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Making a Choice: Nikon Portrait Lenses

Lesson 50 from: Nikon Lenses: The Complete Guide

John Greengo

Making a Choice: Nikon Portrait Lenses

Lesson 50 from: Nikon Lenses: The Complete Guide

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

50. Making a Choice: Nikon Portrait Lenses


Class Trailer



Nikon Lens Class Introduction


Nikon Lens Basics


Focal Length: Angle of View


Focal Length: Normal Lenses


Focal Length: Wide Angle Lenses


Focal Length: Telephoto Lens


Focal Length Rule of Thumb


Field of View


Aperture Basics


Equivalent Aperture


Depth of Field


Maximum Sharpness




Hyper Focal Distance


Nikon Mount Systems


Nikon Cine Lenses


Nikon Lens Design


Focusing and Autofocus with Nikon Lenses


Nikon Lens Vibration Reduction


Image Quality


Aperture Control and General Info


Nikon Standard Zoom Lenses


Nikon Super Zoom Lenses


Nikon Wide Angle Lenses


Nikon Telephoto Zoom Lenses


3rd Party Zooms Overview


3rd Party Zooms: Sigma


3rd Party Zooms: Tamron


3rd Party Zooms: Tokina




Nikon Prime Lens: Normal


Nikon Prime Lens: Wide Angle


Nikon Prime Lens: Ultra-Wide


Nikon Prime Lens: Short Telephoto


Nikon Prime Lens: Medium Telephoto


Nikon Prime Lens: Super Telephoto


3rd Party Primes: Sigma


3rd Party Primes: Zeiss


3rd Party Primes: Samyang


Lens Accessories: Filters


Lens Accessories: Lens Hood


Lens Accessories: Tripod Mount


Lens Accessories: Extension Tubes


Lens Accessories: Teleconverters


Macro Photography


Nikon Micro Lens Selection


Fisheye Lenses


Tilt Shift Photography Overview


Tilt Shift Lenses


Building a Nikon System


Making a Choice: Nikon Portrait Lenses


Making a Choice: Nikon Sport Lenses


Making a Choice: Nikon Landscape Lenses


Nikon Lens Systems


Lens Maintenance


Buying and Selling Lenses


Final Q&A


What's in the Frame


Lesson Info

Making a Choice: Nikon Portrait Lenses

So a lot of people are interested in what is the best lands for ex, whatever ex happens to be, and so let me kind of really dive in and try to answer this question because there are slightly different parameters that each of you might have on well, what's the best lands for me in this genre. So let's, take a look at a number of different systems and first up, one of the favorite portrait photography, what is the best portrait? Lance? Well, there's a lot that kind of goes into this, so we're gonna we're gonna investigate this very closely. And the first thing to think about is lenses do not have perspective perspective is determined by where you are in relationship to your subject. So lenz doesn't give you a perspective. It kind of forces you into its perspective, but it doesn't give you perspective. The framing is determined by the lens choice, and so I mentioned this before. If I'm photographing a person here let's, just call it at the table here and I think this person just looks rea...

