7 benefits of using an 85mm lens for portrait photography

Portrait photography is a broad genre. If you look deep enough, you’ll find several smaller niches, ranging from fashion to corporate portraits. Although many people think otherwise, portrait photography is difficult to master. you will have to think about your equipment more than you would in other niches.

Many portrait photographers use the 85mm as their lens of choice, and for several good reasons. This lens can give your model a more flattering look, and you can also get creative with multiple types of shots.

Are you considering adding an 85mm lens to your portrait photography toolbox? If so, you are making an excellent choice. This article describes seven reasons why.


Bokeh is one of the most popular types of alternative photography. In short, the term refers to a blurred background with the subject – which will be in the foreground – in focus. Mastering this skill will take you a long time, but some photographers, like Brandon Woelfel, have done it with amazing results.

You can achieve bokeh in portrait photography with several lenses, including the 35mm and 50mm, which you should consider buying as your first primary camera lens. However, the 85mm is arguably your best bet.

You can use the 85mm to fill the frame more with your model in portrait photography, while widening your aperture. Bokeh photography with an 85mm lens is great at night or with neon lights, where you can experiment with all kinds of background colors and lighting.


2. Capture your subject’s emotions better

Photo of a portrait of someone's face

Many of the best photographers in the world have gained significant recognition because they are good at telling stories. Capturing the emotion of your subjects is one of the best ways to improve your storytelling skills, and it’s much easier if you have an 85mm lens.

With an 85mm lens, you’ll naturally get closer to your model’s face. More importantly, you can capture the emotions in their eyes and bring your image to life.

Your image will become more memorable to your audience when you successfully capture the emotions of your subjects. As such, you’ll stand out more to clients if you want to start a photography business, while also improving your social media following.

3. Clear photos

Many photographers value sharpness above most, if not all, of the other qualities in their photos. You’d probably find all of our advice useless if you had to sacrifice clear images for them, but never fear; you can still take sharp photos with the 85mm lens.

Many photographers praise 85mm lenses for their sharpness, especially when using a smaller aperture. Some third-party alternatives to manufacturer-specific lenses, such as Viltrox, still have very good image quality.

When you know your lens can take sharp photos, you’ll feel a lot less pressure every time you click the shoot button. Of course, you are responsible for much of the overall image quality; If you can’t get the results you want, try slowing down your shutter speed or turning on camera stabilization. Alternatively, you can put the camera on a tripod.

4. Give more space to your subject

Many people believe that you don’t need talent to stand in front of a camera and look good. You just have to win the genetic lottery, right? Wrong.

A lot of people suddenly lose their confidence when they appear in front of a camera, and models have to put a lot of effort into improving this skill. Whether you’re working with someone experienced or a complete beginner, you can give them a bit more space by using a longer focal length.

The 85mm lens is excellent for portrait photography because it’s not intrusive; your subject has much more freedom to act naturally and pose as they wish. You’ll get better results, which will lead to happy customers and a better portfolio.

5. Remove surrounding distractions

Photo of a man walking with his headphones plugged in

Your job as a photographer forces you to think about what you want in your photos. However, understanding what you don’t want to include is just as important. How many times have you imported your images into Lightroom or Capture One, only to find that you have a lot of cropping and brushing to do?

You can make editing much more manageable by removing distractions when taking the photo. With an 85mm lens you will naturally get less in your shot at the same distance than with a lower focal length.

When you remove unnecessary objects from your photos, you help the viewer focus on your main subject. As such, you will present your desired message more clearly.

6. Flattering for facial features

Portrait photographers have to figure out which lenses will make their subjects look better, and many beginners quickly learn that not all focal lengths are created equal. Some can compress your model’s face and make it look less picturesque than you want.

The 85mm still has compression, but much less than the smaller focal lengths. Your lens will make the person in your photo look more flattering, which means you won’t need to worry about resizing and such in post-production.

7. 85mm lenses are still versatile

Photo of people putting camera gear into a bag

The 85mm lens will still fit perfectly in your camera bag, even if it’s less portable than, say, the 50mm. And when capturing portraits, you can use the lens for different types of portraits.

An 85mm lens is great for portraits because you can get closer to your subject without having to reframe afterwards. However, you can also use the lens for full-body shots and still get great results.

The 85mm lens will also take fantastic portraits whether you hold your camera horizontally or vertically. So you can have a little fun experimenting, while posting your favorite photos on social media and not sacrificing quality.

An 85mm lens is essential for portrait photography

85mm lenses are excellent for all kinds of portrait photography. You’ll get flattering images that make your subject look better, and you can use the lens day or night. These lenses are usually pretty sharp, and you can remove background distractions without having to spend hours editing.

Although 85mm lenses are quite expensive, buying one is a worthwhile investment if you plan to shoot portraits for the long term.

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