The best camera lenses for portrait photography.
Learn how to choose the best lens for portrait photography and take professional-grade headshots.
Portrait photography is a subtle art, requiring a delicate balance of detail, light and shadow. Compelling portraits provide a unique perspective on the subject, highlighting the individual’s most interesting features while engaging the viewer.
Outside of composition and editing, the tools you use to capture portraits are equally important. Follow these tips to choose good lenses for portrait photography.
Prime lenses for portrait photography.
Prime lenses have wider maximum apertures, which create blurrier backgrounds and allow you to better isolate and highlight your subject. They also have fixed focal lengths, meaning the only way to change the size of your image is to physically move closer to or farther from your subject.
Because of this, prime lenses produce a sharper, better quality image, and the sacrifice of zooming is well worth it in terms of photo quality.
Best lenses for portrait photography.
Because prime lenses have fixed focal lengths, you’ll want to explore the variety of focal length options for the best portrait — whether you’re shooting outside or in the studio, capturing intimate headshots or dramatic full-length scenes
- 50mm lenses are good for full-length and waist-length portrait photos, both on location and in the studio. They have a wide field of view, which allows you to stand close to your subject while capturing more of their body and background. They’re not great for intimate headshots, however, since they require the photographer to be so close to the subject that it can cause distortion. They’re also the least expensive option, and so are a good choice if you’re new to portrait photography.
- 135mm lenses are a high-grade option for professional portrait photographers, with a longer focal length that’s especially good for on-location settings. They work well from versatile vantage points — close up, far away, you name it. But this focal length is too long to comfortably work in a studio, so only stick with this option if you have the space to take advantage of its flexible positions.
- 85mm lenses are the most popular kind of lens for portrait photography, combining the advantages of both the 50 and 135mm lenses. This lens allows you to keep a reasonable working distance from your subject with a narrower field of view for better focus. They’re versatile lenses, suitable for full-length photos, waist-level crops and more intimate headshots — on site or in studio.