Ep 346: The best portrait lenses for beginners, enthusiasts and pros

What are the best portrait lenses for beginners, enthusiasts and pros? Everything you need to know about the lenses you need to take great portraits. What you need to consider about crop and full frame, wide versus long, zoom versus prime and much more.

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Show Notes

Crop vs Full frame considerations

Wide vs Long

Zoom vs Prime

Pros of zoom lenses

  • You can set up shots and create full-length, three-quarter and tight headshots without having to move your camera.
  • You can stay out of my model’s personal space
  • It’s perfect for capturing intimate photos of couples or children and even pets.
  • With 100mm to 200mm, facial features are compressed slightly, which is flattering for portraits.

Cons of zoom lenses

  • Heavy
  • Not great for tight spaces
  • Conspicuous
  • Dust gets on sensor from zoom action
  • More expensive

Prime lenses

  • Sharper
  • Faster
  • Cheaper
  • Lighter

The ideal upgrade from kit lens

  1. 50mm Prime Lens
    – 1.8mm Nifty 50 about $120
    – 1.4 $300-500
    – 1.2 $1500
  2. 35mm Prime Lens $600/800
  3. 85mm f1.8 $400 1.2 (2000)
    Sharp and fast, great for portraits, my personal fav.
  4. Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8
    Great little zoom as a step up to kit with f2.8 $300
  5. Dedicated Macro lens $500ish range
    Perfect for products, jewellery and food photography get very very close
  6. 24-70 f2.8 Lens $1500-2000
    I actually dislike this lens… use it for stills, comes in very handy. Good for weddings. Most people love it.
  7. 24-105mm A bargain at $600
    Great walk around lens and incredibly versatile.
  8. 70-200mm f2.8 Lens
    Price drops significantly if you choose a slower lens (F4 instead of F2.8).

If your budget is tight, you might consider buying second hand.

The other option you may like to consider is renting a long lens for a weekend.

If you could only buy one lens to start with…

  • 50mm 1.8 +kit
  • Then add 24-105mm
  • Then 70-200mm
  • Then 85mm

Protect your gear

  • Lens cap + lens hood
  • Bag
  • Store it in dry place


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Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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