Once you’ve got your family photography workhorse lens sorted, it’s time to start adding creative options to your kit.
If you read my last article, then you’ll know that the number one lens I recommend you buy to get started in family photography is the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. I use the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 for Canon, and every major manufacturer has their own version of this (Tamron has a version for Nikon and other brands).
What next? I’m going to argue that the second lens you need to buy is an 85mm lens.
Why you need an 85mm lens for family photography
After you have a versatile zoom lens, the next lens you should buy for your family photography is a fixed, or prime, lens. In general, prime lenses are sharper than zoom lenses in the same price category, because there are less moving parts.
Buy the widest aperture you can afford. For example in Canon, we have the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Lens coming in under the $500 price point, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM Lens landing at around $1600 and the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens scraping in just under $2000.
The longer focal length combined with a wide aperture is perfect for magic portraits, and you’ll get beautiful background blur with sharp focus on your subject.
However, the focal length is not so long that you’ll need to shoot from across the room when indoors, so it’s a flexible lens for a whole range of situations. (Keep in mind if you are shooting with this lens on a crop sensor camera, the focal length effectively becomes 135mm.)
Get up close with beautiful background blur
The focus distance on the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Lens is longer than you might be used to with zoom lenses, but you can still get beautiful close-ups. I love detail shots, and this lens is perfect for enhancing your photo set with dreamy bokeh-framed close-ups.
I love how the bokeh achieved with this lens helps to draw your focus and tell a story.
Why I love the Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens for family photography
I use this lens a lot to enhance the variety in my images when I’m delivering for clients. Because the 85mm gets you close without having to be right in the action, you can capture people looking more relaxed, having fun and being themselves without clients feeling like you are right in their face with your camera.
Because of the wide aperture, you can also use it to play with your imager: Try it out with fractal filters, or shape your bokeh with this simple DIY activity.
The 85mm lens is a strong contender for my favorite lens: while it’s not the one I leave on all day, every shoot, it’s definitely the one that I reach for when I’ve got the standard shots in the bag, and am looking to mix things up and deliver something really special.