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10 Best Lenses for Portrait Photography

You can't use just any lens for a portrait, here are the best lenses for portrait photography.

By Jacob SchneiderPublished 6 years ago 8 min read

Technology has made many strides in recent years, especially in the field of photography. When Apple released the iPhone 7, with its incredible portrait mode, anyone with the newest phone could be your go-to photographer for your next headshot or profile picture. But what if the smartphone, even with these great attachable lens options, just doesn't meet your expectations? If you're a photographer looking for the best lens for portrait photography here are the best options if you're working with a Nikon, Canon, Sony or Fujifilm.


Nikon has a large range of cameras and lenses. Their biggest seller is the DSLR camera and here are some lenses that are perfect for the Nikon using, portrait photographer.

This lens is for an FX-format Nikon F-mount DSLR and will run you $2200, and is the most expensive lens on this list.

Product highlights of this lens include an aperture range of f/1.4 to f/16 and three extra-low dispersion elements.

This is Nikon's entrance into the realm of short telephoto lenses. The f/1.4 maximum aperture is great for working in low-light conditions and affords extensive control over focus for shallower depth of field imagery, which is exactly what portraiture photography is. While the aperture range can be considered wide, clarity and image quality are not sacrificed in changing the aperture.

The Nikkor 105mm combines that 105mm focal length and the incredibly fast maximum aperture are a huge plus for the portrait photographer, making this one of the best lenses for portrait photography.

Although this lens was optimized for FX-format DSLR cameras, the lens is equally adept working with any Nikon DX-format DSLR. This lens will cost you $480, making it one of the more affordable lenses on the market.

Product highlights of the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens include the F Mount lens and FX format, and an aperture range of f/1.8 to f/16. This lens also features super integrated lens coating and a silent wave motor AF system.

The combination of the mid-range telephoto design and fast aperture make this an excellent lens for shooting still images in low light scenarios. Available light shooters will adore the wide-open effect when taking portrait shots and in-focus subjects will stay clear while the backgrounds will become a soft blur creating the ideal portrait look.

This zoom lens is great for most scenarios, hence the $2100 price tag. The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II Lens could be ideal for a sports photographer, or photojournalist, that need a versatile lens, including portraiture, thanks to a wide focal length and great image quality.

Product highlights for this lens include the dual F Mount lens/FX format, an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/22, as well as seven extra-low dispersion elements.

This lens is great for the sports photographer that needs both the action shots and the portraits pre and post-game.

The innovative vibration reduction (or VR II) system minimizes image blur caused by a shaky hand allowing handheld shooting even in low-light conditions.


Canon has a large variety of cameras and lenses, in a variety of categories, with many uses, here are three of the best Canon lenses for portraiture.

The Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 lens comes in at a very affordable $420, making it the most affordable lens on this list of best lenses for portrait photography.

Product highlights of this lens include being an EF mount lens, an aperture range of f/1.8 to f/22, an ultrasonic focus motor, and an internal, rear focusing system.

This bright f/1.8 maximum aperture makes this lens a great choice for low-light photography and provides a shallow depth of field control which is exactly what a portrait photographer needs.

The Canon EF 135mm f/2.0 L USM lens is the most expensive of these Canon lenses being marked at $1000 but is well worth the money.

Product highlights include an aperture range of f/2 to f/32, two UD lens elements and an ultrasonic focus motor.

The f/2 maximum aperture makes this lens great for low-light photography, and creates a shallow depth of field, with impeccable background blur.

This lens also includes a ten element optical formula with two UD-glass elements to serve correct residual aberrations creating high image quality.

The CanonEF 100mm f/2 USM lens is a medium telephoto lens with a fast maximum aperture. This lens has an eight-blade diaphragm that creates pleasing out-of-focus areas and will only cost you $500.

Product highlights include an internal focusing system and an ultrasonic focus motor. The ultrasonic focus motor provides quick and quiet autofocus action and the internal focus system means the front element does not extend while focusing.

