lens exclusively for portraits

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by tess_ran, Jul 19, 2011.

  1. Hi I am a total beginner to slr cameras so please excuse my ignorance with camera terminology. Ive just bought an entry level camera nikon d3100 . It came with the standard 18-55mm lens . If i just used this lens what kind of results will i get for portraits. If its not really suitable for portrait shots can someone give me some advice for a good lens to buy. I was researching on the dx f/1.8G. Would this give me better results. Its within my price range .So any advice would be appreciated.
     
  2. You can shoot portraits with most lens. Experiment with the 18-55mm and see what short coming you feel you have...Then, maybe find another lens if you feel it's not working for ya.
     
  3. i guess you mean the 50/1.8G -- which came out recently. that lens can have a much wider aperture than your current lens, which will allow you to blur the background a lot more than the zoom -- which at 50mm has a max aperture of f/5.6. that's the primary advantage. on the other hand, a lot of photographers prefer a somewhat "longer" focal length for portraits, say 85mm. nikon makes an 85/1.8, but it isn't a G lens, so it won't auto-focus on your camera. bummer. so unless you can spring for a lot more expensive 85/1.4G lens, the 50 is probably a pretty good option. at the price, you really can't go wrong. and if you decide you don't like it, you can probably sell it at not much of a loss.
     
  4. The differences between one lens and the next will be very small, and may not be noticed at all compared to the other things that make or break a portrait. Lighting, composition, and technique are far more important than one lens vs. another. When the stuff that really matters about a portrait is done right, then you can start splitting hairs about lenses.

    There are some circumstances where the faster lens (with the wider aperture) may make the difference between your ability to get a shot or not, but it sounds a little early in the game to put yourself into such trickly lighting situations. Try working with your existing lens, out closer to 50mm, and perhaps around f/8. Learn about composition and portrait lighting, and then, when you can tell in what way your existing lens is holding you back, you'll know better if you need a longer, wider, or otherwise different piece of equipment.
     
  5. i'd probably practice on the kit lens until i knew i needed something else.
     
  6. If i just used this lens what kind of results will i get for portraits.​
    The best way to learn about a lens is by shooting with it. You may discover that that you can do fantastic portraits with it along with a lot of other types of photography. The strength of the kit lens is that it's a good all-rounder so round up your friends and family and practice. As Matt mentions, on the list of things that make a good portrait, the lens, or camera for that matter, are pretty far down on the list. Heck, you can take interesting portraits and not use any lens at all! Just a tiny hole in a body cap will do.
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  7. Nice, Louis!
     
  8. I generally agree with the advice to first use the lens that you have, learn more about photography and discover which limits of your lens you encounter first.
    However, both the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G and 50mm f/1.8G lenses are inexpensive and excellent choices for a beginner. (Don't accidentally buy the older 50mm f/1.8D lens, for although it's a great lens, it won't autofocus with your D3100). You can use any lens for portraiture, from a fisheye to a super-telephoto, but the 50mm focal length provides an angle of view (equivalent to 75mm on a full-frame camera) that is more or less a classical length for portraiture. On the other hand, the 35mm focal length is more all-around useful on a DX camera.
    I also think a fast prime lens is better for a beginner to learn with. Learning to walk around in the world and see a single angle-of-view in your mind's-eye helps to encourage good photographs. Being forced to back up or move forwards to frame the shot helps to encourage one to walk around a bit and find the best angle and view for a photo. The brighter viewfinder makes it easier to see what's going on, and helps the AF system out. The faster maximum aperture helps to take better pictures indoors, and easily provides that "SLR-look" with a sharp foreground and blurred background. A smaller and lighter camera makes it easier to carry with you as well. And not worrying about zooming, a variable aperture or whether VR is on helps make it easier to focus to composition and exposure.
    Although I do favor prime lenses for my own work, I'm not claiming that primes are superior to zooms, or that you can do everything with a single prime lens. Obviously there are situations where a zoom is necessary, or a particular focal length is not appropriate. I've seen people take great images even from the kit zoom. But I think it would be hard to find a better way for a beginner to spend $200 than one of those fast primes.
     
  9. If you really want to enjoy portraiture, forget the gear chapter. Almost any lens will serve you... as Louise has already shown. Yours is a right one to start. It covers the most used focal lenghts, except for that close head shots; you can always shoot close to your subject to have them, until you start to see perspective differences.
    It`s all about perspective, illumination, background, aperture and your own style.
    You don`t need a super fast lens to isolate your subject; just choose a bit more distant background and have it. Your subject doesn`t need a widest aperture, too; I hate that "formal" portraits with ionly one eye in focus. As mentioned above, the difference from one lens to another is very slight at "working" apertures. I`d just start shooting with a good book to learn the basics. There will be always lenses on the shelves to be bought. You`ll know soon what are your real preferences.
    But if you`re already decided to buy a bunch of primes, just make your list; one lens for full body, another for half body and the third for close head shots (the offer is interesting, 35/1.8G, 40/2.8G Micro, 50/1.4G, 60/2.8G Micro, 85/1.4G, 105VR Micro... ).
     
