6.50/month! Click here for details.

Before I jump into this workshop, we need to first focus on some characteristics of camera lenses. We need to have a small background intro as to not cause confusion.

So here is some terms and definitions for you to learn about:

Lens: The basic function of a lens is performed by all lenses. They take the light that enters the camera and focuses it to form a sharp image on the film within the camera body.

Fixed Lens Camera: On this camera the lens is fixed which then cannot be removed, replaced by another lens, or even adjusted back and forth.

Variable Focus Camera: On these cameras the lenses can be moved back and forth to focus on different distance ranges, but they can not be removed or replaced by another lens.

Interchangeable Lens Camera: This camera is typical of SLR and some advanced point and shoots. You have the ability to remove and change different lenses as well as adjust back and forth movement.

Lens Speed: This term refers to the amount of light that a given lens can transmit in a given time. A "fast lens" is able to transmit a lot of light, while a "slow lens" will transmit a lot less light. A faster lens is more expensive and can be much heavier than a slow lens. But a faster lens will enable you to take a picture in light that is too dim for a slower lens. DO NOT CONFUSE THIS WITH STOP ACTION PHOTOGRAPHY. THIS JUST HAS TO DO WITH SPEED OF LIGHT ENTERING THE LENS. To find your speed of each of your lenses, look for the lowest F-number on your lens, which is your maximum aperature. That is the speed of your lens. An F1.4 will be faster than an F2. A F2 lens will be faster than an F4 lens. A F4 lens will be faster than an F8 lens and so on.

Focal Length: is the distance from the center of the lens to the sharp image it forms on the film plane (in the camera body). It is commonly measured in millimeters or MM. The actual size of the lens itself will be of course smaller once detached from the camera body and you can measure that in inches.

Now lets move on to common types of lens for most all 35mm cameras and digital equivalents:

Normal Standard: Common focal lengths range from 40mm to 70mm. These lenses are used to capture the normal field of view which we perceive the world around us in normal viewing. Portraits and candids are normally shot with these focal length ranges.

Wide Angle and Macro: Common focal lengths are a range from 18mm to 28mm. Wide Angles are used to take pictures of landscapes, cityscapes, far off mountain views and all other images that require a full scene view. A Macro lens will work like a standard lens as well as for close up macro photography. A Macro is a specialty lens.

Telephoto: Common focal lengths range from 70mm to 1,000mm. These lenses have special lens elements that magnify the image to bring subjects closer in from farther distance. These lenses are commonly used for taking pictures of animal and wildlife or any subject that is in a far distance that you can not physically come close enough to.

Zoom Lenses: These lens I strongly suggest buying as they will encompass all lens mentioned above minus the macro which is considered a specialty lens. The lenses permit you to change focal lengths without changing the actual lens. For example they can range from 18mm-70mm or 70mm-300mm and many more variations. These lenses then can be used to take a portrait, some a wide angle of a cityscape and also a bird on a high tree branch utilizing the same lens. (Tho I suggest high end in the 300mm-500mm area for wildlife.) These lens will be called Telephoto Zoom and Standard Zoom.

In your camera bag you should have at least a 20mm wide angle, a 300mm telephoto and a 50mm standard lens. And if you can purchase a zoom lens that encompasses all three or at least two of the three then you just saved yourself loads of money!!!! If you are a nature and wildlife photographer that wishes to be more professional than I would suggest a separate telephoto lens that will have a focal length of at least 300mm min, or if you can afford one a 500mm lens or even a 1,000mm.

Moving on to the Numbers!!!

A lot of time you will see some jazzy numbers on the lenses themselves. They tend to look complicated and just a bunch of numbers with no meaning. You will also find numbers on the rotation part of the lens which can be just as confusing. In the professional world you will tend to use those numbers more often because they relate to distance in feet measurements for focus ability, as well as your F-numbers or aperature numbers for manual rotation setting, as well as your focal length numbers to manually rotate your lens for closer shots and wider shots. All lens will have different placement of these rings with numbers on the actual lens itself. One symbol I suggest you find on your lens is the infinity symbol which looks like a sideways number 8. That symbol is important to learn about.

