Composition Tips with an 85mm Lens for Portraits

Shooting at 85mm is quite popular among portrait photographers due to the perspective it provides, the subject isolation and the beautiful compression. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that using an 85mm lens automatically gives you fabulous results. You’ll still need to take care of the other variables, such as composition, lighting and the subject’s pose. In today’s exciting video, professional portrait photographer Julia Trotti takes you through her workflow as she works with this powerful lens. Watch along and you’ll definitely learn a lot from this video:

For the purpose of the video, Trotti works with the Sony A7III camera and the 85mm f/1.4 GM lens.

The 85mm focal length is particularly preferred when taking headshots. You’ll need to pay attention to the overhead space and the areas where you crop, however. As she explains in the video, you’ll end up getting better results if you maintain more space around the person’s head, just to be safe. And when it comes to cropping, aim for around the shoulder region. This ensures your subject doesn’t come off looking like a floating head.

The lens also shines when taking portraits in landscape mode. Whether shooting a close-up or a full-body portrait, you’ll be amazed by the results. You can emphasize the subject by not including any space over the subject’s head, and by cropping into their hairline instead. You can add some negative space on the sides for breathing room. As for a full-body portrait, you will need to maintain a good distance from your subject. But when you do so, you’ll be able to get some interesting hero shots. Besides the subject, you get to see more of the location; by using a wide aperture, you’ll still be able to make the subject stand out, thanks to the compression and the background blur. This gives a very dreamy look to the photo, which can be difficult to achieve with shorter focal lengths.

If you are struggling to get strong portraits with an 85mm lens, or you’re considering a purchase, be sure to watch the complete video. Trotti’s tips and results will surely inspire you and help you get better.

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