Photography teacher bans kit lenses because “they’re not good enough”

Jul 8, 2021

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Photography teacher bans kit lenses because “they’re not good enough”

Jul 8, 2021

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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One college photography teacher recently banned 18-55mm kit lenses from her classes. You read that right – not recommended against them, not suggested alternatives, but completely forbid her students to use them in her classes. As you can imagine, this has sparked outrage in the photo community. And as you can probably guess – I’d have something to say about it, too.

A student at the aforementioned college shared the syllabus of his photography course on Reddit. Here’s what it reads:

“The 18-55mm kit lenses that come with entry level, crop sensor DSLR’s are NOT good quality. You are required to have the insurance for this class and since most assignments require a trip to the cage for lighting gear, I am also blocking the use of these lenses. You are talented enough by this point to not compromise your image quality by using these sub-par lenses. Student work from this class has been licensed commercially as stock photography, but if you shoot with an 18-55mm lens, you are putting your work at a serious disadvantage quality wise. You are not required to BUY a different lens, but you are required to use something other than this lens. You should do everything within your power to never use these lenses again.”

Oh boy, where do I start? First, let’s clarify the stock photography part because it has caused some confusion in the community. From what I understood, student’s photos don’t belong to the college. The teacher merely suggests that they could sell them on stock photography sites, it’s not the college that sells students’ work.

But let’s move on to the kit lenses. Banned from classes, why?! Sure, a kit lens isn’t the best option in the world. But for many students, it’s the only option. Not everyone can afford to buy high-end lenses that are “good enough” while still in college. Sure, the teacher says that they don’t need to buy them, but renting them is still a hassle and it costs money. I’m saying this from the point of view of a student, which I once was too. Most of us barely keep ends meet in college, I sure as hell wouldn’t buy or rent another lens if I had a kit one in perfectly good shape!

Then, speaking as a photographer, I still think a kit lens is a great option while still learning. In fact, I wish I had a DSLR and a kit lens when I attended a photography course. I only had a point-and-shoot camera, and guess what – my teacher still taught me the basics. And I still acquired them and expanded my knowledge later.

Finally, speaking as a former teacher myself – I’m sorry, but this sounds like something a bad teacher would do. First of all, this person sounds detached from her students and their needs and possibilities. Also, if you teach your students right, they’ll apply the knowledge they have to any gear. And I believe that the point is to teach them to make the best out of their kit lenses, not to force them to buy or rent something that’s “good enough.”

So, what are these students to do if they want to attend the class? In Dave McKeegan’s wonderfully “ranty” video, I stumbled upon a few solutions, some of which I had in mind as well. An 18-55mm kit lens doesn’t work? How about an 18-135mm or 18-105mm? Some Nikon and Canon cameras come in a kit with those lenses, so if you opt for that option, I guess you’re good to go. If you have a Sony camera, it comes with a 16-50mm lens so this one is probably good, too. Alternatively, you can buy a camera body and get any vintage zoom lens that isn’t 18-55mm. Finally, it crossed my mind that you can make some kind of crap lens or “Crapinon” like this one. As long as it’s not 18-55mm, right?

YouTube video

If I were a student in this class, I would buy the crappiest and cheapest lens I could get and go with that. I was subtly rebellious like that when I was younger. How would you handle it?

[via PetaPixel]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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67 responses to “Photography teacher bans kit lenses because “they’re not good enough””

  1. Don Barnard Avatar
    Don Barnard

    I would show this idiot a whole portfolio full of photos that I’ve had published over the years that were shot on kit lenses…
    We all know cannon’s kit lens are crap but Nikon and Pentax have released spectacular kit lenses over the years.
    Back in the film days everybody had high quality 50 mm kit lenses it was hard to find a bad one

  2. Galonii August Avatar
    Galonii August

    everyone’s gotta start somewhere….I have so may feels for this…. I feel this is BS if the teacher is just a good teacher they would teach to to get great photos no matter what lens you use. But if they were a great teacher they’d know how to teach students how to take great photos no matter what equipment they have after all it’s not the equipment that makes a great photographer it the nut behind the camera!!

