Choosing the Best Lenses for Portrait Photography

November 22, 2023

Portrait photography is an art form that captures the essence of a person’s character, emotions, and unique features. Choosing the right lens is crucial to achieving exceptional results in this genre. In this article, we’ll explore the best lenses for portrait photography and discuss the factors to consider when making your selection.

Best Lenses For Portrait Photography

Prime Lenses: The Magic of Bokeh

Prime lenses, such as 50mm, 85mm, and 135mm, are revered in the world of portrait photography for their wide apertures and stunning ability to create a shallow depth of field. The wide aperture, often around f/1.4 to f/1.8, allows for a beautifully blurred background, also known as bokeh, which isolates the subject and makes it pop. The 50mm is an excellent choice for beginners, while the 85mm and 135mm lenses offer even more pronounced bokeh, ideal for professional portrait work.

85mm f/1.4: The Portrait Photographer’s Workhorse

The 85mm f/1.4 lens is often considered the quintessential portrait lens. It strikes a balance between background blur and natural perspective, making it a favorite among photographers. This lens is incredibly versatile, whether you’re shooting headshots, full-body portraits, or candid moments at a wedding. It excels at capturing a subject’s character and emotions.


105mm and 135mm: For Compressed and Flattering Portraits

The 105mm and 135mm lenses are known for their flattering compression, which minimizes distortion and produces elegant, flattering portraits. These lenses are perfect for capturing headshots and upper-body portraits. The 135mm, in particular, offers a striking bokeh and is often favored for its ability to create truly stunning and ethereal images.

Zoom Lenses with Wide Apertures

While prime lenses are highly regarded for portrait work, some zoom lenses with wide apertures, such as the 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8, offer fantastic versatility. These lenses allow photographers to adapt to various situations, making them a great choice for event and wedding photography, where you may need to switch between different focal lengths quickly.

Consider the Lens Compression Effect

The choice of focal length can significantly impact the visual characteristics of your portrait. Wider focal lengths (35mm, 50mm) tend to produce more natural and context-rich images, while longer focal lengths (85mm, 135mm) offer flattering compression and beautiful background blur. Be mindful of the story you want to tell with your portrait and choose your lens accordingly.

Quality Glass Matters

Investing in high-quality lenses is essential for achieving the best results in portrait photography. Lenses with superior optics, sharpness, and minimal distortion will make your subjects shine. Consider lenses from reputable manufacturers known for their optical excellence.

Choosing the right lens for portrait photography is a critical decision that can make or break your results. Whether you opt for prime lenses with wide apertures to create stunning bokeh or zoom lenses with versatility, the key is to understand the characteristics of each lens and how they impact the portraits you want to create. Ultimately, the best lens for portrait photography is one that aligns with your style, vision, and the story you aim to tell through your images. So, experiment, practice, and enjoy the process of capturing the essence of the people you photograph.