The Best Portrait Lenses for Travel Photography

April 16, 2023

Musician, Khiva, UzbekistanMusician, Khiva, UzbekistanOur musician had his right hand in plaster, but the rest of him was very expressive! Khiva. Uzbekistan.

Musician, Khiva, Uzbekistan Fujifilm X-T3, Fujinon XF56mm f1.2 R, f1.2 @ 1/1100 second, ISO 160

Like so many things in photography, there’s no single answer for every eventuality. With travel portraiture, a single lens simply isn’t going to cut it. For instance, if you’re shooting environmental portraits on the street, then a 24mm or 35mm lens might be needed to allow you to get in close to your subject. On the other hand, if you’re shooting from a distance, a 70-200mm will let you frame closely, while travel portraits with the permission of your subjects can be shot with a 50mm or 85mm, depending on how much background you want.

When shooting portraits with standard zoom lenses, even at f2.8, the depth-of-field isn’t that shallow, so my preference is to use a prime lens, like a 50mm f1.4 or an 85mm f1.8. Used wide open (at their maximum aperture), the bokeh is beautiful. Note, you don’t need the professional 50mm f1.2 or 85mm f1.4 lenses: while the quality is simply breathtaking, they are also considerably bigger and heavier and perhaps the difference isn’t quite sufficient to justify. Packing the right set of lenses is always a matter of compromise.

Other portrait primes to consider are the 35mm f1.4 and a 105mm f1.4, although the latter will be a big lens and perhaps a little too heavy.

If you know you’re doing a lot of portraiture, don’t forget a telephoto with a wide aperture, such as a 200mm f2.0 or a 300mm f2.8. Although the aperture isn’t as wide as a 50mm f1.2, for example, the longer focal length makes up for it and when you’re working in close to your subject, not only can you fill the frame, the background is thrown beautifully out of focus. However, these are big, heavy lenses so you have to be sure of what you want to shoot – and carry around.

If portraiture is your thing, a kit of three or four prime lenses with portraiture in mind isn’t a silly option. You’re not going to be completely limited when it comes to shooting other subjects, such as landscapes, while if portraiture is your thing, you’re using exactly the lenses you need to.

Join Peter Eastway on his next trip to Uzbekistan in October 2023, click link for full details:



January February March April May June July (1) August September October November December (1)
January February March April May June July (3) August (2) September (1) October (1) November December