Which lens for portraits?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by prophet, Jan 10, 2015.

  1. prophet

    prophet Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 10, 2014
    I will be doing my first portrait shoot soon; I have an E-PL7, the kit Oly 14-42mm and the Oly 40-150mm.

    Yes, I know, both lenses are not the best choice, and yes, I know, there are way better lenses out there - but, for now, that's all there is in my stash.

    So out of these 2 guys, which one would you use for a portrait shoot? Thanks!
  2. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Real Name:
    Of the two choices, I'd use the 40-150 as I like some to a lot of compression many of the portrait styles I have used.

    But know that there is no "best" lens, nor a right/wrong lens for portraits.

    It just depends on what style of portrait you want to create... and there are quite a few different "portrait styles."

    A great portrait has much more to do with expression, setting selection, composition, background, pose, clothing, where you place the sitter and where you place the camera!, lighting, as it does with what lens might be used. A skilled portraitist can make stunning portraits with pretty much any lens. What makes them stunning is how the portrait was created - all those other factors I just mentioned... not what lens was used.

    Start with the longer settings on the 40-150, but much more importantly, study the MUCH larger subject of portraiture, and don't worry much about lenses.

    When non-skilled photographers and observers see a great image, regardless of the subject, they immediately assume that a particular piece of gear was primarily responsible for the impressive "look". Nothing could be farther from the truth. It's like saying to the host, after eating an AMAZING dinner... "that was an incredible dinner, what kind of oven do you use?"
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  3. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    The 40-150 can take great portraits, nice focus isolation, sharp.
    All you need now is light.
  4. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    The 40-150 at the "wide" end is very sharp AND is one stop faster than the 14-42 at the long end. And you can also go to 60/70 or more depending on what you need.
    And, for headshot, it is going to give you the "classic" perspective.

    At any focal length but especially after 100mm, IF the background is a little distant, like 30+ meters behind the subject, you can get good isolation.
    After 100mm the lens looses a little sharpness so it's a tradeoff between sharpness and blur. Nothing to worry too much about but it IS a very good lens from 40 to 100 so could be one thing to consider.

    I'd bring both anyway and if you have time do a few experiments first.
  5. TetonTom

    TetonTom Mu-43 Regular

    Bring both lenses; with your wider zoom you can do great waist-up, full body, and environmental portraits. I agree with other posters that your use of lighting is going to have a bigger impact on your portraits than your choice of lens...

    Sent from my iPhone using Mu-43 mobile app
  6. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    There are a LOT of great tutorials on youtube about portraits, lighting, pose, etc. of any level and style.
  7. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    Real Name:
    Wait, what kind of portraits?

    As TetonTom correctly argues, you can use both lenses depending on the type of shooting, environment, etc. In any case, I agree that posing, light and setup are equaly, if not much more important.

    Wish you success!
  8. prophet

    prophet Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 10, 2014
    Thanks a lot for all your feedback! It encourages me that my gear should not be the reason if the photos turn out crappy ;)

    It's a shoot with a friend, and basically meant for me to start learning how to shoot good portraits. It will be outdoors, I plan to use natural light only (and maybe a reflector). I just read a book by George Lange, and his use of natural light really got to me.
  9. finerflower

    finerflower Amin Fangrrl

    Dec 11, 2013
    New Jersey (South)
    Real Name:
    Outdoors? Then definitely 45-150!

    If you were looking to buy primes for portraits, you would be looking to buy something like 50mm, 60mm, 70mm .... so these primes fall in your zoom range.

    Now I advise on your learning session, try to use the lens at 50MM, 60MM and 70MM as wide open as possible, then see how the images turn out, a good way to test out your own preferences.

    Best of all, have fun!