11 Best Lenses for Portrait Photography

Lenses for Portraits Image

Many professional and beginner photographers often ask about the best lenses for portrait photography. The answer to that question is not as simple as it may seem primary due to the fact the decision is quite subjective.

Various brands have released multiple models of lenses that are ideal for portrait photography, so it all comes down to factors such as budget, camera, and style of photos you like to capture. Let’s simplify the process, shall we? We have explored lenses for portrait photography, and in this post, you’re going to see some of the best options to consider.

1. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM (Overall Winner)

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Image

Canon’s EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is among the great lenses for portrait photography, but also for action and nighttime photography. Weighing 5.6oz (159g) and measuring only 1.5 inches (40mm) in length, the Canon EF 50mm is one of the smallest lenses this famous brand offers.

Considering that it’s compact and lightweight, this lens proves to be a practical ally for photographers who shoot outdoors or travel a lot. If you’re looking for a lens that will allow you to take amazing portraits in both indoor and outdoor settings, this one is worth considering.

The wide f/1.8 aperture lets more than eight times the amount of light compared to a standard zoom lens, thus giving you sharper images with less blur and motion. This reduces the need to use a flash in dimly lit conditions. Additionally, the 50mm focal length allows users to fill the frame with their subject from a comfortable distance.

The near-silent STM (stepping motor) technology allows the Canon EF 50mm lens to focus extremely quickly when shooting meaning you can react suddenly to capture fleeting moments. This lens feels solid and sturdy in your hand, and it offers AF with the full-time manual.

2. Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D

Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D Image

Nikon is one of the most reputable names in the photography business, so it’s safe to expect their lenses to perform nicely when you shoot. The Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D is a must-have for standard portraits and everyday use.

Thanks to the 50mm focal length and fast aperture, users are able to take beautiful photos with a shallow depth-of-field which allows subjects to stand out from their background. Due to its lightweight construction, Nikon’s lens is suitable for travelers as well.

Super integrated coating (SIC) enhances the efficiency of light transmission, thus offering superior color consistency and reduced flare. It’s also useful to mention Nikon’s lens features silent wave motor (SWM) technology for accurate and quiet photography experience. Moreover, this lens has a focusing mode which allows switching from manual to automatic with virtually no lag time.

The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens belongs to the aspherical lenses group which is well-known for their potential to minimize coma and other forms of lens aberrations. 

3. Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS

Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS Image

Photographers who are looking for a high-quality lens that other users adore may want to take the Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS portrait lens into consideration. This piece of photography equipment comes with built-in Optical Steady Shot (OSS) image stabilization system which provides a four-stop shutter speed advantage. As a result, it’s easier to achieve blur-free crisp and crystal-clear images.

Thanks to the 50mm mid-range, the Sony E lens is one of the most ideal lenses for portrait photography, but it can also prove to be useful for shooting objects and other types of photos. Compact and lightweight lenses such as this one are easy to pack with the rest of your gear and take to outdoor photoshoots. Sony’s E portrait lens is popular among amateur and professional photographers alike as it’s very easy to use.

4. Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Image

The Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM medium telephoto lens is more challenging than other lenses, but it’s definitely worth it. The lens was specifically designed to give beautiful background blur, or bokeh, and is ideal for both portrait and nature photography. The fast f/1.8 aperture is effective in low light and ideal for shallow depth-of-field focus control.

Canon’s EF telephoto lens features an ultrasonic autofocus motor (USM) which provides smooth, quiet, and fast autofocus action due to the fact that the front lens group doesn’t rate during focusing. You can use some special effects and polarization in an effective manner. When taking portraits with this lens, make sure you capture five to seven shots of each pose, you will be pleased with the quality and results.

What users love about Canon EF telephoto lens is its compact and lightweight construction, sharp and fast focusing, beautiful imagery, and balanced contrast making it one of the best lenses for portrait photography. That being said, the lens may have a bit of chromatic aberration.

5. Opteka 85mm f/1.8

Opteka 85mm f/1.8 Image

As you are already aware, having a Nikon camera does not automatically mean you need to buy Nikon lenses only. Nowadays, various brands release lenses that are compatible with a certain camera model or more of them. Opteka’s 85mm aspherical telephoto portrait lens is compatible with multiple Nikon models such as D5, D4s, D4, D3x, Df, among others.

The aspherical telephoto portrait lens from Opteka features a bright f/1.8 maximum aperture allowing users to retain a high level of control over depth of field. In other words, the Opteka 85mm f/1.8 is suitable for users who are looking for lenses that allow them to achieve selective focus techniques. With this lens, it’s easier to shoot in low-light environments.

Unlike other lenses on this list which allow both auto and manual focus, Opetka’s lens offers smooth manual focus. As a result, it enables users to create smooth focus down to 2.8′.

