135mm Lenses Are Perfect for Portraits and Here’s Why

In our latest infographic, we get down to brass tacks about why 135mm lenses are the perfect option when it comes to portrait photography.

When it comes to shooting portraits, many photographers tend to gravitate towards lenses with longer focal lengths. This is thanks to their ability to produce flattering images of their subjects. While 50mm and 85mm lenses are also popular choices amongst portrait shooters, it’s possible to produce even better results by opting for a longer focal length. We’re talking about 135mm lenses in this case. Thanks to the way lenses work, 135mm lenses have just the right amount of compression that ensures subjects of all body shapes will appear flattering and distortion-free. It’s also great for close up and full body shots as well. You’ll need plenty of room when shooting with a 135mm lens, of course, but that’s the only downside. Check out our infographic where we break down the key benefits of shooting portraits using a 135mm lens.

Near, Far, Wherever You Are…

Yes, that was a Celine Dion pun. No, I’m not sorry; those lyrics perfectly describe the versatility inherent to shooting portraits with a 135mm lens. To get the most out of a 135mm lens, ensure that you’ve got enough space to accommodate both you and your subject. As long as that requirement is satisfied, you’re pretty much guaranteed flattering results regardless of whether you’re photographing your subjects up close (think headshots or 3/4 portraits) or a distance away (full body or environmental portraits). The added compression that a 135mm lens provides over other “portrait lenses” with shorter focal lengths will ensure that facial and body features appear pleasing and distortion-free.

Make Your Subject(s) Stand Out

Using a 135mm lens for portrait photography is particularly handy when shooting on location. Most 135mm primes tend to have bright apertures (f2 or wider), which generally equate to better quality bokeh. A good rule to remember when shooting portraits with 135mm prime lenses is to place some distance between your subject and their surroundings. Doing so will help distracting elements in the fore- and backgrounds fall out of focus, allowing your subject to stand out. This effect is particularly noticeable when photographing subjects up close using a 135mm lens.

Use Light To Your Advantage

An added benefit to 135mm portrait lenses having fast apertures is that you don’t always have to shoot wide open. You could obviously shoot at the widest aperture available when using a 135mm lens, but you also run the risk of parts of your subject becoming out of focus. While shooting wide open helps distracting elements fall out of focus, positioning your subject a good deal away from their surroundings can produce a similar effect. With a 135mm lens, that’s pretty much a given. For more consistent results, consider stopping your 135mm lens down slightly to help expand the lens’ focal plane. Doing so will help ensure that all of your subject is in focus. With the latest cameras, you can get away with stopping your lens down, raising the ISO, and shooting at faster shutter speeds without having to worry about it negatively impacting image quality.

Pauleth Ip

Paul is a New York City based photographer, creative, and writer. His body of work includes headshots and commercial editorials for professionals, in-demand actors/performers, high net worth individuals, and corporate clients, as well as intimate lifestyle/boudoir photography with an emphasis on body positivity and empowerment. Paul also has a background in technology and higher education, and regularly teaches private photography seminars. When not working on reviews and features for The Phoblographer or shooting client work, Paul can be seen photographing personal projects around NYC, or traveling the world with his cameras in tow. You can find Paul’s latest work on his Instagram over at @thepicreative.