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I have a Canon EOS 1000D with 18-55mm kit lens (entry level, as many say). Whenever I go out for a shoot, I always end up feeling handicapped because of the limited zoom range.

Most of my friends keep suggesting I get a 'good lens' sometime. I agree on the need for a long range lens, but I am not quite ready to quit on this lens just because of the zoom range. And I am also sure that good photography would still be possible with an 18-55mm lens.

I have tried shooting flowers, close-range portraits, still-life and I liked the photos it gave.

I need pointers about where this lens is most useful. How can I make it work wonders ?

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It won't work wonders in anything. The list of what it will do is longer then the list of what it won't do though. The zoom range and a "good lens" are two separate things. Good photography is absolutely possible, just not miracles! –  dpollitt Mar 6 '12 at 15:27
Not with the kit lens atleast, but I'd suggest you to brush up your photography skills with it for sure so that when you move onto upgrading to a newer lens, you understand the difference and make it work wonders! –  Eagle Eye Mar 6 '12 at 15:38
Thanks for all the insightful guidelines (as of now).. –  essbeev Mar 6 '12 at 19:26 dem 15-55mm Objektiv kann man auch in Verbindung mit Makrozwischenringen als "MakroObjektiv" verwenden....... –  user15755 Jan 23 '13 at 15:49
In English: "The 18-55mm lens can also be used as a macro lens with the addition of macro extension tubes." –  mattdm Jan 23 '13 at 16:14

9 Answers 9

up vote 52 down vote accepted

All text in brown <- like this, is linked to images - whether or not thumbnails are provided.
Thumbnails are not live linked.

All these things can be done with your kit lens:

  • Learn to minimise depth of field in a given situation (max aperture, max zoom, foot zoom to fit) to see how much background defocusing you can achieve. Not an ideal lens for this but results will please you. Try selecting between two objects in mid distance but at different distances. Can you get pleasing differentiation.

  • Set lens to minimum aperture. Use tripod or place camera on a wall etc. Take photos at night of street lights etc. Note halo/coma effect. What photos can you [produce using this.

  • "Through the bars": Find some "bars" - birdcage etc, put front lens element almost touching bars
    (as close as possible). Experiment with what you can achieve.
    Can you make the bars vanish? How can you use this ability?
    Larger version of "through the bars" here / thumbnail below:

    This was taken through cage bars. Can you see them? enter image description here
    That used a 50 mm f1.8. What can you achieve?
    This photo was taken through a heavy mesh as seen here at f6.3.

enter image description here

In both cases this is achieved by placing the lens front element as close to the bars or mesh as you can manage so that they are well inside one focal-length of the lens centre and so are dispersed rather than focused. Your kit lens can achieve this same result allowing to to produce pictures of apparently uncaged beasties or birds or ... .

  • Super Macro: Do you have ANY other lenses. Using even an old lens from another camera that does not fit your mount, set spare lens to "wide open", invert so front elements of it and yours are adjacent and almost touching. Maybe tape together. Now point at something small and very close and well lit. Note massive macro effect possible. Experiment with focal length setting on each lens.

  • Set to small aperture, low ISO. Tripod or brace and photograph falling water and fountains.

  • Set to small aperture and low ISO and use flash. Photograph fountains that have streams of drops or blobs of water in the air. Experiment with flash level and ISO. Be amazed.
    Like this fountain shot - f/6.3 at 200mm, but your lens can do similarenter image description here This used no flash. Add flash and use a smaller aperture and the background will darken or even vanish - jewels of water on "satin background."

  • Small aperture, low ISO, exposure compensation up. Photograph people when standing close to them looking slightly downwards with large area of roomlight lit carpet etc behind them. ie camera sees target lit by flash plus even carpet etc area behind in distance and not well lit by flash. Play with exposure until person is well lit for a nice portait but background drops away to almost blackness - even in a well lit room - and no photoshopping.

  • Do you have rear curtain flash? Experiment at night with people with lanterns and flashing lights etc.

  • Fun shots like this hair and water shot do not need special lenses etc - just lots of patience.
    (It took about 12 trials to get this right.)

    enter image description here

  • Silhouettes - bright background, dark foreground, expose for bright. Even higher contrast than this can be easily achieved.

  • Lie on the ground like this, stand on chairs, climb trees, move in close,
    lean out of windows and trains
    Maybe like this - BUT carefully! ! enter image description here
    find interesting angles.
    None of these need special lenses but all add interest. This or this or this or this or this or this or this or this or this or you get the idea enter image description here

etc - the aircraft is actually at 100 or so feet above the ground,
can be done with the kit lens.

enter image description here

17mm - Ham it up.
"Oh Mater ..."

enter image description here

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examples are helpful. i get the idea.. –  essbeev Mar 6 '12 at 18:24
wonderful new images.. Thanks! –  essbeev Apr 23 '12 at 13:21

How can I make it work wonders ?

By lighting your images properly. This doesn't mean you have to buy loads of studio lighting gear, when you know how light works you can apply this to natural lighting just as effectively as artificial.

