Why Do Portrait Photographers Love 85mm Lenses?

85mm lenses are the classic choice of portrait photographers, and it shows, as almost every manufacturer has one, with many of them offering multiple options. So, why are they so popular among portrait photographers? This great video discusses some of their properties and how those features make them a fantastic choice for photographing people. 

Coming to you from Robin Wong, this great video will show you some of the reasons portrait photographers love 85mm lenses. Of course, the 85mm focal length is not the only option for portraiture work, but it is a common choice for several reasons. Foremost, an 85mm lens creates a nice balance between the perspective distortion of a wide angle lens and the increased compression of a longer telephoto lens. At too wide a focal length, perspective distortion is significant, and this can be quite unflattering for a person's features. On the other hand, too much telephoto compression tends to flatten a subject's features, which erases the facial geometry that makes every person unique. 85mm lenses tend to sit in a sweet spot between these competing issues, which is why they live on so many photographers' cameras. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Wong. 

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3 Comments
Gary Pardy's picture

The short answer, for me anyway, using an 85mm focal length is like cheating at photography. The reach, and minimum focus distance, of an 85 demands a very particular, flattering perspective, and to most undiscerning viewers, most portraits taken with an 85 are incredibly striking when compared to the 28mm smartphone pics we've become accustomed to.

Mike Dochterman's picture

E Z - the 85 puts you at the exact right distance from the subject to produce pleasing perspective. that same distance with any other lens will be just as nice, but the subject might be too small or too big in the frame.
It's not the lens - it's the distance

David Purton's picture

Because you dont get big nose little ears syndrome. The oof background is also a benefit.