The topic of which lens is best for portrait photography can be a bit overwhelming. If you need to get started with portraiture but don’t know what lens to buy? You’ve come to the right place!
We’ll go over considerations for choosing a lens, then highlight some of the best lenses for portrait photography.
First, what are some things you should consider when buying a camera lens? Well, the focal length of the lens is probably one of the most important factors. If you do not have prior experience, it isn’t easy to know which focal length will work best for different situations.
While this guide is geared more towards newer photographers, some of the recommendations will be useful even for more experienced photographers.
It’s always best to buy a lens with an aperture (f-stop) that will give you the depth of field that you desire.
Depth of field is one of the most important factors when choosing the focal length and what will matter most to your customers (after all, they are paying for your photography). Otherwise, you can risk not giving customers what they want (depth of field).
There is a lot of variety in focal length when it comes to portraits. From wide-angle lenses with shallow depth of field to telephoto lenses with long depth of field.
Regardless of your preference for this type of photography, the best lens to go with will be one that will give you the most control and versatility.
Depending on what type of portrait photography you would like to do, the lens can change how shallow or deep your depth of field will be.
We have previously reviewed the best lenses for landscape photography.
The 5 Best Lenses for Portrait Photography
|Rank||Title||Item Name||Price (from)||Amazon Rating||Amazon |
|1||Overall Best Lens for Portrait Photography||Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art||$949||4.8||For Canon|
|2||Best Portrait Photography Lens for Mirrorless Camera||Sony FE Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm F1.8 ZA||$995||4.7||View on Amazon|
|3||Zoom Lens for Portrait Photography||Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC||$1,299||4.7||For Canon|
|4||Nifty Fifty Lens for Portrait Photography||Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR Lens||$216||4.5||View on Amazon|
|5||Premium Lens for Portrait Photography||Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 II USM||$1,799||4.8||View on Amazon|
- The 5 Best Lenses for Portrait Photography
- Portrait Photography Tips
- Overall Best Lens for Portrait Photography – Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
- Best Portrait Photography Lens for Mirrorless Camera – Sony FE Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens
- Features of the Sony FE Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens
- Zoom Lens for Portrait Photography – Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC Lens
- Nifty Fifty Lens for Portrait Photography – Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR Lens
- Premium Lens for Portrait Photography – Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 II USM Lens
- Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Lens for Portrait Photography
- Final Thoughts on the Best Lens for Portrait Photography
Portrait Photography Tips
Other than the depth of field, what other factors should you consider when choosing the best lens for portrait photography?
Well, even if it is not necessarily part of your job description to do so, you would be wise to learn how to retouch your images. A good investment will be some post-production software.
This will help you learn how to adjust exposure, color temperature, and white balance. Not only that, but retouching allows you more control over your images and creativity.
You can even learn how to add effects to your images. Just make sure that it won’t mess up any photo credits if you are working with the images. Some post-production software makes it easy for you to add a caption to your image.
If you have a good workflow in place, it will help you get better photos from the beginning.
In addition, when you use Photoshop or any other editing software, try and replicate what the final photo will look like before having someone else edit your photos.
You want to know what the final look will be before you start editing. Otherwise, you could end up with a photo that doesn’t work as well.
Overall Best Lens for Portrait Photography – Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
What is the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens?
The Sigma 85mm is a phenomenal portrait lens. It offers a focal length that will work for many photographers interested in portraiture.
It offers a focal length of 85mm (which is considered standard for portraits). This focal length is very versatile. It can go wide-angle with a shallow depth of field, or it can be used for telephoto when you desire a deeper depth of field.
The maximum aperture is f/1.4. It has an impressive 85mm effective focal length and can give you highly sharp and clear images with excellent bokeh and smoothly blurred backgrounds.
Bokeh is when something is in focus, but also when it is not in focus. A great example of this would be a person’s eyes might be out of focus, but their face would be nice and crisp in focus.
The ability to shoot with an f-stop of 1.4 will give you a very shallow depth of field. You can also do some narrow depth of field with this lens and control what is in focus and what isn’t in focus in your images.
Features of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
To get more technical, this lens offers a coverage of 85mm, which will allow you to capture the entire body in most situations when doing portraits.
The focal length is the most important factor when choosing a lens when it comes to portrait photography. This focal length of 85mm gives you wide-angle capabilities for greater versatility with portraiture.
You can also use this focal length for telephoto and get a nice shallow depth of field that will capture the subject with an incredible amount of detail. You can capture people in action using this lens and really bring out their beauty and character.
When it comes to aperture, an f-stop of 1.4 is great for portraiture and general photography. You can get a shallow depth of field or a “bokeh” that will give you that nice blurred background look.