    1. Geoff Louis Avatar
      Geoff Louis

      Galonii August At a certain point it is the equipment and some jobs you can’t even do without investing in more gear.

    2. Robert Hicks Avatar
      Robert Hicks

      Geoff Louis Yes but for the 99.9 percent not shooting sports or underground on the new moon the gear obsession exists because purchase is easier that practice

    3. Galonii August Avatar
      Galonii August

      Robert Hicks EXACTLY! the best camera and lens is the one you have on you at the time!

      1. Kaouthia Avatar
        Kaouthia

        Except, you are in control of the camera and lens you have with you. It’s a nonsense phrase in this context and completely misses the point.

    4. Galonii August Avatar
      Galonii August

      Geoff Louis they’re learning… I know you should always upgrade your lenses before your camera, but they’re just starting out and When I went to school for photography it was a huge investment just to afford the camera without the added expenses of prime lenses. I just feel those things come after you’ve learned the basics.

  3. Lis Thomsen Avatar
    Lis Thomsen

    I would mail the teachers opinion to a well known photographer (ore several) and show the teacher the answers. Pretty sure they wold all dismiss her standpoint as useless for the situation.
    (I once wrote an author about a novel when i disagreed with my teacher about a point in it. Author agreed with me. Teacher never mentioned it again) ;-)

  4. Vincent Reyna Avatar
    Vincent Reyna

    If they were to offer another lens in place, sure go for it. Otherwise, they should chillout.

  5. Robert Hicks Avatar
    Robert Hicks

    What’s their complaint? If they’re in a college class for photography they are already throwing money away

  6. Darlene Hildebrandt Avatar
    Darlene Hildebrandt

    I’d say fire that teacher

  7. Darlene Hildebrandt Avatar
    Darlene Hildebrandt

    Hmm the teacher mentions a “trip to the cage for lighting gear”. My guess is there is equipment available to the students to sign out or borrow. In which case the statement makes more sense. If they have higher quality lenses available for borrowing for free, yeah do that

    1. Ken McDougall Avatar
      Ken McDougall

      Darlene Hildebrandt Not sure ‘lighting’ gear includes lenses in this case. I’ve read other articles about this, and she is quoted as saying “You are not required to BUY a different lens, but you are required to use something other than this lens. You should do everything in your power to never use these lenses again.”

      To me that implies they’re not providing lenses. It also reads an awful lot like Marie Antoinette saying ‘let them eat cake’ when she was told that Paris was starving and there was no bread.

      I guess it also proves that whatever the entry requirements for a University Lecturer in North Carolina, it doesn’t include an understanding of basic grammar and split infinitives…

    2. Giuseppe Fuggiano Avatar
      Giuseppe Fuggiano

      Darlene Hildebrandt That might be the case, but it still doesn’t rectify the highly sh*t-talking nature of his wording. It really should be written by someone more… professional.

  8. Tero Suhonen Avatar
    Tero Suhonen

    Thats why he is a teacher…

  9. Michael D Zielinski Avatar
    Michael D Zielinski

    Professors have been demanding prime lenses in class since zooms were invented. If you’re offended by this notion, you probably haven’t taken a class.

  10. Marcin Pietrzak Avatar
    Marcin Pietrzak

    Haha im other words he is crappy teacher. Prime lenses are better but good picture u can achieve even with kit lens. My ex teacher told me once, “in taking pictures is not so important sharpnes coz u can have top sharp picture but nothing on it..”

  11. Larry Carr Avatar
    Larry Carr

    Use a pinhole instead.

  12. Mike Sullivan Avatar
    Mike Sullivan

    This teacher is not thinking of the essence of photography. A good picture is a good picture because it sends a message or tells a story. Yes in some fields of photography, the kit lens may fall short, but 95% of the time, it’s more than good enough. And photo quality is within the message of the photo. Not just how sharp and so on it is. Many great photos are not the best quality objectively, but subjectively.

  13. Bryan Whitehead Avatar
    Bryan Whitehead

    I’d drop the class.

