As a small business owner, freelance photographer, or budding entrepreneur in the field of photography, it’s imperative to get the right tools for your trade. Choosing a suitable portrait lens is an essential step in that direction, as the quality of your photography work can significantly enhance your reputation and, eventually, your bottom line.
This comprehensive guide will help you understand the different types of portrait lenses and the factors you should consider while choosing the one that best fits your needs.
What Are Portrait Lenses?
A portrait lens is a specialized tool designed to capture stunning, intimate images of people. These lenses, often used by professional portrait photographers, offer a focal length and maximum aperture that provides a flattering perspective and an appealing shallow depth of field. The focal length refers to the distance between the lens and the image sensor when the subject is focused. Usually, portrait lenses come in the form of prime lenses, which have a fixed focal length, or zoom lenses, which offer a range of focal lengths.
The advantage of a prime lens, like the 85mm f/1.8, is its wide maximum aperture that allows you to create images with a shallow depth of field, putting the subject in sharp focus while blurring the background. Prime lenses also often produce sharper images and perform better in low-light situations than zoom lenses.
Zoom lenses, on the other hand, are incredibly versatile. They provide various focal lengths allowing you to quickly adjust your composition without physically moving closer or further from your subject. One common zoom lens for portraits is the 70-200mm f/2.8. It provides longer focal lengths, ideal for compressing facial features and isolating the subject from the background.
Mirrorless Camera Lens
Whether you’re using a digital SLR or mirrorless camera, a good portrait lens is indispensable. Mirrorless cameras, a newer technology, are becoming increasingly popular due to their compact size, lighter weight, and superb image quality. Brands like Canon, Nikon, and Sony produce excellent mirrorless cameras, each with their respective range of compatible lenses.
Canon Portrait Lenses VS Nikon Portrait Lenses For Portrait Photography
Canon and Nikon are two giants of the photography world. Both companies offer an impressive lineup of lenses for portrait photography. It’s common to see debates about Canon lenses versus Nikon lenses among portrait photographers. In reality, both brands have their strengths and unique features.
Small Business Deals
Canon’s portrait lenses, such as the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens and Canon RF 85mm, are known for their high optical quality, solid build, and fast autofocusing system. The EF 85mm f/1.8 USM is an excellent lens for portraits, featuring a wide aperture for low light photography and a shallow depth of field. On the other hand, the RF 85mm is designed for Canon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras and provides even better image quality and performance.
Nikon also offers some of the best lenses for portraits. For instance, Nikon lenses like the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G are renowned for their sharpness, bokeh, and overall image quality. They also come with features such as weather sealing and nano crystal coating to reduce flares and ghosting.
The choice between Canon and Nikon often boils down to personal preference, the camera body you have, and the specific features you prioritize. Both brands provide excellent quality lenses that can help you create stunning portrait photography.
Knowing Your Portrait Lens and its Unique Strengths
Understanding the features and strengths of your portrait lens can significantly enhance the quality of your photos and differentiate your photography business. Consider the following:
- Focal length: For portrait photography, lenses with a focal length between 50mm and 200mm are usually preferred. A 50mm lens provides a natural-looking perspective, while lenses with longer focal lengths, such as 85mm or 135mm, can create a flattering compression effect on your subject’s face.
- Aperture: A wide aperture (low f-number) allows more light to reach the camera sensor, enabling you to shoot in low light conditions. It also helps in creating a shallow depth of field for dreamy, blurred backgrounds, highlighting your subject.
- Image stabilization: This feature is crucial if you’re shooting handheld. It can help prevent camera shake, ensuring sharper images.
- Image Quality: Look for a lens that provides sharp, high-quality images. Reviews and sample images can be helpful in judging a lens’s image quality.
- Budget: Your budget will play a significant role in the lens you choose. Remember, while high-end lenses often provide better quality and performance, there are also many affordable lenses that offer great value for money.
