The best DSLR lenses for shooting portraits

We've singled out the best DSLR lenses in the market for shooting great portraits, with suitable models for Canon and Nikon enthusiasts.

Published Date
17 - Feb - 2013
| Last Updated
17 - Feb - 2013
 
The best DSLR lenses for shooting portraits

Do you have a penchant for shooting people? Love fashion photography but just aren’t able to nail that perfect shot? Well, if you’re facing issues capturing the perfect face shot, chances are you’re not using the right lens. Interestingly, shooting the perfect portrait is more of a lens feature than camera dependent, so we’ll take you through the right process.

For starters, a great portrait is generally one which is able to isolate your subject from the background, meaning, one which can give you a good amount of background blur, or Bokeh. This is in honesty one of the most important factors in getting gorgeous portraits (besides lighting of course), and that background blur isn’t just dependent on fast apertures, but is also determined by sensor size and the focal length of the lens. Keeping that in mind, we’re going to suggest you some lenses that will really make your portraits just simply amazing. Do remember though, this list is in no particular order of preference.

1) Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM


IF you have a crop sensor camera, then the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 (Rs. 27,630) is an amazing lens to be shooting portraits with. It is neither wide, nor telephoto, but offers the ability to flirt with both ends of the spectrum thanks to a generous minimum focussing distance of roughly 1.5 feet. With an aperture of f/1.4, being able to isolate the subject is possible, but in case you want to capture the full length and breadth of your subject, then you can do that too thanks to the forgiving 30mm, which ends up being 45-48mm, depending on which brand of DSLR you’re using.

2) Canon or Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8


The 24-70mm focal length has long been every professional photographers secret arsenal when working with models for portraiture. The focal length provides the flexibility of both wide and moderately telephoto ends and the f/2.8 aperture lends to a creamy bokeh. Both the Canon (Rs. 1,49,995) and Nikon (Rs. 1,13,950) version of this lens has been substantiated to be incredibly sharp across the focal range at f/2.8. Even if this is the only lens in your kit, you’ve got yourself one hell of a versatile lens, with portraiture being one of its stronger suites.

3) Canon or Nikon 50mm f/1.4

This focal length is regarded as the perfect focal length for anyone training to be a photographer. Besides that, on a crop sensor, it offers a tight enough perspective to get amazing head-shots of your subject, with little to no distortion. When shooting close-ups of people, longer focal lengths are better because the will not distort your subject like a wide angle lens would. The 50mm lenses have been used for shooting portraits from the beginning of time and the f/1.4 version of the lens (there is f/1.8, f/1.4 and an f/1.2 version) is the best balance between price and performance. Canon 50mm f1.4 (Rs. 32,995), Nikon 50mm f1.4 (Rs. 31,950).

4) Sigma 85mm f/1.4

 

If you’re looking for extremely close head-shots that essentially obliterate the background with a dreamy bokeh, then this IS the lens for you. The lens is slightly pricier than the Canon or Nikon 85mm f/1.8, but it does offer a very slightly faster aperture and overall, has fast grown to replace the Canon and Nikon lenses in many photographers’ bags, though that is subjective. If you really can’t afford the Sigma (Rs. 66,000), then going for the Canon (Rs. 32,995) version of the 85mm lens wouldn’t be a bad idea either. The Nikon (Rs. 1,23,450) version is a bit more pricey.

While these are four versatile options for lenses that will allow you to not only shoot beautiful portraits, but also capture a lot of other beautiful subjects, there are other lenses too that could be used to shoot portraits. Lenses like the Canon 135mm f/2.0, which has long been heralded as the go-to lens by portrait photographers for its incredible sharpness, almost negligible distortion and very fast focussing speeds. The long zoom telephoto 70-200mm f/2.8 (the optically stabilized versions) from both Canon and Nikon are also often used to shoot portraits thanks to their long focal lengths and wide aperture which offer the ultimate in subject isolation. But of course, the lens also costs a bomb, and therefore, might not be the best suited for everyone. The 24-70mm f/2.8 is quite an expensive lens in itself, but it is definitely one that belongs in every photographer’s kit because of just how versatile it is. If you can’t afford it right now, then it’s something you should definitely aspire to own.
 

Swapnil MathurSwapnil Mathur

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