lly good right here it's the right perspective then this is where I should shoot the photo now what sort of frame me do I want so I want a full body? Do I want a head shot, head and shoulder shot then I'm going to determine which lens I want and so that's what we're going to be thinking about is where we stand versus what framing we have in the shot. All right? I'm shooting this rounded grid pattern to show you what I want to show you is what what different lenses due to the face and so we're going to start off very technical and then she'll very practical and I just wanted to put an object in here to show you size and relationship and so what we're shooting is a rounded grid item, okay, so this is what a rounded cylinder looks like shot with a twenty four millimeter lands now I'm going to try to keep it roughly the same size moving back, shooting with a thirty five shooting with a fifty the effect that I'm getting it I'm getting some compression or some flat me as we go into the hundred millimeter lands, the one, thirty five, two hundred and the four so let's go ahead and let's, just take a clip look at one little grid on this with the different lenses, and so as I move away from my subject and use a longer telephoto lens, notice what it's done is it's really flattened out this square that I'm highlighting in red here, and so if we want to flatten the face out, we can use a longer lands if we want more three dimensions, we want to make that nose look bigger, we're going to use a wide angle lens. All right, so let's, try this with a more realistic subject. I'm actually going to shooting with an eleven millimeter. Nikon doesn't make it eleven, but I'm doing it for the test purposes so that you can see what's going on so shooting very close to a globe at eleven millimeters. Now what? I would prefer you to pay attention. Not that I have favorite countries. One play favorites, but watch for india, okay, india is the country toe watch. Okay, can you see india it's at the top right of the frame at eleven millimeters, you could barely see it. I move straight back at sixteen and india is becoming more clear because I am flattening the globe out as I shoot with a more telephoto lands moving straight back. And so let's, pull up the clips of what india looks like as I move the camera back and change my perspective and changed by framing at the same time. So where we stand when we shoot, our portrait has a huge impact on how the face and the shape of the body is going to look all right, so let's, get a model in here, and we're going to shoot this everything from eleven to eight hundred starting with a fifty millimeter lands. And so this is a very difficult siri's to shoot because the model needs to stay very still. And I need to move the camera as precisely as I can. Directly forward and backwards and it's. Impossible to keep things perfect. At least I haven't figured it out yet. So there's some subtle variations, but I'm trying to keep it as close as possible. So let's investigate the world of wide angle shooting a portrait with a thirty five millimeter lens up very close. Notice how our kind of cheeks start to fall back. We're losing sight of her ears now her nose seems to elongate okay. Looking very strange here. So you're probably not gonna want your portrait here. And when we get down to eleven, you definitely do not want your portrait at eleven millimeters. Okay, so let's, let's. Bring it back up to fifty. And so now fifty seems pretty darn normals. Fifty seems like not a bad place to shoot a portrait left. So let's continue up through the telephoto and you notice I've put in seventy because a lot of you have twenty four to seventy lenses eighty five, which has long been considered a favorite focal length, but some photographers prefer something in the hundred range. Or the one thirty five range but we're going to take it all the way up to an eight hundred millimeter lands and what I want you to kind of pay attention to is her earrings, her ears and her cheekbones all right, so let's bring it up to seventy and eighty five eighty five you know if you can start to see the year's a little bit more you can see a little bit more of the cheeks very subtle changes eighty five to one hundred and when it gets up to these longer focal links two hundred and four hundred and eight hundred I would never want to have to do this but if I had to guess what her weight wass with a shot from the two hundred eight hundred I would probably guess a few pounds heavier just because of the way it looks like it's adding flesh onto the cheeks and so let's do some side by side comparisons between a thirty five millimeter lands and a hundred millimeter lands so a moderately wide angle lens versus a short telephoto lens let's do another comparison one hundred versus the fifty millimeter lands and so I can completely understand when people don't want to shoot with fifty millimeter lens I think a slightly longer length is better you can do it and this is a whole lot better than thirty five or twenty for anything in that wide range and so the problem is, is that when we are in the sixteen eleven moment, twenty four millimeter range, we're getting way too much distortion, and when we get up to two hundred, four hundred, eight hundred, we're getting a lot of compression and it's a matter of where we want to find our balance point in here, and different people are going to find that at a slightly different place somewhere in between. All right, compare fifty two, eight hundred notice the way the neck, the cheeks, they just have a slightly different shape to them that looks a few pounds heavier on the right than on the left because we flatten that face out. So seventy, I think seventy works quite well for portrait photography, so that's kind of the short end one thirty five is kind of longer in, so I think I think either one of these are really quite nice. They really do the face justice, I would say they don't blow it out of proportion, but eighty five is really kind of considered the classic and favorite focal length, but it depends on where you're working, but this is just one aspect. The other aspect is your depth of field and your image areas faras your background, your working distance to the subject, so this is just the tight headshot. And so I think that's a helpful comparison trying to figure out where is that sweet spot so I think seventy eighty five