The majority of lenses in all types of photography fall into three categories. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of each one for portrait photography.
1. Short Telephoto
This is a lens of around 70mm-105mm or 50mm-75mm. It is the classic and most widely used lens for photographing portraits. This lens allows you to fill the frame with the head and shoulders without being too close to the subject. Choose one with a wide aperture e.g. f2.8 to cope well with all types of light conditions. It will help you maintain the high degree of sharpness essential for portrait photography.
2. Wide – Angle Lens
This is a lens of around 10mm-35mm. It is not a natural choice for portraits as can lead to distortion of the subject. This is because you have to get very close to the subject to fill the frame. However, they are good for group shots and shots requiring plenty of backgrounds to convey the mood of the subject. They are also useful for full-length photographs where space is limited. One other thing you can try with them is to be artistic, have a play with the distortion to create some unique and engaging portraits.
3. Long Telephoto lens
These are lenses of 150mm or more. They are great for candid shots. When you use a long telephoto lens you will be shooting a long way from your subject. As a result, the subject will appear closer to the background allowing you to be more selective in what you include. They are also useful for detail shots, getting in tight on some aspect of the subject to show their personality.
As with all types of photography, but especially when you intend to sell your results, buy the best lens you can afford. You should be spending more on the lenses than on the camera body. A great lens will do more to improve your photography than that latest, greatest camera body.
There is no “best” lens for portrait photography, as it will always depend on what you are shooting. What the subject is and what they want you as the photographer to convey about them and their environment. The only true way to know is to keep taking photos and experimenting until you hit upon what lens you use the most and which one consistently gives you the desired results.