Picking a portrait prime lens can be a daunting task and there really is no right answer; it depends on the situation and your preference as a photographer. However, whatever you pick, you have to own it. Literally. In this post, we help you choose the portrait prime focal length that’s right for you.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

The 85mm f/1.4 is easily the most popular of these 3 focal lengths. But of course, that doesn’t mean it’s best for everyone.

85mm is a great focal length for general portrait photography. It gives you an approximate range of 28.6° which is perfect for full-body shots with a decent amount of bokeh. It’s also great for taking very personal headshots without getting too close to your subject. As a result, this lens is wildly popular with fashion and wedding photographers.

We know everyone loves the coveted 70-200mm for everything from portraits to wildlife photography. That said, we would still choose this 85mm because it’s lightweight and has exceptional low-light performance.

Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

This next lens definitely isn’t the lightest in the old camera bag. The Sigma 105mm f/1.4 is for those who are either too lazy to take that one extra step toward their subject or those who enjoy beautiful, swirly bokeh (we’re both).

Weighing in at almost 4 pounds, this lens is so large that it comes with a tripod collar. Honestly, it’s worth the workout.

This 105mm lives in the sweet middle spot of this portrait lens trio.

It’s the perfect lens to pull out when you need its narrower angle of 23.3° and the 85mm just isn’t cutting it. This 105mm is also useful when you want/need to be further away from your subject.

This lens is most popular with wedding photographers because it gives them extreme low-light capabilities and works well for distant headshots. At f/1.4, the background seems to just melt away like a stick of butter on a hot summer day.

Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

Last but not least we have 135mm f/1.8. No one is ever quite sure why they need this lens until they use it. Then, it’s hard to live without it.

One of the biggest advantages of such a long focal length is this lens’s image compression. Your subjects’ profile will look flatter and bear a greater resemblance to viewing things in real life.

Plus, the 135mm is a great lens for separating your subject from the background and adding depth to your images. It has a narrow angle of view at only 18.2°—it’s hard to miss your shot when everything else is just swirls of bokeh.

If you’re still not sure which portrait prime focal length is right for you…

We recommend checking your Lightroom metadata after your next shoot. Make note of the focal length you use most throughout the shoot. That will help you determine which one is the right choice for you.

1 COMMENT

  1. It really is personal preference. I have both 85mm and 135mm, however I tend to shoot with the 85mm more often. If Canon would make the 85mm focus as fast as the 135mm it would be the only lens I would use for portraits.

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