One of the most important skills that every photographer must have is knowing how to choose the right lens and focal length required by the shot.

With all the different brands, types, focal lengths and mounts out there, it can be an overwhelming task for beginners. The same is the case if you’ve been shooting with one lens for a long time and want to diversify with a new lens to try.

If this sounds like your current predicament, we think the quick guide above by Pierre Lambert can be of help.

General rules when choosing a focal length

In his video, Lambert and his friend, travel creator Alex Qian, mentioned the usual route that they follow when choosing a lens for their shoots. As travel and street photographers, they often need to use wide-angle lenses to capture as much detail in the frame as possible. These lenses are also ideal for showing the wide sense of scale of the sweeping vistas so viewers can also feel that they’re there.

They both take it a notch up by using zoom lenses like the 16-35mm to be extra flexible or versatile with the scenes and subjects they can photograph. It also has an added advantage of being less bulky since you essentially have several focal lengths in just one lens.

When you’re shooting portraits, however, you’re best shooting with prime lenses in classic focal lengths like 50mm or 85mm. These lenses usually produce the most flattering images of people, unlike wide-angle lenses that create significant distortions that most people aren’t fans. Prime lenses also have the advantage of allowing images with shallow depth of field, which create a nice separation between the background and the foreground so the subject really stands out.

Quick trick using Lightroom Classic

Now, if you’re using Lightroom Classic, Lambert also shared his quick trick for evaluating which focal length he usually shoots with. By looking at the Metadata column under the Library Filter, he is able to see how many shots he took with all his lenses. It immediately showed him that he took most of his shots with his favorite 16-35mm lens. Narrowing it down further to the Focal Length revealed that he shot mostly with 16mm and 17mm focal lengths.

This trick is actually interesting because as Lambert pointed out, it can give you some ideas on which lens or focal length to practice with next. Take it as an opportunity for learning and expanding your photography. If you’re bored with your current wide-angle setup, see if you can get your hands on a portrait lens or macro lens next and get acquainted with new gear, new styles and new genres!

Liked this quick tip? Don’t forget to check out Pierre Lambert’s YouTube channel for more of his photography tips and tricks.

Screenshot image from the video