Infinity is used when you want to tell the camera and lens that your whole image (foreground to background) must be in focus. It is basically telling the lens: " I want you to focus until infinity of distance". Taking landscape shots you can rotate that part of your lens and set it to the infinity symbol and then compose your shot. It will then take into consideration that you are wanting for example: the subject of a flag in the foreground as well as the mountains in the background part of the focus area. You must also be set at least an F16 to achieve complete depth of field focus.

Every lens is different with these placement of numbers, so please email me a picture of a lens that you have questions on and I will resend you the picture with the labels for those numbers on your specific lens.


A filter can be any piece of glass or plastic that can be put in front of your camera's lens when you take a picture. The purpose of the filter is to change the light passing thru the lens that then hit's the film. Some filters are used to correct the appearance of a photograph. Some to enhance a photograph, and some are special effects filters that can completely change the picture's appearance.

Black and white photography filters, which are normally colored, are used to lighten or darken gray tones in the black and white negative and photo print. In Color photography, the use of color filters will effect every color in the print.

Some Filters that are common are:

Skylight, Warming, Polarizing, Yellow, Green, Red, Neutral Density, Gradient, Star, Spot, Fog and Soft Focus.

Lets touch on them one by one briefly:

Skylight: By absorbing ultraviolet radiation, a skylight (1A) filter adds warmth to a scene recorded on color film. It does this by reducing the bluish cast prevalent in distant scenes and in scenes photographed on heavily overcast days or in open shade. A skylight filter is light pinkish in color. It is also used commonly for protection of the actual lens. UV, Skylight, Warming and Haze filters all work similar.

Polarizing: This filter can darken the sky, remove reflections from water, cut down glare on glass and make foliage appear less shiny. Color saturation is also significantly enhanced especially with greens and blues. It is the only filter for use with color film that can do all of this. There are two types of polarizing filters available - linear or circular. Linear polarizers are more effective and less expensive than circular ones. But circular polarizers are needed with just about any camera that has a through-the-lens metering system, or autofocus.

Yellow, Green and Red: With color film these colors will effect the whole image which in turn can provide some interesting special effects. Tho with black and white film these colors will effect just the gray tones in the image, by either darkening or lightening the tones. You can achieve more dramatic skies with these filters in black and white photography.

Neutral Density: This filter is a grey filter which comes in different darknesses. They have ranges like an ND6 or an ND8 and you can use them combined as well by screwing them on the lens together. ND filters reduce the amount of light coming in to the film. They are used for situations of too much light, can't get an ISO of under 200, can't get correct exposure with Fstop or Shutter. You add these filters to cut the light entering the lens. The higher the number, the darker the grey of a filter, the less amount of light.

Gradient: These filters can be used for special effects, enhancing colors, alternating colors and the like using half the filter. This filter will have a clear half and lightly colored half. Some come in light pink, light blue, light yellow, light orange, light green. They work well with landscape shots.

Star, Spot, Fog and Soft Focus: These filters are also specialty filters. Star will have a grid etched into the glass which will come with different variations of that grid. You can then create a starburst effect on any light or glare subject. Spot is a filter that has a circular hole cut out of the glass. Its purpose is to create a diffused background in a circular pattern and a center spot subject completely clear. Wedding photographers have used this filter. Fog is just was it is..a filter that can add a fog look to a subject. It is usually a split filter which is clear on one half and foggy on the other as you can rotate where your fog is located on the subject. Soft focus, which is very common, is a filter that adds a soft warm feeling to an image by creating a slight out of focus for the entire image.

Digitally you can achieve some and more filters effects by using programs within Photoshop or Paintshop. One program is called Nik Effects, which will have most all filters and more. Then you can use your digital darkroom (your computer) to achieve these filter effects on your PC from your digital pictures.

Examples link:

2000-2021 EBSQ, LLC - All rights reserved - Original artists retain all rights
EBSQ Self Representing Artists - is a division of EBSQ, LLC