Product Recommendations: Top Portrait Lenses for Small Photography Businesses
Finding the right portrait lens is no small feat. As you’ve read, there are several factors to consider in order to find the best portrait lens for your needs. Below are our top 3 picks and 10 more great portrait lens options we found on Amazon. Check out our selections and you just may come across the best portrait lens for you!
|Top Pick: Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras||Runner Up: Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras||Best Value: BALITY APS C Z Mount Sensitive 56mm F1.4 Portrait Lens|
|Lens Mount||Canon EF||Nikon F||Z Mount|
|Auto Focus||Ring-type ultra-sonic monitor (USM)||AF-P (Pulse motor) technology||Silent motor|
|Vibration Reduction||Not Specified||Yes||Not Specified|
|Special Features||Beautiful background blur, Compact size and weight||Versatile zoom range, Vibration Reduction (VR) technology||Large aperture for soft blur effect, Eye-controlled focusing|
|Compatible Cameras||Canon SLR Cameras||Nikon DSLR Cameras (D7500, D5600, D5500, D5300, D3400, D3300, D500, D850 etc.)||Z Mount Cameras (ZFC Z5 Z50 Z6 Z7 Z6II Z7II)|
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Top Pick: The Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Medium Telephoto Lens is a top-rated option for Canon SLR camera users. It’s known for its superior performance and quality, providing a versatile range of applications that photographers appreciate. This lens is designed for Canon EF mounts.
- 85mm standard lens with f/1.8 maximum aperture: This Canon lens offers a standard focal length with a large aperture, ideal for creating defocused backgrounds and delivering sharp, high-contrast images even at maximum aperture.
- Ring-type ultra-sonic monitor (USM) drives rapid auto focusing with near-silent operation. It’s excellent for quickly bringing the subject into focus.
- Natural angle of view and perspective: The lens offers a natural angle of view and perspective that’s perfect for portraits and natural images. This makes the lens an ideal choice for photographers specializing in portraiture or those seeking a high-quality natural-looking telephoto lens.
- Beautiful background blur: The lens’s wide aperture can create a background blur (bokeh), making your subject stand out against a soft, out-of-focus background.
- Compact size and weight: Measuring just 3 inches in diameter and 2.8 inches long, and weighing 15 ounces, this lens is easy to carry and handle.
Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Runner Up: The Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR is a versatile standard zoom lens designed for Nikon DSLR cameras with the F mount. It is compact, lightweight, and ideal for everyday photography, including landscape, portrait, and travel photography.
- Focal Length: This lens offers a focal length range from 18mm to 55mm, which makes it versatile and suitable for a variety of shooting scenarios.
- Aperture: The maximum aperture varies from f/3.5 at the wide end to f/5.6 at the telephoto end. This is useful for managing depth of field and shooting in various lighting conditions.
- Vibration Reduction (VR): The lens comes with Nikon’s Vibration Reduction technology, which helps reduce the effect of camera shake and blur, especially in low-light conditions or when using slower shutter speeds.
- AF-P: This lens features Nikon’s AF-P (Pulse motor) technology, which offers fast, quiet, and smooth autofocus operation, which is particularly beneficial when recording video.
- The lens is fully compatible with a range of Nikon DSLR cameras, including the D7500, D5600, D5500, D5300, D3400, D3300, D500, D850. Some models like the Df, D5, D810, D750, D7200, D7100 will have limited functions.
BALITY APS C Z Mount Sensitive 56mm F1.4 Portrait Lens
Best Value: The BALITY 56mm F1.4 is an auto focus portrait lens specially designed for Z mount cameras. With a large F1.4 aperture, it provides natural and soft background blur effects, making it a perfect choice for portrait, wedding, landscape, travel, street, and night photography without breaking the bank.
- Designed for Z mount cameras including ZFC Z5 Z50 Z6 Z7 Z6II Z7II. It supports eye-controlled focusing and tracking the subject, automatic aperture, A mode, S mode and EXIF information recording.
- Large F1.4 aperture, which allows more light to pass through and offers greater control over the depth of field, enabling a soft blur effect in the background.
- Precise brass mount and a silent motor for sensitive and precise focusing.
- The lens comes with a hood that can be reversed on the lens when not in use. This design not only makes it easy to store but also helps protect the lens and block stray or scattered light.
- 10 optical structures in 9 groups, including 1 ED (Extra-low Dispersion) lens and 1 high refractive lens.
Panasonic LUMIX G Lens for Micro Four Thirds Cameras
Transform your mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera with the Panasonic LUMIX G Lens. Designed with a 42.5mm focal length and a large F1.7 aperture, this lens is a solid choice for both professionals and newbies seeking a versatile addition to their photography equipment. The innovative features of this lens that promise to enhance your shooting experience.
