- Three Lenses Portrait Photographers Can't Live Without
- The Sharpest Canon and Nikon Lenses on a Budget
What lens is best for portraits?
It's a question often asked, but one that's more difficult to answer than it might first seem.
That's because the "best" lens depends on a ton of factors - the type of portraits you take, the gear you already own, and your budget, just to name a few.
However, there are some key questions to ask yourself when shopping for a portrait lens that will help you narrow the field down to something that will work for you.
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Which Do You Need More: A Zoom or a Prime?
This question will help you address the type of portraits you take.
If you like beautifully blurry backgrounds or shooting in low light, a prime lens is the way to go.
Since primes have larger maximum apertures than zooms, you can shoot in dim lighting while retaining a fast enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake (unless it's really dark). You can also shoot with a lower aperture to avoid noise as well.
Likewise, since those large apertures help minimize depth of field, you can create portraits with buttery smooth bokeh that really sets your portrait subject apart from the background.
Zoom lenses, on the other hand, offer tons of versatility.
Where you're "stuck" with one focal length with a prime lens, a zoom can get you anything from a wide-angle to a telephoto shot. That can be advantageous if you want to work lean and mean with one do-it-all type of lens.
Another benefit of a zoom lens for portraiture is that it allows you to be further away from the subject, which can help them relax in front of the camera and generate more authentic portraits.
In the end, either option can work well for portraiture; it just depends on what your personal preference might be.
What Lenses are Already in Your Bag?
This might seem like a dumb question to ask yourself, but hear me out...
Obviously, if you already have a 50mm prime you don't need to buy another one just like it.
However, there are two other points here that need to be made.
First, if the 50mm prime you currently have is an f/2.8, and you've found a great deal on a 50mm f/1.4, then the upgrade might be worth it.
Second, what if one of the lenses you already own is one you'd never considered to be a portrait lens?
For example, though kit lenses get a lot of flack, they can actually be used to take some decent portraits as long as you know what you're doing.
Similarly, though your 100mm macro lens might not strike you as something to use for portraits, it can actually become quite the portrait lens.
The point here is that you don't want to duplicate lenses, but you don't want to discount the versatility of the lenses you have, either.
Keep those things in mind as you shop for a portrait lens, and you'll end up with something that helps meet your needs.
How Much Money Do You Have?
Since the majority of us don't have an unlimited budget for photography gear, the price tag of the lenses you're shopping for will likely be the most important factor when it comes to making a decision.
Good lenses usually come with a hefty price tag, but that higher price gets you a better-built lens (which means it will last longer than a cheap lens), improved optics, and sharper images with less flare, vignetting, and aberrations.
On top of that, higher-end lenses typically have improved autofocus mechanisms and are weather-sealed as well.
The extra expense is certainly worth all the benefits that a better lens brings to the table.
However, you can get a better lens without spending the big bucks by shopping for a pre-owned model.
If you're like me, you take impeccable care of your lenses, and most photographers are the same way.
That means that there are tons of well-cared-for lenses out there that you can pick up for a great price.
So, buying used is the best of both worlds - you can save some money while picking up a higher-end lens at the same time.
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