Best Lens For Portraits

Last Updated on April 5, 2021

When you decide to specialize in portrait photography, having a special lens for portraits can make a huge difference. This kind of lens is made specifically for taking portrait photos, and there are some great lenses on the market whether you are a beginner or a professional. Continue reading to learn about the best lenses for portraits.

women looking into camera

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Many photographers consider the 85 mm prime lenses to be the best lenses for portrait photography. This lens has a moderate telephoto lens that allows you to be further away from your subject than you would with a 50 mm lens, but you are still close enough to get the details. This lens is great for tight headshots and head and shoulders shots. You also want a fast maximum aperture, as it will allow you to blur the background so that your subject stands out.

However, there is also a case to be made for the 35 mm lens. The focal length helps to recreate what you see when you see the person live, so it allows the portrait to look more familiar and natural. It provides very little distortion, so the image shows the person’s features. In addition, this lens is lightweight and will not weigh you down when you are out.

Many photographers prefer the 50 mm lens, which is right in the middle. You can find models for a reasonable price, and this lens has a great track record. You can take half body and full body shots with this lens. It isn’t the best for close-up headshots, so you need to consider how you plan to photograph your subjects.

Whether you are a professional photographer or a beginner who is just getting started, there are a lot of great portrait lenses to choose from. The following are some of the best on the market today.

What Focal Length Is Best for Portraits: Zoom or Prime Lenses?

tattooed woman

There are different camera lenses that are designed for shooting different types of photographs. For example, you might use one type of lens in the photography studio, while you have other choices if you are outdoors. The important thing is to understand the difference between the lens types so that you choose the best one for your needs.

There are two main types of lenses used for portrait photography: zoom lenses and prime lenses. Zoom lenses have a wide range of focal lengths so that you can switch between different types of shots. These lenses are more versatile. However, prime lenses usually give you a higher quality photo and are the standard in portrait photography.

Prime lenses are light and easy to use, and they are great for a specific type of picture. Photographers usually have this type of lens for portrait photography because they offer a sharp image with excellent blur in the background. There are fewer elements inside of the barrel of the lens, which is what leads to the sharpness in the final product. As a result, the subject stands out and comes to life.

What to Consider When You Choose a Lens

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Once you decide on the type of lens and the focal length, there are a few other considerations. You need to think about how many lenses you plan to take with you. If you want to stick to one lens, you might consider a zoom lens that gives you more options. It might not provide you with the sharpest photos for portrait photography, but it is more versatile.

You should consider how many subjects will be in your photo as well. A wider lens can capture more people. You need to think of the space you have available. If you are shooting outdoors, you have more options. If you plan to photograph in a studio, you might need a more specialized lens.

The blur around the subject in a portrait is called the bokeh. When you have a larger aperture, you get more bokeh. If this is an important feature to your style, you will want to consider lenses that have a larger aperture. As you gain experience and hone in on your style, you will know exactly what you are looking for in a lens.

Most photographers start with a standard lens, and they add to their collections over time. Once they start specializing in portrait photography, they buy a portrait lens. There are great lenses for portrait photography to suit every style and budget. Continue reading to learn about the best lenses for portrait photography.

Best Lens for Portrait Photography

The 35 mm Lens

The 35 mm lens is very popular for portrait photography. One of the features that people love is that the portrait very closely resembles the way the person looks in real life. It presents a very realistic point of view of the subject. When you use this kind of lens, you can’t change the focal length to focus on the subject. You will need to physically move toward or away from your subject to change the perspective, but this gives you a realistic portrait of the subject.

Another great feature of a 35 mm lens is that it has a large aperture. When you have a large aperture, you are able to get the nice blurry background for your portrait photos. This is what allows the subject to stand out in the photo. You get a lot of bokeh with this kind of lens. You can also take photos in low light conditions without sacrificing shutter speed. The larger aperture allows more light to come into the camera lens, which allows you to use a faster shutter speed. You also have more choices with your ISO. You can keep it low to avoid digital noise, or you can increase it to add grain to your photo. You have a lot of options for creating your sense of style as a photographer.

Here are the top 35mm lenses for portrait photography

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Wide-Angle Lens

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens

Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS Portrait Lens

The 50 mm Lens

The 50 mm lens is one of the most popular because it is the perfect compromise between the 35 mm and the 85 mm lens. It allows you to frame your subject within the background while giving you leeway to work close to the subject. You can photograph half or three-fourths of your subject without much distortion, but if you get closer, you will need to do some post-production editing.