one hundred one thirty five are all very good places to be for a tight head shot if you're doing more than tight head shots you have to drawing the consideration the size and weight of the lands the cost of it the aperture that you want to shoot at the environment you want to shoot at and so there's a wide variety of choices that could be right for you the first thing that you're going to choose a portrait lens on is the angle of you going through the examples that we just did you're probably gonna have a favorite for that tight headshot you're probably gonna have another favorite for a working distance you know I don't like working with the four hundred millimeter lands it puts me way too far back from my subject I don't like working with a thirty five millimeter land forget the fact that I don't like the way it looks but I'm just way too close to my subject so there's a lot of factors to think about just with angle of you working distance which is a result of the angle of view as faras the framing that you want to get how much depth of field that you're going to get according to the aperture that it has and the focal length that it has what is the bouquet or the out of focus area look like another important factor the sharpness of the lengths some lenses are really really sharp and we like that or maybe we don't need that sharpest the size and weight of the lens how often do you carrying it around are you a wedding photographer working for eight hours straight having to carry this big heavy lens off your shoulder and then of course part of every everybody's list is price price is always a consideration in there and so for your portrait lenses you're generally going to be thinking about things from fifty millimeter seventy eighty five one o five range one thirty five maybe even up to two hundred and so you can shoot things outside of this range of course but that's general the general range that you're going to be thinking about so I went through my images to look for pictures of people now ah portrait traditionally is a head and shoulder shot but people shots what lens do you need to shoot people well I think I shown that you can shoot people shots at any focal ing this is one of my favorite people shots and it's a twenty four millimeter lens now you get distortion but you know where you get distortion in the corners are kids heads in the corners no they're more towards the middle of the frame so we don't notice any of that distortion another one of my favorite people shots kids within twenty four okay, how about a thirty five the tight headshot? Maybe not so great, but john looks pretty good here shows a little bit of the environment a little bit of an environmental portrait here, so yes, you can use a wide angle they're going into the fifty millimeter lens you're not supposed to shoot tight headshot, you know I do a lot of travel photography and sometimes you don't have the perfect winds with you at every moment that you might want it and so you shoot, you have to and I think it's a fine shot, I think the fifties really nice for doing head and shoulders type shots, another travel shot where you know that the moment arose and you grab the shot when you can you don't say okay, everybody stop doing everything I got to go back to the cabin and get my eighty five millimeter portrait lands seventy millimeters kind of that long into that twenty four to seventy that is often on our cameras when we're just walking around getting grab shots, that's the best portrait length in there and works very well for portrait's very close to that eighty five there is a very subtle difference you'd be hard pressed to find any professional photographer who had noticed the difference between a seventy and eighty five the eighty five that classic one if you know you're going to do portrait that's the one you keep at your side could be useful in so many different ways really blurring out those backgrounds the hundred millimeter near twin of eighty five gives you a little bit more working distance between you and your subject as we get into these longer focal legs, so you tend to be shooting a little bit more head and shoulder shots unless you have a really long space tow work really control those backgrounds out of focus, and neither of these are especially fast lenses I believe in the one on the right is one hundred millimeters at two point eight and the one on the left is hundred millimeters at f four. So getting that shallow depth of field mainly because you're up close with a longer focal in plans the outdoor portrait lands in my mind is the one thirty five give yourself a lot of space to back up, so if you have a lot of working room you can get back further, throw those backgrounds really out of focus. Those tighter shots can be gotten with the two hundred millimeters let's two hundred f for throwing that background just completely out of focus once again, these air not ridiculously fast two hundred millimeter lenses this is not a two hundred two. This is two hundred f four lands so when it comes to portrait lens is there are a wide variety that I can choose, so let me give you three groups first off, if you want to be top of the line professional photographer, probably the eighty five one four would be the first one you'd want to look at because that's just the classic fastest limbs, the fifty eight if you want to shoot with a shorter focal length more environmental portrait, show you a little bit wider environment the one of five on the one thirty five those special d focus control one's could be very, very useful as well, but probably more portrait are shot with the seventy, two hundred two point eight because of that versatility being able to go back down to seventy up to two hundred, which means you can shoot full body shots and tight head shots without moving at all. And so any of these would be fantastic just kind of depends on exactly what style and what's most important to you, so anywhere from twelve hundred to twenty four hundred dollars, approximately in price, these air fairly spending top of the line lenses for what they do let's jump down to what I call the midlevel lenses, so these going range anywhere from three hundred fifty very affordable, I would say, and I didn't mean to go two steps, but well, we'll bring those up three, fifty two, twelve hundred fifty dollars. I think that eighty five one eight is probably the