Photography Cheat Sheet: Shooting Portraits with a 35mm Lens

If you haven’t tried shooting portraits with a 35mm lens, our very own photography cheat sheet should be able to help with some quick tips!

We don’t usually reach for the 35mm lens when it comes to shooting portraits, but when it’s the only lens available during a shoot, or you want to experiment with different focal lengths, it pays to know how to work with it. A common scenario you may find yourself in while using this lens street portraits during a photowalk around town. For today’s photography cheat sheet, we bring some simple tips to help you make the most of the extra coverage provided by 35mm lenses for portrait work.

Our very own cheat sheet below is divided into three considerations when shooting portraits using a 35mm lens: distance, framing, and lighting. Keep these quick tips in mind and you’ll get great results with enough practice.

One of the most important things to take note of when shooting with a 35mm lens is the distortion of portrait subjects. The closer you get to your subject, the more prominent the distortion becomes. So make sure you don’t get too close; compose your shot with at least half of the subject in the frame.

As for framing, keep things simple; stick to the Rule of Thirds. Have your subject at the center of the shot, or at least keep them roughly out of the outer quarter of the frame. Also, remember that there are parts of your subject that may bulge: the arms, nose, cheeks, and stomach especially. Adjust the pose, if possible.

Lastly, there’s the lighting. Portraits always look great with big, diffused lighting, so use a light source that is larger than your subject. Lighting also depends on the shape of your subject. For example, if they have a rounder chin you can place less emphasis on the shadows. Otherwise, chiseled facial features can look more prominent with more shadows. You can also apply side-frontal lighting or backlighting using a reflector.

Need more photography tips and tricks like this? Check out our photography cheat sheet collection to find more that will come in handy for your next shoot and project!

Here’s how we made our infographic