Full body portraits fall somewhere in between your more standard portraits and wider angle environmental portraits. This can be a tricky middle ground for lens selection.
Often finding the best lens for full body portraits requires a little bit of flexibility because the location (and how much of that location you want to include in the shot) can have a significant impact in lens and focal length selection.
Best Lenses For Full Body Portraits
Lens selection is very much a personal preference for photographers. So you might disagree with some of the choices here. My intention is not to tell you these are right and others are wrong, but instead to give you some suggestions and help you understand why.
To help I broke them down into three categories…Overall Best, Best Budget Friendly Option, and Best High End Option.
Overall Best Full Body Portrait Lens
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2
If you’ve read some of my other articles, you’ll know I’m a fan of Tamron glass. Tamron lenses, especially their G2 series are exceptional and cost nearly half of their Nikon and Canon counterparts.
24-70mm is a great range for full body portraits. If you have the room, you can zoom into 70mm and get that “compression” look that works great for portraits. But the zoom range does give you the flexibility in the event that you are stuck in a smaller place.
The Tamron gets the nod as the best here because it packs a ton of quality into a relatively affordable package. It’s difficult to call anything over $1000 “affordable,” but compared to the brand name 24-70 lenses, the Tamron is a great value.
Even at that lower price point, it is very competitive with its Nikon and Canon competitors in terms of sharpness, contrast, and overall image quality.
Best Budget Friendly Option
Canon/Nikon/Sony 50mm 1.8
Every major camera manufacturer has a relatively inexpensive 50mm f/1.8 lens in their lineup and the two things they all seem to have in common is a low price and good image quality.
If you’re just getting started in portrait photography and on a budget, a “nifty fifty” is the perfect lens for you.
Many photographers refer to this as a “normal lens.” That is because when shooting on 35mm film (you know…like in the old days), a 50mm lens would be the closest approximation to how we perceive things with our eyes. The same is true today when using a full frame camera.
On most crop sensor cameras a 50mm lens has approximately the same perspective as a 75mm lens (80mm on a Canon crop sensor lens).
Because a 50mm lens has a “normal” perspective, they are relatively inexpensive to design and manufacture AND easy to make them sharp with high image quality.
That means with a 50mm lens, you can get a very high quality images at a reasonable cost.
In the first few years of shooting professionally, I used a 50mm f/1.8 lens as my primary lens.
The only downside of using a nifty fifty for full body portraits is the lack of versitility as far as focal length goes.
That means that if you find yourself in a tight spot and can’t back up far enough, you may not be able to get a full body portrait. In these situations, having a bigger zoom range (such as 24-70mm) you can work around these limitations.
However, given the huge budget savings, this limitation is rare enough to not worry too much about it.
Overall, any of the 50mm lenses above will serve you really well for all kinds of portrait work, including full body portraits.
You can check out the reviews and current prices on Amazon with the links below…
Best High End Option
Canon/Nikon/Sony 24-70 f/2.8
Just a step above the Tamron 24-70 listed above are the camera brand 24-70mm lenses. If you want the best of the best and cost is not an option, then it’s hard to beat the native glass options like these.
So why weren’t these the best overall pick? Simply because I tried to take cost into consideration when making the choice. But they do belong here because this category doesn’t take cost into consideration.
There are some advantages of the brand name lenses over their third party counterparts. Though it is up to you to decide if these benefits justify the price difference.
Better build quality is the primary difference between these and the Tamron 24-70 I recommended above. The native lens options are just tanks. I don’t ever recommend dropping your lenses or being careless with them, but if you often shoot in rugged conditions or travel a lot with your gear, then stepping up to this level may be a good idea.
Small improvement in image quality is the other benefit to stepping it up to this price point. However, you may be surprised just how small that improvement is. There are some very small details, such as the quality of the bokeh that some may like better on the native glass, but even that might be a matter of personal preference rather than objective quality.
To be honest, if image quality is your main concern, I don’t think the incremental improvement from the Tamron justifies the price difference here.
You can check out the reviews and current prices on Amazon with the links below…
What To Look For When Picking A Full Body Portrait Lens
Here’s a helpful guide of what to look for when choosing a lens for full body portraits. Most of these considerations are the same as for any portrait lens. But there are some specific things to think about for full body shots, like focal length for example.
Best Focal Length For Full Body Portraits
Since it can be difficult to narrow down a specific lens and you might already have your favorite brand, let’s talk about focal length first.
The obvious answer here is that any focal length would work depending on what kind of look you are going for. It is entirely possible to create world class full body portraits with any lens from 20mm to 200mm (or beyond). So ultimately, it’s up to you to decide where you want to take your own style.
So rather than try and decide which focal length is aesthetically ideal for full body portraits, we can approach it from a practical point of view.
A wide angle lens can introduce distortion into your image. This gets more pronounced as your subject gets closer to the edge of the frame. It’s not a huge issue for landscapes, but can look very odd when a person is stretched out along the edge of a frame. With a full body portrait, that means exaggerated head and feet.
On the long end, you don’t want to be standing so far away from your subject that you can’t communicate with them and give instructions and poses. Interacting with the subject and being able to elicit real and genuine expressions is very important and standing 50 feet away kind of makes this impossible.
So with those two things in mind, a good full body portrait lens should be in the 50-85mm range. You can get away with 100mm but even at that point, you’re getting a little far from your subject to easily communicate with them.
A lens with a wide maximum aperture is generally preferred for portrait photography.
Wide apertures let in more light which will allow you to shoot in lower light situations without having to increase your ISO or boost the exposure in post-production software.
If you know how aperture works than you will know that a wide aperture (that means lower number) also makes it easier for you to blur the background when shooting a portrait.
Blurring the background can help separate the subject from the background and generally create a simplified background and, in turn, a more aesthetically pleasing image. There are exceptions to this, of course, but for those you can always adjust the aperture to a smaller size.
Having a wide maximum aperture gives you more options when shooting and options are always good.
Any time you buy gear, cost is a factor.
I can’t really tell you what the right amount to spend on a lens is. But, one thing to keep in mind when looking at the various price ranges is whether you are getting a significant improvement in quality when you jump to the higher price level.
In many instances (and as you can see below, this is no exception), the middle ground on price is really close in quality to the high end lenses. That means that you can easily create world class images AND save hundreds of dollars if you are open to trying out some other brands.
To better help you choose a lens no matter what your budget is, you can see the options broken down into three categories above.