Is a 50mm Lens Good for Night Photography?

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Night photography can be a challenging niche, yet you can capture beautiful photos at night with practice and the right equipment. If you’re new to this, you may be asking, is a 50mm lens good for night photography? We’re going to see how to use the 50mm for night shoots.

Is a 50mm Lens Good for Night Photography?

The 50mm lens is good for night photography because of its mid-range focal length and fast aperture values. Being a beginner-friendly lens, the nifty-fifty is easy to use, allowing you to adjust the necessary settings for shooting at night.

Now, time to bring out your 50mm lens and see the various reasons, ways, and settings that can help you collect enchanting night photos.

Person holding a 50mm lens

Reasons to Use a 50mm Lens for Night Photography

While the 50mm has a fixed focal length, its midrange focal range is broad enough to photograph vast scenes, whether for landscapes, the night sky, or portraits.

Also known as fast lenses, prime lenses typically have big maximum apertures, enabling you to gather light quickly. Since you’re shooting in dim light, this also lets you use fast shutter speeds.

Another reason why the 50mm is suitable for night photography is that it has low vignetting. This means there’s a minimal light falloff in the edges of an image, maintaining clarity from the center to the corners.

Challenges of Using a 50mm Lens for Night Photos

One of the main challenges of using a 50mm lens is its lack of zooming, which means you won’t get a close-up shot of the moon, stars, and subjects on the ground. However, this is an excellent chance to improve composition techniques and experiment with various angles and perspectives.

While the 50mm isn’t a wide-angle lens, some 50mm lenses cause chromatic aberration in your night photos. This usually happens in scenes with light changes as the waves of lights focus at varying distances. For example, you may notice this in images with cityscapes and stars as the subjects.

The camera you’re using is another potential challenge of using a 50mm lens for night photography. A crop-sensor camera contains a smaller sensor, which means its light collection isn’t as strong as full-frame cameras. However, you can balance it with a big aperture value.

Kinds of Night Photos You Can Take Using a 50mm Lens

There are different kinds of pictures you can take at night using a 50mm lens. Among them are cityscapes, since the 50mm’s focal range is broad enough to capture skylines, buildings, streets, and events in a single shot. Likewise, this covers people or animals doing various things at night.

If you’re up for more complex subjects, you can also use the 50mm to shoot long exposure photos or light trails. As long as you’re using a tripod, a gimbal, or a DSLR stabilizer, and shooting from a stable surface, you can capture the exceptionally slow yet smooth movement of lights, vehicles, and people at night. 

Person taking a photo at night with his Nikon camera

Aside from that, you can use the 50mm lens to capture the night sky, especially fireworks. So while you won’t be able to zoom in on the moon or stars, you can still photograph the night sky to show its vastness.

Settings to Use for a 50mm Lens for Night Photography

We may see an 8.3% increase in the number of photos taken this year, and you can use a 50mm lens to shoot different kinds of pictures at night to share with the world.

However, knowing the correct settings to use on a 50mm lens is part of what makes it great for night photography. These settings apply to general night photos so that you may adjust them depending on the scene, available light, and your shooting style. 

  • Shooting Mode: One of the best ways to take photos at night is to use aperture mode so that the aperture won’t change as you shoot. In this way, the 50mm would open as wide as possible to collect lots of light. Additionally, this shooting mode automatically determines the corresponding shutter speed.
  • Aperture: When using a 50mm lens for night photography, anywhere between f/1.2 to f/1.8 would be a good starting point for aperture settings. A constant aperture ensures speed in gathering large amounts of light, especially when shooting handheld.
  • ISO: Depending on the available light, ISO 400 to 1600 should be enough for most shooting conditions. The higher the ISO, the faster the shutter speed you can use, although this also means more image noise.
  • Shutter Speed: Anything above 1/40 is fast enough to freeze actions at night. However, if you’re using aperture priority, the camera would give the ideal shutter speed depending on your aperture and ISO values.

Conclusion

A 50mm lens is one of the most versatile and fastest lenses you can use, making it an ideal lens for night photography. What’s important is that you understand its features and limitations so that you can adjust accordingly and find the best way to capture gorgeous night photos. If all else fails, you can always use a flash.

Kaitlin Cooper is an active professional wedding and portrait photographer in San Diego, California at Kaitlin Cooper Photography. She is also a contributor to many large publications, including Bridal GuideBustlePixpaWith Joy, and Hello Giggles.