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My Go-To Portrait Lenses

Make Me Look Good.

Best Lenses for Portraiture

Maybe you've heard that one before. That's what almost all of my clients request before we get rolling with a portrait session! For a while that light-hearted comment would stress me out. Even if I was going into the shoot with confidence up to that point, those four words would bring on the nerves!

Fortunately, after a lot of trial and error, I have narrowed down my go-to lenses that always keep my confidence high in portraiture photoshoots.

Today I'll be sharing with you my secret weapons! These are the three lenses I always have on me during a portrait photoshoot. While they are all excellent, I'll be ranking them for ya with 3 being the least used and 1 being the most used. I will also add a couple pictures I have taken with the lenses in question and discuss their pros and cons so you can decide if one of them might be a good lens for you.

Let's Get To It!

24-70mm f2.8 Zoom Lens Example

24-70mm f2.8 Zoom Lens Example


  • The zoom comes in handy when you don't have time to swap lenses (like at a wedding or if you or your client are pressed for time).

  • The low f-stop gives you tons of flexibility when it comes to depth of field (DOF).

  • Not just for portraiture - I use this for my automotive photography and waterdrop photography as well!


  • SO HEAVY. Seriously this think is like 3lbs. It will cramp your arms up if you're using it for a longer period of time.

  • Stupid expensive. I have better lenses for a fraction of the cost.

50mm f1.4 Canon Lens Portrait example

*Honesty hour: I couldn't for the life of me differentiate whether some of my past photos were taken with my 50mm or my 85mm. These lenses are so similar because they are fixed lenses and their f-stop limits are similar. I literally just took the above picture for the sake of showing what the lens can do.


  • Super duper light-weight!

  • The low f-stop gives that flexibility with DOF.

  • I can get a sharp image of the client but also include details of whatever the locations is.


  • Focus is very sensitive - take your time and make sure your shots are in focus.

  • As is the case with all "prime" or "fixed" lenses, they don't zoom. So make sure you wear shoes that you can be moving around in. You'll do a lot of walking up to and away from the subject.

Rokinon 85mm Portrait Example

Rokinon 85mm Portrait Example

The story behind this lens might make me biased toward this lens. I was still in high school when I reached out to one of my favorite street photographers, Danny Santos, on Flickr asking for portrait lens recommendations. I did not expect a response back - I was just a kid and as far as I was concerned this dude was the real deal. But lo and behold I received a message back recommending this lens!

It was one of the few times in my photography career that another photographer was kind and happy to help me rather than brush me off as some kind of scum competition.


  • Not too heavy (but not as light as the 50mm! 😉)

  • The most affordable and best quality lens I own. It feels like a high quality lens. The mobile parts (focus, f-stop) are tight and makes me feel like I have a lot of control.

  • INCREDIBLE DOF. Like wow.

  • Warmth? I don't know how to explain it but this lens gives a slight warm feeling that I have always loved incorporating in my photography.


  • Focus is very sensitive - take your time and make sure your shots are in focus.

  • Not ideal for shooting above f4.0.

  • When shooting at a higher f-stop, visibility through the viewfinder becomes difficult. This lens reflects the f-stop adjustment automatically and therefore shows the darkening effect of changing to the higher f-stop.

  • Like the 50mm, this lens doesn't zoom.

And there you have it!

This selection of the best portrait lenses is purely opinion based. You might find some lenses that you feel work waaaay better than these.

To each their own; always stay unique in your style and equipment.


Be sure to let me know if you'll be adding any of these to your Christmas wish list this year or if you have any questions in the comments! What are your go-to lenses and what type of photography are you using them for?

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