My Go-To Portrait Lens

Confession: I’ve been dying to do a post on how much I love this lens ever since I bought it… or, rather, even before I bought it. This is my holy grail lens, the lens that is on my camera for 95% of my senior sessions (and I use it fairly often during engagement sessions and bride & groom portraits too). Not that I think it’s okay to compare a lens to a child, but if I had to refer to one lens as my “baby”… this would be it. I. Love. It.

Michelle, what IS it already?!? Okay, okay. My all-time favorite go-to lens is the Canon 85mm 1.2L.

See, here is is. Look at it in all it’s fat, rounded beauty.

The downside to this lens? It’s a little bulky. I also should warn you that this lens may not work as well for you if you use a crop sensor camera because the focal length might be a bit too long, but on my full-frame 6D… it is magical.

This lens is a little (a LOT) pricy, but in my opinion it is worth every. single. penny. The creamy bokeh is incredible, and it is tack sharp even when you’re shooting wide open at 1.6 or 1.8. My 50mm is still my go-to lens as far as functionality is concerned (I find it a little difficult to shoot creatively more than 2 people with the 85mm), but when I’m shooting a senior or couple, the extra bit of compression that the 85mm offers is so dreamy!!!

I rented this lens for the first time last fall for Sarah’s senior session. I’m pretty sure I used it for the entire shoot from start to finish, and her senior session was my absolute favorite of the season. I was hooked!!! It’s wide enough that I can shoot a full body shot without standing so far away that my client can’t hear my anymore, but tight enough that I can shoot very close-up portraits without any lens distortion or feeling like I’m invading my client’s personal space. It’s p-e-r-f-e-c-t.

Earlier this spring when I was on a gear-buying rampage to prepare for wedding season, I forked over the money to buy this lens. It was functionally the lens I needed the least… the smart side of me knew that… but the creative emotional side of me wanted that lens. So I bought it. And I haven’t looked back. I’ve used it at every single wedding and session since because I just LOVE it that much!!! And surprise– normally during wedding ceremonies, I’ll use my 70-200mm pretty much the whole time. But this past weekend, I had my 85mm on my camera because the room was fairly small and very dimly lit, so I wanted to shoot wider than 2.8. And it worked like a charm!

What else can I say about it? Let me show you. All these images were taken with 85mm 1.2L and I’m obsessed. I wouldn’t recommend it as much for family photographers because it’s hard to get all those littles in your frame at once, and it’s also not the fastest lens I’ve ever used… but you’re looking to step up your game for seniors, couples, or even professional headshots, you can NOT go wrong with this lens.

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