Best Lenses for Portrait Photography
As a photographer who has more of an interest and passion for street photography, my camera bag was kitted with the necessary tools to capture those perfect street moments, to be able to tell the stories of the street.
Then I decided I wanted to tell different kinds of stories through portrait photography.
That meant I had to do a little research into the elements that go into taking portraits and also the best camera lenses and equipment that is used.
Safe to say my camera bag had to have a few additions added to it.
What I discovered was that portrait photography requires good equipment combined with a very keen eye.
The big question is, what is the best lens for portrait photography?
This blog is here to help you.
What Lenses Are There to Choose From?
Let’s not waste any time, It really only comes down to three choices for absolute best camera lenses for portrait photography.
Wide Angle Lens
A wide-angle lens typically falls between 14mm and 35mm. Their angle of view ranges from 64° to 84°.
These lenses also suffer from distortion.
The Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM is a good example.
A standard lens is a camera lens that is a close imitation to the human eye in the respect of angle of view.
The 50mm lens is said to be the most accurate representation of this and the best choice for a standard lens.
Hot tip, anything below this lens’ focal length is a wide-angle, and anything above is a telephoto.
These lenses have multi-purpose functions and can be used for portrait photography, landscape photography and street photography.
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a great example.
A telephoto lens is used to photograph subjects from a distance.
They go from telephoto 70mm- 300mm and super-telephoto 300mm- 600mm for when you really want to get up close and personal.
The telephoto lens is awesome for portraits, the super-telephoto lens is perfect for action photography.
The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM is a perfect example.
What Focal Length Should You Choose?
When it comes to portrait photography, the focal length is important when choosing the best lens to capture portraits.
You need to really consider what you will be using the lens for.
For example, a small, cramped studio space isn’t big enough to warrant a 70-200mm lens.
The opposite occurs, a long-distance shot of a happy couple at their wedding won’t work well if you are using a wide-angle lens.
You have to pick the right tool for the job depending on what kind of portrait photography you are doing, the lenses you use will need to be suited for that.
This is because as a portrait photographer, you will be capturing the many types available.
Your kit needs to be armed for the wide range of styles in portrait photography, you can’t go in unprepared.
For example, you can either have two zoom lenses that cover all the focal lengths or have 2- 3 prime lenses that cover all bases for what you do.
Either way, you choose, no matter how you set your kit up, It’ll have their good points, and sadly, the bad.
What I find when picking my lenses is that more prime lenses take time to use, takes up more space and cost more than zoom lenses in the long run.
So what I do is I always have a mixture of lenses in my camera bag. I Leave the ones at home that I know I won’t use for that particular session.
I also started very small and very cheap, often buying second-hand lenses to practice with. Then I gradually worked my way up in purchasing new equipment and once I started getting regular clients, I upgraded to the best quality.
Still upgrading as I go.
The Best Wide Angle Lens
Ok, so in my opinion, the 35mm takes this title.
The 35mm is one of the most popular focal lengths for portrait photography because of its versatility.
It is a great addition for portraits in larger spaces and for those more detailed shots at special events.
On a crop sensor camera, the 35mm becomes a 50mm standard lens, making it perfect for both full-frame and crop sensor cameras.
The f/1.8 makes it great for differential focus, giving you a very wide aperture for short depths of field.
The Best Standard Lens
For me, there’s nothing can take the title of the best standard lens away from the 50mm lens.
The standard lenses, such as the 50mm f/1.4 or even f/1.8 are great for portrait photographers who want crisp and sharp portrait photos without taking a bank loan to capture them.
I and many other photographers I speak to consider the 50mm to be the perfect focal length for portrait photography.
It’s my go-to every time.
The 50mm lens is the closest you will come to how you see the world with your own eyes without too much lens distortion making it the perfect choice.
The Best Telephoto Lens
Now we’re getting down to business. Ok, so for me the best telephoto camera lens for portraits goes to the 70mm- 200mm lens.
For obvious reasons, this lens gives you some distance from your subjects. But why would you want distance from your subjects?
By giving your subject some room to breathe, you don’t scare them, make them uncomfortable, but instead, you have the capabilities to capture a more candid and personal photo.
As a photographer who loves capturing raw emotion the 70mm-200mm lens is perfect for those moments where emotion and feelings play a big role.
In The End
And that’s a wrap. I have just gone through what’s, in my opinion, the best lens options for portrait photography ranging from wide-angle to telephoto.
There’s a lens for everyone and every style of portrait photography, so there’s no excuse to not get out there and shoot.
I have other articles in my Pursuit of Photography Blog that is useful in changing your limited beliefs of yourself and unlocking your absolute full potential. Take a read!