What Lens Is Best for Family Portraits?

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Whether you’re indoors, walking in the park, or going on camping trips, there’re many family moments that you will want to capture and keep for memories. However, the quality of your family portraits will primarily depend on the lens you will use. So, what lens is best for family portraits?

What Lens Is Best for Family Portraits?

The best lens for family portraits is a 50mm or 85mm lens with a maximum wide aperture of around f/1.2 to f/1 2.8. Usually, the best lens will depend on how big the family is, whether the family members will be standing close together, and the lighting condition when capturing the portraits. 

Various kinds of Nikon lenses

In most cases, you will want a lens that can blur the background to eliminate distractions that might prevent the viewer from focusing on the family members. Although the right type of lens depends on your preference, the following are the key features to consider when choosing a lens for family portraits.

Focal Length 

The lens focal length is the distance between the camera sensor and the optical center of the lens, usually measured in millimeters. The focal length primarily determines the field of view and the magnification of individual elements in the photo. 

Typically, a lens with a short focal length will have a larger field of view than one with a longer focal length. For instance, a 50mm lens will have a bigger field of view and capture much of a scene than an 85mm lens.

Consider how big your family is and whether the family members will be close together during the photo before deciding on the best lens in terms of focal length. For instance, an 85mm lens can be ideal for a couple, and a 50mm lens can be ideal for a larger family or when shooting indoors with limited space.   

Bokeh Quality

One of the best ways to make your family portraits aesthetically pleasing is to shoot them with a smoothly blurred background, commonly known as bokeh. This blurring results from the background being out of focus while the main subject is in focus. 

Usually, the ability of the lens to blur the background depends on the aperture, which is the opening that regulates the light going through the camera lens. Most modern lenses come with a variable aperture that allows you to set it from the narrowest to the widest. 

The best lens for blurring the background and producing a beautiful bokeh quality is one with a maximum wide aperture of around f/1.2 to f/2.8. For the best bokeh quality and image sharpness, it’s advisable to use an aperture setting of around 2 to 3 f-stops from the widest aperture. 

Low-Light Performance 

Whether you are holding parties indoors or capturing the portrait of a sleeping baby in a poorly-lit room, you will want a versatile lens that can allow you to capture family portraits in good lighting and low light conditions. 

Man taking a family portrait

Although the low light performance might vary across lenses depending on the construction quality, it mainly depends on how fast the lens is. For instance, an f/1.2 lens will capture brighter and sharper portraits in low-light conditions than an f/4. 


Keeping in mind that you might use the lens in trying conditions such as adverse weather during camping trips, you should consider going for a lens with the following design attributes. 

  • Weatherproof: This design protects the sensitive inner mechanism of your lens against moisture, extreme temperatures, and dust. Typically, this enables you to continue shooting outdoors even if it starts raining before the shooting session ends. 
  • Sturdy: In most cases, family portraits include young kids who may often engage in unpredictable activities or even run uncontrollably, so you need a sturdy lens that can withstand accidental falls.
  • Image stabilization: Since you might not want to carry a tripod with you when going out with your family, you should go for a lens with an image stabilization mechanism to help reduce the camera shake effect when shooting handheld. The system can also help reduce the shaky effect common when shooting in low-light with high ISO settings.

Related Questions

Is a 100mm Lens Good for Portrait Photography?

100mm is an excellent focal length for portraits on a full-frame camera as it provides an impressive compression of the subject. When you pair this focal length with an aperture of f/2.8, the subject’s background is impressively blurred, producing a high image quality and clarity.

What Is the Best ISO for Outdoor Family Portraits? 

In good ambient lighting, it is advisable to use a lower ISO setting of between 100 and 400. Choosing a much higher ISO setting will work best at night and in low light. Typically, the ISO setting determines your camera’s sensitivity to light.

Final Thoughts

Considering that lenses have different qualities and attributes, choosing one that will suit family portrait photography might be challenging. However, the best lens for family portraits should have a wide aperture, around 50mm to 85mm focal length, and the ability to shoot in low-light conditions.