What Is the Best Lens/Focal Length For Portrait and Head Shot Photography?

Beginning photographers often wonder what the best lens or focal length is for shooting head shots and portraits for actors, weddings, etc..

If you use a wide-angle lens like a 24mm, 35mm,50mm or even 70mm you have to move very close to your subject to get a good head size, and moving close expands perspective, elongating the subject’s features. If you use a longer lens you have to move back to get a good head size.  Moving back compresses perspective, flattening the subject’s features.  So using a longer lens like a 135mm, 200mm or even 300mm will give you the best results most of the time.

So what’s the optimum portrait lens?

It depends on how much of a person you want to show.

If you want the whole person standing, I would suggest a 50-70mm lens.

If you are photographing half the body (waist up) I would suggest a 70-135mm lens.

If you want just head and shoulders, I would suggest 135mm to a 300mm lens.

Here are some examples of different focal lengths.

Portrait Focal Lenths 200mm, 135mm, 100mm, 70mm, 50mm, 35mm and 24mm

Examples of Portrait Focal Lenths 200mm, 135mm, 100mm, 70mm, 50mm, 35mm and 24mm

 

200mm

200mm

 

135mm

135mm

 

100mm

100mm

 

70mm

70mm

 

50mm

50mm

 

35mm

35mm

 

24mm

24mm