There is a question that concerns us all: What is the best portrait lens?
And many people have already found the answer: the 50mm!!
But is this really the ultimate portrait lens? And why is this (or not) the case? And does it matter whether you have a crop or full-frame camera?
During the 'Urban flashing' workshop at the NDSM wharf in Amsterdam last Saturday, Nathalie said: “You are typically a man who analyzes everything”. Although it was meant jokingly, I secretly take it as a compliment. Because I have often made 'discoveries' that I can use again in practice to take photos that are slightly different than usual.
It is important to know that a lens has certain properties. A wide angle pulls the image apart and a telephoto lens compresses the image. And you also have a certain distance to your subject.
With a wide angle, you get very close to make the face of your model fill the screen. And with a telephoto lens, take it perhaps 10 meters away to get the entire face of your model in the picture.
If you stand on top of your model you will notice that your model's nose is stretched enormously, the forehead and chin are stretched and the face really doesn't look good. And if you add the stretching of the wide angle, the picture is hilarious... but not really charming.
If you stand far away, the proportions in the face become much more natural and the telephoto lens compresses your image a bit and the proportions in the face, chin, nose, forehead, become very nice to look at.
But the 50mm isn't wide angle, is it? No, that's right and the proportions are pretty good. During a workshop in my Experience Studio, a member thought so too, because the 50 mm has a top reputation.
I regularly shout: don't believe me right away, but try it out for yourself!. I had her take a full screen portrait with the 50mm and then with a telephoto lens at 200mm. She was all the way across the studio with the 200mm and that felt weird. With the 50mm she stood about a meter from the model.
After the 2 pictures she could compare the pictures. “Wow, you can really see the difference between the photos,” she said. “But which one do you like better?” I asked. The 200mm won!
With a crop camera you have the 'advantage' that you stand further away, perhaps around 1.5 meters, that certainly makes a difference. But even then, the telephoto lens wins in terms of proportions in the face.
But depth of field? Agree, the 1.8 has wide aperture, but you know that aperture is only 1 of the 3 elements that determine depth of field....but more on that later.
So my favorite portrait lens is the telephoto lens. Perhaps a good reason for you to compare the 50mm and your telephoto lens and come to your own favourite.
Do you want to learn how to make really creative portraits? Then quickly book the workshop here: