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The 7 Best Lenses For Outdoor Portraits in 2023

Outdoor portrait photography is one of the most exciting fields in the photography world. To get the perfect portrait, you need a good lens, period. In this article, I will give you guys a list of what I think are the best lenses for outdoor portraits or just portraitures in general.

A Quick Look At My Favorite Outdoor Portrait Lenses

Best For Outdoor Sports
Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8

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Best For Most People
Sigma 50-100mm F1.8

Sigma 50-100mm F1.8

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Best For Street Photography
Canon RF35mm F1.8

Canon RF35mm F1.8

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Best For Nighttime Photography
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8

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Best Low-Light Perfomer
NIKON NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8

NIKON NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8

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Best For Concerts
Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G

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Best For Outdoor Portraits
Sony SEL85F18 85mm F/1.8-22

Sony SEL85F18 85mm F/1.8-22

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Key Takeaways

  • For most people, i would say the overall best lens would be the Sigma 50-100mm F1.8.
  • If you want to shoot portraits a night, you need a lens that has low light shooting capabilities, and my favorite one in that field is the Nikon Nikkor Z 50mm F/1.8
  • When choosing a lens for outdoor portraits, make sure the lens has great sharpness, bokeh, a good diaphragm and close-focusing capabilities.
  • The best type of lenses for outdoor portrait photography are prime lenses.

The 7 Best Lenses For Outdoor Portrait Photography

7. Canon RF35mm F1.8 IS Macro STM Lens – Best For Street Photography

What I Like

  • It’s not that expensive
  • It’s sharp
  • The color rendering is pretty good
  • It’s pretty versatile

What I Don’t Like

  • The motor is a bit noisy

The Canon RF 35mm F1.8 is a mild wide-angle prime lens for the EOS full-frame mirrorless system, yet it is the lightest and the most affordable option. It is an ideal lens for general-purpose outdoor portraits whether you shooting on the streets, or landscapes it will prove to be great since it is a prime lens that outperforms many zoom lenses at larger apertures.

It is quite compact and lightweight, measuring 2.9 x 2.9 x 2.5 inches and it weighs 10.8 ounces, making it quite easy to bring it everywhere. While it comes with a super spectra coating to help it control the flare and ghosting when working in bright or backlit conditions.

Key Elements:

  • Focal length: 35mm
  • Aperture range: F1.8-22 (In 1/3EV stops)
  • Filter thread: 52mm
  • Close focus: 0.56ft or 17 cm
  • Maximum magnification: 0.5x
  • Diaphragm blades: 9
  • Optical construction: 11 elements in 9 groups

Why should you buy it?

If you’re looking to get into street photography without spending a lot of money, this is a pretty good pick.

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Canon RF35mm F1.8 IS Macro STM Lens Sample Photos

6. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens – Best For Nighttime Photography

What I Like

  • You get more than what you pay for
  • It has a great built-in autofocus
  • It’s pretty fast

What I Don’t Like

  • It doesn’t have any weather sealing

The Canon 50mm F1.8 STM packs insane optics into a small and inexpensive package making it best selling on Canon aspect, or maybe even the world’s best selling camera lens.

It is a great entry lens into the EOS prime world, it is an excellent choice for prime lens portraits. Having a really bright maximum aperture it excels even in low light so yeah the outdoor portraits at night will look magnificent with this lens.

Thanks to the STM, creating movies is quite easy as it delivers steady and quiet continuous focusing. Movies will end up looking smooth and the soundtracks only capture the surrounding sounds and not the noise of the focusing motor.

It is really compact and lightweight measuring 1.54 x 2.72 x 2.72 inches and weighs 5.6 ounces.

Key Elements:

  • Focal length: 50mm
  • Aperture range: F/1.8
  • Filter thread: 49mm
  • Close focus: 1.15 ft or 35 cm
  • Maximum magnification: 0.21x
  • Diaphragm blades: 7
  • Optical construction: 6 elements in 5 Groups.

Why should you buy it?

For the price you pay, this lens has a lot to offer. It’s great for nighttime photography aswell, because the lens is capable of letting in a lot of light.

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Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Sample Photos

5. NIKON NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S – Best Low-Light Perfomer

What I Like

  • The build quality is decent
  • Image quality is very high-end/li>
  • Weatherproof, rain proof, dustproof etc.
  • The autofocus of this camera is great

What I Don’t Like

  • A bit more expensive compared to other lenses

One of the best lenses ever made, excelling in any situation and at the same time being way cheaper than the competition.

The NIKON NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S is designed and aimed towards hybrid shooters who want a single prime lens with a lot of versatility, it will do pretty much anything, from Video-ing to landscape photography, wedding and yes even outdoor portraiture, street photography.

