Lens choice matters in photographic composition. The lens can either work in your favor or muck up the story you're trying to tell. You have several types of lenses to choose from, and each has its forte.

To figure out which lens is appropriate for a scene, first figure out what your subject is and then pay attention to the elements in the foreground and background. By determining how much of the scene you want to include, you can decide which lens works best.

Here are the two categories of lenses as well as some of the specific types in each category:

  • Fixed lenses: These lenses contain only one focal length. The lenses most often used in this category are normal lenses, which produce a view that's closest to the human eye; telephoto lenses, which have a focal length that magnifies a scene; and wide-angle lenses, which have a smaller focal length that shows more of your scene.

  • Normal lenses are great for capturing scenes in a way that's closest to how you see it with your eyes. And your telephoto lens comes in handy when you want to get closer to a subject but can't do so physically. When a scene has several elements of interest (whether in the foreground or background) that are relevant to your subject, a wide-angle lens may be most appropriate for capturing the whole story. A wide-angle lens also may be useful if your less-than-interesting subject is made more remarkable because of the foreground or background.

  • Zoom lenses: These lenses contain a range of focal lengths, providing you with the convenience of only carrying one lens to your shoot. Some photographers tend to zoom in on everything, with the idea that the bigger a subject is in a frame, the better. This isn't always the truth. But, of course, if your scene doesn't include a lot of interesting elements, you may be wise to zoom in on your subject and eliminate the uninteresting aspects. Similarly, if you feel that your subject is interesting and should be shown with as much detail as possible, zoom in to increase the attention it receives.