Bearing in mind that Opteka’s aspherical telephoto lens has metal construction, it’s very sturdy, robust, and durable. Despite the metal construction, this lens is compact and easy to carry.

6. Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD MACRO 1:2

Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD MACRO 1:2 Image

Here we have another portrait lens that is compatible with different camera models. The Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD MACRO 1:2 is compatible with Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Konica Minolta & Sony, but prices are not the same for every model. The macro zoom function of the Tamron portrait lens is 1:2. It’s also useful to mention that this lens has a high mechanical and optical quality.

Di lenses from Tamron are suitable for full-frame cameras and digital APS-C devices. It’s useful to mention that Di stands for digitally integrated design, and it refers to lenses that are specifically adapted to higher requirements of DSLR cameras.

The minimum focus distance of 0.95 is ensured thanks to the Macro Switchover mechanism while the focal length range is 180-300mm. If you are looking for a portrait lens without chromatic aberration, then Tamron’s Di lens is a great choice.

The addition of low-dispersion (LD) glass elements reduces chromatic aberration, which would otherwise impair the sharpness of the image you capture. Close-focusing ability makes Tamron’s lens ideal for portrait photography, but you can also use it to take photos of nature, objects, you name it.

7. Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Image

In general, Sigma lenses are more affordable then Canon or Nikon portrait lenses, but the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art on this list is one of the more expensive ones and for a good reason. This lens is sharp, accurate, and can overshadow their competition with ease. It is extra versatile, convenient, and easy to move around. You will be surprised by its portrait quality, focusing system, high-standard design, and more. 

8. Rokinon 85mm T1.5 Cine

Rokinon 85mm T1.5 Cine Image

Even though the Rokinon’s primary use is for cinema photography, it’s also a perfect lens for taking the ideal portraits and headshots. Compared to other cheaper lenses, this one is very flattering on skin tones, has good contrast and excellent control. Getting the right lens can make a huge difference in photography, that’s is why you need something sturdy with excellent focus, like this one.

The effect the Rokinon 85mm T1.5 Cine lens creates is a little bit softer on the edges, which can help you create the perfect portrait at the focal length. However, this lens is a lot bulkier than most, it may not be as easy or lightweight to carry around, but it compensates for its ability to take the perfects shots at low light areas with excellent precision and control. 

9. Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM

Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM Image

The Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM is meant for shooting creative portraits without sacrificing any photo quality. The idea is to unleash all your creativeness in a single image no matter if you will be working in low-light or high-light situations. It’s fast, versatile, and a convenient lens you can use on a daily basis, but most importantly, it will emphasize the natural beauty of your subject.

This is definitely the most important thing to focus on portrait photography. You can use it for taking background images, enjoying scenery, creating video blogs, or more. There is a lot you can do with this lens and every time you do use it, you will get top-quality images. 

10. Minolta Maxxum AF 85mm f/1.4

Minolta Maxxum AF 85mm f/1.4 Image

The Minolta Maxxum AF 85mm f/1.4 has a strong metal exterior designed to increase its durability and effectiveness. You get excellent quality images with ideal sharpness even when the lens is wide open. This is something you should go for when looking for a lens for portrait photography.

The Minolta Maxxum AF 85mm f/1.4 will also deliver vivid and pleasing colors to your image and emphasize the skin tones – it will keep them rendered. Best of all, the focus is incredibly fast, so you can take multiple shots without having to wait a long time for the focus to adjust. Aside from being a bit on the expensive side, there is nothing wrong with this lens. 

11. Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 (Budget Winner)

Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 Image

Photographers, beginners or professionals, who are looking for lenses for portrait photography that will enable them to take amazing shots may also want to consider Yongnuo’s 50mm lens. This particular lens was specifically created for creative, art, and beauty photography.

Not only does it allow you to take beautiful portraits of your subjects, but it also comes handy for beauty and fashion bloggers. The wide aperture of f/1.8 provides a depth of field which gives clear and sharp images. The Yongnuo 50mm supports auto and manual focus modes, meaning you can choose the best option for that particular shot or simply based on your shooting habits.

In addition to the reasonable price, which is useful for beginners and photographers on a budget, Yongnuo’s lens provides crisp, clean images. This lens tends to be loud, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from taking amazing photos.

Choosing Lenses for Portrait Photography

Portraits require more than talent and skill; you also need great equipment and camera accessories. Portrait lenses come at various prices, thus allowing customers to find an ideal product for their budget. What every amateur or professional photographer wants to know is whether there’s some portrait lens considered the best for this type of photography.

The answer, as mentioned at the beginning of this post, depends entirely on your needs. Take into consideration factors such as price, type of focus, aperture, zoom, chronic aberration risk, before you make the final decision. When trying to pick the best lenses for portrait photography, you should focus on the type of portraits you’re taking and your photo-taking habits.

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