This aperture is also perfect for bright daylight situations, and you don’t have to use a flash during the day.
It even offers a focus ring with a smooth, silent aperture mechanism, making it easy to use and very quiet when focusing on your subject.
This lens provides a silent autofocus motor so that you can take photos without relying on a flash or a noisy shutter. This is especially useful for wedding photographers who want to capture the perfect moment without interrupting the event.
It offers a 1:16 ratio which will open up many opportunities for you as a photographer who shoots portraits. It has an impressive close-focusing ability that will allow you to capture details from different distances.
This can be especially useful when using this lens for product photography as well as other applications.
Why Do I Recommend the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Portrait Photography?
The Sigma 85mm is a great portrait lens and can be used for many things. You can use this lens for fashion photography too.
It offers a versatile focal length that will work for pretty much any type of portraiture you want to do. Even if you do product photography, this lens can be used to create some nice bokeh in the background of your images.
This lens has a very low distortion which is especially important when it comes to portraits. It can really help take your portraits to the next level.
You can manipulate the bokeh to your liking by tweaking your aperture settings. This lens is also very versatile for daylight situations, and you can get some great images with this lens.
If you are looking for a great portrait lens, this one should be at the top of your list. It has many excellent qualities that will make you more productive as a photographer.
Best Portrait Photography Lens for Mirrorless Camera – Sony FE Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens
What is the Sony FE Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens?
The Sony FE Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm F1.8 ZA lens is a mirrorless prime lens for full-frame Sony E-mount cameras, most commonly used by Sony a7, a7S, and a9.
This lens has been praised by consumers and professional photographers alike for its optical performance and is one of the best portrait lenses available on the market today.
This lens has a very fast and silent autofocus motor that professional photographers have praised. It has a quiet operation that allows you to shoot without relying on a flash or a noisy shutter.
We have previously reviewed the best lenses for real estate photography.
Features of the Sony FE Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens
Just like the Sony 85mm f/1.4, this lens also provides a 1:16 ratio, allowing for more creative freedom when it comes to portraiture. It will be able to create stunning blur in the background.
This lens also offers a coverage of 55mm, which will provide you with a wide focal length and still capture the entire body when doing portraits.
It has a constant f/1.8 aperture which is great for low light situations, and this small size makes it very versatile for any product photography or portrait photography you want to do.
This lens has an SWM motor which will allow you to have a silent autofocus operation. You can take photos without having to rely on a noisy shutter or a flash.
The lens is also very compact and lightweight for portraiture, which allows you to take the perfect shot with little noise.
It has a minimum focusing distance of just 11.8 inches, allowing you to get some really nice close-up portraits.
Why Do I Recommend the Sony FE Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens for Portrait Photography?
This lens is great for anyone looking to do portraiture. It offers a wide focal length which will allow you to capture the entire body when doing portraits.
It has tremendous optical performance that makes it easy to use for low light situations, even though it doesn’t sport a fast aperture as some portrait lenses do.
The Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens is an exceptional portrait lens with minimal chromatic aberration, distortion, and vignetting.
While this lens may not sport the best autofocus motor, it is very fast and has a great AF tracking system, making it easy to keep your subjects in focus.
This lens also offers a wide aperture which will allow for excellent bokeh, especially when paired with an APS-C sensor.
For its price point, it has an exceptional optical performance that makes it the best portrait lens for the price that you can get right now.
Zoom Lens for Portrait Photography – Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC Lens
What is the Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC Lens?
The Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC lens is a zoom lens for Nikon, Canon, and Sony mounts with a focal length of 70-200mm.
This focal range will allow you to capture the entire body or just a small portion of it when doing portraiture, and it can also be great for landscape photography.
The lens has been praised by both professional and amateur photographers alike because of its quality. Moreover, it has been said to be one of the best lenses for portrait photography you can get right now.
While this lens has been praised as one of the best zoom lenses for portrait photography, it is also considered one of the best lenses for general photography.
Check out our best lenses for baby photography review if you are interested in baby portrait photography.
Features of the Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC Lens
This lens has a constant f/2.8 aperture, allowing you to take some very nice bokeh photos and scenic photos. You will not have to worry about light loss or losing your subject’s sharpness and focus.
It has an SP (Super Performance) designation, which means that it is one of the best lenses available on the market. It’s the best among Tamron’s “best,” and it will be able to deliver rich color detail, sharpness, and excellent contrast.
The VC (Vibration Compensation) feature allows you to take photos at slower shutter speeds than before. Therefore, you can take sharp photos without having to worry about jitter or shake in your hands.
In addition, it is perfect for shooting in low-light conditions as well. This, in conjunction with its f/2.8 aperture, will allow you to get consistent focus while shooting in low-light situations.
