Digital Photography One on One Video Tutorials

DP 1on1 E007 – Choosing a Lens for Portraiture

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In this episode of Digital Photography One on One, Mark Wallace [] discusses how to choose a lens for Portraiture.

Question Answered:
1) I noticed you shoot a lot with your 70-200 lens. I have a Canon 70-200 lens I use for Sports. I’ve never thought about using that lens for portraits. I usually use a smaller lens.

Portrait Lenses:

It’s a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L. This is by far my favorite lens for portrait work.

I favor longer lenses for portrait work for several reasons:

1) Distortion
When you use a wide angle lens, which is also known as a short lens, you have to get closer to your subject to fill the frame. This causes things to become distorted. Things in the foreground look very large and things in the background look very small. Usually this translates into our subjects looking like they have big noses or odd shaped bodies.

A longer lens requires us to get farther from the subject which will minimize this distortion.

2) Angle of View
Angle of view is simply how much the lens can “see”. A wide angle lens has a wide angle of view. This means that we will see much more of the background. This can cause cluttered images.

Longer lenses have a narrower angle of view. A narrower angle of view will allow us to capture less of the background. This will help us keep the image clean and uncluttered.

3) Zoom
Another reason I like to use my 70-200mm is that it’s a zoom lens. This allows me to compose medium length shots as well as nice head shots without having to move. This will also allow your subjects to feel more comfortable because you’re not so close.

There are times when it’s appropriate. The truth is that there are photographers who use wide angle lenses for portrait photography and are very successful. Platon is probably the most famous of these photographers. You can view his work at:

Digital Photography One on One is a video question and answer tutorial format from and You can submit questions for us to tackle on the show by contacting us.

We’d love to hear what you think of this video tutorial format. Be sure to stop by the LightSource Flickr group and tell us what you think.

Visit to learn more about Mark Wallace and his educational workshops on photography and studio lighting.

2 thoughts on “DP 1on1 E007 – Choosing a Lens for Portraiture

  1. Carlos Bruno

    Great! Helpful like this website I didn’t see around … and for FREE?? What a deal!!
    BEYOND than one of your links for “professional photoigraphy in NYC (Photomanhattan) that charges you GOOD money for ‘incredible lessons’, you don’t get it, you complain and they don’t care.
    The treatment is like: I don’t need your business here.

    In your site, with less than 15 minutes of your lessons I REALLY LEARNED and understood about all 7 chapters showed. C-O-N-G-R-A-T-U-L-A-T-O-N-S.

    Anyway … to choose the lenses was “easy” step but …
    WHAT ABOUT THE CAMERA? Nikon or Canon?

    When I started every single professional photographer that I aske about told me to buy (on that time) the great and affordable release: D200 !!
    Now I discover ALL of them were (and still) using Canon and you guys, even though show tips about Nikon either, you have Canon.
    (Mr. Kelby – the ‘king’ of Photoshop and correlates – I discovered now, he uses Nikon only because he ha$ $ome in$$$entive, otherwise …

    What I have to do?
    Sell all my 8 Glasses (good ones!) and start over again?
    Even though they have almost the same functions on their bodies but we know, the ‘catch’ is different.
    And I heard also about faster lenses but sharpness bla, bla, bla …

    Carlos Bruno

  2. christal eerie

    i am a young photography student going to community college in los angeles, ca and i would like to thank you sooooo very much for these videos.

    i even told some of my friends to watch it and they go to expensive art schools and they love your videos, saying “man, i don’t learn this at school.”

    thank you sooooo much!!!

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