    1. Gary Bailey Avatar
      Gary Bailey

      Bryan Whitehead then what?

    2. Bryan Whitehead Avatar
      Bryan Whitehead

      Take the class from someone else.

    3. Gary Bailey Avatar
      Gary Bailey

      Bryan Whitehead like they have a choice?

  14. Daniel Shanley Avatar
    Daniel Shanley

    Don’t take the class. End of story.

    As an edit: I don’t use a kit lens and actually love two very small prime lenses and a telephoto as my primary lenses for weight and space but who cares? I can afford them. Lens quality or camera quality isn’t as important as experience and ability….

  15. Gary Bailey Avatar
    Gary Bailey

    Shit lens, they have a right to not accept work produced by it if there are other options. If it was an English class were the dictionary was accepted as the norm, would they accept slang?

    1. Ken McDougall Avatar
      Ken McDougall

      Gary Bailey That is a bit like saying they’ll accept your essay if it was handwritten with a Montblanc pen but not a Bic biro…

    2. Gary Bailey Avatar
      Gary Bailey

      Ken McDougall maybe, but when uni’s specify presentation format, a font, a margin size, double spaced lines, correct labels and referencing, they would have a right to reject stunning literature work written in wax crayon. If photographic students are marked on content, as well as presentation / image quality, why loose marks by having shit kit? The uni has every right to set a working practice of producing images to a high technical standard.

    3. Ken McDougall Avatar
      Ken McDougall

      It really ISN’T ‘shit kit’ though just because it’s a kit lens. The Fuji 18-55 kit lens evaluates really well and it also retails for around £600, it is not a cheap lens if you buy it on its own.

      I would buy the argument if the teacher could tell the difference between an 18-55 kit lens shot at f5.6 and a 55mm prime at the same aperture but I bet they can’t. It’s teaching students to be gear snobs and god knows there are thousands of photographers who have all the gear and no idea, we really don’t need any more.

      All the other things you’ve referenced are presentation standards that are relatively cheap to apply. This sets a bar that excludes students on low incomes. It’s pure snobbery.

    4. Kristian Voorhies Avatar
      Kristian Voorhies

      Gary Bailey I’m sorry but equipment is only as good as the person using it. You don’t define an artists skills by the medium he uses.

    5. Gary Bailey Avatar
      Gary Bailey

      Kristian Voorhies ckearly none of you have used the 18-55 Canon kit lens ?????

    6. Gary Bailey Avatar
      Gary Bailey

      Ken McDougall are you speaking from experience having used the 18-55 Canon lens and compared it to a prime? The Canon 18-55 kit lens cannot produce acceptable images at any aperture setting – it is not snobbery, it is physics.

    7. Ken McDougall Avatar
      Ken McDougall

      Gary Bailey I think you’ve made the assumption that I’m defending cheap kit because that’s all I’ve had. Well, I did have the 18-55 canon lens, when I had Canon cameras (started with 80D, still have 5DSr), but I’ve also had a range of canon primes before switching to the Fuji system, largely for weight/travel reasons. I currently shoot with a range of primes and zooms.

      Whenever I bought lenses I relied on scientific reviews (mainly from Optical Limits) rather than subjective opinions. And without meaning to be rude, your definition of ‘acceptable’ is a subjective opinion.

      Good photography is not all about edge sharpness, contrast, or bokeh. I would respectfully suggest that even in advertising material most members of the public do not assess our work that way. It is completely missing the point to insist students look at it this way – and also doing so at the beginning of their study means they will never get to the point where they’ve decided, based on their own critical judgement, what they need.

      I’m not sure there’s any value in continuing this discussion. One of the other advantages I found from switching from Canon to Fuji was that there just isn’t the same hostility around kit in the Fuji community. I can’t stand that sort of gear snobbery I encountered in both Canon and Nikon communities. Fuji shooters seem to be far more likely to accept that there are lots of paths towards good photography. I did find a lot of unnecessary hostility in my previous photography community, and very little of it seemed to be based either on scientific analysis, or objective assessment.