- F1.7 Large Diameter and Mid-Telephoto 85mm focal length offering a versatile field of view perfect for a variety of scenes.
- 31cm Closest Focusing Distance allows you to capture stunning close-ups with clarity.
- POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) ensures steady and sharp images, even at slower shutter speeds.
- 240fps Drive AF ensures rapid autofocus, capturing fleeting moments with precision.
- Large F1.7 aperture perfect for low-light photography, capturing bright and clear images.
- 10 elements in 8 groups including 1 aspherical lens for superior image quality.
- Maximum Magnification of approximately 0.2x/0.4x (35mm camera equivalent), providing ample scope for detail-oriented work.
Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN for EF-M Mount
Experience top-tier camera optics with the Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN Lens. Crafted for EF-M Mount cameras, this lens offers exceptional image quality that’s a preferred choice amongst SLR camera enthusiasts. It offers a robust build quality alongside enhanced capabilities to ensure your photography stands out.
- Stepper motor technology that ensures smooth, quiet, and progressive autofocus for precise imaging.
- Dust and water-resistant construction for reliable usage in various weather conditions.
- Large lens hood included as standard, designed to reduce side flares, improving overall image clarity.
- Flare and ghost images reduction design ensures maximum image quality by minimizing unwanted light artifacts.
- Standard 56mm focal length is versatile for a wide range of photographic styles and situations.
- Made in Japan – guaranteeing incredible craftsmanship and quality.
Sony – E 50mm F1.8 OSS Portrait Lens
Capture breathtaking portraits with the Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS Portrait Lens. Designed for Sony E (NEX) compatible mountings, this lens features a sleek black finish and an elegant aluminum alloy exterior. As a mid-range telephoto prime lens, it’s lightweight and compact, making it an ideal addition to your camera gear.
- Built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilization helps capture sharp images, minimizing blur caused by camera shake.
- 7-blade circular aperture creates defocus effects, enhancing the subject by blurring the background.
- Large F1.8 maximum aperture allows for exceptional performance in low-light conditions.
- 50mm focal length is ideal for a range of photography styles, including portrait, landscape, and more.
- Minimum focus distance of 1.28 ft (0.39 m) and a maximum magnification ratio of 0.16x, allowing for detailed close-ups.
- 49mm filter diameter is compatible with a range of accessories.
- Included Lens hood (ALC-SH116), Lens front cap, Lens rear cap for maximum protection.
Lightdow 85mm F1.8 Manual Focus Full Frame Portrait Lens for Nikon
The Lightdow 85mm F1.8 medium telephoto lens is designed for Nikon DSLR cameras and is a full-frame portrait lens. It offers a unique blend of precision, versatility, and affordability. This lens is entirely manual and requires knowledge of manual focus operation, offering a unique opportunity to experiment and create beautiful portraits with remarkable depth.
- Manual focus operation: This lens requires full manual focus operation on the DSLR camera. It’s an ideal choice for photographers with excellent experience in equipment management.
- Compatible with various Nikon DSLRs: The lens is designed for an extensive range of Nikon DSLR cameras
- 8-piece circular aperture: Enjoy a smooth and large focus range, ideal for capturing stunning portraits and landscapes
- Hybrid aspherical lenses and ultra multi-coating: These features contribute to a better image quality by reducing aberrations and improving light transmission.
- Large aperture: The lens’s large aperture helps in creating shallow depth of field images with an attractive bokeh effect.
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF
Designed for Canon EF mountings, this lens redefines what a telephoto lens can achieve, with extraordinary sharpness, clarity, and contrast. With impressive features like an f 1.4 aperture and a redesigned hypersonic motor, you can use this lens for portraits and more.
- Newly designed Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) for swift autofocus control, providing 1.3 times better torque than its predecessor for improved precision.
- F1.4 aperture delivers exceptional low-light performance and depth-of-field control, allowing for beautiful bokeh effects.
- 9 aperture blades
- Compatible with the Mount Converter MC-11, this lens can be adapted for use with Sony E-mount systems, extending its versatility.
