Portrait Photography

What Lens to Use for Full Body Portraits?

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Written By Nate Torres

This is a guide covering the best lens to use for full-body portraits.

Can a portrait be full-body?

When you photograph a person, you’re essentially flattening their 3-dimensional body into 2 dimensions.

This phenomenon also had the inadvertent effect of changing that person’s proportions, either for better or worse.

Yet, with intuition and a healthy understanding of composition, you can photograph a flattering, full-body portrait that’ll impress.

Just ensure you know the fundamentals of portrait photography and have the right lens.

What Lens to Use for Full Body Portraits

I believe the best lens to use for full-body portraits is the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L lens or the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM

  • Focal Length: 24-70mm (38-112mm on Canon Rebel T7 due to crop factor)
  • Maximum Aperture: f/4
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Best For: Landscapes, Travel, Events, Weddings, Street
  • Budget: $$
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Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

  • Focal Length: 50mm (75-80mm on Canon Rebel T7 due to crop factor)
  • Maximum Aperture: f/1.8
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Best For: Portraits, Street, Travel, Product
  • Budget: $
Check Price on Amazon →

I have done a video review for both lenses, which you can find here:

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS Review - A Versatile Powerhouse?
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Review - How Nifty is This Fifty?

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM are excellent choices for full-body portraits.

Both of these lenses have unique advantages that make them stand out.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM

  1. Versatility: The 24-70mm focal length range is incredibly versatile, allowing you to capture full-body portraits and adjust the composition for tighter shots without having to change lenses.
  2. Image Quality: Part of Canon’s L series, the 24-70mm f/4L is built to deliver good image quality. It offers sharp, clear images across its focal length range, ensuring detailed full-body portraits.
  3. Image Stabilization (IS): The lens features an Image Stabilization system, which is particularly useful for shooting in lower light conditions or when you’re trying to capture shots handheld. This can help keep your full-body portraits sharp, even at slower shutter speeds.
  4. Fixed Aperture: The fixed f/4 aperture throughout the zoom range ensures consistent exposure settings as you zoom in and out, maintaining image quality and depth of field control across various compositions.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

  1. Aperture: The f/1.8 aperture allows for a shallow depth of field, which can beautifully isolate your subject from the background, making the person you photograph stand out distinctly in full-body portraits.
  2. Sharpness and Bokeh: This lens is known for its sharpness, even when wide open, and it produces a pleasing bokeh (the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image).
  3. Lightweight and Compact: The EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is notably small and light, making it an easy lens to carry around for portrait sessions.
  4. Cost-Effectiveness: This lens offers excellent value for its price, making high-quality portraiture accessible without a significant investment.

How to Photograph a Full Body Portrait?

There are a few photographic tricks to keep on hand when you’re just starting with portrait photography, especially when photographing full-body portraits.

While you’ll soon gain a healthy understanding of your style, it’s best to stick with the fundamentals at first.

Camera Angle

When photographing a full-body portrait, your first instinct may be to photograph from eye level, as it’s the natural way you see your subject.

However, that instinct is almost always incorrect.

While it’s useful to experiment with your camera angle, you’ll almost always achieve the best results from your model’s waist or lower.

photographing full body portraits

Photographing from a low angle elongates your model’s legs, which gives them the most proportionate look through the lens.

Distorting the top half of their bodies can change the shape of their heads noticeably.

Furthermore, you’re more than likely going to photograph from a wider angle (not too wide; we’ll get to that), so ensure that you do not get too close to your subject, or the wide angle will distort them even more.

Talk Your Model Through Their Posture

Seasoned models know how to hold themselves in a way that makes them look good.

Beyond that, they also understand the directions given by the photographer.

However, if you’re dealing with a first-time model (as many beginner photographers will), it’s best to coach them with proper posture.

Give them something to do with their hands—A model’s hands should have something to do, whether they’re folded in front of them or tucked into their pockets.

Hands flayed open and at the sides of your model will look unnatural.

Remind them to straighten their posture—Many people slouch naturally.

However, unless you’re trying to convey a certain personality or quirky charm, it’s best to casually remind your model to straighten their posture if they begin to slouch.

Help with Their Leg Positioning—When taking your photo, it’s natural to stand stiffly with both legs together.

However, that’s not a natural way to stand.

Instead, coach your model to put their weight on their back leg and bend their front leg slightly—it’s a much more casual look.

Choose the Right Lens

Even with a great model, you still wonder what lens to use for a full-body portrait.

The most important thing you can do when photographing a full-body portrait is to have the correct lens on hand.

Even if your model is doing everything in his/her power to look good for the camera, the results will be subpar if your lens is not adequately capturing the scene.

You might think that a wide-angle lens is ideal for bull-body photography because it can capture a lot of what is in front of it.

However, wide-angle lenses are prone to unsightly distortion.

On the other hand, the rather distortion-less telephoto lens requires you to stand so far away from your subject that you often can’t communicate your needs or bring out that special bit of something that elevates a good portrait to greatness.

That said, there is a middle-ground lens on the market that’ll give you a distortion-free view of your subject while also allowing you to stay close to it.

That lens covers the 50-70mm focal point and is one of the most popular portrait lenses in the industry.

However, not every lens at that focal point is worth the investment. You must get a clear, reliable lens to bring you to sessions.

Bring Out the Best in Your Subject

What lens to use for full-body portraits is just one piece of the puzzle.

Unless you’re photographing for tabloids or have some ulterior motive (that your model agrees with), your priority as a portrait photographer is to bring out their best features.

Above all else, you’re an artist—just like a painter; it’s up to you to use your skill and intuition to hone in on a person’s personality and even their physical features and exaggerate what flatters them most.

However, if you’re using the wrong lens, or even using the right lens wrong, you risk creating something that doesn’t quite capture the natural beauty of your subjects.

With these tips and gear recommendations, you should be well on your way to capturing great portraits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is 50mm lens good for full body portraits?

A 50mm lens is considered a “normal” lens and can produce sharp, high-quality images with a natural perspective. However, if you are shooting in a smaller space or want to capture more detail in the background, you may need a wider angle lens, such as a 35mm or 24mm. On the other hand, if you are shooting from a further distance, you may need a longer lens, such as an 85mm or 135mm.

Is 85mm good for full-body portraits?

An 85mm lens can capture a full body shot with a narrower field of view, creating a more compressed and flattering look. It can also provide a shallower depth of field, which can help the subject stand out from the background and create a pleasing bokeh effect.

Is 35mm good for full-body portraits?

A 35mm lens can provide a wider angle of view, which can be useful for capturing environmental portraits or full-body shots in tight spaces. It can also produce images with a natural perspective and a shallow depth of field, depending on the aperture settings.

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