    8. Gary Bailey Avatar
      Gary Bailey

      Ken McDougall subjective reviews and technical ones both slate the Canon. I disagree with your view that you can’t tell if the 18-55 was used against a prime. Have a nice day.

    9. Ken McDougall Avatar
      Ken McDougall

      Gary Bailey Except I just referenced a specific technical review that rated both it and its predecessor. They said it was cheaply made but that optically it was surprisingly good. Your response is effectively ‘No it isn’t’ which comes across as rather arrogant to me.

      I’ve got no interest in this particular lens, I’m just trying to argue for an element of balance in perspective. I guess I will let other posters decide where they think that point of balance lies and write this conversation off, perhaps I should have done that right at the beginning.

      https://www.opticallimits.com/canon-eos/831-canon_1855_3556stmis

  16. David Ludwig Avatar
    David Ludwig

    just change the EXIF data

  17. Bill Stone Avatar
    Bill Stone

    When I was in photography class the instructor got tired listening to people whine about if they had better equipment they could take better photos. So he challenged us with him using an instamatic. He won because his photos were better composed.

  18. Bill Stone Avatar
    Bill Stone

    When I was in photography class in high school the instructor got tired of listening to people whine about if they had better equipment they could take better photos. So he challenged us with him using an instamatic. He won because his photos were better composed.

    1. Tim McKinney Avatar
      Tim McKinney

      Bill Stone try a Holga camera

    2. Gary Linford Avatar
      Gary Linford

      Bill Stone geez, I don’t recall being able to take photography at CVHS? Do you recall who the instructor was? I have a vague memory that a Biology teacher was into photography. I recall having a SLR in HS and was shooting so much that I was buying tri-x for my bulk loader and loading my own 35mm cartridges.

  19. John M Fuller Avatar
    John M Fuller

    Funny BS. I’ve sold a few thousand photos over the past 12 years or so using Nikkor 18-200 and now 18-300 kit lenses. If you know the limitations of them, and how to use them correctly you can get great photos. Good knowledge and skill in photo editing helps as well. And you don’t need college courses to learn how to do it either.

  20. Joseph Deally Avatar
    Joseph Deally

    I guess this guy doesn’t understand photography as an art form. This isn’t the daily bugle they’re not taking photos of spiderman.

    When I first got into photography I used a damn video camera taking 5 megapixel interpolated photos. ( Up from 3 mega pixels) and whilst it was soft, no control of focus it could still get good photos if I spent time composing the shot and taking advantage of the focal length of its lens.

  21. Prem Chand Avatar
    Prem Chand

    They’re good enough to start. But they’re not enough to get to the next level.

  22. J Kenrick Bernard Avatar
    J Kenrick Bernard

    Give that teacher a cookie.

  23. Diego Callegari Avatar
    Diego Callegari

    and offers student to buy himself prime lenses for each one of them ;)

  24. Petar Maksimovic Avatar
    Petar Maksimovic

    Well he can’t demonstrate almost anything DOF related with slow lens.

  25. James Thibault Avatar
    James Thibault

    They shouldn’t be teaching ?

  26. Ken McDougall Avatar
    Ken McDougall

    I can see some elements to the argument, but only on aperture grounds, because most kit lenses don’t have very wide maximum apertures, so you wouldn’t necessarily be able to get that very shallow depth of field, or the subject separation that you might want for portraiture. But that is one tiny part of the photography landscape.

    But banning them because they’re not good enough seems like pure snobbery, and it encourages students to lean towards ‘all the gear, no idea’ photographers. She also said she didn’t expect students to ‘buy’ a new lens, they just had to bring one.

    Bloody stupid elitist argument that didn’t work for Marie Antoinette and doesn’t work for this either.

  27. Perry Tatman Avatar
    Perry Tatman

    Tell them to Foxtrot Oscar

  28. LanthusClark Avatar
    LanthusClark

    Sharpness is a bourgeois concept” – Henri Cartier Bresson

  29. Luite Weijs Avatar
    Luite Weijs

    I am often more surprised that old photography teachers still promote dslrs instead of mirrorless for their students and strongly advise against it, just because they’re stuck in their ways.