- 14 lens elements built in 12 groups for ultra-high resolution
VILTROX 56mm F1.4 f/1.4 XF Autofocus APS-C Portrait Lens for Fujifilm X-Mount
This compact 85mm-equivalent prime lens, designed for Fujifilm X-mount mirrorless cameras, offers a perfect blend of precision and performance. Whether you’re working in challenging lighting conditions or striving to achieve notable depth of field control, this lens offers an edge that professional and hobbyist photographers will appreciate.
Key features of the Viltrox 56mm F1.4 XF Autofocus Lens include:
- Compact and efficient design compatible with Fujifilm X-mount mirrorless cameras for an optimized photography experience.
- Short telephoto focal length paired with a bright f/1.4 maximum aperture for outstanding control over depth of field and exceptional performance in low-light situations.
- High-quality optical design featuring extra-low dispersion and high refractive index elements to minimize aberrations, distortion, and to ensure high clarity, color accuracy, and sharpness.
- STM stepping motor integrated into the lens design for fast, near-silent, and precise autofocus performance along with full-time manual focus override.
- Internal focusing design that contributes to speedy performance.
- Micro-USB port for firmware updates that ensures your lens continues to deliver optimal performance.
NIKON NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S Portrait Fast Prime Lens for Nikon Z Cameras
Enhance your mirrorless Nikon Z camera with the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S Portrait Fast Prime Lens, renowned for its superb performance and high ratings. This Nikon lens is specifically designed to deliver stunning portrait images.
- 85mm f/1.8 lens with a nine-blade diaphragm for soft, rounded bokeh, enhancing the focus on your subject against a beautifully blurred background.
- Two ED glass elements and Nano Crystal coating ensuring lifelike accuracy and reducing lens flare and ghosting.
- Dust and drip-resistant design offering extensive sealing to keep out dust and moisture, making it ideal for outdoor and challenging conditions.
- Customizable control ring allowing for on-the-fly adjustments to camera settings.
Fujifilm Lens XF35mmF1.4 R
Whether you’re an experienced professional or an aspiring beginner, the Fujifilm XF35mmF1.4 R Lens promises to elevate your photographic skills. This lens is designed for the X-mount mirrorless camera system.
- 35mm focal length (53mm equivalent in 35mm format) that provides a “normal” angle of view, perfect for a variety of photographic genres.
- Constructed with 8 elements in 6 groups including 1 Aspherical Element, ensuring top-notch image quality.
- 44.2-degree angle of view for capturing broad landscapes and tight interior shots with equal ease.
- 7-blade rounded diaphragm opening for creating beautiful bokeh effects in your images.
- 52mm filter size – compatible with a wide range of filters to further enhance your photography.
- Focus range of normal 0.8m to infinity and Macro 28cm to 2.0m, offering versatility for close-up and distant subjects.
- Maximum magnification of 0.17x, making it suitable for capturing detailed close-ups.
Tamron 70-300mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III RXD for Sony Full Frame Mirrorless Camera/APS-C E-Mount
The Tamron 70-300mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III RXD is a telephoto lens compatible with Sony E mount full-frame mirrorless cameras. It also works well with APS-C models. This lens offers superior performance and versatility, and it’s designed to be lightweight for enhanced portability.
- Supreme lightweight portability: This lens is engineered to be extremely lightweight, making telephoto shooting a fun and stress-free experience. It’s a good choice for photographers who need to carry their gear for extended periods.
- Lens structure comprises 15 elements in 10 groups, designed to deliver high-quality images with excellent detail and contrast.
- Close focusing distance of 31.5″ at the wide end and 59.1″ at the tele end
- Maximum magnification ratio of 1:9.4 at the wide-angle end and 1:5.1 at the telephoto end.
- Moisture-Resistant Construction offering some degree of protection against the elements. This makes it suitable for shooting in a variety of outdoor conditions.
- Focal length: The lens offers a versatile focal length of 70-300mm, making it suitable for portrait photography, as well as a variety of shooting scenarios, including landscape, wildlife, and sports.
Meike 85mm f1.8 Wide Aperture Full Frame Auto Focus Telephoto Lens
Discover the versatile Meike 85mm f1.8 Wide Aperture Full Frame Auto Focus Telephoto Lens, designed for Nikon F mount DSLR cameras. This lens is also compatible with a range of Nikon APS-C Cameras. Enjoy a dynamic photography experience, capturing stunning portraits, landscapes, architecture, and more, with this top-rated lens.
