Quick Tips For Getting the Most Out Of Your 35mm Lens For Portraits


The photographer using a 35mm lens for portraits will want to listen up!

The 35mm focal length has long been an incredibly popular focal length choice for photographers of all genres and niches, but particularly of portrait photographers. This has especially been the case in the last several year’s thanks to the introduction of great third-party options from companies like Sigma and Tamron which manage to control distortion, fringing, and other optical issues to produce images that are sharp and offer solid contrast.

But what if you are new to the 35mm focal length, maybe you are used to something with a bit more reach like a 50mm or an even more classic portrait lens option like an 85mm or 135mm? If you need some tips on how to make the 35mm focal length work well for you when you are shooting portraits then this post is one you will want to see.

Tip 1 | Watch Your Distance

35mm lenses are great for many kinds of portraiture; but specifically, they are most suitable for group photos and environmental imagery where you are not incredibly close to your subject or where you are constrained by space.

Even though most modern 35mm lenses do have their distortion really well controlled when you get super close for a portrait, like maybe a headshot, the lens will just render your subject in a different way than something like a 50mm or 85mm would. This isn’t to say you can’t get pleasing results with 35mm at really close distances, but if we were to say where the 35mm focal length is optimally utilized it would be at intermediate distances where your subject won’t be filling the entire frame.

Tip 2 | Pay Attention To The Environment

One of the biggest reasons that photographers shoot with the 35mm for portraits is to maintain a somewhat ‘normal’ field of view, while also incorporating more of the scene and environment into the image. Lifestyle Portraiture, in particular, has used this to great effect, showing a subject in their environment while still maintaining a close, intimate feeling.

So given then you can still be fairly close to your subject and still introduce their environment into the photo; one thing you need to do is pay attention to that environment. Are there elements of the scene that could distract from the subject, are there colors or shadows in places that are not ideal. The 35mm lens gives you the power, but in order to use it to full effect, you need to also pay attention to the scene.

Tip 3 | Composition Composition Composition


As we have already noted, even though well controlled these days, distortion is still something to be aware of when shooting portraits, and your shot composition will help alleviate any possible issues. This means keeping areas that you want to look smaller away from the edges of the frame. We aren’t going to suggest centering all of your subjects, but the closer to the center of the frame your subject is the less the 35mm focal length will warp them.

Recommended 35mm Lenses

So now that you have some tip son getting the most out of a 35mm lens, we should probably help you find a good 35mm lens for you. Here are some of our favorite 35mm ( or 35mm FF equivalent) lenses right now.

  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B00A35X6NU’ text=’Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art ‘ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’415fd3a1-c013-11e7-b3d5-afdc6a36f1a1′](Our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B014ULAEQ4′ text=’Tamron 35mm F1.8 VC’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’4d55f547-c013-11e7-a87a-2b2ec67550e5′] (Our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B014EOML6S’ text=’Canon 35mm F1.4 L II’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’570b287c-c013-11e7-92f7-f7aa0abf6973′] (Our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B001S2PPT0′ text=’Nikon 35mm F1.8G’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’5d72de2d-c013-11e7-9927-ab96165a726d’] (Our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B00EZ8BEXK’ text=’Fujifilm 23mm F1.4′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’65af2c2b-c013-11e7-880b-a54614755336′] (Our Review)
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’B00UJRSOB6′ text=’Sony 35mm F1.4′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’7298d672-c013-11e7-b950-b376b4c3ddf7′] (Our Review)

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.