Why the 50mm is NOT my favorite portrait lens?

Why the 50mm is NOT my favorite portrait lens?

There's a question on our minds: What's the best portrait lens?

And many people have already found the answer: the 50mm!!

But is this really the ultimate portrait lens? And why is this (or not) so? And does it matter whether you have a crop or full-frame camera?

During the workshop 'Urban flashes' at the NDSM wharf in Amsterdam last Saturday, Nathalie said: “You are typically a man who analyzes everything”. Although it was intended as a joke, I secretly see it as a compliment. Because I have often made 'discoveries' that I can use again in practice to make photos just a little bit different than usual.

It is important to know that a lens has certain properties. A wide angle pulls the image apart and a telephoto lens compresses the image. And in addition, you also have a certain distance to your subject.

With a wide angle you get very close to make the face of your model fill the screen. And with a telephoto lens, you may be up to 10 meters away to get the entire face of your model in view.

If you stand on top of your model, you will notice that the nose of your model is stretched enormously, the forehead and chin are stretched and the face looks really bad. Add to that the wide-angle stretch and the photo is hilarious… but not exactly charming.

If you are far away, the proportions in the face become much more natural and the telephoto lens compresses your image slightly and the proportions in the face, chin, nose, forehead, become very nice to look at.

But the 50mm is not a wide angle, is it? No, that's right and the proportions are pretty good. During a workshop in my Experience Studio, a member thought so too, because the 50 mm has a top reputation.

I regularly say: don't believe me right away, but try it out for yourself! I had her make a full-screen portrait with the 50mm and then with a telephoto lens at 200mm. She was completely on the other side of the studio with the 200mm and it felt weird. With the 50 mm she was about a meter from the model.

After the 2 pictures she was able to compare the pictures. “Wow, you just really notice the difference between the photos,” she said. “But which one do you like better?” I asked. The 200mm won!

With a crop camera you have the 'advantage' that you stand further away, maybe around 1,5 meters, that certainly makes a difference. But even then, the telephoto lens wins in terms of proportions in the face.

But what about depth of field? Agree, the 1.8 has a large aperture, but you know that aperture is only 1 of the 3 elements that determine the depth of field....but more on that later.

So my favorite portrait lens is the telephoto lens. There may be good reason for you to compare the 50mm and your telephoto lens and come up with your own favourite.

Do you want to learn how to make really creative portraits? Book the workshop quickly here:

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