What is my favorite lens for portraits? It’s my most asked question from moms and photographers. This post is one I’ve been meaning to do for, oh I don’t know…YEARS!
I get asked a lot about lenses and why I choose that particular lens. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark iii. I know that Nikon is a great camera too because I know plenty of phenomenal photographers that shoot Nikon. I just personally don’t have any experience using Nikon.
I’ll admit that I’m a lens addict. But I also get in a groove where I love to stick with one lens and then I kinda get in a rut with it so I try one that’s been in my camera bag for awhile and then almost every time, I think “Wow, this really is an awesome lens. Why haven’t I been using it more?” So in that aspect, I’m glad that I have a variety to choose from. In any particular session (outdoor specifically) I can use 2-3 lenses. If kids are involved I try to limit it because kids aren’t exactly sympathetic to me changing my lens.
I really love a prime lens. A prime lens mean you actually have to move your feet if you want to get closer to the subject, you can’t just zoom in/out. Prime lenses just have one number (i.e. 50mm or 85mm) but with that said I do have some zoom lenses and I love them for different reasons so I’m going to go through my different lenses and break down when I use them.
This lens is great for tight spaces. I use it with large groups or when I really want that wide angle (24mm) to capture the environment of the shot. I’ve even used it in my studio some because my studio is tiny and it allows me to change the focal length quickly without having to change the lens. When I purchased this one two years ago, I think it stayed on my camera for about 3 months straight because of its versatility. This is also a must-have lens when there’s tall buildings involved. We took it with us to NYC and it was great for capturing those beautiful tall skyscrapers. It’s what I use for my silhouettes!
I’ll admit it. I’m a Canon lens snob but I just kept hearing about this lens from some really amazing photographers that I admired so I broke down and bought it and wow! It’s gorgeous! I love to use it on my sunset images, beanbag images for newborns and for a more editorial look.
This is the lens that made me a photographer. It was my first lens to experiment with besides the kit lens that came with my first DSLR. It’s where I made most of my mistakes. The lens that I recommend to those that are looking to build their lens collection is the Canon 50 mm 1.8. Also a great lens at about 1/3 of the price. I love to use this lens when I want to be able to get close to the subject without standing a mile away. On the engagement image below on the right, I really would’ve rather used my 24-70 mm but I just literally lied on my back in the middle of the parking lot to capture this and I love how it allowed me to still show the height of the building behind them. This building is where they are having their reception for their wedding so it was important to them to have this landmark in their image and I wanted to honor that. I also use this for newborn shots as well. It’s called the “nifty fifty” because really you can get almost everything you need with this single lens.
This is my go-to senior lens. Just look at the beautiful bokeh (the blurred background) it creates. The only drawback is that you do have to distance yourself some with this lens from your subject so I never use it in the studio because of space issues. With seniors I’m not afraid to shoot wide open (mean my aperature number is very low allowing more light in). I’ve used this some with families but I’ve found sometimes it’s a little harder because I have to run into my spot because of the focal length and then the moment is gone. But for senior portraits, it’s just never disappointing.
Oh there’s a funny story on this. Most of you may not know that my husband was the photographer in the family first. Granted it was all just a hobby but he was definitely more into it than I was. It all started with me being sick and tired of being intimidated by his camera. Before I even started with photography, he already had the 50mm and the 85mm but then he wanted the 70-200mm. The 70-200 was NOT cheap and I thought he had lost his mind wanting to spend money on a lens that expensive for this hobby. So we’ve had this lens for years and I call it my “stalker” lens because it’s huge and HEAVY when you first use it. It sat in our camera bag for literally years. On a whim, I decided to give it a whirl and now it’s my absolute favorite lens. If the distance allows it, it’s on my camera for outdoor shoots 85% of the time. While it’s not a prime lens, it still allows so much versatility and that bokeh….it’s like butta!
I love how it makes the background look like a watercolor painting. I think that’s why I love it so much! My absolute favorite focal length is at 200mm at f/2.8. That’s what makes that super creamy background that I just adore!
It’s a beautiful lens to capture delicate features like newborn toes, flowers and makes some really amazing ring shots.
This is my most recent lens. It’s another beautiful lens for portraits that really blurs out the background. I just love that look. You do have to be back further than the 85 mm but it’s not nearly as heavy as the 70-200mm.
Crazy enough I have my eye on another lens. I think the only thing I’m missing is a fisheye. As you can see from my links, lenses aren’t cheap. So much of the money from clients goes straight back into my business to make sure that I have the best updated equipment to produce images that my clients will love.
One thing I would advise before upgrading your camera body is to try these different lenses. The lens truly does make a big difference!
in your opinion, what’s the most versatile prime lens? I’ve been wanting one for a while and am having trouble making the decision! 🙂 Love your work!!
Most versatile is probably the 50mm. The 85mm is probably my favorite prime lens but you do have to have quite a distance so sometimes it can cause issues but the 50mm is great for capturing a little bit of everything.
KC England says
Great post Andrea! I am really thinking strongly about getting the 70-200! Believe it or not, we owned it at one time but SOLD it! Just like you it was my husband that was really into photography (I was too, but he had WAY better gear than I had) and I remember all too well conversations about the money spent on the gear. Funny, now that I ended up starting my business with his Nikon D700 body because it was the only full frame body we owned at the time.
Oh that 70-200 is a pretty penny but seriously so so beautiful! I use mine all the time!