A question I often get asked is which lenses are best for fashion photography. It’s a tricky question because the answer is not only subjective, it also depends on your budget and photography style. I made an easy overview to compare seven focal lengths!
The first thing to consider is the focal length. If you use a camera with an APS-C format sensor, your focal length will be different from full frame sensor camera’s. For example, a 50mm lens will give an effective focal length around 75mm to 80mm at your APS-C sensor camera. I use (and prefer) a full frame camera.
In general, prime lenses offer superior image quality to zoom lenses. This is also because they will have a wide maximum aperture that’s usually between f/1.2 and f/1.8. This enables a tight depth of field, so you can blur the backgrounds and make the person in your picture really stand out. And I’m quite sure this is where you were looking for. Besides the aperture, also the lens’s bokeh is all-important. This is the quality of defocused areas, and the aim is to produce a smooth blur effect. When your lens features a well rounded diaphragm, the bokeh will be good. The use of a maximum aperture is great for portraits and fashion shots, because this makes the focus of the viewer at the model and her clothes and not somewhere in the background.
All the photos are made with the same camera (Canon 5D mark IV) and same settings. (S 1/320 – F/2.8 – ISO 100) And 3 meters distance between model and photographer. Minimum editing.
24-70mm f/2.8 lens | 3 meter distance to model
Personally, I’m using the 24-70mm f/2.8 L very often for editorials and studio shoots. The 24-70mm is also a populair lens for every kind of photography because you can always use it. The 24mm is great for total shots and to give an overview of the location where you are working. With this lens you can also use the focal length of 50mm and when you would like to go closer, you just zoom in till the 70mm. I always use the 70mm for half-total or close-up shots. If you like to have the zoom function or when you don’t have the time to switch between prime lenses, this lens will be a perfection option for you.
35mm f/1.4 lens | 3 meter distance to model
The 35mm f/1.4 is my favorite at this moment! When working on beautiful locations, this is the best option. With a 35mm I’m able to show enough details of the background (the location) but the focus is still on the model and her clothes. The wider focal length will make an interesting angle, where sometimes the 50mm can be a bit boring. The 35mm allows you to be more creative!
50mm f/1.4 lens | 3 meter distance to model
The 50mm is an all time favorite for every photographer. The focal length, when used with a full-frame sensor, has been widely considered to match the perspective seen by the human eye. There are three different types of the 50mm available, you can buy this lens with an aperture of f/1.2 or f/1.4 or f/1.8. The last one is a cheaper, but still a good option if you are new in photography. A few years ago I started to work with the 50mm f/1.8 and fell in love. Later I also worked with the f/1.2 and f/1.4 and didn’t saw a big difference between the results, so I decided to buy the 50mm f/1.4 and I’m using it every photo shoot again.
85MM F/1.4 LENS | 3 METER DISTANCE TO MODEL
I absolutely love the focal length of 85mm for portraits and fashion and portrait work! The Sigma ART 85mm is tested as the sharpest lens ever and this is my favorite new lens that I will use for all my shoots, but the f/1.8 is great option if you want a good prime lens if you are on a budget. Click here to read my review of this lens. (In Dutch or in English).
100mm f/2.8 L lens | 3 meter distance to model
This lens is great on location, because of the focal length of 100mm you need some space between you and the model otherwise you are really close! Or if you are working in a big studio where you have the space to take a step backwards, it’s also a good option to work with this lens. I use the 100mm when I like to have a very sharp focus and a perfect soft feeling in the background. Actually this is called a macro lens, so it’s great when you would like to make a beauty shot or a close-up of a product or the clothes.
+ I can highly recommend these lenses too, but I don’t own them (yet?!)
the 70-200mm f/2.8 L and the 135mm.
The 70-200mm f/2.8 L telephoto zoom lens is also used for portraiture because you can decide to zoom between the 70 and 200mm. With this lens you can capture your model from a long distance and create the famous soft background. Still not enough options? You can also have a look at the 135mm prime lens!
For my Olympus Pen mirrorless camera, my absolute favorite is the Olympus 25mm f/1.2 lens.
It’s also about personal preferences and of course about money. Some lenses can be really expensive, but in the end they are worth it. Just find out if you like to work with prime lenses or if you prefer to have the ability to zoom. Enjoy!