By Tati Taylor 15 days ago, Cameras & Lenses
Our choice of inexpensive lenses for fashion photography.
When talking about photography gear, lenses are the components you’re going to invest the most in. Even a camera for beginners can take fantastic photos as long as you have the best lens for fashion photography, while the opposite is rarely true. When it comes down to it, you get a far better return on investment from high-quality glass than a quality body.
Determining the best lens for fashion photography isn’t an easy task, but this article is here to help you. Below, you’ll find information on what to look for when picking a lens for fashion photos as well as a breakdown of some of the best products the market has to offer.
Mount: EF | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: yes | Min focus distance: 85 cm| Max magnification: 0,13x | Filter thread: 67mm | Dimensions (WxL): 79.5 x 75 mm| Weight: 424.1 g
⊕ Terrific sharpness
⊕ Low CA
⊕ Minimum distortion
⊕ Reasonable price
⊖ Autofocus is noisy and offers poor performance
⊖ Lacks weather-resistant properties
⊖ Edge softness wide open
This lens offers convenient controls and is a terrific budget option if you’re willing to make peace with less smooth performance compared to premium optics. The Meike 85mm F1.8 is a true workhorse of a product that is among the best lenses for fashion photography around.
Controlling the lens is simple and the optical performance it provides is nothing short of impressive as well. Moreover, even the corner softness at a fully open aperture isn’t always a drawback if your goal is to take dreamy, romantic portraits. This lens can give you a lot of creative freedom and solid image quality, which is all you can ask for at this price point.
Mount: E | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: yes | Min focus distance: 80cm | Max magnification: 0,13x | Filter thread: 67mm | Dimensions (WxL): 78 x 82 mm| Weight: 371 g
⊕ Top-tier sharpness
⊕ Impeccable drawing
⊕ Low central CA
⊕ Quick AF
⊖ Some edge CA
⊖ Possible flair against a light source
⊖ Lacks distance and DOF scales
The Sony FE 85mm is probably the best lens for fashion photography if your goal is top-tier performance. It costs substantially less than the majority of 85mm models on the market while managing to offer nearly identical functionality, which means Sony deserves a lot of credit for such an achievement. The only downside that is worth mentioning is the potential flares against the light, which are inconvenient but shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for most photographers.
Overall, the combination of terrific performance and reasonable price make this model a terrific option for fashion photography.
Mount: EF-S | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: yes | Min focus distance: 13 cm | Max magnification: 1x | Filter thread: 49mm | Dimensions (WxL): 69.2 x 55.8 mm| Weight: 190 g
⊕ Small size
⊕ 1:1 magnification
⊕ Impressive IS
⊕ Decent sharpness
⊖ Minor barrel distortion visible
⊖ Dimmed edges at wider apertures
⊖ Manual focus-by-wire feels unintuitive at first
The EF-S 35mm f/2.8 is a terrific fashion lens for users that own an APS-C Canon SLR. It offers a standard-angle FOV, broad f/2.8 aperture and efficient image stabilization, meaning it’s a solid option for a universal lens for fashion photographers that often work in low-light conditions and want something better than an entry-level zoom. The Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 also provides terrific macro focusing which is enhanced thanks to the built-in lights that serve to fill in the shadows that you inevitably cast when taking photos very close to the subject.
Overall, this is a reasonably-priced, small macro lens with adequate stabilization and integrated lights. While it does suffer from barely noticeable barrel distortions, it’s still one of the best options on the market.
Mount: Sony E | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: yes | Min focus distance: 38 cm | Max magnification: 0,24x | Filter thread: 82 mm | Dimensions (WxL): 87.6 x 136 mm| Weight: 886 g
⊕ Terrific sharpness
⊕ Broad-aperture f/2.8 design
⊕ Impressive build
⊕ Weather sealing
⊖ High cost
⊖ Visible distortion
⊖ Doesn’t have image stabilization
This is probably the best lens for fashion photography if you’re looking for a professional zoom model. It’s also a must-have lens for photographers that often work at events and with large groups of people. Boasting state-of-the-art design, the 24-70mm F2.8 is equally well-suited for both modern and future full-frame cameras.
Since this is a zoom lens, the optics aren’t exactly perfect, with the biggest drawbacks of this product being the distortion at the far ends of the zoom range and dimmed edges, which you can quickly fix with the appropriate software. You’ll also notice edge softness at f/2.8 when shooting in the 24-35mm range. In many cases, a shallower depth of field can hide the edges when taking photos with the widest possible aperture, so it makes much more sense to shift to f/4 or even narrower if it’s essential to have proper frame edges.
Mount: EF | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: yes | Min focus distance: 0.35 m | Max magnification: 0,21x | Filter thread: 49mm | Dimensions (WxL): 69.2 x 39.3mm| Weight: 159g
⊕ Good sharpness at f/1.8
⊕ Light and compact
⊕ Quiet, smooth video focus
⊕ Attractive price
⊖ Some barrel distortion
⊖ Relatively slow focus
⊖ Possible flares
⊖ Noticeable fall-off at wider apertures
You’ll rarely find professional photography lenses that are offered at such a ridiculously low price, so it makes sense this product has a fair share of drawbacks. Despite those, this Canon product still provides a sharp picture, but its focusing speed and performance at the largest apertures do leave a bit of a bad taste in your mouth.
