15. Lens choices for studio work

When it comes to portraiture and beauty work, lens choice can make a big difference. The last thing you want is a distorted image that doesn’t accurately portray your subject. Lens choice can dramatically change an image so it’s important to understand the effects, pros and cons of each

In this photography class Karl demonstrates a variety of lenses, from 16mm to 400mm, clearly showing the results of each. Looking at the shots, he explains which lens is best for portrait or beauty photography.

In this photography class we cover the following:

  • Comparisons between the following focal lengths:
    • -16mm
    • -35mm
    • -70mm
    • -85mm
    • -100mm
    • -135mm
    • -200mm
    • -400mm
    • Results from each
    • Selecting the ideal lens for portrait or beauty photography

    NOTE: This photography class is available with English subtitles.


  1. excellent! Ben was either bored out of his mind or doing exactly as instructed by you Karl. haha! I appreciate his patience and your demonstrations Karl. Confirmed what I have always thought…85 mm or go home!! (Unless you want to distort a portrait to emphasize character or features of course)

    1. Haha no karl told me to be as still as I possibly could so that each photo I would be in the same position making sure you could really see the difference with each lens

  2. Loving the videos! I presume a crop sensor on my 7D would then equate 85mm to 50mm lens been ideal?

  3. What a superb course, I have learnt more than I thought possible. Every single chapter was educational and had merit as a stand alone subject. Thank you very much for all the hard work you put into the videos and all the planning that must have taken place.

  4. Another excellent chapter! Somethings I’m aware of but you have gone deeper regards to the perspective and its relation to the facial features. Like the difference of a prime focal length and the zoom equivalent. If working with a crop sensor camera body using an 85mm lens, is that the same as the full frame? I hear things like a 35mm on a crop sensor is like a 50mm on a full frame body. So would an 85mm on a crop sensor also give the proper look that our eyes would see?

    1. Hi Geoff, the perspective of an 85mm on a crop sensor or a full frame camera would be exactly the same if you were at the same shooting distance. But the problem is on the crop sensor a large portion of the shot would be cropped out so you would need to move back to fit the same area in the shot. Then perspective would change because the perspective only changes with distance. You might find this video also useful https://www.karltayloreducation.com/course_video_page/full-frame-vs-crop-sensor/ Cheers Karl.

  5. This makes a lot of sense however why is it then that in movies wider angle lenses are used quite extensively and don’t look distorted (such as 28mm which is quite popular)? Is it something to do with the anamorphic characteristics of them? Also, some DSLR lenses like the LAOWA 12mm have a Zero-D (zero distortion) ability to them. Does that impact the greatly distorted look at all making it more usable?

    1. Hi Paul, the focal length is relative to the size of the medium you are recording on to, so in movie cameras they may be on a smaller sensor or they could be on a larger format film such as 70mm. For example 28mm on a 35mm format camera would not be the same on medium format camera or a crop sensor camera. There are also the crop ratios of movie compared to stills and it is unlikely that it would be solely to do with anamorphic characteristics or corrections as regardless of this trying to squash a very wide area of view into a rectangle 4:3 or 16:9 will inevitably lead to some distortion. It is often the placement of the subject in the frame and the shooting distance that affects facial distortions too. If you use a wide angle lens from far enough back and keep your subject central then the distortion will appear less. The interpretation of distortion is also less noticeable in moving pictures than stills simply because of movement.

  6. Hi Karl, thank you, normally – do you focus on the eye closest to you, and with the focus point closest to that particular eye, recompose and shoot ?

  7. Not being able to afford a 85mm lens at the moment I’m guessing using my 18-135 should still give me good results. When you took the pictures with your 200mm @ 85 there wasn’t to much difference from your 85. Should I still look to investing in a 85?
    Also, do you shoot full body portraits with the 85?

    1. Hi Charles, you can usually shoot 3/4 body with 85mm focal length, if you’ve got enough room to get back far enough in your studio then no problem. The 70-200 I was using is a very sharp lens with a maximum aperture of 2.8 giving also a nice shallow DOF if needed. The advantage of a prime 85mm is usually it is sharper and you have the option for even shallower DOF because they have a lager maximum aperture.

    1. Hi Malky, no very rarely do I shoot people shots at that aperture. As you watch various chapters of courses throughout this platform you will see many different examples.

    1. Ha Ha that’s quite funny. I’m afraid there is no special lens for this special type of person. I’d recommend the usual focal length for portraiture about 80-135mm and maybe a bit of photoshop work in liquify to help them out 🙂

  8. Thank you so much, Karl! I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying and learning from your site. I have a Nikon D850 and want to do head shots, small studio shots, etc. I recently rented a Zeiss Otus 85/1.4 and loved it. But it has manual focus which I had bad experience in past. After reading many favorable reviews I purchased Nikon 105/1.4 for less than half price. Good choice? (Until I can afford new Hasselblad X1D and lens.) Don

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