How Far Away Can I Shoot with a 50mm Lens?

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Photographers must learn how to frame subjects at a distance depending on the focal length of a lens. For instance, how far away can I shoot with a 50mm lens? Since the 50mm lens has a fixed focal range, we’re explaining the maximum shooting distance when using a 50mm lens.

How Far Away Can I Shoot with a 50mm Lens?

You can shoot with a 50mm lens up to 3-5 feet or 0.91-1.5m away from the subject to produce a flattering perspective. A 50mm lens has a minimum focusing distance of 0.45m or 1.45 feet, and you can step back further depending on the desired effect.

Canon 50mm lens

However, the shooting distance in photography is relative, especially when photographers have varying styles. Therefore, as a guide, you can determine the distance between the lens and the subject using several factors.

50mm Shooting Distance Depending on the Desired Focus

Lenses have minimum focusing distances, referring to the shortest distance you can focus the lens. For example, a 50mm lens typically has a minimum focusing distance of 1.45 feet away from the subject, so ideally, you only move up to 5 feet to guarantee image sharpness.

The perspective of a 50mm is somehow similar to the human eye’s viewpoint. So, you can blur out the subject if you move closer to it than the minimum focus distance. Besides, the focal distance usually depends on the brand.

For instance, you can use a 50mm lens with an f/1.8 maximum aperture up to 0.35-0.45m or 1.15-1.5 feet away from the subject. Meanwhile, a 50mm f/1.4 lens may have a 0.39-0.45m or 1.3-1.15 feet minimum focal distance.

50mm Shooting Distance Depending on the Depth of Field 

Shooting around 3 to 5 feet changes the depth of field. The closer the 50mm lens is to the subject, the shallower the depth of field. Hence, when using a 50mm lens and you’re about 10 feet away from the subject, the image would attain a greater depth of field.

Hand holding a 50mm lens outdoors

When photographing a group of people, you can take about 2 to 3 wide steps back and further away until all of them focus inside the frame. Meanwhile, you would get a blurrier background or foreground when shooting with large apertures or closer to the subjects.

With a 50mm lens at f/1.8, the image would have a shallow depth of field when you’re 3 feet away from the subject. On the other hand, photographing the same subject with the same aperture from 10 feet would create a deeper or tighter depth of field.

How the Camera Sensor May Influence Shooting Position

With a 16.5% revenue growth in the mirrorless camera market last year, more photographers continue to try out crop-sensor cameras. Units with cropped sensors contain a narrower field of view than full-frame cameras like the 5DS R

Thus, the view of a 50mm lens becomes closer than actual. In this case, you need to step further back than usual to capture the scene in focus.

A 50mm lens offers a 46 to 47-degree viewing angle, which can be pretty challenging when shooting in confined spaces. Even more difficult when using an APS-C camera, which might reduce the viewing angle to 31 degrees.

Other Factors to Consider When Shooting with a 50mm Lens

A 50mm prime lens has a focal length close to wide-angle, so it’s usually ideal to use it in spacious areas. However, while you can still consider moving anywhere between 1.45 to 5 feet, the distance between the 50mm lens and the subject depends on some aspects.

Closeup of a Canon lens
  • Infinity focus: This camera setting helps lenses focus on exceptionally vast distances with rays of light. When photographing the sky, it can be anywhere between 6,000 to 25,000 feet away from the land. A 50mm lens can still capture parts of the sky’s vastness, depending on your shooting location.
  • Zooming: The nifty-fifty is a fixed lens, so you need to zoom with your feet instead of adjusting the lens barrel. This part is more subjective since you need to consider how much of the scene you need to include in the frame.
  • Light Source: The maximum distance depends on the lighting setup because the closer you are to the subject, the more challenging it would be to focus. For example, in a studio shoot with external lights, you can stand 4-5 feet away from the subject to ensure soft light and image sharpness.
  • Distortion: Stand far away from the subject to prevent perspective distortion, mainly when shooting full-length portraits and headshots. Doing so also gives you enough room to crop, straighten, or change the image’s aspect ratio. 

Conclusion

To maximize the sharpness of 50mm lenses, a good starting point would be 1.45 feet, and you can shoot as far away as 3-5 feet. However, remember that this only serves as a guide, and you can still experiment with what would work best for your photography style.

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.