The Photographer’s Guide to Budget Friendly Portrait Lenses

Portrait photography is for sure one of the most popular niches of photography, with many people getting into photography specifically to learn how to shoot better portraits they don’t always know what portrait lenses to get their hands on. This not only makes portrait photography a popular starting point for beginners but also a popular target for lens manufacturers when designing lenses.

We all know that top quality, faster aperture lenses designed for professionals are very expensive, too expensive for someone just getting started, or someone who is more in the semi-professional arena than a full-time pro. So what are some good budget lens options for portrait photographers looking to shoot better portraits but not go into soul-crushing debt?

Here are some of our picks.

The 50mm F1.8

Virtually every system has a 50mm F1.8 (or Field of View Equivalent) and these are usually some of the most affordable lenses available in a given system. Not only that, but they are also versatile enough that they are good for portraiture and a wide variety of other subjects as well.

Here are some of the available options in the various systems:

  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B01DLMD5O6′ text=’Sony FE 50mm F1.8′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’d9216a8d-fde6-11e6-b2ea-91a82dfdb117′] (Read our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B00X8MRBCW’ text=’Canon 50mm F1.8 STM’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’e5a63826-fde6-11e6-9959-33b3a8ace1fe’] (Read our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B013TCJ9WA’ text=’Nikon 50mm F1.8 G’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’f0a5027b-fde6-11e6-a0e2-91e52e76b044′] (Read our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B016S28I4S’ text=’Fujifilm 35mm F2′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’fb8a9f18-fde6-11e6-b808-35e6ea34ddc8′] (Read our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B00HWMP0XG’ text=’Olympus 25mm F1.8′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’060a4dc7-fde7-11e6-b522-15c4bb85d563′] (Read our Review)

85mm F1.8

You may start to notice a similar theme here, but F1.8 prime lenses are generally in that budget lens category because everyone wants them. This is because they are fast, decent quality, and are usually a really great bang for your buck. The 85mm focal length has long been a favorite for portrait photographers thanks to its compression and telephoto characteristics.

Here are some of the available options in the various systems:

  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B06WLGFWGX’ text=’Sony FE 85mm F1.8′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’17a9905d-fde7-11e6-8849-79fe62386952′] (First Impressions and samples)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B00007GQLU’ text=’Canon 85mm F1.8′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’214f8184-fde7-11e6-819e-05d2779130db’] (Read our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B006TAP096′ text=’Nikon 85mm F1.8G’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’2ab90574-fde7-11e6-9118-91b51c57fca2′] (Read our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B01CIXJLI8′ text=’Tamron 85mm F1.8′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’d21653e2-fde7-11e6-bdd7-75717108bf3c’] (Read our Review)

70-200mm F4 Lenses

70-200mm lenses are also popular choices among portrait photographers for their versatility. In most cases, an F2.8 version is preferred, but they are also not really budget lenses, so today we are highlighting the F4 varients. These lenses are still plenty fast for daylight and strobist portrait work and on the long end, the compression and bokeh will still look really great in portraits.

Here are some of the available options in the various systems:

  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B000I1X3W8′ text=’Canon 70-200mm F4′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’b6ab2220-fde7-11e6-8b5c-573f89773bbf’]
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B009VZOK0Q’ text=’Nikon 70-200mm F4′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’c17fce2d-fde7-11e6-8c38-2bf414bebc57′]
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B00LSZUQA0′ text=’Tokina 70-200mm F4′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’d924d04c-fde7-11e6-a29f-9df8d913d84c’] (Read our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B00I8BICEO’ text=’Sony FE 70-200mm F4′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’05564b25-fde8-11e6-b98e-4978d8b2ea41′]  (Read our Review)

Obviously these are not your only budget options for portraiture, you could use your kit lens and still get some good results if you know what you are doing. These are some popular first steps though for portrait photographers in the budget category, so hopefully this listing has been helpful to you.

Anthony Thurston

Anthony is a Portland, Oregon based Boudoir Photographer specializing in a dark, moody style that promotes female body positivity, empowerment, and sexuality. Besides The Phoblographer, he also reviews gear and produces his own educational content on his website.