Favourite lens for portrait photography?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by atlanticza, Nov 10, 2011.

  1. atlanticza macrumors 6502a

    atlanticza

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    #1
  2. TheDrift- macrumors 6502a

    TheDrift-

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    I always thought it was 85 -135 mm (for a full frame) was widly accepted as portrait length.

    Mind you suppose what/who/when/where you are photgaphing...and what vision you had could all cause you to choose a different length.
     
  3. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    He's solved the mystery that lenses <50mm on a full frame camera overemphasise a subjects nose? I didn't realise that that was a mystery... as far as I was aware all portrait photographers knew it already.

    The article is poor (even for the Daily Fail) - as these pictures 'with the same lighting' clearly have much dimmer lighting on the wide angle shots (presumably the photographer is blocking off one of his lights).

    Anyway, to answer the original question - any lens can be used for a portrait - but 50mm or longer is a better choice for flattering head-and-upper-body shots, while 70mm+ is better for tighter head shots. Of the lenses I own, my favourite is my 85mm f1.8.
     
  4. unclet macrumors member

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    #4
    I agree with firestarter. My 85mm 1.8 is my best lens for portraits. Mind you, on an APS-C sensor that translates to about 135mm, the far end of what is regularly regarded as "portrait length, but as long as I am not in cramped quarters, this isn't an issue.
     
  5. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    From the article:

    "Depending on the lens' focal length, the image will deform and affect how the image looks in photos."

    Yikes, this is SOOOOO wrong.

    Perspective distortion has nothing to do with focal length; perspective is controlled by subject-to-camera distance, not focal length. For the same framing, you have to be 10x closer to the subject with a 20mm lens than a 200mm lens. It's this being closer that changes perspective, not the focal length. If you stood the same distance from the subject with the 20mm and 200m lenses, took a photo with each, and then cropped the 20mm image by 10x, you'd have the same perspective.
     
  6. stevendphoto macrumors member

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    I use a Canon 24-70 Lens and it works fine...
     
  7. fpnc macrumors 68000

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    #7
    Absolutely correct. Thus, this thread could be re-titled "Favorite distance for portrait photography."
     
  8. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    It depends on the portrait and conditions. In the studio with strobes I generally use a 35-70mm at 70mm crop or not at f/8 most of the time. Outdoors with flash, generally an 80-200mm at whatever works distance-wise and light-wise. Outdoors in natural light, if I have the distance a 400mm at f/2.8. Indoors with harshly mixed lighting, the 35-70@70mm and whatever aperture works to try to work with the lighting.

    Paul
     
  9. avro707 macrumors 6502a

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    Probably 24-70mm F/2.8G ED Nikkor. That's the one I use. Also used the Canon 24-70mm, that's nice as well.

    Would like a Micro-Nikkor for some portraits as well. I've seen great results from those in NikonPro magazine.
     
  10. jabbott macrumors 6502

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    #10
    My favorite for portraits is the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II. Here is an example of a portrait taken with the lens indoors and handheld at 70mm, f/8, ISO 100 at 1/100s using a single softbox flash. Take my advice with a grain of salt however as I normally don't take many portraits (or even use flash for that matter). More than anything I wanted to see what the lens with off-camera flash could do, and the results completely astounded me.
     
  11. stevendphoto macrumors member

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    Great lens, I need to use mine more...!
     
  12. chrono1081 macrumors 604

    chrono1081

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    I love for portraits these ones (These are Canon lenses):

    Closeups:

    85mm 1.2L (Pricey but so amazing).
    70 - 200 2.8L (Never used the Mark II version so I can't comment on it, maybe someone can chime in on MarkII?)
    70 - 200 4L

    I've also seen some great shots with the 135L but since I do not own it I can't comment on it.

    Full body: (I shoot a lot of wide angle, so be wary with what I'm about to suggest!)
    35mm 1.4L
    16 - 24mm 2.8L II

    Like others have stated with wide angle you can end up accentuating the nose or giving a distorted look. It all depends what type of image you are after. You can get great portraits with wide angle, but you have to be careful with the composition so the image doesn't look boring, or the subject doesn't look distorted.
     
  13. jdavtz macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    This.

    To answer your question, my favourite is 35mm equiv., or 50mm (on full-frame), and a decent amount of environment. Others prefer 300mm. It all depends what you want your portrait to convey.
     
  14. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    The other factor is the 'photographer' to 'subject' distance. Lots of good info about focal lengths, etc, put we must also not forget that we are trying to take a photo of a person. If the subject is a professional, the distance between the photographer and subject matters much less - the professional model should be used to having lense looking up their nose, or to dealing with someone shouting at them from across the studio.

    However, for the non-professional model we also need to maintain a distance that stays outside of their personal space - at least initially - and especially if the subject is nervous. By the same token, it's hard to create an intimate portrait of someone if you need to stand 10m away to use a very long lense.

    So - on top of all of the technical stuff above, keep in the mind the human element too.
     
