Is 35mm or 50mm Better for Portraits?

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

While you can use either lens to take beautiful photos, there is often much debate about which lens is the best for portraiture. And as with any genre, having the right equipment can make you a better portrait photographer. So, is the 35mm or 50mm better for portraits?

Is the 35mm or 50mm Lens Better for Portraits?

The 35mm and 50mm are both good lenses for portraits. A 35mm lens gives you a wide field of view, making it better for capturing environmental portraits, or images with significant depth. While the 50mm lens has a tighter field of view, making it better for more traditional portraits.

For many photographers, the choice of focal length for a portrait comes down to personal preference or style.

Person holding a black camera lens

A 35mm Portrait Lens

When looking for the best portrait lens, you won’t find a one-size-fits-all option. This is because portrait photography has many styles and approaches, which means that different lenses can be best based on what type of portrait you are shooting and how you want it to look.

That said, some lenses are more generally applicable than others, regardless of style. The 35mm focal length is among the best go-to for many photographers. It covers a wide range of shooting situations.

The 35mm lens is excellent for creating a natural-looking image. This is because it enables you to be close to your subject without distortion, and also helps with capturing moments of intimacy. This makes it ideal for capturing portraits or even street photography.

Wide-angle Lens

A 35mm wide-angle lens is a great portrait lens. Since this lens distorts the subject less compared to other focal lengths, you can use it to photograph full-body portraits and close-ups. You can also use the wide-angle perspective to emphasize lines and patterns in the environment or background.

Wide-angle lenses tend to exaggerate the distance between the background and the subject. This is an important feature when shooting a portrait, which helps create separation between the subject and any distracting background elements.

Using a 35mm lens for portrait photography gives you the option to shoot full-body portraits or close-up headshots. It is also an excellent choice for large family portraits and group shots because you can fit everyone into the frame without having to stand too far back from them.

Shallow Depth of Field

The beauty of using a 35mm lens for portraits is that you can blur out the background to focus on your subject. This is perfect for photographing someone in a busy environment without any distractions.

A shallow depth of field gives you that dreamy effect where only your subject’s face is in sharp focus with everything else blurred out behind them. A shallow depth of field can also be used to add some interest by blurring out parts of your subject’s face, like their eyes or mouth.

Less Distortion

A 35mm focal length offers less distortion than wider lenses. This means that your subjects won’t look overly wide around their middle, and at the same time, their features won’t look stretched out in the frame like they sometimes do with wider lenses.

An close-up image of 35mm lens

Less distortion also means that you can get tight shots of your subject without worrying about how much of their surroundings will be included in the shot. With a wider lens, such as a 24mm, you’re more likely to capture more of your subject’s surroundings.

Advantages of a 35mm Portrait Lens

  • Versatility. A 35mm lens is versatile as it has a wide field of view, so you can easily capture large groups and isolate your subject by getting close.
  • Portability. The 35mm lenses are small, lightweight, and often good travel photography choices.
  • Wide-angle perspective. Using this lens, you will see some distortion at the edges of the frame, though this can still be useful when photographing people to emphasize their features or give them more character.

A 50mm Portrait Lens

The camera lens market is expected to grow with over 12.5% increase during the forecast period 2019-2024. It is expected that the demand for camera lenses will rise in the coming years owing to the growing popularity of portrait photography.

The 50mm focal length lets you take excellent full-face portraits without encroaching too much into the subject’s personal space. A 50mm lens makes it easy to create images with a shallow depth of field, and this is often used in portrait photography to make the subject stand out from their surroundings.

When choosing a lens, consider whether you want the background to be in focus or out of focus. A 50mm lens provides a shallow depth of field, allowing you to take pictures with blurry backgrounds (bokeh).

Fast Shutter Speeds

A 50 mm lens has a large maximum aperture, allowing more light to enter the camera. This means that you can use fast shutter speeds even in low-light situations without using flash.

