35mm and 50mm prime lenses are excellent lenses for portraits however whether they are the best lenses to capture infant portraits, I am not convinced. When using lenses with focal lengths of 35mm or 50mm you have to be quite close to the subject to make sure they fill the frame. Stand too far away and the subject is far too small. If the subject remains still, or at least relatively still getting in close, composing the shot and taking the photo is easy but how many infants do you know who will remain still in one place for more than thirty seconds? Infants are inquisitive and play, as well as run around. Sitting still is not something infants do, even if bribed.
Running around with a 35mm or 50mm prime lens attached to your camera chasing an infant is not going to work, trust me. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt – but I didn’t get any good shots. This is not the way to capture awesome infant portraits, and it is also very tiring too. The bottom line is 35mm and 50mm prime lenses are no good for infant photography, not for capturing infant portraits outside.
In my experience the best lens for infant portraits is the 70mm – 200mm f2.8 zoom lens. Using a 70mm – 200mm f2.8 zoom lens I can reduce the amount of running around I have to do (and stay in one place as much as possible) and use the lenses zoom capability to track the subject and get a frame filling shot. When I switched from a 35mm prime lens to the 70mm – 200mm zoom lens my keeper rate went through the roof and trying to find those keepers in amongst the photos that were only good for the trash can I found myself looking for the shots that were only good for the trash can among the keepers – result!
I appreciate the 70mm – 200mm f2.8 lens doesn’t have the wide maximum apertures the prime lenses do but then f2.8 is plenty wide enough to blur out the background and get some nice bokeh. In fact, because of the ‘zoom effect’ it is possible to get some nice bokeh shooting at f5.6. The 70mm – 200mm f28 lenses are sharp from the centre of the frame to the edges used wide open, so there is no need to stop down the lens if you don’t want to.
The biggest disadvantage with the 70mm – 200mm f2.8 lens is that, compared to the small and light 35mm prime lenses and 50mm prime lenses, they are big and heavy and you have to keep the shutter speed up to make sure the shots are sharp. Whilst you do have to keep the shutter speeds higher than if you were using a 35mm or 50mm lens there is no need to go for very fast shutter speeds because the 70mm – 200mm f2.8 lenses worth buying have built in image stabilization. It is worth remembering you do need a shutter that is fast enough to ‘freeze the action’ of highly mobile infants, so it is all a balancing exercise.
Compared to the smaller prime lenses the 70mm – 200mm f2.8 lenses are heavy, but in the big scheme of things, i.e. compared to other lenses in the market, they aren’t that big and are perfectly manageable for taking outdoor infant portraits.
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.