Choosing Your Portrait Partner: A Close Look at 50mm and 85mm Lenses

Understanding the nuances between different focal lengths is pivotal for photographers, especially when it comes to portrait photography. The choice between a 50mm and an 85mm lens can significantly impact the aesthetic and feel of a photograph, making it a critical decision in a photographer's creative process. This helpful video tutorial will help newcomers to portrait work pick the right lens.

Coming to you from Julia Trotti, this engaging video offers a practical comparison between the 50mm and 85mm prime lenses during a portrait photo shoot. Trotti meticulously demonstrates the distinct visual effects each lens produces, providing clear examples of how focal lengths can alter the perception of background compression, subject isolation, and bokeh quality. This side-by-side analysis is particularly useful for photographers considering which lens to add to their kit, as it reveals the subtle yet impactful differences in how each lens captures the subject and interacts with the environment.

Trotti's exploration into the comparative dreaminess and background separation of the two lenses underscores their suitability for creating whimsical, otherworldly portraits. The 85mm lens, with its heightened compression and greater bokeh, offers an edge in producing images where the subject seems almost supernaturally isolated from the background. On the other hand, the 50mm lens provides a slightly wider perspective, allowing for more environmental context in the frame, which could be advantageous in storytelling or when the setting plays a significant role in the portrait's narrative. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Trotti.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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I 100% say that the Viltrox 75mm 1.2 not only outperforms both with its flexibility for dynamics, but often in construction quality, autofocus and DEFINITELY cost for a 1.2 piece of glass. This is a non edited JPEG directly out of my Fuji XT3. All metal, weather sealed and able to be updated. The other lenses that match it (even though they cant match its length) are often well near 2-3x the cost. Buy the Viltrox and thank me later. There js also a Pro line 27mm 1.2 from them in the same incredible quality.