View Full Version : Best focal length for portrait in photography

06-21-2011, 10:09 AM
Hello photographers ,

i was checking some posts about photography , and i saw something strange , and i want to ask about it.

while i was reading this post ( Photography Backdrops (http://www.grook.net/forum/photography-backdrops) ) , i saw that the best focal length to take portraits is 85-100 , is that true , and if it was true , why is that ?

Thanks alot

06-21-2011, 03:37 PM
All though that's sound advice, I have also read some photog's like to zoom wide and pull in close to there subject when doing environmental portraits.

Basically The 85-100mm(ish) focal range doesn't distort the face as much as most other focal lengths. Remember it will be a different range on a crop sensor camera to a full frame camera. The 50mm makes a nice fast cheap portrait lens on a crop sensor.

Matt K.
06-23-2011, 09:46 PM
It is also about distance from the person you shoot. With that length you are far enough away to have room for lights, flashes and such, but not too far so you have to shout for the portraitee to hear your instructions (tilt head to left .... nooo,. the other left ...). Any shorter focal length will put you almost "in their face" which is not good from several perspectives: bad breath, no room for lights, depth of field can become an issue. :shrug:

06-24-2011, 02:01 AM
True, if you are using a shorter focal length you can intrude into the subject's personal space but here is a case for using a shorter lens, a 50-60 mm in Craig Tanner's "The Mindful Eye" a very informative two part critique of a portrait taken with a shorter lens.


Hope you can see that without signing up but if not, it's worth the trouble to do so.

06-24-2011, 05:32 AM
Approx 85mm would have been the traditional portrait focal length on full frame cameras. For APS-C that translates to around 50-60mm. However you can shoot portraits at any focal length you like. Shorter FLs will give the subject a bigger nose :) Longer FLs make it easier to blur the background. Joe McNally seems to often use Nikon's 200mm f2 lens for his portraits.

Mad Aussie
06-25-2011, 01:49 AM
I like using between 70 - 200 mm (1.6 crop factor) for mine but really it depends on the effect you are after. The little, cheap 50mm lenses do a surprising job too.

02-28-2012, 10:01 AM
What I've read is that focal length's in the 70mm+ range (telephoto) compress the facial features a bit for a more flattering shot as AcelinePanetier mentions.

02-29-2012, 06:38 PM
With my old Nikon FM, the portrait lens back then to use was the 135mm. On a DX, I think the equivalent is the 85mm (yes?)

03-03-2012, 06:44 PM
I would say balance between big nose and big ears. Long lens seems to make ears look big and short nose looks big. So it will depend on the subject. Women often have ears hidden by hair so long lens but men may need shorter lens to hide ears a bit.

03-04-2012, 07:03 AM
I prefer around the 50mm range and a prime and not a zoom lens. With a cropped 30mm prime lens.

03-11-2012, 06:30 PM
I prefer around the 50mm range and a prime and not a zoom lens. With a cropped 30mm prime lens.

on a DX or FX format camera?

01-03-2013, 08:39 AM
The most widely held belief in answering this question is a lens in the range of 85mm to 135mm. I sure canít argue with this as a good workable range.

01-03-2013, 09:29 AM
I have been taking many portraits over the last few weeks. My best results are coming when I shoot around 180-200 mm(on a FF body). At that focal range I find the backgrounds "compressed". It allows subject focus and isolation.

Another reason why I like the longer focal length is that if I'm shooting more than one person the longer length allows more to be in focus. Meaning both sets of eyes are sharp.

While I have been using a 2.8 lens, it is easy enough to create great bokeh even at 5.6.

Mike Guilbault
02-19-2013, 12:16 AM
It also depends on how much of the body is showing in the 'portrait'. A head and shoulders portrait is best captured, as has been mentioned already, in the 85-200 (FF) range. I use my 70-200mm almost exclusively for this. However, if you're doing half to full length, I'll switch to my 24-70mm or even the 50mm prime. Most of the full length portraits I shoot are easily done with the 50mm. For more environmental portraits where the subject is full length and less than half of the image area, you can use just about any lens depending on the effect you want. Google Al Gilbert's environmental portraits using a wide-angle lens.

05-07-2013, 10:40 AM
70 -135 is my choice for portraits I like the top end because it tends to flatten the image slightly

05-07-2013, 03:38 PM
It depends upon what kind of portrait youíre taking... and there are other variables (easpecially shooting distance).
I use only fixed focal lens: 35-50mm for environmental portrait; medium-telephoto for more tight portraits.

04-17-2019, 05:43 AM
Might be a bit too late, really sorry.
But, it depends on the sensor as well.

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