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Good Lens for home studio portrait work

phil_j 15 134 4 England
21 Feb 2013 1:01PM
I am after some advice from people in the know.
I have just purchased a starter home studio lighting kit and am in the process of turning an under-used loft conversion into a space where I can start to take the numerous, family/friend/work colleague/pet portraits that I have been asked to take over the years.

Getting to grips with the mysteries of lighting, and the like, but just interested in what people consider to be the best lens for such work would be.
I have seen some say that a 50mm prime is best, whilst others a 70-200 would be better.
Interested to see your thoughts.

Many thanks

arhb 13 3.4k 68 United Kingdom
21 Feb 2013 1:33PM
Hi Phil,
purely for durability I use 24-70 and 70-200, as they covers all focal lengths needed for portrait work, whether it's headshots or full length shots.
I have a 50mm prime, but it doesn't get used that much, even though it's a fine lens.

I came accross this article earlier today, which might be of some help with lighting set-ups also.
puertouk 9 1.1k 17 United Kingdom
21 Feb 2013 2:20PM
I agree with arhb, but you should use your 50mm prime more because they tend to be very good, with pin point sharpness. I would also add, go for an f 2.8.
21 Feb 2013 2:23PM
Personally i prefer to use fixed focal lengths (35mm, 50mm and 85mm) in the majority of my studio based shoots.

They are generally more compact and lighter than some telephoto lenses, so on long sessions this can be a benefit. It also encourages you to move about a bit in the studio rather than being fixed to one spot and zooming. Moving will give you more flexibility in your shoots and let you discover angles you might not have noticed before
phil_j 15 134 4 England
21 Feb 2013 2:37PM
Thank you all, interesting posts.
oldblokeh 10 1.2k United Kingdom
21 Feb 2013 2:52PM
A very important consideration is shooting distance. Shooting from too close, for example with a shorter lens, can make the subject's nose (and/or other features) appear too big due to perspective distortion.
LenShepherd 13 4.4k United Kingdom
21 Feb 2013 5:23PM
50-60mm is about right on a crop sensor and 85mm is "about right" on 24 x 36 format for natural portrait perspective.
Space in a loft is usually restricted so anything longer might be a problem for reasonable photographer to subject distance.
Paul Morgan 20 19.5k 6 England
21 Feb 2013 6:59PM
How can anyone recommend a lens without knowing the working space Smile
ianrobinson 11 1.2k 8 United Kingdom
21 Feb 2013 7:46PM
Paul, I have to say well pointed out.
if it is a single garage I doubt very much a 70-200mm f2.8 lens would be the ideal lens, but I would advise 24-70mm f2.8 for the focal range especial good in tight spots if using a full frame camera.
35mm is not usually recognised as being a good portrait lens as it may distort the portrait which of course is not good, 50mm and up is considered a standard portrait lens and 50mm is what the human eye see's from what I hear.
AS Paul rightly pointed out depending on space is dependent on lens.
arhb 13 3.4k 68 United Kingdom
21 Feb 2013 10:41PM
I've done headshots in quite small spaces with the 70-200mm at 135ish(on a full frame),
which has helped to soften a 'creased' backdrop.
I wouldn't imaging that you will be restricting your portraits to the loft, if the client or friend wants a location portrait?

............................. Smile
keithh 17 25.8k 33 Wallis And Futuna
22 Feb 2013 10:23AM
Well the standard lens that all portrait photographers on 35mm always had was an 85mm.
Paul Morgan 20 19.5k 6 England
22 Feb 2013 6:32PM
Head shots in my attic would have to be with a fish eye, and that's after I`ve removed the water tank Smile
22 Feb 2013 8:40PM
You don't mention what camera your using?
It will be a huge help to understand this first as a crop factor of 1.6 (Canon APS-C) would make your 50mm lens an 80mm equivalent to that of a full frame camera (Canon CMOS).
phil_j 15 134 4 England
22 Feb 2013 10:23PM
Nikon D7000
23 Feb 2013 10:40PM
The crop factor is 1.52x for the D7000 which would make a 50mm lens equivalent to a 76mm lens in full frame terms. Therefore I suggest a 24-85mm zoom lens. This would allow you some flexibility within confined work space.

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