FOCUS ON: EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

March 11, 2011

Are great images a product of the photographer, or their camera equipment? This series (formerly known as "Lens of the Month") explores the idea that it's BOTH: Featuring a professional photographer and a single Canon lens, the Canon Digital Learning Center focuses on the relationship that artists can have with their gear.

Canon Digital Learning Center (CDLC): What type of photography do you do, professionally? What field(s) do you prefer, for personal projects/as a hobby?

Jill Brazel (JB): Mostly portraiture, but everything I do mostly consists of working with natural light. I photograph everything from children, pets, adults to interior design and architecture, as well as events. In everything I photograph, I prefer natural locations, natural lighting and keeping it as real as possible. In my personal time I like capturing details of various locations I am at, or something may strike me as I am driving by. Although the best time is Morearound sunset wherever I am and seeing the way the light affects everything. I love being able to capture that moment.

Photographing a child is probably my favorite thing to shoot because they are so natural and not aware of self-consciousness and the allow me to really see them as they are.

CDLC: What are the most important features you need in the lenses you use professionally? What about for personal work (if there is a difference)?

JB: I need to capture details and tell a story, I need to truly see the person I am photographing and get across something about who they are. I need to be able to see something beautiful at a wedding and the right moment and the lighting just so coming through the window and capture it as it is. As a professional photographer I added a 28mm for photographing large groups at weddings but really only used it for a handful of situations. When shooting a space I also like to get across how it feels to be in that room at that moment. Personally, I like to see something and get it. I do not set things up or some up with ideas of what would make a great photo, I just see great photos in my day-to-day life. I want to be able to get them as I see them when I see them.

CDLC: What is your favorite Canon lens, and why? If the lens you used this month is one of your favorites, what is it about the lens that you love?

JB: I have been shooting film until last year and from the time I studied photography in college I have only used an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. I am not a very techy kind of photographer and stick with what I like and what I know. Once I began working in digital with the EOS 5D, the f/1.4 lens is really what sold me on it, the way it gets the sharpest detail and the lowest light. It really sees things the way I see it and the camera then becomes an extension of my eye. My Canon AE-1 fully manual 35mm film camera was so quick, when I saw the shot, I got it. I have found that connection with the EOS 5D and this 50mm lens.

CDLC: What types of assignments do you think this lens will really excel at, and why?

JB: The assignments that most successfully work with this lens are my portraiture work, from kids, families to corporate headshots. The depth of field allows the detail to show the precise element I want to focus on and let everything else fade off. As mentioned earlier, capturing the facial expression, something about the person that lets the viewer in a little as to who they are. This also applies to shooting products in a natural environment (such as the ‘Freed Goods’ shot in the image gallery).

CDLC: What, if any, challenges did you experience working with this lens?

JB: The biggest challenge with this lens is capturing more than one person in a shot and keeping them both in focus while keeping it natural and without really arranging everyone. I do not necessarily always need everyone in focus and often love the shot, but sometimes, keeping the client in mind, I need to get everyone on the same focal range and interrupt the natural flow.

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