Zoom lenses are extremely versatile for shooting in various situations. A zoom lens allows a camera to change smoothly from a long shot to a close-up or vice versa by varying the focal length. This is so useful for shooting wildlife, landscapes, street photography and everyday images. Let’s talk about some of my favorite zoom lenses and how I use them.

Zoom lenses are extremely versatile for shooting in various situations. A zoom is a lens allowing a camera to change smoothly from a long shot to a...

Wide Angle Zoom Lens

Having a wide angle zoom lens is great for shooting landscapes, tight spaces indoors and events. The focal lengths for these zoom lenses are usually around 16 to 28 or 35mm. Currently, I shoot with a Tokina 16-28 f/2.8 zoom lens. I love taking this lens to the city, the beach and even use it often on my film camera. I keep my aperture more closed down so I can capture most everything in focus around me and I embrace the beautiful vignette on the sides. This lens also helps me achieve gorgeous flare. You can go from extra wide to just plain wide while staying in one spot. It’s a great tourist lens.

people standing in a downtown setting by Jessica Nelson

picture of boy shoveling snow by Jessica Nelson

Standard Zoom Lens

A standard focal length on a full frame camera is 50mm. This focal length is considered to be what we see with our naked eye. A popular standard zoom lens would be 24-70mm which would incorporate the 50mm length within that range. This is probably the most versatile lens for everyday “walking around” use as well as for beautiful portraits as it doesn’t distort the human face like a wide angle can. These lenses can be found in just about every manufacturer’s lineup and I currently have the Canon 24-70L f/2.8 in my bag. This lens is perfect for shooting wide open at f/2.8, either outside at golden hour as well as shooting indoors in lower light. I also like to use it for beautiful silhouettes at golden hour. This lens is also my powerhouse for most of my photos that I take in my studio because of how quickly I can manipulate the focal length and because of how sharp it is at every f-stop.

silhouette picture of 3 siblings by Jessica Nelson

pic of tween drawing with sidewalk chalk by Jessica Nelson

Telephoto Zoom Lens

These lenses have a longer focal length than the standard 50mm. The 70-200 is the most popular focal length in this category. This category of lenses is also available from many manufacturers and come in a variety of maximum apertures. Using a long zoom lens will allow you to zoom from close to your subject to very close. It brings your subjects much closer to you while maintaining your distance which can be great for silently observing kids at play or trying to get close to some wildlife while also not zooming in too close so you can still see the surroundings. It also makes the background of your subject closer and larger than if you were to use a standard focal length (called “compression”). This lens is great for portraits and getting beautiful creamy blurry backgrounds at a closed down aperture. These shots were taken with the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 lens.

close up photo of horse by Jessica Nelson

girl standing in the sprinkler water holding an American flag by Jessica Nelson

A Super Telephoto Zoom Lens

There are a lot of super telephoto lenses you can choose from, and many reach beyond the limit of 200mm and can go up to 600mm in some cases. I have the Canon 100-400L f/4.5-5.6 lens. Most super telephoto lenses have a variable maximum aperture which means that the f-stop will be different depending on your focal length. Despite the smaller apertures, these zoom lenses still create stunning backgrounds especially when used at the largest focal length. This lens is great for taking shots in the rain and snow while safely staying undercover. It’s also great for getting up close and personal with wildlife while keeping a safe and unobtrusive distance.

flamingos standing in the snow by Jessica Nelson

butterly sitting on a purple flower by Jessica Nelson

Hopefully this has inspired you to go try some, or all, of these zoom lenses. Being able to vary my focus distance quickly and quietly allows me to photograph my kids playing, shoot a gorgeous city or landscape, and capture beautiful wildlife efficiently. I find that these zoom lenses are just as sharp as the prime lenses I have in my bag. I just select the lens that gives me the right focal range for my shooting situation and off I go!

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