Q: Could you tell me what is your favorite lens for portrait? 24-70mm, 70-200mm or primes? Thanks! – Normand
A: Great question Normand. Traditional wisdom for full-frame camera sensors like the Sony a900 would be something in the 85-135mm range. Sony’s 85mm f/1.4 ZA lens is one of my favorite lenses. Sony’s Zeiss glass is wonderful and that lens is definitely the sharpest 85mm DSLR lens I’ve ever used and it’s a great choice for tight portraits like this portrait of Samuel L. Jackson.
But my personal favorite lens for portraits is the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 ZA. On medium format, my favorite portrait lenses were 110-140mm which translates to 55-70mm on full-frame 35mm. I shoot a LOT of portraits in this range. This allows you to have a quiet conversation with your subject rather than shouting out directions from across the studio which gives the shots a bit more intimate feel – more like sitting across the table from your subject than looking at them from across the room. Plus, closer is always nicer when you’re shooting Anne Hathaway…
The other thing I like about the 24-70mm f/2.8 ZA is that it covers the perfect range for portraits, so no time wasted – or shots missed – when changing lenses. If I want to quickly change to a medium half body or 3/4 shots, I’ll shoot somewhere in the range of 45-50mm like I did for this shot of Ben Vereen:
If I’m shooting full length or if I simply want a bit more exaggerated perspective, I’ll shoot in the 24-28 mm range. For this shot of dancer and “So You Think You Can Dance?” judge Mary Murphy, I wanted the shot to feel like she was dancing with you.
If I really want to exaggerate perspective for an in-your-face portrait like this of Jason “Weeman” Acuna, then 24mm will do the trick.
I’ll be talking about his and all ‘The Secrets of Great Portrait Photography’ at WPPI in Las Vegas on Tuesday, February 21, 2012.
You can see all these portraits and many more in my new coffee table book ‘ART & SOUL: STARS UNITE TO CELEBRATE AND SUPPORT THE ARTS’ shot in partnership with The Creative Coalition and Sony. The book features portraits of 123 celebrities with their personal testimonials about the importance of funding the arts. A portion of the proceeds will go to The Creative Coalition to lobby for arts funding so order yours today!