It’s the new year, and you probably need to buy a new lens, right? I mean, it’s clearly your gear that’s holding you back. The only thing you need to make your business soar in 2020 is to spend a lot of money on gear.


The fact is that you don’t need to buy expensive lenses to make good photos. You don’t need the fastest apertures to make soft backgrounds. I was just going through my archived photos and found a bunch I made using a single lens on my Nikon cameras. I made 52,618 pictures with a Nikon 28-300mm lens. That lens made me a lot of money.

Nikon D7000 with 28-300mm lens, f/18, 1/200s, ISO 400

Get a good lens, not a costly one

Now, expensive is relative. But good isn’t. Good lenses make good pictures no matter the cost of the lens. That 28-300mm lens cost me about $1,000 in 2010. I’m surprised to see that it still costs about the same. But, that was a lot less than the 70-200mm f/2.8 at the time that cost $2,400.

The funny thing is, that Nikon lens is made by Tamron. The Tamron 28-300mm is hundreds of dollars less expensive and they make it for all the camera brands. If you really want the Nikon branded one, buy a refurbished model. Whatever you do, don’t buy the Canon 28-300mm that costs $2,500.

Those are lenses for full-frame cameras. If you use an APS-C-sized sensor, I’d highly recommend Tamron’s 18-400mm. Micro four-thirds users will love the 14-150mm.

And those are just a few ideas for you. Sigma also makes marvelous lenses that won’t require a second mortgage on your house.

But I need that creamy bokeh!

I know you want shallow depth of field. But you don’t need an f/2.8 or f/0.95 lens to get it. You should remember that focusing closer to things makes the background out of focus, and so does zooming in.

Telephoto trumps f/2.8

Zooming in will give you a shallower depth of field than using a wide aperture alone. This portrait, for instance, was shot at f/14 and 300mm. You probably imagine that f/14 is for shooting landscapes with lots of depth of focus.

But in fact, f/14 in this picture has a totally blurry background and even the subject’s far collar is out of focus. That’s because zooming in to 300mm compresses the depth of field as it shrinks the field of view. Just imagine if I’d used that 18-400mm!

Buy tools, not marketing

You may just need a new lens to help you realize the vision you have for your photos. But don’t make a big purchase based on the marketing hype put out by manufacturers and fanboys influencers. Best of all, rent the tools you are thinking of buying. It takes a lot of portraits to make back the money you could blow all at once on a lens. I’ve rented from several times and realized that while I enjoy the effects a lens gives, buying it wouldn’t be a profitable decision.

Buy the right tool for your work and consider carefully what you really need and how it can be achieved. You might find that a 28-300mm lens answers all your needs better than a fancy 70-200mm f/2.8.

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