Proper lighting will reduce the dynamic range of your scene by brightening shadows, and will create contrast by highlighting the shape of your subject.This all serves to reduce the demands placed on your gear (lens and camera).

You don't have to worry about flare or dynamic range issues, even if your lens isn't massively contrasty a dramatic lighting arrangement will cover that, proper lighting means your images wont be that noisy so if your lens isn't all that sharp, you can sharpen up the images in post without adding too much grain.

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This, exactly. We often forget that we aren't "taking pictures of things", we are recording (and manipulating—the darkroom, or its digital equivalent, have always been part of the process) patterns of light, shadow and colour. Learning to see, and to previsualise, are the keys to the kingdom, so to speak. And to put the kit lens into perspective, its range covers almost every significant photo ever made by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Henri Cartier-Bresson, the Farm Security Administration photographers,... the list goes on and on. –  user2719 Mar 6 '12 at 17:03
Right, we take photos with light. The big shortfall in kit lenses is that they tend to be slow (big smallest F-stop) and so they need more light than most people think. While the pop-up flash built-in to your camera makes it very hard to take good photos, an inexpensive strobe can do wonders. And before spending any money at all, just go outside where there is more light. –  Pat Farrell Jan 23 '13 at 22:07

It's not my favourite lens because of the quality, but I use it a lot anyway.

I use it to shoot architecture:


Recently tried to shoot trailing lights:

Photography with panning:

So as you see this lens have plenty of potential even though it doesn't come close with quality to other lenses such as prime lenses or "L" series. My suggestion is to use this lens as much as you can until you feel you can't get away any more without a lens with better quality, different focal length and aperture. And one more thing - lots of practice make wonders :)

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The kit lens serves various purposes as mentioned in the answer provided by Paolo. To be honest, in my opinion you should practice as much as you can with your kit lens before upgrading to a better lens. You wouldn't know the importance/difference if you dint basically. The kit lens serves various purposes while the upgrade might end up limiting you to only a certain type of photography. So, in order to discover your field of expertise/interest you should familiarize yourself first with the kit lens properly and then move onto a specific category of lens.

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You can do a lot of things with 18-55:

  • Landscape (mountains, lakes, sea etc. but also urban landscape - 18mm to 35mm focal length)
  • Portraits (using long focal length- 55mm is just perfect for that)
  • Street photography (Maybe using around 35mm focal length)
  • Studio, product or still life (not sure here but I think around 55mm is right)
  • Anything else you happen to frame :)

-Focal length are just a hint-

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I am a Nikonian, but I assume the 18-55 on Canon is similar. 18-55 is not a bad lens at all! You cannot get a bokeh like 50 mm prime lens and you certainly cannot zoom very far, but for an everyday lens it is really good. you can try portraits at 55 mm. move towards or away from the subject with wide open aperture at 55mm to get a decent enough bokeh. at 18 mm it is wide enough to cover a decent amount of landscape.

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18-55 is a very good lens and one of the most underestimated lenses out there. If you can use it for what it was good for, you will be amazed.

Here is two very good links which shows you some amazing snaps taken with 18-55 IS

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Thank you for the links.. –  essbeev Mar 22 '12 at 8:42

You have to work to the strengths of the lens and away from its weaknesses. The main weaknesses of the 18-55 are softness when wide open at either end of the range, lack of "reach" (which is immediately why a lot of newbs want to dump it and move on), and the smallish max. aperture. So, you don't want to try and use it for handheld lowlight shots without a flash (preferably off-camera flash), for thin DoF images (except possibly at macro distances), or for subjects you wish you were closer to.

However. If you stop the lens down one or two stops from wide open (e.g., f/8 @55mm), you can get some amazing things. If you add a flash or a tripod you can do low light shots that will be crisp and clean if you have good technique. It's a very good landscape lens. It's so small, light, and cheap that it's a great travel lens--and the focal length range is exactly suited to those stand-in-front-of-something-famous-I-was-there vacation shots most folks buy a camera for. It goes all the way out to 18mm. Use it at the wide end, stop it down, put it on a tripod, find some foreground interest, or shoot in a small space, and surprisingly good things can happen.

Post-processing and f/8 are the great equalizers among glass. Yes, you can find more expensive lenses that will do a much better job @18mm at f/3.5. But at f/8--it's gonna be a lot harder to tell the expensive glass from the budget glass. And no lens is going to limit you from doing HDR, noise-reduction, sharpening, or saturation boosting in post. Think of subjects you can shoot with the lens at 18mm and f/8, and you'll get closer to seeing what the kit lens can do.

One thing to try is googling up images taken with the kit lens, such as dpreview's "Kit Lens Losers" or the Flickr 18-55 kit lens group's pool. What may quickly become evident is that it's the skill of the photographer, not so much the lens that's making the image.

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If you are interested in Macro Photography then you can buy this Macro Ring LED along with this Macro Extension and you can shoot macro photos. I used it with lens like yours and it works great except that if you are going to use it too much it may cause pain to your back and hand unless you are using a tripod (which sometimes can be hard to set as you want)

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