My Favourite Portrait Lens - Tilly Clifford

23 May 2016

Possibly my favourite lens to work with across both my wedding and portrait work is the Canon 50mm f/1.2 L. I love this lens because although it has a fixed focal length, it is extremely versatile due to its large maximum aperture and sharp auto focus.

4 Reasons why I love this lens:

  • Ultrasonic autofocus motor provides super smooth, fast and quiet autofocus.
  • Large f/1.2 aperture provides incredible low light capabilities.
  • Circular aperture creates superb bokeh, ideal for portraiture.
  • Incredible colour rendition.

Below are two examples of images shot on the Canon 50mm f/1.2 L. Each portrait was shot using a super low aperture, however still maintains an incredible sharpness around the subjects eyes and a gradual softer effect around the outer areas of the frame.

Constructing this image:

My Favourite Portrait Lens - Tilly CliffordMy Favourite Portrait Lens - Tilly Clifford
Canon 50mm f/1.2 L Lens @ ISO 100 f1.4 1/500

To create a similar portrait using the Canon 50mm f/1.2 lens start by placing the subject in natural soft light, this image was taken very late in the evening in order to avoid harsh light falling on the subjects face. I suggest moving in close for a frame like this, as you can see I have mostly the subjects face filling the entire frame. I love shooting portraits up close; you can create truly powerful images with this lens if you are not afraid to move in a little closer. Set your camera to desired settings, keep in mind a lower aperture and set your cameras focal point so that it is in line with the subject’s eyes

Focusing directly on the subject’s eyes means this will be the sharpest focal point of your image and the lower aperture setting should create a gradual depth of field separating the subject and bringing their face forward. This technique creates a strong impact between the subject and viewer and can help create more powerful portraits.

Constructing this image:

Slightly different to the above image is this portrait where light and shadows have been used to intensify the subject’s expression. To create an image similar to this finding the right light is the key. This image was taken in natural light, closer to the middle of the day in an area that was shaded but with enough light exposure through the movement of trees blowing in the wind. I suggest taking a walk in the park on a sunny day to play around with achieving this look. I have included a little more of the subject in the frame by taking a step or two back and adjusted my composition so that the light falls directly on the subjects eye area. Once again I have chosen a low aperture to achieve desired depth of field and the light and shadows captured add a perfect contrast to the image.

Get your hands on this lens and give these techniques a try! It's a super versatile lens with endless opportunities!

My Favourite Portrait Lens - Tilly CliffordMy Favourite Portrait Lens - Tilly Clifford
Canon 50mm f/1.2 L Lens @ ISO 400 f1.8 1/800

Boost your photography with a 50mm Lens of your own

If you're not shooting Canon or the f1.2 is a bit out of your price range, there's a huge range of similar portrait lenses available for all camera mounts... 

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