Find your default focal length

Why did I pick to only photograph with a fixed focal length of 50mm? Easy, Henri Cartier-Bresson used one. But seriously the real reason I picked a fixed focal length at all, aside from sharpness and quality, is it was my default focal length. So how did I find my default focal length?

I’ll give you a scenario, let’s say your new to photography, and that you’re using a digital camera that stores metadata into your photographs. You buy a kit camera lens, which normally come with a zoom. You shoot with if, for a month, year whatever. Now you want a new lens you are ready to upgrade or refine your gear down. A quick way to find your ideal lens is to go into Lightroom or whatever software you use, look through your photo metadata. Your metadata will tell you what focal lens each photo is taken at. Once you go through a fair amount you should start to see a pattern of focal lengths, it might be 50, 55, 85 or 28mm. Whatever the consistent number is that’s your default focal length you normally shoot with. And this is how I picked my 50mm lens


At the start I wanted a 35mm lens so bad for street photography, then a 50, then an 85 then a 28 to a 100mm. But I looked through all the images I took over the years and found that the majority of my photographs were taken with a 50mm focal length. Yours might be different but the process of finding your default is the same.

look through all your image metadata and find your default focal length, then buy it and you will never need to shoot with another lens again. This is what I did, and I’m forever grateful because I know 50mm like the back of my hand now. Simplifying and helping me improve my practice.

Go through your metadata, what is your default focal length? Might it be more than one? What’s your favourite lens?