Quick Tips on Making the Most of Your 50mm Lens for Portraits

50mm lenses are among the most popular out there, in large part because of their relative ease of use in virtually any situation or niche of photography, but also thanks to their affordability compared to other lenses photographers may be considering. But let’s say that you just added a 50mm lens to your kit, how could you make the most of it if you were, say, a portrait photographer?

If you are asking that question then this is the post for you.

50mm is a great focal length for portraits because you get a little bit of that telephoto compression portrait photographers love so much, but you also still get enough width that you can have some context in the image in regard to the environment (if you like).

But to get the most out of your 50mm lens, we generally feel these are best used at a sort of intermediate distance from your subjects. The joy of the 50mm is that you can see it from whatever distance you like; get close for some tight headshots, or pull back and get some epic ‘tiny people landscape’ images. You won’t have much if any distortion and 50mm primes are generally really sharp too.

50mm allows you to get close or still pull back even in fairly tight locations. This is a key advantage to a portrait photographer.

One thing to consider though, given that the 50mm lens you are using will most likely be at least an F2 aperture, is that the closer you are to your portrait subject, the more you should think about stopping down depending on the look you are going for. 50mm, at close distances, will sometimes give you that classic ‘eyelashes in focus and nothing else’ or the even more amateur “one eye in focus the other eye not” look. So just be conscious of what your depth of field is looking like when you are shooting at a close distance to your subject.

As well, when you are shooting with a 50mm lens, don’t be afraid to move around or zoom with your feet. That is the glory of the 50mm lens: it is probably one of the best lenses for zooming with your feet because its distortion is so well controlled, so you can just move closer or away without much issue; unlike wider lenses where the position of your subject in the frame can come into play with relation to distortion and such.

Regardless, it’s actually pretty hard to screw up shooting portraits with a 50mm lens. Just take these points into account when you are shooting and you will do great.

50mm Lens Recommendations

  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B00X8MRBCW’ text=’Canon 50mm F1.8 STM’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’60cda426-a60b-11e7-ae01-85f18d9d37e3′] (Our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B004Y1AYAC’ text=’Nikon 50mm F1.8 G’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’696f6acf-a60b-11e7-9b90-77c6d574ffa2′] (Our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B016S28I4S’ text=’Fujifilm 35mm F2′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’70d09b78-a60b-11e7-8fb0-55f5e75e7431′] (Our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B01DLMD5O6′ text=’Sony 50mm F1.8 FE’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’79126840-a60b-11e7-b126-3306226e13b2′] (Our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B000I1YIDQ’ text=’Canon 50mm F1.2L’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’807631fe-a60b-11e7-9aef-2d6c8e631ead’]

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.