The Best Lenses for Portrait Photography

79dad1cc72bbdeb4a5d27419e456c156I’ve talked about it over and over and the Photography Roundtable website and podcast that photography gear is honestly the last thing you need to be worrying about. With that being said, sometimes gear does matter. For example, certain lenses work better with specific photography genres.

Let me say this; if you feel like you have received all of the life possible out of one of your lenses and you are ready to purchase a new one, then by all means do so. However, if you’re buying a lens just because it’s more expensive than the one you currently have, I would suggest to continue working with the one you have. A more expensive lens will do nothing to improve your photos.

However, if you’ve mastered composition and you’re ready to upgrade your lens arsenal, then I have come up with a list of the best lenses for portrait photography. So, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! And in the mean time, feel free to click the links and see if you are going to like the lenses yourself! After all, you’re the one buying!

What You Want in a Portrait Lens

When I first started doing portrait photography shoots, I would show up with one camera and one lens. I could see the concern in the faces of people that paid me, but I knew I could give them great photos.

While my 18-55 lens could do pretty much everything I needed it to do, I had to make a change. Why? A lens that short, even at 55mm, made me get way to close to people’s faces. It made them uncomfortable. That’s why you want a long lens for portraits. Something that won’t make you get into someone’s personal bubble.

You also want to look for a fast lens and a wide aperture. Anything below f/4 will be good, although f/4.5 and f/5.6 can essentially do a good job too, as long as you position your model in front of a background that’s far away.

Other than those two things, you’re pretty much free to browse whichever lens you want to look for! It’s up to you, big spender!

The Best Lenses for Portrait Photography

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 Don’t forget about the telephoto lens either! Telephotos are great for details and should always be in a photographer’s bag. Yes, there is a f/2.8 version of the 70-200, but you will save $1,000 by going with the f/4.

 Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 – This lens will cost you a pretty penny, but if you can afford it, it’s worth it. If you are a wildlife junkie as well as a landscape junkie, or even a portrait shooter, you will benefit from the f/2.8. I think Nikon makes better lenses than Canon so if you are a Nikon user, your 70-200 option is better than a Canon user’s options.

Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Zoom Lens – You want to talk about a beast of a lens? This is it. I’ve talked to the people at Tamron about this lens specifically at photography shows and they’re very proud to show it off, and with good reason. This would be a perfect wildlife and sports photography lens that’s a fraction of the price as a Canon or Nikon lens would be. Here’s the Canon Version and the Nikon Version.

Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 Lens – Holy zoom! This Sigma lens has HUGE zooming capabilities! This lens could be used for every field of photography. If you need a zoom, and you don’t want to pay the big bucks for a name brand lens, this is your option. Here’s the Here’s the Canon Version, here’s the Nikon Version, and here’s the Sony Version

Okay, so I’m really going to contradict myself here because I talked about 55mm being too close to your models earlier, however, the next couple lenses that are 50mm prime lenses are going to be great lenses for close detail shots during shoots.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens – This won’t take long. This lens takes unbelievable detail shots with huge depth of field capabilities. It’s only $125. Every Canon user should have one.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens Much like the Canon version of the 50mm, the Nikon version is cheap and provides a great lens for details with large depth of field. It’s just over $200, so it’s a very accessible and diverse lens.

You now have plenty of lenses to choose from! That’s an extensive list, so be sure to do your research before you spend a handsome sum of moolah. If you want more photography gear recommendations, head over to the Photography Roundtable Recommended Gear Page!


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