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Using a Prime Lens for Pet Photography – Pros and Cons

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Photographers love prime lenses for many reasons, the main one being that they can be used in all kinds of photography genres, especially pet photography.
But how do you know if a prime lens is perfect for your unique photography style? What if you could take better photos with a zoom lens?
Before you invest in any lens, familiarise yourself with the pros and cons of using a prime lens for pet photography. This way, you’ll be able to confidently make a decision and take great photos of your pets.

What Is a Prime Lens?

A Canon 50mm prime lens for pet photography resting on a denim jacket
The main difference between prime lenses and other types of lenses is focal length. Prime lenses have a fixed focal length, which means that they don’t offer any zoom features. They also tend to be smaller and faster than other lenses.
A few examples of prime lenses are the 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8, and 35mm f/1.4 lenses. Some of the most commonly used ones are the 50mm and 35mm lenses. So which one is better?

A cute portrait of a pug taken with a 35mm prime lens for pet photography
Photos taken with 35mm photos are atmospheric and allow room for your subject’s environment. They’re ideal for those who want to photograph both pets and their surroundings.

The 35mm vs 50mm debate doesn’t have a solid conclusion because it depends on your preferences. Most photographers agree that 35mm lenses are closer to what the human eye sees.
Others prefer 50mm lenses because of how gracefully they crop all kinds of compositions.

A cute portrait of a pug taken with a 50mm prime lens for pet photography
Photos taken with 50mm lenses are a little more cropped. They’re perfect for pet photographers who want to take classic portraits with soft bokeh.

Pros of Using a Prime Lens

4. It’s Likely That You Can Already Afford It

A Canon Dslr fitted with a 50mm f/1.8 lens
I’ve been using my 50mm f/1.8 lens for over six years and haven’t complained about it once. It lets me take photos of people, animals, landscapes, and architecture without compromising the quality of my work.

You don’t need to save up for a long time to get a handy prime lens. One of the most affordable ones, the 50mm f/1.8, costs around USD 100.
I consider it an essential that every photographer should own.

3. Its Size Makes It Easy to Move Around


Unlike zoom lenses, most prime lenses are fairly small and portable. Because of this, they can be used in a variety of situations:

  • During trips with your pet. You can also grab your camera and take spontaneous photos of other people’s pets without breaking a sweat.
  • When you have to run after your pet to take a good picture. Imagine the alternative: if you had to run after an unruly dog with a heavy lens, your photo shoot would turn into an tiring workout!
  • When moving to another location. If you’re going to take photos of someone else’s pet, you won’t have trouble packing your prime lenses in a small camera bag. This will leave room for other necessities, like dog treats or even another lens.

2. You Can Quickly Take Pictures Without Ruining Their Quality

A pet portrait of a brown dog running in a park
If you take photos in a well-lit park like this one, you won’t have trouble taking great photos of your pet.

Some pets, especially young ones, tend to be very active. If you spend too much time focusing on a specific composition or pose, you’ll end up with blurry, abstract results. A slow lens will make this even worse.
Prime lenses, on the other hand, tend to be very fast. Even the 50mm f/1.8 can take high-quality pictures in places with lots of action or a limited amount of light.
This makes prime lenses the perfect tools for taking sharp photos of active pets.

1. It Will Motivate You to Get out of Your Comfort Zone

A portrait of a brown dog against a black background shot with a prime lens
Prime lenses will force you to make the most of negative space. You might even end up finding inspiration in it!

Today’s zoom lenses can take amazing photos from a distance. This might tempt you to stay in your comfort zone and take the same kinds of photos every time. Prime lenses will force you to do the opposite.
Since you can’t zoom in with a prime lens, you’ll have to move around while photographing your pet. You’ll have to find ways to avoid distracting elements and compose a shot before your subject runs away.
These challenges will teach you patience, give you new ideas, and make you a better photographer in general.

Cons of Using a Prime Lens

2. It’s Not Possible to Crop Out Distracting Objects from a Distance

Outdoor pet photography porttrait of four dogs sitting in a park with a hand holding the leashes
The man in the background and the hand holding the leashes might seem distracting to some. Not being able to easily crop out elements like this is one disadvantage of using prime lenses.

Even though using a prime lens will encourage you to get out of your comfort zone, it might fill your photo shoot with lots of frustrating obstacles.
For example, if you’re taking photos in a busy place with lots of visual distractions, you can crop them out with a zoom lens.
The only way to crop elements out with a prime lens is to physically get closer to your subject. This might not be possible if you’re taking photos of other people’s dogs or if you simply want to capture an environment.
Of course, you could crop out small distractions in an editing program. However, the more you crop, the lower the quality of your image will be.

1. You Have to Move Around All the Time

A French bulldog standing between his owners leg in a kitchen environment
Moments like this are fleeting. As you can see by the blurriness of the French bulldog’s legs, it’s already preparing to run away.

In addition to not being able to crop out certain elements, you can’t stand still with a prime lens. It’s very likely that your pet will run around for a long time before it settles down.
Since you can’t zoom in when your pet is standing far away, you’ll have to make sure that you’re always standing close enough to take a proper portrait.
This might tire you out and make your photo shoot significantly shorter.

Conclusion

A portrait of a yawning ginger and white cat shot with a prime lens for pet photography
By investing even the minimum amount of money into a prime lens, you’ll get to enjoy a rich variety of benefits like size, portability, and speed.
You’ll be able to quickly take photos of your beloved pet during your travels, at home, or even in badly lit places.
You’ll also have to challenge yourself, learn how to be more patient with your pet, and be okay with not being able to easily crop your photos.
In my opinion, the pros of using a prime lens far outweigh the cons. Depending on your shooting style and preferences, you might have a different opinion.
Either way, I encourage you to at least give prime lenses a try because they might completely change the way you look at pet photography.
Do you want more photo inspiration? Check out our new post about pet photography ideas next!

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