Best Focal lengths For Portraits.





By: Smari S Smarason

 

What is the basic portrait lens?

When Portraitists create their work of portrait painting, we can imagine from the artist’s point of view he is painting the portrait in the 85mm to 135mm focal length quite similar to what our eyes can see with minimum distortion, and that is why lenses from 85mm to 135mm in focal length is a basic portrait lens.

With a lens of 85mm to 135mm, you can stay back far enough to avoid perspective distortion, so medium telephoto in the range of 85mm to 135mm is fine for head-and-shoulder and tight headshots.

50mm normal lens is fine for group shots, half-length, and ¾-length poses.

With longer focal lengths from 150mm to 200mm or even longer lenses.

The problem that can happen with longer focal lengths from 150mm to 200mm lenses, you may have to stand too far back to fill the frame so you start to lose psychological contact with your subject, and the biggest problem that may happen with even longer lenses, they can produce a flattening of the subjects face, so it’s best to use lenses from 85mm to 135mm for regular portraits they produce a good image without perspective distortion.

Capture the moment no matter what, it’s best to have a variety of focal lengths in your camera bag.

My experience.

I use lenses from 20mm to 200mm in focal lengths for a portrait shoot.

I have shot thousands of portraits with my Nikon 20mm lens much more than I anticipated when I bought the lens, I was not gonna use the lens for portrait photography when I bought it, but now I use the lens for full-length and group shoots.

Here i am using Nikon 20mm lens on a full frame camera this was a fashion photo shoot for a school project that I did for a good friend, the Nikon 20mm lens works well for full-length portraits when you keep your subject in the middle of the frame, you can get little bit of distortion if you frame your subject closer to you and to the edge of the frame.

20mm focal length.

Nikon D810 - Nikon 20mm f/5.6 1/2000s
Nikon D810 – Nikon 20mm f/5.6 1/2000s
Nikon D810 - Nikon 20mm f/1.8 1/400s
Nikon D810 – Nikon 20mm f/1.8 1/400s

With some poses, the wide angle lens can work better than telephoto lenses, the picture down below is taken with 70-200mm lens at 200mm focal length, the pose did not work well with 70-200mm focal length so we changed the pose and exchanged to Nikon 20mm lens and the photo looks much better (see the lower picture)

200mm

Nikon D810 - Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 1/1000s
Nikon D810 – Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 1/1000s @200mm

VS

20mm

Nikon D810 - Nikon 20mm f/3.2 1/800s
Nikon D810 – Nikon 20mm f/3.2 – 1/800s

70-200mm focal lengths.

For outdoor location portrait shoots I like to use the Tamron 70-200mm lens basically because I don’t want to change lenses all the time it is good to have a zoom lens, also almost all 70-200mm lenses are sharp and good.

This is a good pose that works at 200mm focal length.

Nikon D810 - Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 1/640s @200mm
Nikon D810 – Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 – 1/640s @200mm

And here is a pose that works at 185mm focal length.

Nikon D810 - Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 1/640s @185mm
Nikon D810 – Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 – 1/640s at 185mm

Tamron 70-200mm 2.8 VC  at 90mm focal length.

Nikon D810 - Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 1/400s @90mm
Nikon D810 – Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 -1/400s at 90mm

85mm focal lengths.

When it comes to studio portraits, Full-Face with shoulders pose, then my favorite focal length is 85mm.

I rarely take my 85mm lenses out of my studio for outdoor photography (I use Tamron 70-200mm Instead) but when it comes to studio portrait photography I use my 85mm lenses 90% more than other lenses that I have.

Nikon D810 - Sigma 85mm f/1.8 - 1/250s
Nikon D810 – Sigma 85mm f/1.8 – 1/250s
Nikon D810 - Sigma 85mm f/4.0 - 1/250s
Nikon D810 – Sigma 85mm f/4.0 – 1/250s

50mm focal lengths.

I like to use Nikon 50mm lens for Full-length – Half-length and ¾-length portraits pose.

If you want to get more of the background in the frame and with good bokeh effect, the 50mm lens is a good choice for these kinds of portraits shoots.

Nikon D810 - NIKKOR-S Auto 1:1.4 @ f/1.4
Nikon D810 – NIKKOR-S Auto 1:1.4 at f/1.4
Nikon D810 - NIKKOR-S Auto 1:1.4 @ f/1.4
Nikon D810 – NIKKOR-S Auto 1:1.4 at f/1.4
Nikon D810 - Nikon 50mm 1.4G @ f/2 - 1/400s
Nikon D810 – Nikon 50mm 1.4G at f/2 – 1/400s

24-85mm focal lengths.

I also like to use my versatile Nikon AF-S 24-85mm zoom lens, for basic group party shots usually at f/5 – f/8 – f/11, to capture all faces in sharp focus ( not trying to blur the background with shallow depth-of-field ).

Nikon D7000 - Nikon 24-85mm @ 24mm ISO 200 - 1/125s
Nikon D7000 – Nikon 24-85mm at 24mm f/8 – ISO 200 – 1/125s
Nikon D7000 - Nikon 24-85mm @ 64mm f/5 - ISO 400 - 1/400s
Nikon D7000 – Nikon 24-85mm at 64mm f/5 – ISO 400 – 1/400s

 

 The lenses I would wish to have my experience using these lenses.

Because I use my Nikon 20mm lens much more than I anticipated for portraits I wish I had Tamron 15-35mm VC instead of my Nikon 20mm lens, just for the focal length and VC.

And I wish I had Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens instead of my Nikon 24-85mm because of the longer zoom and 9 aperture blades.

My plan is to get these lenses soon I think they will make my job easier.