- Compatibility with Nikon F mount full frame mirrorless cameras and DSLRs, ensuring a perfect fit for your Nikon equipment.
- Classic 85mm portrait lens with a wide f/1.8 aperture, enabling beautiful photos with a smooth background blur effect, even in low-light conditions.
- Wide application range from selective architecture, landscapes, portrait, to short-range sports and theatre photography.
- Auto focus lens and automatic aperture offering ease of use and exceptional performance.
- Lens structure comprising 6 groups and 11 elements, designed for delivering sharp and detailed images.
- USB connection for firmware updates to keep your lens operating at its peak performance.
Choosing the Right Lens for the Right Situation
As a small business owner or freelancer, you need to be prepared for various photography scenarios. For formal portraits or studio shoots, a prime lens with a focal length of 85mm or more is ideal. These lenses typically offer excellent sharpness and detail. For more casual or environmental portraits where you want to include some background context, a 35mm or 50mm lens may be more suitable.
Maximizing the Potential of Your Lens
Don’t forget to push your lens to its limits and explore its full potential. Experiment with different aperture settings, focus techniques, and distances from your subject. Always remember that the best way to understand your lens is by practicing and reviewing your results critically.
By knowing your lens’s unique strengths and how to choose the right lens for the right situation, you can create stunning portraits that can impress your clients and enhance your reputation as a skilled photographer.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a prime lens, and why is it often recommended for portrait photography?
A prime lens is a type of lens that has a fixed focal length. In other words, unlike a zoom lens, a prime lens doesn’t allow you to zoom in or out to change your framing; to get closer or farther from your subject, you have to physically move. So why would anyone prefer this over the versatility of a zoom lens? The answer lies in the image quality and aperture size. Prime lenses often offer superior image sharpness and a larger maximum aperture (lower f-number) compared to zoom lenses. This larger aperture allows more light to reach the sensor, which not only helps in low light conditions but also provides a shallower depth of field. A shallow depth of field is desirable in portrait photography because it keeps the subject in sharp focus while blurring the background, helping the subject stand out.
What’s the difference between a full-frame camera and a crop sensor, and how does it affect the choice of portrait lens?
A full-frame camera has a sensor that’s roughly the same size as a 35mm film frame, whereas a crop sensor is smaller. The main impact of this difference is the ‘crop factor’ which affects the effective focal length of lenses. For instance, a 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera with a crop factor of 1.5x will have an effective focal length of 75mm. Therefore, when choosing a lens for a crop sensor camera, you need to account for the crop factor. If you want the equivalent field of view to an 85mm lens on a full-frame camera, for instance, you’d need a shorter focal length on a crop sensor camera. The sensor size can also impact the depth of field and low light performance, with full-frame cameras generally performing better in these aspects.
How does focal length affect a portrait?
Focal length can significantly impact how a portrait looks. Shorter focal lengths (wide-angle lenses) can distort facial features when used close up, making them less desirable for close-up portraits. However, they can be good for environmental portraits where you want to include more of the scene around the subject. Longer focal lengths (telephoto lenses) can compress facial features and provide a more flattering perspective. They also help to isolate the subject from the background, which is often desirable in portrait photography.
What features should I look for in a portrait lens?
The main features to look for in a portrait lens are the focal length, maximum aperture, image quality, and the lens’s compatibility with your camera. A focal length of 50mm to 135mm is generally good for portraits. A larger maximum aperture (lower f-number) is desirable as it allows more light to reach the sensor, which is helpful in low light conditions, and it provides a shallower depth of field. High image quality is also important – you want your subject to be sharply in focus. Additionally, make sure the lens is compatible with your camera – not all lenses work with all cameras.
Why do some photographers prefer zoom lenses for portrait photography?
While prime lenses are often recommended for portrait photography, some photographers prefer zoom lenses for their versatility. A zoom lens allows you to adjust your framing without needing to move closer or farther from your subject, which can be particularly useful when shooting in a confined space. Some modern zoom lenses also offer excellent image quality and a reasonably large maximum aperture, making them suitable for portrait photography. For instance, a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is a popular choice for portraits.
More in: Small Business Essentials