Lens Choices for Portraits

Select the right lens to power up your portraits.

When it comes to portraiture and beauty work, lens choice can make a big difference. The last thing you want is a distorted image that doesn’t accurately portray your subject. Lens choice can dramatically change an image so it’s important to understand the effects, pros and cons of each

In this photography class, Karl demonstrates a variety of lenses, from 16mm to 400mm, clearly showing the results of each. Looking at the shots, he explains which lens is best for portrait or beauty photography.


In this class:

Comparisons between the following focal lengths:

  • -16mm
  • -35mm
  • -50mm
  • -70mm
  • -85mm
  • -100mm
  • -135mm
  • -200mm
  • -400mm
  • Results from each
  • Selecting the ideal lens for portrait or beauty photography

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Hi Karl,

    I would like to buy Canon 85 mm 1.2 for portrait photography (studio and outdoor) There are two versions of Canon 85 mm 1.2, and i cant decide, your ideas is important to me, could you help me to decide?

    “While this DS lens has smoother bokeh at f/1.2, the effects of the filter go away at medium and small apertures, so unless you’re shooting at large apertures and want that smooth bokeh

    If you need low-light speed, the regular RF 85mm f/1.2L USM lets in a stop and a half more light at f/1.2 since it doesn’t have the edge-grad neutral density filter of the DS version. The regular 85/1.2 really is f/1.2 at f/1.2, while the DS version only lets in as much light at f/1.2 as does a regular f/2 lens.

    For low-light, regular version ( true f/1.2 )

    For insanely smooth bokeh, DS version.” (f/1.2 but because of the filter it works like f / 2.0)


    1. Hi Zee, it really comes down to what you think you will be wanting to photograph the most: Dreamy, shallow depth of field portraits or more standard beauty/fashion portraits or something else. I’m afraid I can’t make that decision for you.

  2. Hi Karl

    As always great job on explaining. When you were focusing on Ben you mentioned a focus point on each eye. I am more familiar with single, expanded and so on focus points, can you explain this to me or is it a focus point that that camera has. Thanks mate

    1. Hi Robert, it must have said it incorrectly as my cameras can only focus on one eye point at a time.

  3. I’ve been doing some product photography for seven years and your courses have really help with my product photography using a crop sensor DLSR camera on gifts and fashion jewelry. Testing a really old camera now if I can use it for a lookbook and resize it for Instagram use using a photo editor. Although I am retired, good skills to learn since everything going E-Commerce.

  4. Good refresher course. I hope to be back in a studio or outside next year with my favorite model working on a Fashion Jewelry shoot in retirement. If not product photography is also a good skill to add if look for work and you have to do social media work.

  5. Hi Karl,

    Hope you are doing great. I am a beginner to photography and the sessions you provide are very helpful to me and all others alike me. Thanks for that and kudos to the entire team for your efforts 🎉

    At the same time, Karl I have a query while performing fashion photography. Which focal length would you suggest for capturing a full body fashion photography?
    In my case, I am shooting the cloth on a mannequin (alike Stephanie) rather than a model. The equipment I have at my disposal is Sony’s mirrorless crop sensor camera (alpha 6400) and the 18-135mm kit lens. The crop factor is 1.5 times the full frame models.

    Also, do I need to purchase a prime lens for the same or the kit lens is sufficient for my work?

    Thanks in advance 😊.
    Take care.

    1. Hi Vaisakn, thank you. I’d say a 50mm prime lens would be good for you to avoid distortion but given that you have a crop factor then you will need to make sure you have enough room to move back to fit your model in the shot. If you do then a 50mm 1.8 should be good as you will mostly be using it at f11 or f16.

  6. Hi Karl,

    I wanted to see if you provide guide \ step by step advice on how to set up studio strobe flash light as well as guide on transmitter settings for correct exposure during studio shooting? I am struggling on setting my my equipment and don’t understand how equipment works.

    Thank you

    1. Hello Maria, it’s very important that you understand Light, flash power, and the relationship of the camera settings to flash power. All of that is covered in this section – https://visualeducation.com/section/lighting-theory-and-equipment/ Please watch ‘Types of Studio lighting’ first, Then watch ‘Introduction and Understanding Light’, after that watch ‘Understanding Flash Power’, then the ‘Realtionship of Shutter Speeds and Apertures to Flash’ after that please continue to watch the other classes in this section. The key thing to understanding your equipment and understanding the settings is first in knowing what the settings are for and how they relate to the camera, the lights and picture you are trying to take. If you watch those classes carefully and then if you have further questinos please come back to me. All the best Karl.

      1. Hi Karl, new to flash/studio photography and only recently signed up to KTE. Finding classes really clear, useful, learning so much, thank you and your team!

        My question as an Olympus M43 user, (2×crop factor) what lens focal length or range would you recommend for portraits?

  7. Hello

    I was noticing that the models highlight of his hair was a more contrast redder tint in the video camera vs the Canon digital camera. Is there a reason for this or was it just the lighting? I would also like to know what a 16mm lens would be used for? Thank you and have a good day.

    1. Hi, different cameras have their own profiles, or the way they describe colour so this is often seen in the results as slightly different contrasts or colour. A 16mm lens is most commonly used in landscape photography.

  8. Hi Karl,
    Many thanks for your unbelievable dedication and passion.
    You don’t mention the aperature you’re working on, which
    I understand must be the same for all the different lenses,
    but which obviously, according to your teaching, is essential.

    1. Hi Mondi, I don’t quite understand your question? In this video we were just comparing focal length only, why were you thinking the aperture needs to be the same?

      1. Hi Karl,
        Thanks for your fast reply.
        I was under the impression that aperature
        does affect the subject, however slightly,
        as you change focal length.
        Judging fromm your reply, though, that is
        clearly incorrect.
        Just for the sake of clarification at my end.
        Aperature only affects the amount of light
        hitting the sensor and depth of field?

        1. Hi Mondi, yes that is correct Aperture affects Depth of Field and the amount of light hitting the sensor.

      2. Hi Karl,
        As a beginner to photography, I am learning constantly from this program. Thanks for all your efforts. Kudos to the entire team 💯

        I have a query regarding the focal length to be used for a full body fashion photography (not on a model but on a mannequin like Stephanie). The equipment I have with me is a Sony a6400 crop sensor camera and the kit lens (18-135mm). This aps-c camera is having a crop factor of 1.5times the full frame camera.

        1. Hi Vaisakh, thank you for your comments. If it were a 35mm FF camera then my choice of lens for a full length fashion or mannequin shot I wouldn’t use wider than a 50mm lens to avoid distortion, 50mm-60mm on a full frame 35mm would be a good choice.

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