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Top 5 Types of Lenses for Microstock Photography in 2023

AuthorAlexandre Rotenberg

January 20,2023

One of the keys to success in your microstock photography business is using the right lens for the job. As will be discussed, different lenses have different features and capabilities and choosing the right one can make a considerable difference in the quality and appeal of your photos so they can eventually be picked up by buyers. 


Rapidly progressing away from the kit lens

A kit lens is a lens that is typically included with a new camera purchase. It is usually a basic lens with a moderate focal length range (such as 18mm-55mm, as seen below) and medium aperture (up to F/4) and is intended to provide a general-purpose lens for everyday photography. Nothing necessarily wrong with a kit lens when you’re starting out and learning the ropes. 


Source: How to Get the Most Out of Your Kit Lens


However, once you begin to progress with your photography, you’ll quickly discover that specialized lenses offer much more quality to achieve more professional-looking images. Which specialized lenses…well it depends on your niche, which we’ll get onto shortly. But first let’s discuss the difference between a zoom lens and a prime lens, which will likely be the first decision you’ll make when upgrading from a kit-lens. 


Zoom vs Prime Lenses

Here’s a summary breakdown of the pros and cons of each:

FeatureZoom LensPrime Lens
Focal LengthVariableFixed
Framing and CompositionMore FlexibleLess Flexible
Image QualityGoodExcellent
Weight and CostHeavier and More ExpensiveLighter and Less Expensive
Low-light PerformanceAverageExcellent
Depth of FieldDeepShallow

Here are some examples of the use of a zoom vs that of a prime lens:

Shot at 300mm zoom lens


Shot with a 105mm macro prime lens


Going wide angle!

The opposite of a zoom lens is a wide-angle lens which is a popular choice for those that wish to capture more of the scene in the frame, making it useful for street, landscape, sports and architectural photography (although there can be considerable distortions), such as of the following all captured at around 14mm.


Getting creative with a tilt-shift lens

A tilt-shift lens is a specialized creative type of camera lens that allows the user to adjust the angle of the lens in relation to the camera body. This feature provides several benefits to photographers and videographers, making it a valuable tool for certain types of photography, including:

  • Ability to control perspective distortion and corrects the distortion that can occur when shooting tall buildings or other structures at wide angles;
  • Allowing to produce a shallow depth of field which is useful for portraits and other types of photography where a shallow depth of field is desired; and

Creating miniature effects with extremely shallow depth of field. 


Putting it all together, Top 5 types of lenses

Lens Type Maximum Aperture for lenses at more “Affordable Prices” Description of types of usages
<20mmf/3.5Wide and ultra-wide lenses which are great for street photography, architecture, sports (up close) and landscapes
18/24mm Tilt Shiftf/3.5A niche lens that is great for architecture photography to correct distortions, create miniature effects and creative portraits / landscape effects
35/50mm primef/1.8Versatile, lightweight and affordable lenses that are great for portraits, street photography, and general-purpose use. It has a large aperture for low light conditions and great to create extremely shallow depths of field
85/105mm prime macrof/2.8A sharp prime lens that is great for portraits and macro photography, including food, flora and small animals
70-300mm Zoomf/4Telephoto zoom lenses are great for sports, wildlife, astronomy and other types of photography where a longer focal length is needed


Cost Considerations

When it comes to the prices of the lenses listed in the table above, it's important to note that prices can vary depending on the brand, model and condition of the lens. Firstly, the general rule is that as the aperture becomes larger, for instance up to f/1.8 and even larger, the more expensive will be your lens as it will be able to capture more light. 

Secondly, purchasing a new lens directly from a camera-manufacturer, such as Sony, Nikon or Canon is considerably more expensive than a similar lens from a third-party such as Sigma or Tamron. These can be excellent and affordable alternatives (particularly if purchased used) that won’t compromise much on quality. 

Thirdly, the type of camera body that you have should have a direct impact on your choice of lenses. Some lenses are made only for cropped sensors which would not work well on a full-frame sensor, while a full-frame lens can work fine on a cropped sensor. 

Source: The Difference between crop and full-frame sensor



Once you get bored / frustrated with the limitations of your kit-lens you’d do well to invest on one or more of more specialist lenses listed above. Perhaps this will be combination of a good zoom up to 300mm and an ultra-wide-angle lens without breaking the bank until you have a more defined niche. After some months with some sales under your belt you may be able to specialize even further and perhaps invest on a larger aperture portrait lens. Happy shooting! 


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