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Lens Techniques: 4 Secrets to Mastering Your EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

With its coverage of the wide-angle to medium telephoto focal lengths, the versatile EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM standard zoom lens is capable for shooting a wide variety of scenes. Here are some techniques to make the most of this popular kit lens. (Reported by: Kazuo Nakahara)

EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

 

The key lies in understanding the unique characteristics of different types of lenses

You can say that the EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM, which is also the kit lens for the EOS 200D and the EOS 800D, is one of Canon’s most versatile basic lenses. With its coverage of the wide-angle to mid-telephoto angles of view, this standard zoom lens is able to handle almost all everyday scenes.

Many users tend to stand in the same spot as they shoot, and simply zoom in or out to adjust their composition. But to take the fullest advantage of this lens, you should really should be moving around.

This has its root in the characteristics of the wide-angle, standard, and mid-telephoto focal lengths. Knowing these characteristics will help you adjust your shooting spot accordingly. You can get very different results when you move closer to the subject while using the wide-angle end, or when you move further away from the subject when using the telephoto end, for example. You could even create a background blur with the right dynamics.

Yet another advantage of this lens is its short closest focusing distance (or minimum shooting distance). It is possible to focus even if the subject is only 12 – 15cm away from the front of your lens, which is great when you want to photograph small objects close-up. 

Another advantage, which is useful for shooting in low light is the built-in 4-stop image stabilisation mechanism, which technically makes it possible to use a shutter speed that is as much as 16 times slower than what you would have to use to prevent camera shake without the mechanism. (For more on this, read Lens FAQ #3: How are Image Stabilization Stops Determined?)

This lens is capable of so much, by the time you learn to fully appreciate and make the most of it, you would probably have also obtained a very good idea of how to use your equipment for photographic expression. Without further ado, here are the 4 secrets to mastering this lens.

 

1. Mastering wide-angle

Use perspective to your fullest advantage

To truly take advantage of the possibilities in the wide-angle range,  you need to first get rid of any preconceived notion that wide angles are used only for capturing vast landscapes. The ability to capture a wide field-of-view is just one characteristic!

The true potential of a wide-angle focal length lies in is its ability to exaggerate perspective. This creates lines that converge, which you can use to draw the viewer’s attention to a particular point of interest, and therefore make your images more dynamic. This also lets you capture a subject close-up and still include a large portion of the background in the frame.

Take note: Depending on the subject matter, this tendency to exaggerate perspectives could also work against you—elements that are already distant from each other might end up looking scattered and far apart.

 

focal length 18mm wide angle

18mm
EOS 200D/ EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 18mm (29mm equivalent) / Aperture-priority AE (f/5.6, 1/30 sec, EV-1.0) / ISO 6400/ WB: Auto

 

shot at focal length 18mm

18mm
EOS 200D/ EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 18mm (29mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4.5,1/1,600 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

Tip: Compose image to draw viewers’ attention to the vanishing point 

The 2 images above are classic examples of compositions that make full use of the perspective exaggeration effect. Examining the second image in closer detail, we see that the subject of interest (the yellow car) was shot from a diagonal angle so that the lines of the road converge in a vanishing point to the left of the image (indicated in red below). Vanishing points such as this draw the viewer’s attention, and help to create the illusion of depth in the image.

Converging lines indicated

For more information, check out:
Exploring Wide Angle Lenses Part 2: Composition Techniques for Wide-Angle Lenses

 

2. Mastering standard angle-of-view

To avoid images that look too ordinary, put lots of effort into composition

The standard focal length range on a zoom lens provides an angle-of-view that is very similar to that of the human eye. Images taken with these focal lengths thus look natural and reassuring to viewers.

Take note: The natural angle-of-view can make images look mundane if you shoot aimlessly. Pay extra attention to the relationship between your main interest and secondary interest(s), and put effort into composition and the timing of your shutter release.

focal length, standard angle of view 35mm

35mm
EOS 200D/ EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 35mm (56mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5, 1/1,000 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

focal length 33mm

33mm
EOS 200D/ EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 33mm (53mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5, 1/160sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

Shot at focal length 33mm

33mm
EOS 200D/ EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 33mm (53mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5, 1/80 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

Tip: Make sure your image is straight and level

This is especially important for images taken with a standard angle-of-view. If the lines are not horizontally/vertically aligned, your image could look unstable.

straight and level image composition, standard angle of view

For more ideas on how to shoot using a standard angle-of-view, read:
Standard Lens Techniques: Using the Point of View to Draw the Viewer In

 

3. Mastering mid-telephoto

Faithful depictions of shapes; great for focusing attention on one subject

The telephoto range of the EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM captures images with a field-of-view that is similar to the field-of-view of a person when their attention is on a particular object. This makes it easy to create images where the central focus is immediately obvious. Unlike the wide-angle field-of-view, you cannot include much of the background in the frame, but this means less competition with your main subject for the viewer’s attention.

