Portrait Photography Tips Using a Prime Lens

portrait photography with prime lens

“leopard eyes” captured by Philippe Roy (Click Image to See More From Philippe Roy)

The Power Of Prime Lenses

A huge range of focal lengths in a single optic are made available with modern zooms. Companies or people who design lenses work with a single focal length. Hence, chromatic aberration or distortion is minimized.

However, designing zoom lenses can mean that compromises are often times necessary. This means that prime lenses usually give much better results to the similar focal length on a zoom.

Important Techniques

A) Lighting Conditions

I normally set my camera to Aperture priority when photographing outdoor portraits. This happens a lot provided the lighting condition is good.

I would also have the aperture set to two stop down from wide open as this results in a more shallow depth of field.

There at times when the lighting conditions aren’t too good.During these times, I’d shoot one stop down from the widest aperture available.

Otherwise, I may shoot wide open if I am positive that the lens works very well.

B) Focus on the Eyes

Another very helpful tip to taking stunning portrait photographs is to focus on your subject’s eyes. I normally choose a focus point that’s on the top of the frame, either the left or right one. After that, I would lock focus and then recompose. Finally, I’d make the shot.

Here’s something to bear in mind; be extremely careful and do it right when you focus on your subject’s eyes. It is very common that photographers accidentally focus on the subject’s eyebrows rather than his/ her eyes.

prime lens for portraits

Photo captured by Sean Nel (Click Image to See More From Sean Nel)

The Disadvantages of Using A Prime Lens

The main disadvantage that photographers encounter when photographing portraits with prime lenses is the lack of flexibility as you cannot move with your camera.

A very good example is when a photographer is shooting models on the runway during a fashion show. At a very limited time, the photographer has to shoot images of complete and three-quarter length shots.

Also, photographers will have to shoot tighter portraits of every model. This is hard to do with a prime lens.

Get Close And Shoot Quickly!

Do you want to know what the two most important factors are to me when it comes to portrait photography? The first important tip is to not be shy and get close to your subjects. Second, make sure that you shoot quickly.

close portrait photo

Photo captured by Henk-Jan Wesselink (Click Image to See More From Henk-Jan Wesselink)

Whenever your subjects notice you approaching them to take a shot, they’ll look at the camera. This creates a sort of interaction that involves eye contact when your subjects look into the camera. Hence, never be afraid of getting near your subjects to photograph them.

About the Author:
This article was written by Michelle Lee Fui Jinn, tipsforphotographers dot com. It takes time to practice and improve your photography skills.

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4 responses to “Portrait Photography Tips Using a Prime Lens”

  1. Dennis Rito says:

    You might want to take a look at my project shot entirely with Nikon 50mm f1.8 – http://dennisrito.com/projects/unlimitxt/

  2. Absolutely true. Prime lenses, where applicable, as you’ve stated, can be incredibly affordable, like $100 for a bright, sharp 50mm, and at that focal length can produce images equivalent in quality to the pro-glass zooms costing $2000.
    Adrien Bisson

  3. Hi

    Excellent article on the merits of using a Prime lens for portraits! I love to use my 100mm prime for my portrait and studio work. It makes me move around looking for the best composition, unlike using a 70-200mm zoom which tends to anchor me in place. Here are a couple of examples:

    Sadness: http://t.co/w5XEULO

    Surprise!: http://t.co/FdKVCiV

    Piercing Blue, Trash the Dress: http://t.co/vu10c5e

    Regards, Erik
    Kerstenbeck Photographic Art

  4. Undine says:

    I use the Nikon 85 mm, f 1.8 for my portaits shots and love the outcome!

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