Two Must-Have Portrait Lenses for Portrait Photographers

Screenshot image from the video by Manny Ortiz

So, you’ve decided to focus on portrait photography and want to start putting together a gear setup that will let you achieve the best results. Choosing the right lens is a big part of working with portraiture, so if you’re still looking, Chicago-based portrait photographer Manny Ortiz talks about his recommendations in a recent video.

In the first part of the video, Manny treats us with a cinematic behind the scenes photoshoot clip to give us a clue about his preferred lenses for portrait work. We see in the final snaps two lenses he equipped his Sony A9 with: a 55mm 1.8 Zeiss lens, and an 85mm 1.4 Gmaster lens. Before we go any further, we’ll let you watch his full video first.

As Manny notes, a photographer’s portrait lenses of choice are still pretty much subjective, but he gives a handful of reasons why the 50mm and 85mm lenses are now his favorite lenses for portraiture. Some photographers who are a little ahead into their portrait work could say that these two lenses are close in terms of focal length, and thus, might be wondering why he would recommend getting both. He goes on to explain how each lens serves a different purpose for his work.

In a nutshell, Manny finds the 50mm lens a great environmental portrait lens that still allows him to get close to his subjects for those tight shots. Some may prefer the wider 35mm lens for environmental portraits, but Manny has noticed that when you get close to your subject, it creates some sort of distortion that stretches out the face a little bit.

Meanwhile, Manny considers the 85mm lens to be his “bread and butter” lens that is practically glued onto his camera. The main reason for this preference is the working distance that it allows him with his model. It also doesn’t produce any distortions even if he gets close with his subjects, so he can get close enough to give precise instructions and directions.

These focal lengths, when coupled with wide f1.4 or f1.8 apertures, lets him get a nice depth of field, a “buttery” background, and a beautiful 3D effect.

Ready to get some 50mm and 85mm portrait lenses for your cameras? We’ve put together some great portrait lens recommendations for Nikon, Canon EOS system, Sony E system, and Fujifilm X system for you to check out.