Six Low Cost Prime Lenses Perfect for Senior Portrait Photography

Take your senior portrait photography to a new level with these affordable prime lenses.

Senior portrait season is in full swing in the USA. Senior portraits (for those unfamiliar with them) are portraits of students who will be graduating from high school. This is a time honored tradition in the United States, and an important milestone for students. The Senior Portrait season brings about a lot of work for photographers, and it’s often the first place new photographers will begin working for pay. As with any genre of photography, having the right lens is critical. 

It doesn’t matter if you shoot Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, or Micro Four Thirds as there are affordable lenses that are razor sharp, can create gorgeous bokeh, and are just great all around performers on each system. If you’re new to the world of senior portrait photography check out the list of lenses below that will help you create the results your seniors will absolutely love.


Canon 50mm F1.8 STM


This nifty fifty from Canon is perhaps the one lens all Canon users should own regardless of what they shoot. This small, well built, lightweight lens punches well above its weight. It can produce very sharp images, it can create bokeh that’s really pleasing to the eye, it focuses fast thanks to the stepping motor inside, and it produces great colors. Just remember that on an APS-C body like the Rebel series or the 60/70/80D series it will have an equivalent focal length of 80mm (still perfect for portraits).

In our review we said:

“Canon’s 50mm f1.8 STM is a great lens for the beginner, hobbyist, enthusiast or even the professional who likes to rough and tumble their equipment.”

Buy now ($125): Amazon


senior portrait photography

Pro Tip: Be super confident when you get to your senior shoot by knowing how to pose your subject. This guide will help you guide and pose your subject so that your images will look amazing. Learn how to take their pictures while sitting and standing, how to place their hands, and how to help them relax. Your senior portrait photography will reach new heights if you go into your shoot ready for anything.


Canon 85mm F1.8 USM


senior portrait photography

The 85mm f1.8 USM is a bokeh master that will really make your portraits pop. For the money, this may well be the best ‘bang for your buck’ lens on the entire Canon platform. It has a silent, incredibly fast USM focusing motor, and when shot wide open it can create buttery smooth bokeh. Top it off with sharp images, and great color rendition and you begin to see why this lens is at the top of its class. On a crop sensor camera it will have the equivalent focal length of 136mm.

In our review we said:

“Over the last year, I’ve used the Canon 85mm f1.8 for weddings, concerts, portraits, studio work, event photography, pet photography, and street photography. When I purchased the lens, I wondered if it was really a purchase worth making. Then I put it on my cameras and kept it on my 5D Mk II for a week and then my 7D for the week after. I didn’t look back.”

Buy now ($419): Amazon


Pro Tip: If you’re not totally comfortable using a flash or strobe for your portraits, make the most of the natural light you have by incorporating reflectors into your workflow. They’re cheap, easy to use, and they will help you light your subject beautifully.


Fujifilm 50mm F2 R WR


The Fujifilm 50mm f2 R WR is part of the holy f2 trinity on the Fujifilm platform and it’s perfect for senior portrait photography. Weather sealed? Check! Razor sharp? Check! Affordable and easy to use? Check! This lens ticks all the boxes. On Fujifilm cameras it will have an equivalent focal length of 75mm which is great for portraits. Wide open you’ll get amazing background separation, and you can expect images that are sharp enough to cut. Colors are gorgeous no matter what film simulation you use, and it’s weather sealed! This lens has earned its degree!

In our review we said:

“The Fujifilm 50mm f2 R WR has fantastic image quality that really, truly speaks for itself. There isn’t a single reason for photographers to complain.”

Buy now ($449): Amazon


Pro Tip: Before starting your shoot make sure your lenses are in tip top shape by giving them a good clean. The last thing you want is dirt, grease, or water spots to be visible in your images. Keep a basic lens cleaning kit in your camera bag so that you can clean your glass as needed.


Sony 85mm F1.8 FE


Senior portrait photography will become a whole lot easier for Sony users with the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE. Not only is it more than half the price of the G Master 85mm, it honestly performs equally as well. You’ll be blown away by the image quality. It’s sharp from edge to edge, the bokeh is simply divine, color renditions are accurate and true, and it focuses fast. It’s also well built and has a small amount of weather resistance. On a Sony crop body like the A6500, this lens will have the equivalent focal length of 127.5mm. I would imagine this lens graduated with honors from Sony’s school of lenses.

In our review we said:

“This is, in many ways, the absolute most perfect portrait lens for most Sony camera users. If you don’t need or can’t afford the 85mm f1.4 G Master lens, then the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE lens is a fantastic option. It’s sharp, has less saturated colors (only the Loxia is less saturated that this), focuses pretty well with most cameras (the Batis is fastest), and has weather resistance.”

Buy now ($573): Amazon


Pro Tip:  You can cut down your time in post significantly by using high quality Lightroom presets on your images. Presets are a fast way to give your images a unique look and feel, and they give a great starting point that you can then tweak to your liking. If you want a consistent look and feel to your images you should look into incorporating presets into your workflow.


Olympus 25mm F1.8 (Micro Four Thirds)


Olympus and Panasonic shooters rejoice! You too have an outstanding, affordable lens option for senior portrait photography. The Olympus 25mm f1.8 gets straight A’s across the board when it comes to image sharpness, focusing speeds, quality of bokeh, and ease of use. This little gem will have an equivalent focal length of 50mm on a Micro Four Thirds camera which, as we know, is great for portraits. Slap it on your camera, set your aperture to f1.8 and be amazed at the images you produce! There is no doubt that your seniors will be just as stunned as you are when it comes to image quality.

In our review we said:

“Wide open, this lens is a complete stunner. After my first day of shooting in natural light, I concluded that there really isn’t any point in stopping the lens down.”

Buy now ($399): Amazon


Pro Tip: Being able to control light is essential when it comes to senior portrait photography. If you’re comfortable using flash in your portraits, but want more control over where that light falls, a reflector like the Rogue Flash Bender 2 is what you need. It attaches to your flash with Velcro, and you can shape the reflector to get the light to fall right where you want it to. We highly recommend these.


Nikon 50mm F1.8 G


The small, solid Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens can produce gorgeous images, especially when stopped down just a hair. Colors rendered are really nice, with skin tones being a particular highlight. The Nikon 50mm f1.8 G is capable of producing sweet bokeh too which will give your students the look they want in their portraits. Focusing is also a fast, snappy affair. On a Nikon crop body this lens will have an equivalent focal length of 75mm. If you need a capable, affordable lens for senior portrait photography, look no further than the 50mm f1.8 G from Nikon. It’s a star student on this platform.

In our review we said:

“The colors are nice and are balanced nicely through the image. Skin tones come out nicely. This lens will handle portraits well.”

Buy now ($216.95): Amazon

Brett Day

Brett Day is the Gear Editor at The Phoblographer and has been a photographer for as long as he can remember. Brett has his own photography business that focuses on corporate events and portraiture. In his spare time, Brett loves to practice landscape and wildlife photography. When he's not behind a camera, he's enjoying life with his wife and two kids, or he's playing video games, drinking coffee, and eating Cheetos.