  15. Vudoo macrumors 6502a

    Vudoo

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    I usually use the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 or the 70-200mm f/2.8. I tried the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 macro, but that's too sharp. People don't want to see every pore.
     
  16. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    You can stretch a piece of pantyhose or a stocking over the front element to tone any lens down for portraits. Though it seems to me the 24-70 is sharper than the 105mm at f/2.8 at 24mm and almost exactly as sharp at 70mm and you have to get out past 70mm on the 70-200 to see a real difference in sharpness. ;)

    Paul
     
  17. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #17
    You would notice that more on a full frame camera because for closer shots you'd see a greater foreshortening effect from standing closer.

    Yeah.... the so called flattening effect tends to scale mostly with focal length regardless of sensor size. If you've ever looked at print images shot on 8x10 cameras or really anything beyond typical medium format (even 6x12 panoramic cameras) even with a wide angle lens they offer a more compressed look. You can do this to a degree with a telephoto lens and image stitching on smaller formats.

    Basically if it's a 200 mm lens with a larger image circle, you'll still have the look of a 200 mm lens. The appeal in landscape photography aside from the beautiful textures tended to be that objects in the distance would retain significance in the final image.

    They just give a different look. 50mm on the full frame would distort less assuming a well corrected lens. I can't stand the look of APS sized sensors. If 4x5 scanning backs weren't such a pain in the ass I would own one :D.
     
  18. Randy McKown macrumors member

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    #18
    While I do have a favorite portrait lens in my bag I've found that using multiple lenses on every portrait session has a dramatic impact on sales. My favorite portrait lens is the Nikon 105 DC lens ... the defocus control system is awesome and I use that as my primary portrait lens. However I make sure to switch off and use several others for each session. Normally I go for the 105 DC, a 50, a 18-200 (mainly used for some wide-angle shots) and a lensbaby composer pro sweet 35. It makes the upsell process in the sales room so easy it's not even funny.
     
  19. jdavtz macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    AFAIK it's nothing at all to do with the focal length of the lens, and only the subject-camera distance.

    A 50mm shot cropped/enlarged in the middle will look the same as a 200mm shot, in terms of "compression" of perspective.
     
  20. Vudoo macrumors 6502a

    Vudoo

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    #20
    Focal length plays the part in terms of bokeh which can affect the overall results of the photo.
     
  21. steveash macrumors 6502

    steveash

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    I'm not a believer in there being any one ideal focal length for portraits. I love my 135mm f2 for portraits (on full frame) but if you want a fairly wide shot then you have to be quite a distance from the subject which takes away a feeling of intimacy. In that case I will change to an 85mm. I have also occasionally used 200mm as it has a very narrow field of view. 35mm or less can be great for full length shots or if you want an unusual perspective. It all depends on what effect you want and your own personal taste.
     
  22. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #22
    Yes. If you are shooting for the web where the final page will be 200 pixels across then just use a wide lens and crop.

    This even applies to painting. How far away should the model sit?
     
  23. bluefox9er macrumors regular

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    #23
    the canon ef 135mm L lens is flat out one of the best lenses on the planet :)

    and the 85mm f1.8 is also a fantastic lens, either of these will give you amazing Image Quality
     
  24. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #24

    I'm not sure sharpness and image quality are what you want. Some of the old Hollywood tricks for taking closeups of leading lady actress was (1) Vaseline jelly around the edge of the lens, usually leaving the center clean. (2) white fishnet shocking over the lens, some times black or tan rather than white. The effect in both cases was like you took a double exposure, one tack sharp and the other slightly soft. Such image look shape to the eye but the second soft image lowers the local contrast of skin blemishes. this was important back then before photoshop.

    Nikon make a "DC" line of lenses that have an adjustable "bokeh". You can control the degree of smoothness in the out of focus areas

    I have an older manual focus 105mm f/2.0 lens that I still use with my digital Nikon SLR. This lens was made in the 1960's and I used it with my F2. One of the best that was ever made. You can buy them used today for about $100.

    Some of my best candid portraits were made with a Nikon 135mm f/2.8

    What do I use the most? I have a newish 85mm f/1.8

    ----------

    Good shot but also an example of why you don't want the sharpest lens. Your subject is young enough to get away with it but even so I'd tone it down a little

    In the film ear I used Agfa portrait film for these kinds of shots. That a lone does a lot. Then if the subject were any older I'd get one of those filters that looks like flat glass that has a few rain drops on it, little bumps randomly placed. Softens the skin without loosing sharpness.

    Today we just use Photoshop.
     
  25. bluefox9er macrumors regular

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    #25
    amen..not sure I'd be comfortable smearing dollops of Vaseline on my L lenses, but i have to respectfully disagree...image quality is EVERYTHING and my first consideration for buying any lens, especially one for portraiture. My clients would flip if the image quality wasn't up to speed.
    when you shoot portraits...you can unsharpened in post processing...id rather have the option to do that to my taste than work with a lens that has mediocre sharpness and image quality.
     

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