Even though I would advise it for portraitures, where it excels most is on the endless video potential. It is great for interviews, tutorials, and more. And all that thanks to the smooth and quiet Auto-Focus.

It has game-changing low light capabilities, it can capture point-of-light sources like streetlights with great sharpness and a minimal spherical aberration.

It is weatherproof and really lightweight measuring 3.4 x 3 x 3 inches and weighing 0.91 lbs.

Key Elements:

  • Focal length:50mm
  • Aperture range:f/1.8
  • Filter thread:62mm
  • Close focus:1.31′ / 40 cm
  • Maximum magnification:0.15x
  • Diaphragm blades:9
  • Optical construction:12 elements 9 groups

Why should you buy it?

If you have money, and want to get the best lens you can, this is one of them. It has stunning image quality, is weatherproof and offers many different features.

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NIKON NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S Sample Photos

4. Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G – Best For Concerts

What I Like

  • Not that expensive
  • The aperture is pretty wide
  • The sharpness is great
  • Its very durable

What I Don’t Like

  • No Optical Stabilization

The sharpest 85mm lens ever made by Nikon, making it a must-pick for photographers who use the company’s DSLR cameras.

What makes this lens unique is the build quality of the lens itself, the outer barrel is made out of high-quality plastics. It’s the same plastic we see on the most recently released prime lens.

Also thanks to its IF (inner focus) design the length remains constant at all focus settings, and the front element does not rotate at all, meaning you can use a polarizer without a problem.

The lens also features a Silent Wave ultrasonic drive that allows it for a near-silent autofocus and manual override. The Auto Focus speed is quite swift for a portrait prime and there’s barely any “breath” (sound).

I don’t doubt that this is an ideal lens for portraitures it performs brilliantly under any lighting condition and it doesn’t fail at delivering beautiful natural background blur while bringing out the best of any subject.

It measures 2.87 x 3.15 x 3.15 inches and weighs 12.3 ounces.

Key Elements:

  • Focal length:85mm
  • Aperture range: f/1.8
  • Filter thread: 67
  • Close focus: 2.62 or 80 cm
  • Maximum magnification: 0.124x
  • Diaphragm blades: 7
  • Optical construction: 9 elements in 9 groups

Why should you buy it?

For the price, i would say that this lens offers a lot. It’s great for both indoor & outdoor portraits. Its pretty lightweight too!

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Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Sample Photos

3. Sony SEL85F18 85mm F/1.8-22 – Best For Outdoor Portraits

What I Like

  • Bright Aperture
  • Dust, Water & Moisture Resistant
  • Compact
  • Very fast focus

What I Don’t Like

  • Nothing at all

Sony introduces its FE Prime Lens which is a lower-cost option for full frames FE cameras. It is suitable best for the A7 series or full-frame mirrorless cameras in general, and for sure it can be employed on APS-C models.

It has amazing sharpness and it offers up to anything you can expect from a classy prime lens with a focal length of 85mm.

It is a one-hit-wonder in the portrait aspect, as the lens features Direct Manual Focus ( DMF ) the AF is accurate, speedy, and silent thanks to its double linear motor system.

Thanks to its 9-blade fast 1.9 aperture it doesn’t fail to deliver an aesthetically beautiful defocus effect.

Thanks to its dust and moisture resistance the design offers robust reliability, measuring 4.49 x 3.82 x 4.49 inches and weighing 10.4 ounces.

This lens is not only good for normal portraits, but you can use this lens for taking family portraits too.

Key Elements:

  • Focal length: 85
  • Aperture range: F/1.8
  • Filter thread: 67mm
  • Close focus: 2.62′ / 80 cm
  • Maximum magnification: 0.13x
  • Diaphragm blades: 9
  • Optical construction: 9 elements in 8 groups

Why should you buy it?

In my opinion, there is literally no reason not to buy this lens. If you want fast autofocus with amazing image quality, this is the lens to go for.

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Sony SEL85F18 Sample Photos

Before I close the listing ill throw in two extra zoom lenses that will work with outdoor portraits:

2. Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II – Best For Outdoor Sports

What I Like

  • Speedy Focus
  • The lens is pretty light
  • The level of sharpness is great
  • Close Focus Distance
  • Image Stabilization Is Great

What I Don’t Like

  • The price is a bit too high

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II comes with great improvements from its five-year-old predecessor, to take the throne and become one of the best quality telephoto zoom mirrorless systems.
Heck, not only Sony’s best telephoto but arguably one of the best currently on the market.

As we have seen with the previous version there’s a built-in tripod collar and foot that gives freedom to rotate through 360 degrees.

Since it is a zoom lens let’s see how it performs in portraiture. The 70mm focal length option delivers a pin-sharp subject with a satisfying blurred background thanks to its F2.8 aperture. Zooming in deeper gives sharp details without compromising on anything.