This lens also includes lens multi-coating which reduces reflections and minimizes flare and ghosting which are all too important when taking a portrait.


While most know Sony as the maker of PlayStation, and a Hollywood movie studio, they also make a wide range of other tech products including cameras and lenses.

The first Sony lens to make this list is the SonyFE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS. This lens comes in at a costly $1500 but if it's within budget, it is one of the best lenses for portrait photography.

Product highlights of this lens include an E-Mount lens/full frame format, which all of these Sony lenses share, and an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/20. This lens also has an apodization element for a smooth bokeh, or background, and one aspherical element, and one ED element.

What may be the biggest feature of this lens is its robust physical construction, that is dust and moisture sealed for use in poor conditions. There is also a direct drive SSM to allow quick, and quiet and a smooth autofocus. A macro switching ring allows selection between two focusing ranges, one dedicated to close up shots as close as a 1.9' focal length.

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens has a high price tag at $1800 but just like its 100mm counterpart, it is well worth the price and one of the best lenses for portrait photography on the market.

Product highlights for this lens include a f/1.4 to f/16 aperture range, one XA element, and three ED elements and nano AR coating.

This lens has a "prized focal length for portraiture," according to B&H Photo, and is designed for Sony's mirrorless digital cameras. This lens is also adept at isolation focus for shallow depth of field effects and performing in low-light conditions.

The nano AR coating was applied to limit ghosting and lens flare, which creates an increased contrast and color fidelity in strong lighting conditions.

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 lens comes in at one-third the price of its f/1.4 aperture counterpart. Costing $600, this is ideal for the Sony user not looking to totally break the bank.

Product highlights for this lens include an aperture range of f/1.8 to f/22 and one extra-low dispersion element as well as a double linear AF motor.

This lens is designed for the full-frame E-mount mirrorless camera. The bright maximum aperture benefits use in low-light conditions and provide full control over depth of field.


Most camera users probably know Fujifilm for their Polaroid and disposable film cameras, but they have also moved into the digital and mirrorless camera field and have plenty of lenses that are great for portraiture.

The Fujifilm XF 50mm f/2 R WR lens is a sleek lens for the Fujifilm X series of mirrorless cameras. This lens comes in at a very affordable $450.

Product features include an X-mount lens/ APS-C format, its 76mm focal length is equivalent to 35mm on a digital or film camera, and an aperture range of f/2 to f/16. This lens also includes super EBC lens coating.

The focal length of this lens is ideal for someone that has a variety of uses including portraits and still lifes. The lightweight design and bright f/2 maximum aperture are great for working in low-light conditions and provide a high degree of control over depth of field or selective focus.

This lens also contains weather seals to protect against dust, moisture, and temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 R WR lens has a $950 price tag, while it provides many of the same features and qualities of the XF 50mm this lens has a larger zoom and longer range.

Other features of this lens include a 137mm focal length which is equivalent to 35mm on a film camera. This lens also has three extra-low dispersion elements and super EBC lens coatings.

This lens, like the other Fujifilm's on this list, has the weather protection seal. The XF 90mm is a mid-length telephoto lens especially well suited for aperture.

The last lens on this list, the Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R APD lens, comes in at a lofty $1500 making it the priciest Fujifilm lens.

Product highlights include an 85mm focal length, equivalent to 35mm on a film camera, and an aperture range of f/1.2 to f/16. This lens also has an apodization filter for soft backgrounds.

This lens was made for the bokeh enthusiast and features a unique optical design making it ideal for portrait-length perspective.

What makes this lens different from the other Fujifilm lenses is a controllable apodizing filter to produce an aesthetically-pleasing-out-of-focus quality for selective focus applications.

There you have it. If you use a Nikon, Canon, Sony, or Fujifilm these are some of the best lenses for portrait photography on the market.


About the Creator

Jacob Schneider

Sports fanatic, movie watcher, avid reader. I write about things I know which are sports, movies and books.

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