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Headshot Photography

Best Lens Focal Length for Headshots

September 15, 2023 by

In this guide, we’ll be discussing the best focal length for headshot photography.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

Table of Contents

What is the Best Focal Length for Headshots?

The most common lens for headshot photography is a 75-200mm telephoto lens but among professional photographers, the most popular focal length for headshots is 85mm or 50mm.

The 85mm allows for better bokeh and sharper detail, however, the 50mm allows the photographer to get closer to the subject and create a more “intimate” session which can help the client feel more comfortable — especially if you have a conversation with the client.

Using this focal length will allow you to fill the frame with your subject’s face and also eliminate distracting backgrounds.

This lens does come with a few downsides as it can make noses seem large, give people an unflattering stare, and put strain on your arms as holding it out at full length can be tiring.

The best focal length for headshots is very much a matter of personal preference as it has been found that professional photographers each have their own favorite lens and they would even swap lenses to achieve the perfect headshot.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to experiment with a variety of focal lengths until you find the one that best suits you and your subject.

85mm will give you a more flattering perspective for headshots and is a favorite.

85mm lens example
using 85mm lens

Remember: The way your lenses render faces can have a big impact on the mood of your photographs.

The best focal length for headshots is also going to change from one person to the next, so it’s important that you experiment with a variety of lenses until you find one that works best for you.

In general, 85mm is recommended but not required and 24-70mm would be a great lens to use as well.

Can You Use 50mm Lens for Headshots?

While it is true that 50mm lenses are usually used for portrait photography, it does not mean that they cannot be used to take headshots.

Some photographers use 50mm lenses for taking headshots because of their beauty and warmth compared to other focal lengths.

They also like the natural perspective given by an ultra-wide lens so as long as you adjust your distance from the subject, you should be able to achieve a great headshot using a 50mm lens.

50mm lens headshot example
using 50mm lens

Can You Use 35mm Lens for Headshots?

35mm lenses are usually highly recommended for beginners, but it is also true that they do not work the best for traditional headshots.

This is because 35mm lenses have a slightly wide angle view and this can distort facial features such as making noses appear larger than they really are.

35mm lens headshot example
using 35mm lens

However, if you’ll be working away from your subject and creating environmental portraits, then you can use a 35mm lens to take headshots.

Can You Use 24mm Lens for Headshots?

24mm lenses are not recommended for headshot photography unless you are going for a very creative look.

If you’re looking for the best focal length available that won’t distort your subject, then you should probably go with a longer telephoto lens.

24mm lenses are usually used for full-body images, such as full body portraits or group photos.

24mm lens headshot example
using 25mm lens

However, if you feel that using a standard or wide-angle lens will be more suitable for your headshot photography because you are going for a creative look, then it is possible to use a 24mm lens.

24mm lenses are usually thought of as being best suited for landscape photography but if you get close enough to your subject and stand parallel with them, you can take great headshots using this focal length.

Just be sure not to distort the facial features of your subject.

These are the most common lenses used in professional headshot photography, of course, you can experiment with others, but avoid experimenting with them during a paid photoshoot.

This guide is a part of our Headshot Photography Hub, so be sure to check that out to further explore headshot photography tips and insights.

Is 70mm good for headshots?

A 70mm lens can produce flattering results with a natural perspective and shallow depth of field for headshot photography.

Why does focal length matter for headshot photography?

Focal length matters for headshot photography because it affects the perspective and distortion of the subject’s face. A longer focal length, such as 70mm or higher, can produce a flattering perspective with minimal distortion, while a wider focal length can result in a more distorted and unflattering image.