The Best Photo Lenses for Outdoor Portraits: Telephoto or Wide-angle?

There's so much talk going on around lately about what lenses you should use for making great outdoor portraits, but no one happened really to find the answer. More to that, after surfing the web and it often remains unclear what does what and what difference between various lenses there is.

There are two kinds of lenses that are commonly used to shoot portraits—short telephoto lenses that are 60 mm to 105mm in 35mm film format and wide-angle lenses that are most often 14mm to 35mm—and they let the photographer make different kinds of photos. Let's find out what's what.

Telephoto Lenses: The Classic

Telephoto lens have long focal length and are widely used for portraits because they let you easily create bokeh effect—or the shallow depth of field that causes the background to blur—which makes head-and-shoulders portraits so appealing to the eye by helping the subject stand out.

The advantage of short telephoto lenses is that they do not distort the subject's features. But there's another catch to it: shooting through it you will be able to make the background and foreground seem closer to the subject than they really are, therefore making your model look better.

And though it's all good when it comes to close-ups, in order to make a full-length portrait you will need to shoot from a long distance so that everything fits in the shot. Apart from it, almost everyone shoots using telephoto lenses and it'll be really difficult to make a creative shot unless you are really gifted.

Wide-angle Lenses: For the Brave and Advanced

It's not really advised to use wide-angle lenses for portraits—especially if you are just at the beginning of your photography career—because it's almost impossible to create bokeh effect that is often so necessary. To make it even trickier, you will need to get really close to your model to make a picture, which may lead to distortion of their body features.

Seems like these wide angle-birds aren't really your thing? Not necessarily.

Look at it from a different angle. Short focal length means that you won't need to keep at a long distance from your subject and sometimes it's really necessary not to blur the background to create a complex portrait. Even if it will require advanced photography skills.

What about the distortion of the model's body features? Well, the first thing usually distorted are arms and legs. Wouldn't it be flattering to a woman to see that her legs look longer?


To understand what kind of lenses is better for making candid and impressive portraits we should at first realize that they're used on different occasions and for different photography styles. Try to grab a cup of coffee, think hard, and map out the key features of your style—if you still haven't done it—and plan every shoot and the equipment you're going to use beforehand.

And then start acting, keep experimenting, and never stop trying.

Apply these awesome techniques to shoot distinctive photos that people will love, use our platform to sell them, and earn at least 70% of the photo value. Become a KeepSnap independent photographer and go out today to snap people around you and earn a living. It's completely free for photographers.


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