Best Portrait Lens Comparison – 50mm, 85mm or 100mm?

Let’s unpack it together in this photography tutorial.

Which focal length is best for portrait and beauty photography?

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Which Focal Length is Best for Portrait Photography?

A Comparison of Three Portrait Lens Lengths

With so many lens options, how do you know where to start? For the best portrait lens comparison, there are at least three focal lengths that you can look at.

With the many options like prime, zoom, macro, and wide angle, it can be hard to know how they all compare for portraits.

In this video tutorial, Kayleigh June talks through lenses, three focal lengths and showing comparisons between the different lengths. 


50mm, 85mm or 100mm; Which Focal Length is Best?


The 50mm lens for portraits

Portrait Lens Comparison: The 50mm Lens

The 50mm lens is a standard for portraits. While more compressed than the 35mm, it still gives good depth for portraits. 

This lens is very versatile and works well when trying to fit more than one person in a portrait and have the depth needed. 

For portraits however the downfall of this lens length is the distortion caused on facial features, so for beauty portraits and up close this lens doesn’t perform as well. 

Although this length does better to narrow natural features so it would capture portraits well for certain people.

The background is more visible with this lens which is good to keep in mind if that is a feature you want to capture. 


The 85mm portrait lens comparison

Portrait Lens Comparison: The 85mm Lens

A great mid-range focal length, this lens allows for more separation of the subject and background than the 50mm.

This is a great feature for portraits, when used outdoors especially to get a nice blur of the background.

This lens will show more of the background than the 100mm, but less than the 50mm. 


The 100mm portrait lens for comparison

Portrait Lens Comparison: The 100mm Lens

At this length, you have better control over isolating in on features of the face and the portrait as a whole. 

Facial features are more flattened and there is very little distortion, so you are able to capture a lot of detail. For portraits or beauty shots, this can be especially helpful.

This can be unflattering for more broad faces or different portrait compositions.

Features and details tend to be more proportionate with this focal length as well.


Side by side portrait lens comparison of focal lengths

So Which lens is Best?

It is a great idea to have multiple lenses at different lengths that you can choose from. This is because for portraits it all depends on the person you are shooting, the location, the scenery, composition and other factors.

So having a few options in your lens kit is the best way to go.

If you plan to take beauty shots or more up-close portraiture, it’s best to get a lens that has ‘macro’ listed in the title.

This ensures that you can get those close details and will have a very close minimum focus distance.

A long focal length with a macro in the lens, that might be a great option. 


There are many focal lengths and prime lenses to choose from for portrait photography.

Portraits are best done usually with a focal length between about 85-135mm, but others may disagree.

Try one out for yourself and go from there to choose the lens you prefer for portraits!

Want to learn more about photography basics? Read this comprehensive guide now!

Which of these portrait lens focal lengths will you try out next?

Comment below!

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