This lens also has a minimum focusing distance of just 4.4 inches, allowing you to get some very close portraits. It also has the FTM (focus-tracking motor) feature. FTM will allow you to shoot without having to worry about noisy autofocus motors or fast shutter speeds.
Why Do I Recommend the Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC Lens for Portrait Photography?
This lens is great for anyone looking to photograph people or objects close by or far away. Whether you are on location or doing studio photography, this lens will provide you with some excellent results.
The Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC lens offers an excellent focal range that will allow you to get close to your subjects while still retaining some background blur.
This lens has a constant f/2.8 aperture which is great for taking sharp photos of your subject in low-light situations or shooting landscapes with the sun at the back.
The Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC lens offers excellent optical performance. Especially when it comes to chromatic aberration and vignetting.
It has an SP designation which means that this lens will deliver rich color detail, sharpness, and excellent contrast.
Moreover, it offers excellent performance when it comes to autofocus. It has an FTM feature that will allow you to shoot without worrying about noisy autofocus systems or fast shutters speeds.
The VC feature will help you take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds as well. The lens is very compact and lightweight, which makes it easy to take with you on your travels.
This lens is perfect for shooting in low-light conditions as well. With its constant f/2.8 aperture, you can take photos without a flash and still get great results.
It is one of the best zoom lenses currently available for portrait photography, whether you are a professional or amateur photographer.
Nifty Fifty Lens for Portrait Photography – Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR Lens
What is the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR Lens?
The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR lens is a perfect example of a nifty fifty. It offers a constant f/1.8 aperture, has an overall length of 5 inches, and weighs 16 ounces without the lens hood attached.
This lens is an excellent choice for those who are looking to capture close-ups of people and objects, as well as distant landscapes and cityscapes.
A fast 50mm lens is the closest you can get to the human eye perspective. Additionally, a 50mm lens with a fast aperture of f/1.8 will allow you to take some very nice portraits as it can handle low-light situations and create beautiful bokeh background effects.
This focal length will allow you to take some very nice bokeh photos and better portraits using a wide aperture.
It also provides you with an extremely sharp photo if the light is good and images that are tack-sharp in low lighting conditions.
Features of the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR Lens
This lens has a constant f/1.8 aperture, allowing you to take some very nice bokeh photos and scenic photos. You will not have to worry about light loss or losing your subject’s sharpness and focus.
It has an AF-S (Silent Wave Motor) designation, which means that it is one of the fastest autofocus lenses currently for sale for Nikon cameras.
In addition, it has an optical construction that uses seven lens elements in six groups, thus providing you with better overall contrast and sharpness than most other lenses on the market.
Other features that make this lens great for portraiture include its NIKKOR coating that will help reduce flare and ghosting and its fast f/1.8 aperture.
This lens is also very lightweight and compact. It is perfect for travel, as you can carry it around with ease. You can also use this lens for everyday shooting as well.
Why Do I Recommend the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR Lens for Portrait Photography?
This lens is perfect for anyone who is looking to take some very nice portraits, whether they are close to the subject or far away from them. It will provide you with excellent sharpness and great bokeh background effects, as well as a fast f/1.8 constant aperture.
It is also perfect for landscape photography and any type of photography where you would have to have a fast aperture.
It has a very fast f/1.8 constant aperture, allowing you to take some nice bokeh photos and have an overall sharpness that is superior compared to most other lenses currently on the market.
It also has a very wide focal length range, 140-600mm when it is used with Nikon’s DX-format cameras.
This makes it great for shooting in low-light situations or even for capturing scenic photos or landscapes.
The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR lens is very affordable, so it won’t break the bank.
It is also very compact and lightweight, making it easy to carry around with you wherever you go.
It has an autofocus system that is very fast and quite accurate, so you will not be disappointed by its performance.
Premium Lens for Portrait Photography – Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 II USM Lens
What is the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 II USM Lens?
The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 II USM lens has an overall length of 4.75 inches and weighs only 3.8 ounces with the lens hood attached.
This Canon lens is an excellent choice for those looking for a fast 35mm f/1.4 portrait prime lens on their Canon full-frame cameras.
A 35mm focal length with an f/1.4 aperture will allow you to take some very nice photos that are both sharp and have rich color detail, as well as take some extremely nice bokeh photos.
It also has an excellent autofocus system which will allow you to capture fast-moving subjects easily. This lens is perfect if you are looking to purchase a lens for everyday use and portraits and other types of photography.
Features of the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 II USM Lens
Check out our best lenses for night photography review.
It offers excellent optical performance as it has a wide f/1.4 aperture, one UD element, and two aspherical elements.
The EF 35mm f/1.4II USM lens will provide you with exceptional sharpness and color rendition and is an excellent choice for portraiture.
