For most amateur photographers, it is often a tough choice choosing a lens for portraits. When you visit various photography forums, you will see many people looking for "the best lenses for portraits".
The truth is that this is a tricky question. Getting the best lens for your portrait will depend on a number of factors. This is to say there is no one-lens-fit-all solution here. The best lens for a portrait will depend on your personal style, budget, and of course, the maker of your camera. You will also need to understand sensor sizes and the focal lengths before you can choose the best portrait for your shoot.
Like I mentioned above, there are a number of factors that you will need to consider when you are searching for the best lens. Below I will take a look at these factors.
1. What Lenses Are You Currently Using
In some cases, you may already have the perfect lens but you are not using it. Check your lens collection; do you already own a 500mm prime, a 100mm macro lens or even a 70-300mm zoom lens? You can be able to take a great portrait with any of these lenses mentioned above.
Even when you are using the kit lens, you can still get a great result. The trick is to read up on how you can make kit lens work for you when taking portraits.
2. Which Do You Prefer - Zoom or Prime Lens?
Without a doubt, using prime lenses can make your portrait photographs better. They are special because they have a wider maximum aperture covering the same focal length, unlike a zoom lens. This feature comes into play when you want to create images with shallow depth-of-field.
The feature is also very useful when you are working in a low light condition. It will help you take photos with faster shutter speeds or even with lower ISO than possible with a zoom lens.
Moreover, prime lenses produce better image quality, thanks to having fewer elements than zoom lenses. With this type of lens, you can be able to produce sharper images with more contrast and even less lens flare.
If you don't have enough money to buy a high-end prime lens, it will be a good idea to go for inexpensive prime than inexpensive zoom lenses.
3. How Much Do You Have to Spend?
When considering getting the best lens for portrait, another factor to consider is your budget. This will definitely determine the type of lens you will end up with. Of course, it goes without saying that good quality lenses cost more. For instance, Canon's 50mm has four models that go from $110 to as much as $1600 - the higher the price goes, the better quality you will get.
With the more expensive lens, you will have less flare. Moreover, they have better construction quality and some of them boast of weatherproofed feature and other features such as quieter autofocus mechanisms.
4. What Focal Length Are You Looking to Get?
The focal length you will need to get will depend on the size of the sensor of your camera. The first thing you should do is to figure out the category of the lens that you want. When you have figured out if you need prime or zoom lens, the next thing you should do is to find out which model is available for your camera.
Some of these lenses include:
This type of lens is good for environmental portraits. It is also good when you need to keep some distance from the subject or include the surroundings to your shot. If you are looking to take close-up portraits, avoid using wide-angle lenses as they will distort your subject.
Any lens with a focal length that is equal or around 50mm on a full-frame camera is a normal lens. Some of these lenses include those around 35mm on an APS-C camera or 25mm on a Micro four-thirds camera.
You can get a good result when using these focal lengths for portraits. They occupy the middle ground between wide-angle and short telephoto lenses. The great thing about normal lenses is that they can be used for close-up portraits. However, you may have to deal with some distortion that may arise.
Short Telephoto Lenses
Mostly, short telephoto lenses are referred to as portrait lenses because they are great for taking flattering photos of your subject. Short telephoto lenses allow you to move in close and take shots without any distortion. You can step back and include the entire figure in your shot without moving very far away when it is hard to communicate with your subject.
Your short telephoto lens can be a prime or zoom lens. If it is a prime lens, you will have wide apertures. The great thing with short telephoto lenses is that most of them come at a reasonable price.
This is the type of lenses that are mostly used by professional fashion and portrait photographers. This is mostly because they have compressed perspective and also the ability to isolate the subject from the background.
Unfortunately, these types of lenses are more expensive than shorter focal lengths. If you want the one with a wide maximum aperture, be prepared to pay more for them. These lenses are also heavier as well. However, there are other options that are more affordable especially the zoom lenses in the 100mm-200mm range.
Choosing the best lens for your portrait will depend on the factors mentioned above. You will have to choose the lens that works best for. Personally, I like Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 prime lens for portraits. Another good lens is Canon EF 40mm f2.8 pancake lens. You will need to choose a lens that you think will work best for you. Take a look at your camera and your budget to know the type of portrait lens you can afford.