best buy on the whole page that you're looking at here, you want that wider look, the fifty one four is a lot cheaper option than the fifty eight one four, and I think the seventy two, two hundred four and remember that old eighty two, two hundred that's a cheap way to get eighty two, two hundred two point eight, and so the image quality that you get with that eighty two, two hundred two point eight is going to be virtually identical to the new seventy two hundred two point eight just doesn't have that v our technology and it and so any of these would be the good ones, but that eighty five one eight, which is really not that much money. In fact, I've thrown it into the basics because I think even a basic level budget is going to be able to afford that eighty five one eight now if you are shooting with a crop frame sensor, you need to kind of change you're numbers because if you've been hearing me talk about eighty five, eighty five, eighty five, we got to change that number back down to fifty roughly and so what you want if you want that eighty five millimeter perspective that it's going to put you at you're looking at a fifty millimeter one point eight or maybe the fifty millimeter one point for, you know what would also be good? Is that forty millimeter de excellence? It's pretty close it's a little bit shorter focal ink but allows you to focus super super close and if you want a little bit more lifestyle, a little bit wider angle, full body shots the thirty five I would be more than happy to take portrait's with any one of these lenses and it kind of depends on my budget, how much I'm willing to carry around and exactly what I'm trying to do in the environments that I'm working in. If I'm working in a studio, I'm probably going to go with the eighty five because I know I probably can't back up I can't afford that big studio shoot with two hundred if I know that I don't have a studio and I have to go out to the park and I shoot all these variety of situations. I probably be looking at the zoom lens, but the fact that the eighty five one eight is so inexpensive that sze like it's hard to imagine somebody who's interested in shooting portrait who does not at least have that lens or have had that lens it's almost like a required lens tohave if this is what you're into so those are our portrait linds, I don't know if I should stop now and address any portrait issues but I think I'll just move on to the next recommended well, this is still kind of this is still in the portrait section group shots okay, so you are now assigned to shoot the group shot you're a photographer, right? You have a camera? Why don't you shoot the group shot? Okay, which lens should I dio to get this group shot so I got assigned to go shoot a group and so I asked them, would you mind if I shot this with a variety of lenses? Because I want to see what this looks like with a bunch of lenses so here's a group that I needed to photograph and I decided to photograph it with everything from eleven eleven up to a fifty millimeter lands and so we're starting with a fifty millimeter lands and I gotta admit right now that's about as good as they're gonna look okay? Uh pretty good let's go in with white angle and see what happens not too much difference thirty five pretty good and as we get into twenty four, we're starting to notice that I need to stand very close to them and we're starting to get some distortion and as we get to this sixteen millimeter, those folks on the sides are really starting to have there body parts thrown out of shape here and so does not look good standing right in front with a really wide angle lens. So let's, go ahead and back up a little bit better. Better better. Just keeps getting better in my mind. And so I think if you need to shoot a group shot, I think somewhere in the thirty five to fifty range makes sense. Uh, depends a little bit on your positioning if you can get up higher the sites of the group and various things. But I think you very much just need to be at a normal life. I think unless you're having people wrapping around a room filling a room, you shouldn't be shooting it with a wide angle. If you have that opportunity, it's just going to distort those faces as they get up into the corners and so forth. And so if you can shoot it at fifty it's you know it's not that exciting of a subject in the sense of what? Well, what can I deal with this? If you need to spice this up? Probably. Lighting is the way to get in there and add lighting and change it up in that manner.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Nikon® Lenses Part 1
Nikon® Lenses Part 2
Nikon® Lenses Part 3
Nikon® Lenses Part 4
Field of View
Nikon® Lenses Part 5
Nikon® Lenses Part 6
Nikon® Lenses Part 7
Nikon® Lenses Part 8
Nikon® Lens Data

Ratings and Reviews


Outstanding class! This is a must own. You will refer back to this class many times during your photog career. John has put a ton of work into this class and it shows. Being able to download the slides and other Nikon glass info is wonderful. Even if you're not a Nikon shooter you will still gleam tons of information from this class, John covers in great detail the strength and weaknesses of each lens and when you might consider using it. I was expecting a good class, but this turned into an epic class. I watched multiple videos several times. The only bad thing I can say is I "had" to order a few more lenses! Thank you John Greengo for making a truly amazing class.

Anna Fennell

Wow! What a course! Very in depth, lots of valuable information. John instructs with great knowledge and integrity. I have taken other online courses, NOT from Creative Live (my bad!) and was left feeling like a monkey who had learned tricks without understanding or knowledge. Now I feel I have the confidence to move forward on my photographic journey securely knowing how lenses function, what to look for and what price range I can expect. Bravo John! I'd love to see a 2020 update video as an addendum.

Fusako Hara

Finally I have some sense of what lens do, know what I have, what I would like to have, what lens to use, and how I can get images that I see. Best part of this session is it was made so clear, simple, logical, and practical. I am glad that I purchased this product. Now, I am going to look for more from John Greengo so I can take better understanding and take better images. Thank You.

Student Work