My Favorite Focal Length Lenses for Shooting Beauty

Studio Beauty


In my last article I discussed which focal lengths I prefer for shooting Studio Fashion and my reasons.

Beauty photography like Fashion is really a very subjective matter and the focal length one chooses will have a major effect on the final perspective rendition of the image.  However in saying that, I have often been one to create controversy in my choices that more often than not break with convention.

My choice for most Beauty shoots is from 40-70mm in APSC reduced format sensors or around 50-105mm in full frame full 35mm sensor camera’s. As of late I have been using my FA 50mm f1.4 and DA 70mm f2.4 Limited Pentax lenses for most of my beauty stuff and on the rare occassion my DA* 16-50 f 2.8 Pentax zoom at the longer end for shots that I find it necessary to benefit by the versatility of a zoom lens.


I really like the perspective this focal length produces and am not presently a big fan of “THAT COMPRESSED” long telephoto look that was so popular throughout the 80’s & 90’s.  But hey things change and perhaps one day i’ll do a beauty shoot with my Tamron SP 500mm Mirror Lens.



So the next time someone tells you that you NEED a certain focal length to get a Beauty of Fashion shot, think twice and consider this…A good kit zoom lens, shot at optimal aperture i.e. 2 stops down from wide open, will do quite well for most applications.


If you are not using flash, it would be preferable to get a fixed focal length lens as optimal sharpness in most cases is around f3.5 to f4.0, which most kit lens are not capable of matching. You would need to stop down to around f6.3 to f8.0 to accomplish similar sharpness.  Flash renders images in a manner where they seem sharper, due to the augmented perception of  contrast.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to share them with me here.

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About Benjamin Kanarek
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Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…
  • Blake Davenport

    I’ll add that I use 100mm with all of my work beauty wise and sometimes will pull the 50 out for half body beauty shots. I think 85 on a crop sensor or in my case a 1.3x sensor is ideal. 

  • Edgar Cobo

    My favorite focal length is 50mm for my Canon 7D (Aps-c).

  • Edgar Cobo

    I´m just a beginner, but started with manual focus primes, i have Zeiss Contax 28mm f/2.8,  50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4 and 135mm f/2.8, on a Canon 7d (Aps-c), with Fotodiox adapters, and great results (for a beginner…).  These lenses are nothing but outstanding!!. Benjamin thanks for share  your knowledge an your very, very inspiring work with us!!

  • Anthonydemorenne

    Wow, you use a 50mm for beauty, is that on full frame? Gonna try that some time. Could you show us some 50mm beauty shots? 😀

  • Thanks Ben. I use my 60′ Kogaku 50mm F1.4. At f2.8 with flashes or 70 / 300 VR 2 nikkor.
    Kiss

  • Guillaume H

    Choosing a focal is a highly sensitive artistic choice.

    I believe that even if you have the discipline to frame you picture without zooming in an out, using a prime lens is still highly beneficial as it can give a consistent look across a series of photographs (the relative size of objects remain in the same proportions)

    Personally, I hate that trend from photojournalism to shoot people with ultra wides (24mm and below) That is a style that IMO is too much “in your face” and doesn’t respect the subject as it makes you feel to be a few inches from him/her.

    For my personal work, I tend to use between 40 and 60mm (eq 35mm). The slightly wide 40mm is perfect for street shooting allowing easily to shoot a scene while forcing you to choose what you put in frame. The 60mm is more constraining but allows to make portrait “under the belt” quite easily.

    But at the end of the day, the more important part is to feel comfortable with the focal length you use. 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm are all focal lengths will specific “feel” in terms of perspective, knowing how the picture will look, if you need to get closer or farther before putting the viewfinder in front of the eye is very important.

  • @: LMAO 🙂 It is awesome!

  • @: Yeah man, outside of work my biggest time consumer is eating or thinking about what I’m going to eat. Thanks for the recipe, definitely will try it out!

  • aweseome, thanks! @:

  • andy lai

    I cannot for the life of me find your article about studio fashion that you mention at the beginning of this article. Can you please post a link?

    Thanks!

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