5 Tips for Better Portraits with 85mm

5 min to read

Taking portraits is an extremely desirable activity among photographers, as well as discussing which are the best portrait lenses, why, how, techniques… Like anything, as many people as there are opinions on the subject, I will not bother you in the article with recommendations on what to shoot with and how much better it is to do this and that. Here I will share with you some of my personal experience and work on some tips that work for me to create my staff. If they are useful to you, I will be grateful to have helped her

Note: I will not delve into this part of the topic, but I wanted to add that before I bought a Samyang 85mm 1.4f, I took portraits with everything available in my bag for a long time. This did not make the portraits worse. On the contrary! If you don’t have a portrait lens, this shouldn’t stop you from taking this type of photo – creativity awakens just then! Maybe I will write another article on the topic…, let’s move on to the issue of advice…

Close the Aperture for More Details

Thanks to the telephoto features of the 85mm lens, you don’t have to shoot with the aperture fully open (in my case 1.4f) to have a good separation of the subject from the background and bokeh. This means you can stop your lens at F2.8, F4 (maybe even F8 if you feel adventurous) and still have that much-coveted bokeh. At the same time, however, you will have the opportunity to capture, even more, the details in your images, which will turn your shots into a masterpiece.

Use the foreground to add layers to the photo

Using 85mm to create a well-framed portrait is not the most challenging thing in the world, but there are things you can do to take your portraits to the next level. Adding foreground elements to your portraits can give them a sense of depth and make them more visually appealing. This can help you turn an ordinary portrait into a storytelling one.

Don’t worry about getting close

Shooting with 85mm you are already close. Close enough that you want to take a few steps back and frame a typical 50mm portrait. Now, however, you have the opportunity to create a unique and close-up portrait that will not violate the personal space of the model. With 50mm or even 35mm you will need to get very close to your subject to capture detail, and we all know how worried people are when a lens is literally “pushed” in their face – they stiffen and do not feel comfortable. With 85mm you will overcome this, so experiment!

Shoot at eye level

Be at eye level with the person you are shooting. Otherwise, I’ve noticed that it’s a bit of a strange perspective that doesn’t present the model in its best light in my opinion. Squat if necessary and shoot. Experiment with the corner to find out exactly what you like and what the desired end effect is.

Try landscape mode

Talking about portraits shouldn’t limit you to shooting only vertically. I recommend you to try the landscape orientation of your photos. Yes, you can still create great portraits framed this way. My recommendation is to avoid the “flying head” effect when you are close to the subject. What do I mean? Do not cut from the neck, include in the framing of the portrait and part of the shoulders. Cut part of the upper part of the head / hair, again all measured and harmonious looking of course. Also, avoid other objects that fall into your frame so as not to distract from the model in the photo.

As a conclusion


It’s not hard to turn 85mm into your favorite photo lens. Portraits with it are always so pleasing to the eye and are a real pleasure to shoot. But can only portraits be taken with 85mm? Next time I will present you a different point of view about my Samyang 85mm and how I turned it from a portrait lens into a lens for everything beautiful. Stay Tuned!

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