What’s the Best Lens for Portraiture: 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm? (VIDEO)

A lot goes into making captivating portraits, and we regularly post tutorials on lighting techniques, camera settings, and how to pose and direct models. Today’s episode has a narrower focus; namely, taking a look at how lenses of three popular focal lengths perform with regard to several important imaging characteristics.

Like with all types of photography, the lens you choose affects depth of field, the ability to isolate a subject from the background, perspective, camera-to-subject distance, and more. And, of course, the quality of your lens has a big impact on results.

In the behind-the-scenes video below Australian portrait pro Julia Trotti compares results from three fast prime lenses, and she’s picked some very good ones: the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4, Zeiss 50mm f/1.4, and the Sony GM 85mm f/1.4.

It’s important to remember that the results of a comparison like this can be affected by whether you’re using a full-frame or crop-sensor camera. For this shootout Trotti is using the full-frame Sony A7III, and you can see a complete list of her gear in the description beneath the video.

While she photographs a pretty model with all three lenses, you’ll pick up valuable tips on camera settings, composition, and exposure. As you compare the results achieved with each lens, Trotti provides her assessment of where each lens excels, and where it falls shot. Then you can determine if you agree, and decide which images you prefer.

After watching this interesting informal test, head over to Trotti’s YouTube channel where you’ll find a wealth of information on portraiture. And don’t miss an earlier tutorial we posted, demonstrating a one-minute editing trick for improving portrait photos.