If you have a passion for portrait photography and want to take your portrait shots to the next level buying a new lens is the quickest and easiest way to get results. Below are awesome portrait lenses (one for every budget) that will help you achieve your goals.
Canon 50mm f1.8
The first top portrait lens on the list is one for those on a budget, and it is the Canon 50mm f1.8. The Canon 50mm f1.8, or “nifty fifty” as it is affectionately known, is a cracking lens that is well worth buying if you want to take better portraits than your kit lens can do, and don’t have a few hundred bucks to drop on a lens.
The Canon 50mm f1.8 is small, light and feels more like a child’s toy than a serious portrait lens but don’t let this put you off buying one as the image quality of this lens, and the bokeh it produces, is stunning. There is a learning curve with this lens, and you won’t get the best from it right off the bat but stick with it and you will reap the benefits, trust me.
This lens is a cheap and cheerful lens and I still struggle to see how Canon can make such a good lens for such a low price. Okay, we have already established the build quality isn’t the best, but it isn’t that bad. I have owned the Canon 50mm f1.8 lens for several years now and it is still going strong and as good today as the day I first got it, albeit a little more scratched of course.
Canon 35mm f2 IS
After reading an article about prime lenses and being told “everyone should have a 35mm prime lens in their kit bag” I ended up buying the Canon 35mm f2 IS lens on a bit of a whim, and boy am I glad I did.
The Canon 35mm f2 IS lens isn’t a professional grade L series lens so it isn’t made from the tough materials or contain the superior optics found in Canon’s line up of L lenses.
Even though this lens isn’t an L series lens it is an exceptional piece of glass and perfect for portrait photography. The Canon 35mm lens is a mid-sized lens that feels nicely balanced on my fully gripped Canon 6d and positively small on my fully gripped Canon 7d. The image quality of this lens is awesome and images are sharp, full of contrast and punchy but not oversaturated. The f2 aperture means I can throw the background nicely out of focus and have the subject nice and sharp.
In my opinion the sharpness of this lens is perfect. It is not as sharp as the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens (which is stupidly sharp, and easily the sharpest lens I own) but it is plenty sharp enough to keep the eyes (i.e. the gateway to the soul) in focus. When taking portraits the ideal lens is sharp but not so sharp that it picks up spots, blemishes and variations in skin tone, and this is exactly what this lens does. This lens has image stabilisation technology in it, and whilst many photographers argue you don’t need this in a lens with a 35mm focal length, I have to say it is a great feature and very useful. The image stabilisation is spot on and helps ensure sharp handheld shots at slower shutter speeds.
The Canon 35mm is a mid-priced lens that isn’t cheap like the nifty fifty, but isn’t super expensive either so it is in financial reach of most people.
If you want to take your portrait shots to the next level and have a reasonable budget available, the Canon 35mm f2 IS lens is going to be right up your street and one I highly recommend.
Canon 24mm – 70mm f2.8L lens
This is my personal favourite portrait lens and, if I could only have one portrait lens the Canon 24 – 70 f2.8L would be the one. This lens, being a zoom lens, is versatile and can be used for head shots, full body shots and group portraits. Some photographers argue zoom lenses don’t have the same image quality as prime lenses, and whilst this may be true you won’t notice the difference in the real world.
The difference in image quality between a prime lens and a top end zoom lens, like the 24 – 70 f2.8L, is so slight you will have to go pixel peeping on the computer to see it.
The Canon 24 – 70 f2.8L is an L series lens which means it is made using the best materials, i.e. it tough and durable, and also uses the best optics, which means the image quality is awesome. This is a sharp lens but not so sharp it shows up imperfections. If you want a flattering lens, which is what all portrait photographers want, this lens is it.
The Canon 24 – 70 f2.8L is my go to portrait photography lens and has been my work horse for several years now, and I can’t see it changing any time soon, if at all. Sure, there are times when I use other lenses for portraits (like my 35mm f2 IS) but I always go back to the Canon 24 – 70 f2.8L, and when I am out on commercial portrait shoots it is the only lens I use.
As you’d expect, the Canon 24 – 70 f2.8L isn’t cheap but the extra cost is well worth stumping up for if you are serious about portrait photography. Lenses, like this are an investment that will last a long time and provide years of trouble free service – this is always worth remembering when you find yourself doubting the purchase of a lens because of the cost.
If you want to take your portrait shots to the next level the Canon 24 – 70 f2.8L lens is going to be right up your street and it is a lens I highly recommend.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.