Another major advantage of this angle-of-view is that it is less prone to perspective distortion, and therefore capable of faithful depictions of the shapes of subjects, including faces and body shapes. Keep this in mind, and shoot with the telephoto range when you need to capture portraits of people, product photographs, or any scene where the faithful representation of shapes and structures is a priority.

tabletop food photo, focal length 55mm (telephoto end)

55mm
EOS 200D/ EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 55mm (88mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AW (f/8, 1/30 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 6400/ WB: Auto

 

Food photo, focal length 55mm

55mm
EOS 200D/ EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 55mm (88mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5.6, 1/160 sec, EV+0.7)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

Tip: If you use a wide-angle focal length, you will get obvious distortion

The image below shows the same plate as the one above, but shot at the 18mm wide-angle end. You can see the effects of perspective exaggeration in the part of the plate that is closer to you—somehow, it looks bigger and the plate looks oval. Compared to this, the image shot at the 55mm telephoto end is more faithful to the actual object.

Food photo, perspective distortion at 18mm wide angle end

18mm
EOS 200D/ EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 18mm (29mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/250 sec, EV+0.7)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

4. Mastering bokeh

Creating a background blur (background bokeh) is not just about using a suitable f-number. There are also other factors involved, such as focusing distance, focal length, and distance between the subject and the background. You can read more about the dynamics in Lens Basics #3: Creating Bokeh, but what I would like to highlight here is that as long as the following 3 conditions are fulfilled, even kit lenses such as the EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM are capable of creating a large background blur:

1. A relatively long focal length;
2. A short focusing distance; and
3. A relatively long distance between the subject and the background.
 
Let’s explore how to create a large background bokeh with this lens, step by step.

 

Step 1: What happens when you shoot with the wide-angle end

The image below was shot with the 18mm wide-angle end. I have used the maximum aperture, but because of the short focal length and the long focusing distance, the background blur is not quite apparent.

Steps to bokeh – No bokeh at 18mm

EOS 200D/ EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 18mm (29mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/50 sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

Step 2: Zoom in to the telephoto end

For the image below, I stayed at the same shooting position as Step 1, but zoomed to the 55mm telephoto end. Now that I have used a longer focal length, the background blur is slightly more obvious.

Steps to bokeh – some bokeh at 55mm

EOS 200D/ EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 55mm (88mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5.6, 1/80 sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 125/ WB: Auto

 

Step 3: Move closer to the subject

Still using the telephoto end, I moved closer to the flower that I wanted to be my main interest, so that I was the minimum focusing distance away. The background blur became more obvious. This demonstrates how a shorter focusing distance further defocuses the background.

Steps to bokeh – telephoto end, close up, more bokeh

EOS 200D/ EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 55mm (88mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5.6, 1/80 sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 125/ WB: Auto

 

Step 4: Keep the telephoto end, change the shooting angle to feature a faraway background

Keeping the same telephoto end focal length and the shooting distance, I changed the angle so that the background of the shot was now far away. This caused the background to be further defocused, resulting in a creamy bokeh.

Steps to bokeh – telephoto end, close up, faraway background, creamy bokeh

EOS 200D/ EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 55mm (88mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5.6, 1/80 sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 160/ WB: Auto

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Focal length range (35mm film equivalent): 29 – 88mm 
Lens construction: 12 elements in 10 groups
No. of aperture blades: 7
Closest focusing distance: 0.25m
Max. magnification 0.25x (at 55mm)
Image stabilisation: 4 stops
Filter diameter: φ58mm
Size: approx. 66.5×61.8mm
Weight: approx. 215g

 


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EOS 200D Kit (EF-S18-55 IS STM)

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EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

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Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Kazuo Nakahara

Born in Hokkaido in 1982, Nakahara turned to photography after working at a chemical manufacturing company. He majored in photography at the Vantan Design Institute and is a lecturer for photography workshops and seminars, in addition to working in commercial photography. He is also a representative of the photography information website studio9.

http://photo-studio9.com/

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