Getting Better Bokeh

posted in: Education, Tech | 1

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of senior portraits for local high schools. Of course, the majority of photographers are looking for a “do everything” lens when it comes to doing a lot of portrait sessions back-to-back like I am. People will immediately reach for their 24-70mm f2.8 or the monster 70-200mm f2.8 IS in their camera bag. However, I urge photographers to stop and think.

First, are you satisfied with the quality of images you are getting from your zoom lenses? Remember, you’re not shooting a wedding. It’s a portrait session, where you have complete control over the shooting situation. Therefore, why use a professional camera lens that was built for “reacting” to a shooting situation? Wouldn’t it be better to premeditate what lenses you will need for the upcoming session?

The correct answer is Yes.

This decision brings us away from the world of zoom lenses and into the unparalleled quality of prime lenses. Most photographers already rave about their favorites, such as the 50mm f1.2 L series lens. Sorry Nikon, only Canon shooters get a f1.2 lens…

The Canon 50mm f1.2 L lens is a superb lens for portraits. It works great for situations where space is limited, light is less available, and where very shallow depth of field is desired. However, I don’t recommend shooting wide open at f1.2 unless you have a steady hand and can keep your heartbeat from shaking the camera. I’ve found that f2 is perfectly sharp and with nice bokeh. But what if you want more full length portraits with more blurred background? When you move back from your subject, you increase depth of field, which makes everything sharper.

For this job, I use the Canon 135mm f2 L series lens. By setting my aperture to f2.8, I get razor sharp portraits with beautiful blurred backgrounds. Shooting from all angles, this lens is perfect for full-length portraits, headshots, and everything in between. And unlike the 70-200mm f2.8 IS L series lens, it weighs far less and sports a smaller form factor. Because it’s a prime lens, it also lets in much more light and focuses super fast.

A gorgeous senior portrait of a beautiful brunette indian teenage female.


Time and again, I reflexively reach for my 70-200mm f2.8, and every time I put it down and pick up the Canon 135mm f2 L series lens. It’s lightweight, razor sharp, and has beautiful bokeh that everyone raves about. It’s less weight on my neck, and easier on my wallet. Pick one up and you’ll see why it’s an essential part of my photography toolkit.

A senior portrait of a brunette in blue jeans white shirt denim jacket and hat.


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