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Best Canon Rebel Portrait Lens

Updated on September 16, 2014
Canon Portrait Lens for this shot was a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8. Black and white conversion in photoshop.
Canon Portrait Lens for this shot was a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8. Black and white conversion in photoshop. | Source

When you have a Canon Rebel - any model - you are automatically a portrait photographer. At least that's what your family will believe. You will also find that friends get friendlier when they need to have a portrait made.

Which Canon Rebel Portrait Lens should you choose?

You might be surprised to find out that there are numerous Rebel lenses that qualify as portrait lenses.

Let's first examine the elements of a proper portrait.

There are a the two main things to consider when you are doing portraits.

First is distance. You should be at least 6 feet away from your model/subject to avoid distortion of their features. You certainly don't want to accentuate their nose or ears which is what might happen if you are too close.

You can be much farther away than the 6 feet mentioned. Some pros use very long lenses and position themselves accordingly. Further distances truly give the best portraits with regard to proportion of body and head parts.

The second thing to consider is the lens aperture. The wider the aperture the better. So, for instance, if you have a lens that has f/2.8 as its widest aperture, you have a very good possible portrait lens.

The purpose of a wide aperture is to limit the depth of field. Narrow depth of field makes the background blurry which is quite desirable in portrait photography. The blurry background is referred to as "bokeh". So when you are looking at reviews of lenses for things like portraits and macro images, you will see lots of reference to bokeh

Second, you should choose as wide an aperture as possible, like f/2.8 or f/4. A wide aperture will result in a narrow depth of field, meaning that the plane of focus is limited to a couple of inches in front of and behind the main focus area (the face in the case of a head shot). The object of a narrow depth of field is a blurry background.

You DON'T want this kind of distortion when shooting your Rebel Portraits
You DON'T want this kind of distortion when shooting your Rebel Portraits
Notice that there is no distortion in this portrait
Notice that there is no distortion in this portrait
Notice the "bokeh". This is the result of a good wide aperture (f/2.8)
Notice the "bokeh". This is the result of a good wide aperture (f/2.8)

Finding the Right Canon Rebel Portrait Lens

Selecting a lens to accomplish this may simply mean looking in your camera bag or on your camera, because you may already have a good lens.

Your Canon Rebel has a sensor that multiplies the focal length of the lens by a factor of 1.6. So, if you have a Canon Portrait lens of 100mm, you are actually taking a picture with an effective focal length of 160mm (that's 100 x 1.6).

A head shot usually involves a photo area roughly 3 to 4 feet in height (obviously less for children such as the ones in this article). Taking a picture with a 100mm lens would put you about 15 feet from your subject... perfect.

The very least focal length you could use to get that same shot would be a 50mm lens with you positioned about 6 feet from your subject. A Canon EF-S 60mm macro lens will do the job, too, and it is made specifically for a Rebel. 

The perfect Canon Rebel portrait lens could also be a longer focal length. In particular, a 70-200mm zoom lens works really well because of how totally awesome the images are. It is actually what many consider the Canon "Flagship" lens. If you own one of the 70-200mm lenses (and there are five of them now), you are set.

However, many photographers think that a prime lens takes the best portraits (a prime lens has a single focal length rather than a zoom). There is no argument that a fantastic head shot can be taken with a 100mm prime or a 135mm prime lens. These are excellent lenses. But they are also more expensive than some others.

Assuming budget will play some part in your decision, keep in mind that the focal length can be anywhere from 50mm and up.

It is really your position (distance from your subject), the perspective of the shot, and the quality of the lens that make the shot.

If you will be taking lots of portraits, then a quality lens with the right focal length and aperture will be a good investment.

However, if you are not planning on making head shots your main type of photography, you may want to get a lens that will suit your needs for whatever kind of images you plan to major in and let it double as a Canon Rebel Portrait lens.

Two lenses you might consider that will fit into most photographers' budget.

These Canon Lenses were mentioned above, but as a Rebel owner, they will work well for you.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8. This one always comes as a surprise because of the wide aperture at f/1.8 and the price (under $100). How can Canon produce a quality lens at this price? Well, it is plastic. The durability is not the same as their other 50mm lenses. I can personally vouch for this as I happened to drop mine and see it shatter right before my eyes. The plastic is very brittle. I will grant that I should have been a bit more careful so it would not fly out of the camera bag, but life is what it is.

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro. Canon makes these EF-S lenses specifically for Rebel models as well as their 20D to 50D models. The thing about getting this lens is that it also qualifies as a dynamite macro.

No matter which portrait lens you choose, make sure you practice with your distance and aperture combination. The subject distance from the background (the farther the better) can add quality to your image.


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