  30. Stelio Alevro Avatar
    Stelio Alevro

    ok put your money wher your mouth is ,, all images soot at 35mm f8 200iso with 4 different lents one of them is a kit lent find the kit lent ,,

  31. Stelio Alevro Avatar
    Stelio Alevro

    ok put your money wher your mouth is ,, all images soot at 35mm f8 200iso with 4 different lents one of them is a kit lent find the image shoot with kit lent ,,

    1. Stelio Alevro Avatar
      Stelio Alevro

      thows are the lents i use for that shot from my studio window

    2. Chris Krampus Avatar
      Chris Krampus

      Stelio Alevro at a guess I’d say bottom left corner. Literally a guess I have no idea.

  32. Leigh Bowden Avatar
    Leigh Bowden

    That’s nice of him. Volunteering to buy the students primes and/or better lenses.

  33. Kristian Voorhies Avatar
    Kristian Voorhies

    I would drop that class. I don’t need that shit in my life.

  34. John Romanowski Avatar
    John Romanowski

    If you haven’t used a kit lens then you should try one. Some aren’t as bad as people make them out to be

  35. Pasjr Woctx Avatar
    Pasjr Woctx

    Personally I hate so called “kit Lenses”, mainly because I much prefer to shoot Primes where and when ever possible. However, I do not own any “high quality” lenses, almost all are old and was bought used. I will say it’s not the gear but how you use the gear you have. I am a poor man, and photography is my passion, and in my life I have always had to learn how to use what you have, because you can not always obtain what you want or what may be considered the best tool for the job, so you learn how to make what you have become the best tool for the job. For more about me and my vision check out https://2ndshot.photos/Help

  36. Karsten Bruun Qvist Avatar
    Karsten Bruun Qvist

    Clearly not my kind of teacher..
    The camera of my current discount Chinese mobile is way better than the first SLR camera, with prime lenses that I bought way back…

  37. Light & Matter Avatar
    Light & Matter

    No big deal. The mention of “trip to the cage for lighting gear” means that the school is ALSO providing the students with lenses. When I studied photography, there were certain assignments that required me to shoot a particular type of film, or particular focal lengths, particular lighting… etc. It’s a learning tool.

    Of course it’s wrong that the kit lenses are not good enough, but it will help students learn to use other equipment if they’re forced to use it (and it’s provided to them). Annoying, but hardly something to get up in arms about.

  38. John Beatty Avatar
    John Beatty

    That is like telling an artist, don’t use Walmart brushes you must use **whatever uppity arty fart store of high prices** to make good paintings. Sorry teacher, you fail. Photography 101, it is the photographer, not the equipment. What a douche.

    1. FrogLuvR Avatar
      FrogLuvR

      LOL… Good point. Like telling an author to use a certain type of pencil or pen.

  39. Gus Cantavero Avatar
    Gus Cantavero

    They have a “cage” which means free gear borrowing. The teacher is just making them branch out to the better equipment available to be borrowed. No problem with this.

  40. trbako Avatar
    trbako

    Pixel peepers don’t make good teachers. Maybe that’s why she teaches instead of being a working professional. Just sayin’

  41. Bipin Gupta Avatar
    Bipin Gupta

    Definitely a Kit Lens is NOT top quality and most of them are just OK. In fact some Phone Camera lenses may be better. This does not mean it should be banned as it can still make pretty OK to good pictures.
    I bought my first DSLR w/o the Kit Lens, choosing the Tamron 17-50/2.8 which turned out to be brutally sharp.

  42. Rich Avatar
    Rich

    Like I’m going to trust a post on Reddit, where hyperbole abounds. I’d like to see the full syllabus and a full list of the limited number of lenses that are available from the school before I form an opinion. From what I’ve read, it’s a second year course and the emphasis is on portraits and fashion photography using prime lenses. The student also claimed to have a “fancy-ass” camera. It’s probably his phone.