The included STM motor is great for recording footage, but the absence of image stabilization means you’ll have to endure shaky footage, particularly if you combine the lens with an APS-C model that is compatible with the Live View focus system. Many Rebel shooters want an affordable 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, which is the biggest obstacle in giving this model a definite recommendation. It’s not functional enough as a universal lens when used with a Rebel compared to a full-frame camera.
Mount: E | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: yes | Min focus distance: 19cm | Max magnification: 0,34x | Filter thread: 67mm | Dimensions (WxL): 117.8mm x 73mm| Weight: 550g
⊕ Broad, fixed aperture
⊕ High-quality results
⊖ Disappointing performance at 28mm
⊖ Lacks optical stabilization
⊖ Can’t download the firmware update on macOS High Sierra
Mirrorless cameras come with their own set of benefits, as the absence of a mirror and an optical viewfinder significantly reduces the number of moving components and creates a shorter distance between the lens mount and sensor, allowing you to carry around a compact, lightweight camera as a result. Most modern mirrorless products are based on the Micro Four Thirds sensor format that allows you to use smaller lenses for model photography like this one.
Even though it’s not nearly as small as the wide-angle Sony FE 12-24mm G zoom model, this 28-75mm standard zoom is still pleasantly compact. The Tamron 28-75mm f/28 Di II RXD is a fantastic lens for taking beautiful images with rich, natural colors. It’s also supplied with a fast focusing mechanism and is perfectly balanced for Sony’s full-frame cameras.
Mount: FE | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: yes | Min focus distance: 38 cm | Max magnification: 0,31x | Filter thread: 77 mm | Dimensions (WxL): 83.4 x 113.3 mm| Weight: 663 g
⊕ Good sharpness
⊕ Beautiful bokeh effect in proper lighting
⊕ Basic weather sealing
⊕ Optical IS system
⊖ Versatile range
While this model is mainly aimed at enthusiasts, it can also serve as a perfectly fine lens for fashion photography. It’s capable of producing terrific photos as long as you get the lighting right, rivaling lenses that cost a lot more.
Moreover, the Sony FE 24-105mm comes with handy weather sealing, which makes it a suitable option for outdoor fashion shoots. The provided zoom range is large enough to cover your needs in most situations, meaning you’ll rarely have to replace it for a different lens. The decent photos you take can be enhanced either in-camera or by using professional image editing software.
Mount: EF | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: yes | Min focus distance: 0.38m | Max magnification: 0,21x | Filter thread: 82mm | Dimensions (WxL): 88.5 mm diameter x 113 mm length| Weight: 805 g
⊕ Premium-grade optics
⊕ State-of-the-art flare resistance
⊕ Quick, quiet and precise AF
⊕ Terrific build supported with weather sealing
⊖ Noticeable vignetting in the 50-70 mm range
⊖ Picture quality drops at closer focus distances
⊖ Lacks image stabilization
⊖ High cost
There’s no denying that this Canon product is probably the ultimate option for 70mm photography if you want a zoom lens, as the quality of its optics is about on par with premium primes.
However, the quality of this lens doesn’t entirely excuse the price, like the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II, USM has the highest price tag of all 24.70mm AF products on the market, despite a lot of time passing since its initial release. When compared to more reasonably priced alternatives from lesser-known brands (mainly the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG HSM and the Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD), this model doesn’t look all that appealing.
Moreover, the lack of image stabilization (which is present in the Tamron lens) makes it a questionable option if you’re planning to use the lens for video recording.
Overall, this Canon lens is only suitable for photographers that aren’t limited in funds and can afford to spend extra cash to enjoy a product from one of the leading photography brands.
Mount: F | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: yes | Min focus distance: 0.38 m | Max magnification: 0,22x | Filter thread: 82mm | Dimensions (WxL): Approximately 89.0 mm maximum diameter x 126.0 mm| Weight: 805 g
⊕ High sharpness
⊕ Distortion is virtually non-existent
⊕ 1:4.5 macro magnification
⊖ Noticeable vignetting
⊖ Control ring feels a bit too sensitive
⊖ Telescoping design
⊖ Rather expensive
This Nikon product just might be the best lens for fashion photography if you’re looking for a zoom model. It provides terrific sharpness with minimum distortions on its entire zoom range, even if you’re using the lens with a high-resolution image sensor. The only real weakness is the vignette, but you can easily deal with it by using any modern photo processing software.
The build quality of the Nikkor Z 24-70mm F/2.8 S is nothing short of impressive. The weather sealing and fluorine coating ensure the lens remains clean at all times. While the information display isn’t going to be useful for everybody, it’s inclusion is still a nice touch. The one area that Nikon still has to improve on is the control ring, as its sensitivity is too high. That said, using it is still more comfortable than what you’ll find in 35mm f/1.8 and 24-70mm f/4 lenses.