This factor makes it ideal for capturing moving objects, such as children or pets. You can even use it to take pictures of sporting events, like football games or baseball games. The faster the shutter speed, the better.

High Image Resolution

A high-resolution lens allows you to capture more detail in your photos and produce large prints without sacrificing quality.

The image sensor on a 50mm portrait lens is two times larger than on a standard 35 mm film camera. The images were taken by a 50 mm portrait lens, therefore, have twice the resolution of images taken by a standard 35 mm film camera.

An image of 50mm lens

Shallow Depth of Field

Shallow depth of field is one of the most popular features photographers look for when photographing portrait shots. The shallow depth of field makes the subject stand out from its background by blurring the background and focusing on the subject.

You can use this creatively to give a pleasing effect to portraits, as it helps draw attention to the photo’s subject. With a maximum aperture of f/1.2 to 2.8, this makes the 50mm particularly suitable for creating a shallow depth of field for beautiful portraiture.

Advantages of a 50mm Portrait Lens

  • Efficiency. The 50mm lens is the most efficient portrait lens. A 50mm lens increases the magnification while decreasing the depth of field. This makes it ideal for portraits.
  • Wide portraiture variety. You can use 50mm for pretty much any kind of portraiture. It’s excellent for full-body shots, head-and-shoulders portraits, and close-up portraits.
  • Focusing speed. You can set it up in manual focus mode; it reacts more quickly than an autofocus lens.
  • Weight. With no moving parts and no electronics, this prime lens has very little weight.

Choosing a Portrait Lens

With so many different options for portrait lenses, how do you know which is the best for your specific needs and style?

Achieving a distinct look in your photos can differentiate between a good portrait and a great portrait. The lens you use to capture that perfect shot is also as critical as the camera itself.

Wide-angle Lens

When choosing a wide-angle lens for portraiture, you have the option of going as wide as you want. The wider you go, the more pronounced your subject’s facial features become, so be careful not to go too wide and distort your subject’s face.

If you have a lot of room to work with and want to include a lot of background scenery in your image, then a wide-angle lens will be an excellent choice for you.

Fast Aperture

Aperture control allows you to control the amount of light entering your camera. The wider the aperture, the more light it lets in and vice-versa. When buying a portrait lens, there are two main reasons why you should look for a fast lens:

  • Faster shutter speed: You can shoot in low-light conditions without worrying about increasing your ISO, which would otherwise result in increased noise levels.
  • Depth of field: Blurring out the background will help your subject stand out and draw attention to itself. A faster aperture of f/2.8 or below will allow you to achieve this effect by throwing the background out of focus.
An image of 35mm lens

Focal Length

Focal length defines what the lens is and what it’s capable of doing, as well as whether it can zoom in and out. The focal length for portrait lenses tends to be somewhere between 50mm and 200mm.

A wide-angle lens has a short focal length, which lets you capture lots of scenery and foreground in a single shot. The focal length of a telephoto lens is large, which can compress distance and make things in the space seem more significant than they are.

Related Questions

Is 35mm Good for Street Photography?

Yes, a 25mm is good for street photography. The focal length is suitable for capturing close and far subjects in the same frame and candid shots. The large aperture also enables you to capture photographs with a narrow depth of focus, which may make your subject stand out against a cluttered background.

Is a 35mm Lens Good for Group Shots?

Yes, 35mm lenses are great for tight spaces; you can also use them for group photos. A 35mm lens has a minimum focusing distance of about 50mm, therefore you can use it for tightly framed portraits or for taking shots of small groups of people.

Is an f/1.8 or f/1.4 Lens Better?

Both will be fine if you shoot in low-light settings. If you wish to photograph distant objects, f/1.8 is preferable. If you’re going to take photos of things to close up (bokeh), the f/1.4 is better.


Is 35mm or 50mm Better for Portraits? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer; there are a lot of things to consider when deciding which lens is best. Ultimately, get the lens that works best for your needs.