In part three of the outdoor portraiture series, it is time to look at lenses! Last week, I looked into methods of controlling depth of field, and before then, how to maximize ambient light use.

Whether you use a wide-angle, telephoto or ‘standard’ lens for your portraiture, determines how the perspective appears to be altered. A lens does not actually alter the perspective as such, changes in perspective are caused by the distance you are shooting from. To get the same distance between the camera and the subject, a lens with a longer focal length requires you to be further away. So, using a longer lens from a distance ‘compresses’ the perspective, and makes the subject appear closer to the background.

1. Wide-angle Lenses

Wide angle lenses with a focal length of 18mm or less (on an APS-C, and 28mm or less on a full-frame camera) are often overlooked for portraiture, but they are great if you want the background as part of the image, or if you want a full-body shot with limited space available.

The major downside is that you have to get close to take head and shoulders portrait, and this creates unflattering distortion. The effect can, however, be used deliberately to add mood or a unique touch.


  • It is easier to include more of the background than with any other type of lens
  • You can shoot full-length without having to stand very far away from your subject


  • Get too close, and you wil distort the subject’s features
  • It is difficult to get a shallow depth of field

2. Classic Lenses

The classic lens for portraiture is a ‘standard’ or short telephoto with a focal length of between 40mm and 70mm on APS-C and 60mm to 105mm on a full-frame.

These lenses are good for head and shoulders portraits fro a reasonable distance away. This means that there is little distortion in the subjects features.


  • The shooting distances mean you get ‘flattering’ perspective and low distortion
  • Prime (fixed focal length) lenses at these focal lengths have wide maximum aperture and are great for depth of field effects.


  • You will always be a similar sort of distance away, and always get a similar perspective, and as this is the ‘classic’ lens type, it is hard to set your shots apart from the rest.

3. Telephoto Lenses

These make the subject appear closer to the background, and to any object in the foreground, and they are great for compressing the perspective, and creating ‘close’ effects.

This is great for head-and-shoulders portraits, but do bear in mind, that you will have to step ridiculously far away from your subject to get a full-body shot, so bear this in mind when chosing the location of the shoot.


  • Very easy to get nice shallow depth of field effects
  • Background and foreground objects appear closer to the subject


  • You will need a lot of room to shoot anything wider  than a head shot
  • Communication with the model may be difficult due to the distance

I hope ths series has helped your outdoor portraiture, don’t forget to check the other parts of the series out if you have not done so yet, and please leave a comment!