Mount: E | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: yes | Min focus distance: 30cm | Max magnification: 1：5.2 | Filter thread: 67mm | Dimensions (WxL): φ77mm x 94.0mm| Weight: 665g
⊕ Awesome sharpness
⊕ Broad aperture
⊕ Affordable price
⊖ Strong vignette effect
⊖ No image stabilization
⊖ Poor choice for ultra-high-resolution cameras
This lens offers a solid list of strengths including an affordable price, uniform illumination and close distance focusing. However, it also has 2 major weaknesses, a visible vignetting effect and the lack of image stabilization.
If you own an SLR body, then this 35mm f/1.4 lens is probably the best option you have. It allows you to enjoy crisp colors at all f-stop settings, offers a large max aperture, which is perfect for working in low-light conditions and is offered at a much more reasonable price compared to similar Canon, Nikon and Sony lenses. The only exception is the owners of Canon 5DS and 5DS R that should consider getting an EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens instead. Even though it costs twice as much, it’s the ultimate choice if you want to enjoy the highest possible resolution at large apertures.
Meike 85mm F1.8Our Choice
Sony 18 85mm F/1.8-22Portrait
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Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8Affordable
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Lenses are available in one of 2 major types: zoom and prime. The former is designed with adjustable focus ranges (24-70mm, 70-200mm, and so on), meaning they are quite versatile. Zoom models are perfect for taking different kinds of images without having to replace your equipment. Meanwhile, prime lenses come with a fixed focal length (24mm, 50mm, 70mm, etc.) and offer better clarity and colors, but you’ll have to sacrifice the flexibility of zoom models. Prime lenses are usually more compact and lightweight, meaning they’re easier to carry around, but there are exceptions to this rule as well. Finally, professionals tend to use prime lenses for fashion photography because of the faster maximum aperture.
Probably the first decision you have to make when picking a camera lens for portraits is what focal length you’re going to use. The optimal focal length is determined by several factors including the amount of space you have in your studio, the number of models in the shot, how much of the scene you want to capture, and how close to the subject you’re planning to be. Most lenses for fashion photos come in the 35-200mm range, with the choice depending on the subject, style and taste of a specific photographer.
If you plan to only bring a single lens on most of your shoots, then you should consider getting a zoom due to the freedom it offers in terms of focal lengths. A 24-105mm model allows you to experiment with different framing styles without having to switch lenses or reposition yourself. However, if you want the enhanced image quality that prime lenses bring to the table, then be prepared to bring several of them. Some photographers avoid having to switch between primes by using 2 cameras with different lenses.
If you’re going to work with groups of models, then getting a wide-angle fashion lens (like a 35mm) that will allow you to capture more subjects in the scene might be a good idea. It’s vital to note though that wider lenses produce more distortions, especially if you go wider than 35mm. If you want to avoid having subjects at the edges of the frame look stretched, don’t use a super-wide lens. Besides, if you’re taking photos outdoors, you can simply ask the group to step away a bit so that everyone fits in the scene.
Outdoor shoots always give you a broad range of lenses to choose from. Meanwhile, studio fashion photography has you working in a tighter space and demands something wider. While a 70-200mm zoom or 85mm prime model can be a great pick if you have plenty of space, a tighter studio environment demands a lens with a shorter focal length, with 50mm being the go-to option for most professional photographs in such conditions.
You’ve probably seen a ton of fashion photos with the model being in focus against a beautiful blurred backdrop. That blur is called bokeh. The bigger the aperture (meaning the smaller the f-stop value), the more bokeh you’ll receive. If you’re a fan of this effect, consider picking a lens that allows shooting at broader apertures like f/2.8, f/1.8 or even f/1.2. A bigger aperture will make the depth of field shallower and provide superior low-light performance.
One final aspect you have to consider when choosing a lens is that the camera you’ll be shooting with affects the factual focal length of the lens. This means that the same lens will offer different results on a crop sensor camera compared to a full-frame model. For instance, a 50mm fashion lens for crop sensor cameras provides a focal length of about 75mm. Remember about this fact when choosing the length of your lens.
The best focal length for fashion photos is about 79mm. A bit of telephoto gets rid of any distracting distortions that are a problem when shooting at a more traditional focal length of 50mm. Most professionals suggest getting a 70-200mm f/2.8 model as your first lens for fashion pictures.
According to a survey taken in March 2020, the average fashion photographer in the US makes about $42,800, with salaries ranging from $34,000 to $48,000.
35mm models allow you to capture a larger scene and are the superior choice for full-body and waist-up shots. 50mm are great at taking shoulder-length portraits without visible distortions and with a stylish bokeh effect. 50mm lenses can also be used for capturing larger scenes, but then you have to gain more distance on the subject, which isn’t always convenient.
The list of the most widely-used lenses for model photography includes Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA, Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM.