- 3 Lenses Every Photographer Should Have in Their Camera Bag
- Which is Best for Portraits: 50mm or 85mm?
- How to Get a Blurry Background With a Cheap Lens
- The Best Camera Lens for Under $500 - and Why You Need One
photo by meatbull via iStock
There will always be a debate about whether zoom lenses or prime lenses are better for portraiture.
This is sort of a different strokes for different folks situation, as some portrait photographers swear by zoom lenses and others swear by primes.
Really, both lens types offer plenty of advantages for portraiture, so it’s hard to go wrong with either one.
In the video above, the fine folks at Mango Street offer their perspective on the issue.
As they discuss in the video, they prefer to shoot portraits with prime lenses. But, for comparison’s sake, they shoot with a Canon 24-70mm as well as 24mm and 35mm primes.
Below, I’ve outlined a few arguments for zooms and primes as being great options for portraits.
Which Lens is Best for Portraits? The Argument for Zooms
photo by PATCHARIN SAENLAKON via iStock
The greatest asset of a zoom lens is the variable focal length that enables you to get different types of shots with a single lens.
With a 24-70mm lens, for example, you can shoot wide, environmental type portraits at 24mm and zoom in for much more intimate headshots at 70mm.
Obviously, zooms offer the advantage of having to carry a single lens rather than multiple primes. Likewise, there is no need for lens changes.
photo by silverkblack via iStock
Another argument for zooms is that modern zoom lenses are much sharper than they used to be. In years past, some portrait photographers shunned zooms because their performance simply couldn’t match that of primes.
Need a new zoom lens for your kit? Save money and buy a used lens! FIND THE RIGHT LENS FOR YOUR CAMERA.
The caveat here is that primes still offer better sharpness and image quality than zooms within the same price point.
That is, you can get a super-sharp prime for $250, but to get an equally sharp zoom, you’ll likely have to spend double or triple that, unless you find a high-end, pre-owned lens to save money.
Which Lens is Best for Portraits? The Argument for Primes
photo by LightFieldStudios via iStock
Ask any professional portrait photographer, and they’ll likely tell you that they use a number of prime lenses for their work.
As the Mango Street team shows in the video, their go-to primes are a 24mm and a 35mm. The 24mm choice is fairly uncommon, as wide-angle lenses create distortion that can be unflattering in portraits.
However, looking at the sample images that Mango Street created, you can still rock out some awesome shots with a wide-angle lens.
photo by momcilog via iStock
Perhaps the best argument for prime lenses being the best portrait lenses is that they tend to have much larger apertures than zooms. This is advantageous for working in low-light conditions as well as for creating beautiful background blur for separating the model from the background in the portrait.
Another advantage of prime lenses is that they are small and lightweight, typically much more so than zooms. Without having a big, heavy lens to lug around, you might feel freer to move more in relation to the model to capture more creative shots.
Building off that point, since prime lenses are fixed, you have to zoom with your feet and get nearer the model for more closely-framed shots. This can help you create a better relationship with the model since you’re more interactive with them. That, in turn, can lead to more intimate and meaningful portraits.
Which Lens is Best for Portraits? Zoom or Prime?
photo by meatbull via iStock
So, both zooms and primes have their advantages, and as you can see in the video by Mango Street, you can create gorgeous images with either kind of lens.
In the end, the selection between the two will mostly come down to your personal preference and budget.
Fortunately, no matter if you’re after a zoom or a prime lens, all major camera manufacturers have a huge selection of both types in all manner of price points.
Better still, you can find great deals on used lenses so you can save some money at the same time (or use your extra cash to buy multiple lenses!).