Which Lens is Best for Portrait Photography?

What’s the best lens for portrait photography? The answer depends entirely on what you’re trying to accomplish with your shot. As Mango Street Lab demonstrates, each lens has its own set of admirable merits. Rather than trying to determine a clear cut winner among the crowd, we’ll be examining how a variety of different lenses take on the task of creating a portrait:

24mm f/1.4

A 24mm lens may not seem like the most obvious candidate for a portrait photography shoot. However, if you’re careful about avoiding distortion, the wide field of range offers some wiggle room for creativity within the composition. Combined with the fact that it’s capable of letting in a lot of light, this wide-angle lens is a more viable option for portraits than most give it credit for.

35mm f/1.4

The 35mm fixed lens offers a lot of the same benefits featured in the 24mm. However, it has a distinct advantage of not distorting nearby subject quite so severely. Because of its versatility, this piece of glass is an easy go-to for environmental portraits.

50mm f/1.2

A favorite of many portrait photographers, a 50mm lens is a great all-purpose option. It can accomplish a lot as it lies between wide-angle options and longer, tighter lenses. On the other hand, it doesn’t go too extreme in any direction, which is a detriment for some. That being said, the lens featured in this particular tutorial has a wide aperture of f/1.2. The capability to produce rich bokeh adds some degree of visual interest that most lenses cannot replicate.

85mm f/1.4

Sometimes, you’re forced to work in situations where your surroundings are just plain ugly. An 85mm lens is perfect when you find yourself needing to throw some undesirable details out of focus. Because the frame an 85mm provides is tighter and more compressed, it’s easier to create a greater degree of separation between a subject and background.

100mm  f/2.8

Macro lenses aren’t usually taken into consideration when shooting portraits. However, sometimes stellar results come from unexpected places. The 100mm has a lot of the same things going for it as the 85mm, making for nice, tight portraits that really hone in on subjects.

135mm f/2

Let’s be clear: it’s not that you can’t get a great portrait with this particular lens. However, this piece of equipment involves the photographer having to stand physically farther away from subjects. Though there’s a lot to love about longer lenses, it’s important to keep in mind that too long a lens can create an awkward barrier between you and whoever you happen to be photographing.

24–70mm f/2.8

It’s easy to fall in love with a versatile lens like the 24–70mm. Because of its wide range, it has the ability to fit into just about any box you may need. If you’re limited on how much equipment you’re able to bring to a set or photoshoot, having a high-quality zoom lens on hand should be one of your top priorities.

70–200mm f/4

Like the aforementioned 24–70mm, the 70–200mm lens has an advantage over others in its range. In particular, its ability to compress can come in handy when you’d like to bring a far-off object closer to the forefront of your image.

Before signing off, Rachel says:

“We don’t want to tell you what lens is best for portraits…we just wanted to give you examples of what each lens looks like and then let you make your own decisions.”

All of us have our own unique taste and style, which makes choosing a “best” option out of context difficult. So, the best thing you can do is experiment. Study the impact different pieces of equipment have on your photographs. You’ll get one step closer to finding a favorite of your own!

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