Photography Cheat Sheet: Comparing 20mm, 105mm, 200mm for Portraits

Today’s photography cheat sheet looks at three focal lengths that you may not have used for portraiture.

When it comes to portrait photography, a lot of us typically start shooting with 50mm or 85mm lenses, as they are the most used and recommended focal lengths. However, some of us eventually think about experimenting with different lenses and see what they can do to improve our results. This is where today’s featured photography cheat sheet would come handy, especially for those who are wondering what wide-angle, short telephoto, and telephoto lenses can do for portrait work.

Need more photography tips and tricks like this? Don’t forget to check out our photography cheat sheet collection to find more that will come in handy for your next shoot and projects!

The photography cheat sheet below by Digital Camera World presents a study of three distinct focal lengths: 20mm, 105mm, and 200mm and how they compare for shooting portraits. Which is the best among the three? The short answer is it depends on the style that you’re going for.

For example, a 20mm wide-angle lens may not be the first or go-to choice of most portrait photographers for headshots because they can be less than flattering to the subject. If you get too close, the nose and forehead will look bigger. However, these lenses can still be handy if you want to shoot environmental portraits, in which the goal of your photo is to show your subject in their surroundings and keep them relatively small in the middle of the composition.

Sigma 105mm

Meanwhile, the 105mm short telephoto lens also tends to become a portrait photographer’s favorite, apart from the 85mm. On cropped sensor cameras, the 70mm would be a good 105mm equivalent. This lens will allow you to work at a comfortable distance from your subject and still get a close perspective in your shot.

Lastly, a 200mm telephoto lens can also be handy for compressing the perspective, which can be flattering for the subject. This lens also allows you to create blurred backgrounds easier, and the results can be stunning when shot at wide apertures like f2.8. The blurred part of the image — or the bokeh — can also look quite beautiful.