Best lens for portraits

edited December 2014 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
What would be the best lens to use for children and family portrait photos? Is the 35mm f/1.8 lens good for portrait photos and can you manually zoom in and out? Thank you.


  • edited December 2014
    The 35mm f/1.8 is a prime lens, meaning it's a fixed focal length lens, so no zoom.

    For portraits, longer focal lengths tend to be better. There's less distortion and the compression makes subjects look more flattering. In general, most would agree that 85mm is the ideal portrait focal length.

    If space is an issue, just use the longest focal length you can while having the camera as far away as possible while keeping everyone in the frame.
  • Thank you.
  • edited December 2014
    Is the 85mm also a fixed focal length with no zoom? I want the best lens that will give me sharp pictures and blur the background on portraits. Thank you.
  • edited December 2014
    First, let me just briefly answer your question. 85mm is the optimal portrait focal length; how you get there is up to you. There are 85mm primes, and there are plenty of zooms that cover that focal length. The best portrait lens is probably the 85mm f/1.4G which is roughly $1,500.

    From the types of questions you're asking here and at the other thread, I would strongly suggest that you don't look at getting any gear at the moment because you would gain very little.

    Experiment with your camera, read about photography basics, learn to use your camera outside of Auto and Scene modes, and learn to use your camera's autofocus modes other than Auto Area.

    Remember, your D3100 is actually a very decent camera. It's better than what professionals used not too long ago in terms of image quality, and your 18-55mm is actually an optically sound lens. Lack of sharpness is not an issue with this lens or your camera.
  • edited January 2015
    I would, as @ohyeahar often recommends, shoot around with the provided kit lens for a while, setting it to 35mm and 50mm lengths, and see what lengths you find most useful for your style of shooting. It varies considerably. Some people just see things wider than others. It's always been a joke with my wife and me, that we can stand in the same place aiming at the same things, and come up with entirely different views. She'll be zooming in while I'm zooming out.

    On DX format, an 85mm is a nice portrait length. It can be a bit long for close quarters and limited in general use outside of portraits and macros, too short for telephoto, too long for scenery. 35mm and 50mm are more generally useful, but make sure you really know what you're looking at. Is it fully compatible with your camera? Will it auto focus? Will it meter?

    I find myself using 35mm and 28mm lenses more often than 50mm.

    As a general rule when shopping for lenses, any lens that has a single number for its length will be a prime with a fixed focal length. Zooms will have their range specified (e.g. 18-55mm). If the lens listed does not have two focal lengths separated by a dash, assume a non zooming prime. If it has a fast aperture, it's almost certainly a prime. 2.8 is very fast for a zoom, and fast zooms are hugely expensive.

    Don't be afraid of those kit lenses. They will not give you the best out of focus backgrounds in portraits, but they are surprisingly good. They're cheap because Nikon makes them by the zillions and uses lots of plastic. They're a bit slow, but they cut few corners on optics, because they could not sell boatloads of SLR's if they did not provide sharp pictures out of the box.

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