Sony says that it is the lightest in its class, it comes in magnesium alloy barrel components that result in a weight of 2.3 lbs and it measures 13.78 x 13.07 x 14.57 inches.

Key Elements:

  • Focal length: 70 to 200mm
  • Aperture range: F/2.8
  • Filter thread: 77mm
  • Close focus: 15.7″ / 40 cm
  • Maximum magnification: 0.3x
  • Diaphragm blades: 11
  • Optical construction: 17 elements in 14 groups

Why should you buy it?

If you have money to spend and want the best of the best when it comes to lenses, then this is for you. Great zooming capabilities, great image quality and many more features make this an amazing lens.

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Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Sample Photos

1. Sigma 50-100mm F1.8 Art DC HSM – Best For Most People

What I Like

  • Pretty Good Focus
  • It’s pretty sharp
  • Great Bokeh
  • Autofocus is fast & silent

What I Don’t Like

  • No Weather Sealing
  • It’s heavier than other lenses
  • Not that cheap

For sure this zoom lens from Sigma will not win awards for its focal length, but its wide aperture is to be desired.

At the 100mm end of the focal range, there is no equal even among the prime lens. The f/1.8 max aperture is available over the entire zoom range making this lens a great versatile option.

Like the rest of the Art series lens, it is well built and in a luxurious look.

No doubt that this is an ideal lens for photographing people. There is not a single bad focal length in this zoom lens for portrait use.

The Sigma 50-100mm F1.8 Art DC HSM promises to be there for you whether you are taking portraits in the streets, people getting engaged, or having weddings it will be there till the end.

It measures 6.7 x 3.7 x 3.7 inches and weighs 3.00 lbs.

Key Elements:

  • Focal length: 50 to 100mm, 35mm Equivalent Focal Length: 80 to 160mm
  • Aperture range: f/1.8
  • Filter thread: 82mm
  • Close focus: 3.12 /95 cm
  • Maximum magnification: 0.15x
  • Diaphragm blades: 9
  • Optical construction: 21 elements in 15 groups

Why should you buy it?

This lens is for everyone that wants to get into photography and is not sure which field they want to go in. This is a very versatile lens that can handle most of the tasks you throw at it, thus making it the best for most people.

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Sigma 50-100mm F1.8 Art DC HSM Sample Photos

What makes a great outdoor portrait lens?

Focal length alone can’t determine what makes a great portraiture lens. There’s no simple answer to what does but ill try to include some key things that will help in that aspect.

  • Sharpness and the high resolution of the image quality so the point of focus can capture all details in a picture.
  • Bokeh is key, it should provide a wide aperture for a beautiful bokeh effect. It should not provide any harshness or artifacts in the out of the focus area. A lens that has a good bokeh effect will also maintain the basic shape of the original object without losing its quality.
  • A good diaphragm with a minimum of seven or more rounded blades to enhance the bokeh effect at maximum.
  • Must have good close-focusing capabilities the most preferable ones would be down to 0.5 meters or even closer.

If you want to shoot portrait photos of yourself, I recommend you buy a camera for self-portraits instead.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I pick an outdoor portrait lens?

Choosing the best lens for portraitures comes down to a number of factors, like what camera you using, your shooting style the place you shooting, etc. Once you determine those things its easier to pick the best one for you.

What lenses are best for outdoor portrait photography?

As I said earlier to hit it off with portrait pics, prime lenses are wonders. Even though, most of the lenses will work on that aspects the one I would highly recommend would be 85mm or 50mm.

Which is better 50mm or 85mm?

Mostly this aspect depends on what portrait you taking. The 85mm is great since it doesn’t distort facial features meaning it is better for close frames to capture up-close details, while the 50mm won’t be focusing on details as much but will reward into more versatility.

Zoom lenses on the portrait?

Zooms lens is sure more versatile, providing a handful range of focal lengths in a single package, but the prime lenses are still the answer since it lets more light into the camera because of the wide maximum aperture.

How would a telephoto lens perform in outdoor portraits?

Telephoto lenses are quite useful, they allow you to keep a comfortable distance from your human subject and at the same time capture every detail. Many photographers prefer a lens in the 50mm to 200mm range, still the 85mm prime lens, occupies the nicest spot being the most used one in this aspect.

Final Words:

If you are into outdoor photography, i’d recommend you also check out the best lenses for pet photography that we reviewed.

With so many lenses in the industry currently, and while most of them will do the work of outdoor portraiture just well, I was hard-pressed to make the list myself. My advice would be before you buy a lens to understand and decide which is your preferred focal length and where you planning to focus on taking portraits.

Besides that the Bokeh effect is key on portraitures, it is defined as the effect of out-of-focus background. Simply put is that pleasing aesthetic blur on the background, while the shot is fully focused on the subject.