It is a great choice for taking portraits of people close to you or those farther away.
This lens has a great autofocus system that will allow you to take photos when the light is not good and when there are fast-moving subjects in your frame.
One of the best aspects of the EF 35mm f/1.4 II USM lens is that it is very lightweight and compact. It weighs less than one pound and does not have a large footprint. Therefore, it will easily fit in your camera bag.
Why Do I Recommend the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 II USM Lens for Portrait Photography?
The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 II USM lens is an excellent choice for taking portraits when using a full-frame Canon camera.
This particular lens will offer you excellent sharpness and contrast in your photos. It also has two aspherical elements and one UD element, which means that it’s built to reduce chromatic aberrations and distortions and provide you with better overall color accuracy.
It also has an f/1.4 aperture, which will allow you to take some excellent photos in low-light conditions and achieve some nice background blur in your photos that can take advantage of this lens’ wide f/1.4 aperture.
This lens also has an extremely fast autofocus system, which allows you to take photos when the light isn’t excellent or when your subject is moving quickly.
Moreover, it is lightweight and compact, making it very easy to carry with you when you are out exploring or traveling.
This lens is the perfect choice for photographers looking to take some nice portraits with their Canon DSLR.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Lens for Portrait Photography
What is Bokeh?
Bokeh is the crispness of the out-of-focus portion of your photo. A photographer can want to use bokeh at wide apertures such as f/1.4 and f/1.8.
These provide more light and create a nice circle of soft light at the out-of-focus point that acts as if it were coming from a very small subject, providing an attractive background to your subject.
Bokeh is determined by the aperture of your lens, your distance to the subject, and the background surroundings.
Which aperture is best for portraits?
Aperture is the size of the opening at the front of an optical system. The f-stop setting on your lens determines how much light comes through the camera lens, thus determining how bright your photo will be.
For portraits, you will want to use your widest aperture possible while still allowing you to focus properly.
When shooting portrait photos, you will need to do it at f/1.8 or f/2 so that your subject stands out clearly in the background and you get good bokeh.
If you want to take a blurred image of a subject, you will use a lower aperture setting.
Regardless, shooting at f/1.2 or f/1.4 will produce excellent results.
What is the best shutter speed for outdoor portraits?
When taking portraits outside, you will want to set your shutter speed between 1/200 and 1/1000 of a second.
This will provide the right amount of light for the subject to be properly exposed while also allowing you to freeze any movement in your photo so that it is crisp.
Using a slow shutter speed could cause problems with camera shake since your hand may not be steady enough for the longer exposure time. This can lead to blurry photos.
Using a slow shutter speed can overexpose your photo, causing blown-out images that have no detail in them. If you use a fast shutter speed, it may not capture any movement in the photo, which can lead to a very still image with no motion.
What is the best way to take outdoor portraits?
When taking outdoor portraits, it is best to use nothing but natural light.
It is great to find a spot with natural light coming through trees or bushes, but it is even better to be outside when the sun is shining brightly.
Often, an outdoor portrait will include a bright sky with clouds or blue sky color that surrounds the sun. This helps provide good contrast in your photo between the subject and the background.
When you use natural light, your light source is coming from behind the subject and around the subject’s edges.
The harsher light will create a much more dramatic portrait. Feel free to experiment with various lighting situations to find which one works best for you.
Why Diversify Your Photography Gear?
When you first begin to explore your photography, spending all of your money on the first photography equipment you purchase can be very easy.
However, as you continue to explore more of what this hobby has to offer, choosing the right gear for your specific shooting style will allow you to expand into more types of photography.
This is why purchasing a “diversifying” lens is extremely important if starting your photography journey.
Final Thoughts on the Best Lens for Portrait Photography
There are a lot of photographers out there that love taking portraits. The important thing to remember is that you have to have the right gear for your particular situation.
You may find yourself needing a more telephoto lens for sporting events, getting a wide-angle lens for landscapes, or investing in a lens with a very high f-stop if you love to take low-light shots.
Ultimately, buying the best lens for portrait photography means you are investing in your photography gear to have the best possible photos every time you are out shooting.
Take care to read more on what your next lens should be, so you can start taking better photos of the people that mean the most to you.
When you are first starting, it can be tempting to buy cheap equipment so that you won’t have to invest too much if it isn’t something that works for you.
This is why I have provided some great recommendations on what lenses are best for different types of portrait photography.
I hope you will be able to find the exact lens that works for your shooting style so you can start getting more fun photos taken with your DSLR or mirrorless camera.
If you have any questions about the best camera lens for portrait photography. Please use the comment form below to ask me any questions that you may have!
I always appreciate feedback from my readers.
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