Selecting the right portrait lens and shooting from an ideal distance can dramatically improve your portraits


posted Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 7:00 AM EST


While cameras get a lot of attention, and rightly so, lenses are a huge part of a photographic system. All else equal, investing in your lenses will likely change the look of your shots and provide you with more creative possibilities than simply upgrading to the newest generation of a given camera system. Going from a smartphone to a DSLR or mirrorless camera can certainly change the look of your portraits, for example, but so can upgrading from a kit lens to a fast portrait prime.

Speaking of portrait primes, Dan and Sally Watson from Learning Cameras published a video this past June specifically about choosing a focal length for portrait prime lenses, including looking at 35mm, 50mm and 85mm options. In their video below, Sony lenses in particular are shown off, but the relative advantages and disadvantages of particular focal lengths rings true across all camera systems.

You’ve made a decision, you’ve picked a focal length and you’re good to go now, right? Not so fast, as you now need to consider another important part of a portrait shooting process, shooting distance. In the video below, photographer and educator Daniel Norton discusses portrait shooting distance in the latest episode of Adorama’s OnSet. Shooting distance is important affects apparent depth of field and compression, which can dramatically change the look of your images.

For many photographers, it would be too expensive or inconvenient to have a camera bag full of every possible good portrait prime lenses, from 28mm to 135mm and beyond, so it’s important to select the lens which fits your needs the best and then learn the different ways you can use for it full-body, mid-length and close-up portraiture.

(Via Dan and Sally Watson and Adorama)