  10. ... 85/3.5VR Micro...
     
  11. But if you`re already decided to buy a bunch of primes, just make your list; one lens for full body, another for half body and the third for close head shots (the offer is interesting, 35/1.8G, 40/2.8G Micro, 50/1.4G, 60/2.8G Micro, 85/1.4G, 105VR Micro... ).​
    Umm...Jose, are you serious? You are that loaded:) Me...I either use a zoom or a prime w/my feet, ha!
     
  12. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If the OP wants to have auto focus with the D3100, please make sure that you get AF-S type lenses with the auto focus motor built into the lens. Those lenses have 8 (or more) electronic contacts around the lens mount. See this thread: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00Z2tH
    The 50mm/f1.8 AF-S lens I mentioned in that thread (I also provided an image of it) can make a decent portrait lens on the D3100, although I think it is still a bit short.
     
  13. I was teached in the idea that the first portraiture parameter to be taken into account is perspective; it is given by the camera-to-subject distance.
    Once selected, it comes the angle of view, hence the need of a specific focal lenght. A too wide lens will frame a too wide area, a too long lens will be too tight... (a "portrait" could be anything from e.g. a stand-up person in front of a huge buildding to a head close-up). Each will ask for a different focal lenght, then the need of different lenses if we are talking about primes.
    Obviously, we can ignore small perspective differences by getting further or closer with the same focal lenght; or to avoid "conventional" aesthetics just because we just want to have the shot, or simply because we don`t mind about it... but if someone ask for a "generic" lens, "exclusively for portraits", this concepts should be previously taken into account.
    ... Like Leslie, I`m used to use either an all purpose zoom or a legged prime for my Nikon portraits... ;)
     
  14. Hi I am a total beginner to slr cameras so please excuse my ignorance with camera terminology. Ive just bought an entry level camera nikon d3100 . It came with the standard 18-55mm lens . If i just used this lens what kind of results will i get for portraits.​
    just to follow-up, i've highlighted the words which stand out here. from this, i draw the conclusion that the OP does not have a technical background in photography. that's perfectly OK, as long as you are willing to learn, and accept the learning curve. a technical understanding of what it is you're trying to do can help you shoot good portraits with just about any lens and any camera. there are some good suggestions here, but some of the technical terms might go over the head of a newbie. i'd start with composition and perspective. taking a class which allows you to practice those skills would serve you better IMO than a $2000 dedicated portrait lens at this point. a different lens might allow you to hone those skills by controlling depth of field--for instance the max aperture of the 18-55 @ 55mm is f/5.6, which is a medium DoF. at that aperture, subject isolation would be more challenging than with a 50/1.8 G, which will allow you to throw the background out of focus. but until you understand the basics of what you're doing and can shoot comfortably in advanced shooting modes--that's the A/S/M on your mode dial--you will be challenged by your own limitations. a good book for explaining these basics is "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson. i would get that before sinking any money into any more gear.
     
  15. As every one says, the lens you have will do-- the traditional (equivalent) 35mm-film lens (that is FX) for portraiture would be right where your 45-55mm top end on the kit lens for DX is.
    The other problems like "bokeh" (out of focus characteristics) can be picked up as you go. Google™ for "portraiture" and the like and you will find tutorials, including a good one here under the Learning Tab at the top of the page: http://www.photo.net/learn/portraits/
     
  16. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If the OP is interested in becoming a better photographer in the longer run and is interested in portraits, getting a 50mm/f1.8 AF-S now seems to be a good idea. In the US, it is a $220 lens; she seems to be in Australia, and the price hopefully is similar. That is not a very large investment on some fine optics. Unless Nikon comes up with a dedicated DX portrait lens as I think they should, sooner or later she'll likely get a 50mm/f1.8 anyway.
    Of course one can learn photography with nothing more than the 18-55mm DX kit lens, but a fast 50mm can really show you how shallow depth of field can make a huge difference and how to achieve different effects with it.
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  17. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    See the difference @ f5.6; pay attention to the people in the background.
    It was indoors in the evening so that it was dark outside. She was moving around a bit and I was using a slower shutter speed 1/30 sec @ f5.6.
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