Portrait Lenses: Breaking the Rules

Photography tutorials drill certain rules into our heads. But rules are made to be broken, right? Here, we learn how to take the traditional rules of using certain lenses only for certain things, and throw them out the window:

Mango Street shows us that you’re not constrained to only using 50mm or 85mm lenses for portraiture or wide angle lenses for group shots.

Wide Angle Portraits

A 35mm lens can create a more intimate portrait, as the shorter focal length forces you to move closer to your subject.

portraits with 35mm

35mm lens

A 24mm lens used for portraiture can create a unique look that slightly distorts your subject and includes more of the surroundings.

wide angle portraits

24mm lens

Group Shots

For group shots, try using an 85mm lens instead of your wide angle lens. Your subjects will be better separated from the background.

group shots with narrower lens

Group Shot with an 85mm Lens

Brenizer Method

The Brenizer Method (or bokeh panorama) involves taking several shots of your subject and environment and stitching them together in post processing. Using this technique, you can use a tighter lens and still include lots of the surroundings in your portrait while separating your subject from the background.

brenizer portrait

Brenizer Method

There’s lots to think about and experiment with in this video, and some cool photos, too.

“Photography rule-makers aren’t your mom, so you can break these rules as you see fit!”

For further training: The Art of Portrait Photography

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Dawn Gilfillan

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