Kate Farrell

photography
Williston, VT

How I Select the Best Lens for Each Photo

Which Lens Today?

As a professional photographer in Vermont, I have a collection of Sigma lenses at the ready for any situation. My lens choice is based on three factors: My Vision for the Image, Logistics and Safety. I’ve spent years honing my craft and continue to practice daily. Today, I’m sharing how I approach lens selection.

Four lenses used by Kate Farrell Photography.
My four favorite lenses for client work: The Sigma 35 mm f/ 1.4 Art, Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 Art, Sigma 135 mm f/1.8 and Sigma 70 – 200 mm f/2.8 Sport.

My Vision

I have a vision in mind for every image I shoot. Sometimes, I want to go wide and tell a big story. In these cases, I tend to select a wider focal length.

Taken with my Sigma 24 mm Art lens to capture the whole scene. This is also the lens I used to photograph my other lenses above!

If I know that I really want to isolate my subject from her background, I’ll select a longer focal length lens as in the senior portrait of a Chittenden County student below.

A rising senior at CVU poses for her senior portrait.
My Sigma 135 mm Art lens was just right for capturing this rising senior.

If you’ve followed my work, you know that I was once a physics teacher. I won’t get into the details here, but just know that I’ve logged my nerd hours thinking about focal length, depth compression and all that good stuff. Selecting the best lens for the situation is one my favorite technical aspects of my new career as a professional photographer in Vermont. I love thinking about the different images I could create with each lens in a given situation.

My Personal Favorite: The Sigma 35mm Art Lens

With a full frame DSLR like my Canon 5d Mark iv, a 35 mm lens will render an image that is true to life. This isn’t a lens that brings objects closer like binoculars.

I can create a creamy bokeh and I can tell the whole story with my Sigma 35 mm Art lens.

Girl riding her bike in Williston, Vermont. Professional photographer used the Sigma 35 mm Art lens for this image.
I love the way my creativity runs when my Sigma 35 mm lens is on my camera!

I also love that this lens keeps me close enough to my subjects that it feels like we are hanging out together. I can use my normal soft voice as I move around coaching and chatting.

Girl holding a puppy in Chittenden County, Vermont. The photographer created a creamy background with the Sigma 35 mm Art lens.
My Sigma 35 mm lens is perfect for photos like this. I was close enough to be able to talk softly to my daughter while we composed this image.

Work Horse Lens

My Sigma 24-70 mm Art lens, is an all around work horse lens that never disappoints.

When I use my Sigma 24-70 mm Art lens, I always start at 35 mm and adjust with intention from there. Sometimes I go wide to give an expansive feel or zoom in to isolate my subject from the background.

Man and dog in Williston, Vermont. Photographer selected a zoom lens for this image.
Using my Sigma a 24-70 mm lens at 53 mm, I was able to isolate the dog from the trees at the end of the meadow.

Logistics: Prime or Zoom?

Prime Lenses are Prime for Image Quality and Creativity

I love to shoot with prime lenses. Those are fixed focal length or “zoom with your feet” lenses. You might wonder why a professional photographer wouldn’t automatically want a lens that can zoom. After all, isn’t that more high-tech?

In most cases, at the same price point, prime lenses produce sharper images and are a bit lighter. My goal is always to achieve the highest quality image I can, so that tips things in favor of a prime lens.

Additionally, because they force me to move around more, prime lenses fuel my creativity. I have to move toward and away from my subject. Invariably that means I also adjust my point of view right-left or up-down. Suddenly, without adjusting my focal length I’ve got a collection of creative images.

Selecting a prime lens is like picking that one favorite windbreaker on just the right kind of fall day. I especially love these for portraits or periods where my subjects are not running around. Most of my Senior Photo Sessions are shot with a prime lens.

Zoom Lenses Shine in Dynamic Situations

When I’m photographing kids or puppies in motion, I reach for a zoom lens. While I love to move around, sometimes I just can’t move quickly enough to frame up quality images of kids on the go. A zoom lens allows me to stay put and adjust while my subject moves around.

Vermont family playing in a park. Great example of a time that a zoom lens was handy.
The Sigma 70 – 200 mm Sport lens is my go to for action shots!

Popping on a zoom lens is the photographer’s equivalent of dressing in layers: I’m ready for anything. (And, as a professional photographer in Vermont, I have all the layers to get out there in any weather!) My Family Photo Session – What to Expect post explains how much we tend to move around during our sessions. It gives a real feel for why I often prefer a zoom lens.

Selecting Lenses with Safety in Mind

Sports and Dogs Need Some Space!

I love good action shots. I don’t want to interfere with the athlete — human or canine. So for these types of situations, I select my Sigma 70-200 mm Sport lens.

Big dog running a the camera! Winter near Burlington, Vermont. Used to show when zoom lenses are helpful.
Thanks to my Sigma 70-200 mm Sport lens, this dog was not as close to me as he appears! Notice how much he grew from the spring photo above to this one take about 8 months later!!
Williston Vermont senior with her dog.
My Sigma 70 – 200 mm Sport lens was perfect for this athletic duo!

Little Kids Need an Adult Nearby

When my own kids were little, I always used a wide lens because I needed to be close by and ready to grab a tumbling toddler. If you are a parent shopping for a lens, keep this in mind.

Adjusting for COVID

As a professional photographer in Vermont, to maintain a safe distance during these covid times I am currently leaning toward longer lenses. My Sigma 135 mm and Sigma 70 -200 mm are getting lots of use this year! While I do need to speak a bit louder, I can stand further from my subjects virtually ensuring we don’t contribute to the spread of covid-19.

The images I capture with my Sigma 135 mm Art lens are amazing and it’s pushed me creatively too! I especially love to step back and capture moments of connect when my clients are not even thinking about me being nearby.

Richmond Vermont high school senior, young man. Example of a portrait with a creamy background, Sigma 135 mm lens used.
A classic portrait captured with my Sigma 135 mm Art lens.
Woman with her dog in Vermont during the summer. The Sigma 135 mm lens helped isolate the subject.
I flopped down on my belly in the grass to get this lifestyle portrait with my Sigma 135 mm Art lens. It’s one of my favorites!
Brother and sister in Williston Vermont. Thanks to the Sigma 135 mm Art lens, this image has a very creamy background.
Siblings just after sunset, captured with my Sigma 135 mm Art lens.
Father and daughter in Williston Vermont.
A silhouette of my husband and our youngest child, captured with my Sigma 135 mm Art lens.

I also use my Sigma 70-200 mm Sport lens a lot lately. It’s great for capturing kids in motion and family life at the park. I read that Sigma debated giving this lens the “sport” or “art” designation. It’s a top quality lens that works well in a wide range of situations. Since parenthood usually feels like part art and part sport to me, I say let’s embrace both! I’m able to stay safely back from my subjects and zoom as needed to adjust on the fly.

Mother and son in Williston Vermont.
The fun loving connection between a Chittenden County mother and her son, captured with my Sigma 70 – 200 mm Sport lens.
Daughter and parents in Williston Vermont.
A Williston, Vermont family, captured with my Sigma 70 – 200 mm Sport lens.

How to Book a Photo Session

I’m based in Williston Vermont and offer profession family photo sessions throughout Chittenden County and the surrounding area. I prefer to photograph families in places that are meaningful to them — usually on their property or at a nearby park. However, I’ve got lots of favorite places to take photos if you are looking for suggestions!

I offer full sessions for families as well as portrait sessions for individuals (human or pet). All the details are here.

When you reach out, I’ll answer any questions you might have. Your paid session fee will secure a spot on my calendar. I’ll support you at every step of the way as you get ready for your session. (As a former teacher, I really do believe there are no stupid questions and I’ll be happy to answer all of yours!)

After your session, I’ll deliver an on-line gallery of 30+ images and you will get to select one of three packages. All my packages include prints designed to last 100s of years and digitals ready to share on social media immediately.

I promise: Your future self will thank you because your story matters!

Questions and Thoughts?

What’s your favorite lens and why?!

Are you thinking of purchasing a new lens and looking for some tips?

I’d love to hear from you. Please respond in the comments below, email me or reach out through the “Let’s Get Started” button in the upper right.

leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Kate farrell photography

© Images by Kate Farrell
|       Design by Jessica Gingrich
Design by Just Add Moxie

Kate Farrell is a professional lifestyle family photographer based in Williston, Vermont, serving the greater Chittenden County area including Williston, Richmond, Jericho, Underhill, Hinesburg, Huntington, Charlotte, Shelburne, Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski and Colchester.