If you have a full frame digital camera, a 50 mm lens allows you to photograph what you see, and it will appear true to reality. You will need to be creative to fit your subject in the frame. The subject matter near the edges can be distorted, so you should keep your subject in the center of the frame. A 50 mm lens is affordable and can produce images that are nearly as good as those that are shot with expensive lenses, so this is a great choice for portrait photography.

In addition, the 50 mm lens is lightweight, small, and easy to carry along with you. The basic 50 mm lens has a wide aperture, which gives you the ability to blur out the background when you shoot portrait photography. They also do well in low light settings. You can be very creative with a 50 mm lens.

Here are the top 50mm portrait lenses

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens

Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS Portrait Lens

The 85 mm Lens: The Classic Portrait Lens

The 85 mm lens is considered to be the classic focal length for portrait photography. Nearly every manufacturer offers this type of lens because it is so popular. This focal length is right in the middle of the 50 mm for close-up shots and the 135 mm, and it is ideal for both full-length and close-up photographs. You can also do headshots or head and shoulders portraits. You do need to keep your subject in the middle of the frame to avoid distortion around the edges, but you can get some very flattering shots.

If you have a wide-open aperture on your 85 mm lens, you get an exaggerated depth of field, as long as you use backlighting for your subject. You do need to stand further away from your subject, which creates a look of pulling the background toward the subject. You actually have a lot of control over how you frame your subjects with the background. This makes for some pretty amazing portrait photographs.

You do need to be aware that an 85 mm lens will take more time to focus when you have the aperture wide-open. It can be hard to shoot in close quarters as well. This lens is good as an additional lens.

Here are the top 85mm portrait lenses

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Medium Telephoto Lens

Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens

Sony SEL85F18 85mm F/1.8-22 Medium-Telephoto Fixed Prime Camera Lens

Primes Above 85 mm: for a Greater Field of View

The 135 mm prime lens is popular among portrait photographers, especially if it has a wide aperture, such as f/1.8 or f/2.0. You can take pictures without getting too close to the subject, and it produces an amazing blur in the background. They produce beautiful full-length shots because it has a narrow field of view and amazing bokeh.

This focal length requires too much distance for a studio setting, but it can produce incredible head and shoulders shots and headshots. You need to be aware that longer lenses do carry some distortion. They can make the face narrow and the nose larger. If you use a 135 mm or a 200 mm lens, you need to be aware of this.

When you use a longer lens for portrait photography, you should be outdoors or in a large venue. You can get some great portraits without having to be too close to the subject. However, these lenses are good as a tool in your camera bag. They give you versatility and allow you to get different kinds of shots. The wide-open lenses have a greater field of view, but it is related to your camera’s sensor.

Here are the top 135mm portrait lenses

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens

Nikon AF FX DC-NIKKOR 135mm f/2D Fixed Lens

Sony FE 135mm F1.8 G Master Telephoto Prime Lens

The 70-200 mm

Many photographers love to have this lens because it covers a range of scenarios. It has a wide aperture and a variety of focal lengths so that you can get different types of shots. The quality of the shots will be good, but not as good as the prime lenses listed above. However, it might make sense to have one versatile lens to start out, and then add to your collection as you move forward

The 70-200 mm lens is great if you have subjects that can’t stay still. This might include animals or children. If you want a full-body portrait with a blurry background, this lens can do that. It also does a great job when you have subjects that are far away and require that extra zoom. You can shoot group photos with this lens as well.

This lens is ideal for people who shoot a lot of action portrait shots or who take photographs with varying distances between them and the subjects. They are also great when you are on a shoot and don’t have room to bring your entire camera bag. This is a lens that most portrait photographers have in their camera bags.

Here are the top 70-200mm portrait lens picks

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Nikkor Zoom Lens

Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS Interchangeable Lens


Having different camera lenses allows you to take a wider range of photographs when you are shooting portraits. If you are just starting out, the 70-200 mm zoom lens is versatile and gives you a lot of options while you are learning. People who shoot in studios normally are sure to have a 50 mm or a 35 mm for that purpose. If you go to weddings or do outdoor shoots, you might want an 85 mm lens.

When you look at the different choices, you need to start with one that will work best for your subjects in your setting. You can add other lenses over time as you learn which ones will help you create the best portrait photography.