Most EOS cameras are available with a standard lens, suitable for most photography styles. Canon also offers specialized lenses designed for specific genres, such as portrait photography. These goals can transform your photos. The main characteristic of the lenses for portraits is the focal length and the maximum aperture they offer.

Select the adapted focal length

The focal length, expressed in millimeters, is the distance between the lens and the sensor of your camera when focusing on the subject. The focal range indicated for zoom lenses consists of minimum and maximum focal lengths (for example, 18-55mm). In general, portrait lenses have a focal length greater than 85mm.

Let ‘s compare images made with an 18-55mm lens and images obtained with a lens specifically designed for portraits.

lens specifically designed for portraits

At this standard distance for shooting a face, the specialized lens provides a higher focal length, resulting in a more natural look and bringing the subject out of the background.

We made all these photos with the same aperture: only the focal length varies. Compare the shape of the face to the first image and the other two, and observe the compression of the background when a higher focal length is used. If the face seems slightly distorted on the image made at 24 mm, it looks more natural on those obtained at 70 mm and 135 mm. In addition, the background is much more visible in the photo taken at 24 mm than at that made at 135 mm.

The benefits of greater openness

The maximum aperture is another determining factor in choosing a lens suitable for portraits. Aperture refers to the size left by the lens for light to enter the sensor of your device. Each objective is assigned a nominal aperture such as f / 2.8 or f / 5.6. The nominal aperture of some zoom lenses depends on the selected focal length. For these models, an opening range is indicated (for example, f / 3.5-5.6). The smaller the aperture value, the larger the maximum aperture. Using a lens with greater maximum aperture has real benefits for taking portrait shots.

Because a larger aperture lets more light into the camera, lenses with a wide aperture are ideal for shooting in low light, for indoor portraits, for example. Using the maximum aperture of a lens also produces a greater background blur, an effect sought after by many portrait photographers.

Let’s now compare images obtained with the opening of a standard lens and pictures taken with lenses adapted to portraits.

standard lenses adapted to portraits f11-f5.6-f1.4mm

The image on the right, which highlights the model despite a busy background, was made using a large aperture that only a specialized lens can offer. Aperture also contributes to the brightness of the shot.

These three photos were taken with the same focal length and the same exposure. Only the opening size varies, which increases from the first to the third image. To make portraits by eliminating backgrounds that may distract the viewer, it is essential to have a large aperture lens. In the third image, the viewer’s gaze is deviated from the background to focus on the subject’s face, which gives much more impact to this portrait.

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