Best Lens for Family Portraits ( Canon & Nikon Options)

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Shooting family portraits and sharing them with other family members is always fun. I have been shooting family portraits for many years now and my choice for best lens for family portraits has changed over the period time.

In this article I will guide you through the different aspects of selecting the best DSLR lens for family portraits and provide you with some of my recommendations for best family portrait lenses from Canon , Nikon and other third party manufacturers.

What to look for in a lens for Family portraits

When it comes to selecting the right lens for family portraits you will be spoilt for choices. Different focal length lenses , Prime & zoom lenses are available from various manufacturers for family portraits.

Lets take a look at some things that you need to consider while selecting the right lens for family portraits.

1. Space available for shooting

Depending upon whether you want to use the lens indoors or outdoors the choice of focal length will vary. If you are shooting indoor family portraits then you need to select a wider lens.

best lens for family photography

A 35 mm or 50 mm prime lens will be best lens for indoor photography , especially family portraits involving kids. For a indoor family group portrait you may need something even wider. This is even more true if you are shooting on a cropped sensor DSLR or mirrorless camera.

A 16 – 35 lens will be ideal choice for APS-C or similar sensors while a 24 – 70 will good choice for a full frame camera.

For outdoors you will surly need something longer , a 70-200 a very good lens , 135 mm prime lens is also a good choice.

2. Are kids involved ?

Taking family portraits of kids has its own set of challenges. These challenges become even more tough when it comes to outdoor shooting.

My favorite lens for newborns is a Canon EF 100m f/2.8L or even the non L version is fine, this is a macro lens and the the close-ups from it are stunning . It works really well as a portrait lens , but you need to have sufficient space. Newborns are generally fairly still and are easy to photograph.

newborn family photography

A 50 or 85 mm prime lens is also a very good choice. The 50 mm lenses are generally cheap and offer excellent image quality. Canon has three very good lenses at 50 mm with 1.8 ,1.4 and 1.2 maximum aperture.

best lens for family portraits

A 24-70 or 24-105 zoom lens can also be a versatile lens choice for indoor kids photography especially for toddlers and slightly older kids.

For outdoor photoshoot , kids will run around and are very difficult to photograph. You need something light and handy. They also get very conscious if you have big DSLR with a large lens on it.

3. Is it planned or candid ?

If you have a planned family portrait photoshoot then you have a lot of choice and time to select the right lens. A 50 or 85 mm prime lens is very good for planned indoor family portraits.

candid family portrait

If you want to take a candid portrait then you need to be a little away from the scene and you will need a longer lens. Candid photography is an art in itself and you can rad a lot more about it in my post on how to take a candid photo ?

A 100 mm focal length is very good for indoor candid photos for outdoor you will need something like 70-200.

There some other things such as how much time is available with you , are you travelling with your family and some more. All these will influence the choice for the best lens for family photography.

Best focal length for family portraits

As we discussed in the first part of this article the best focal length for family portraits will vary based on if you are indoors or outdoors and what is your subject. Here is a quick cheat sheet for the best focal length for family portraits that I generally follow.

IndoorsOutdoors
Newborn10070-200
Kids35 / 5070-200
Wife or other family members35 / 5085
Elder family members35 / 5085
Group portraits16-3550 / 85
best focal length for family portraits

A 50 mm focal length will make you photos more natural as 50 mm matches with our eye can see. A longer focal length compresses the background and makes it feel closer to the subject.

A longer focal length is much better for outdoor portraits shot against scenic or prominent backgrounds.

You can also take some creative family portraits by going wider , family photography on beach with sunset in the background often gives very good results.

Best Prime lens for family portraits

Prime lenses are bet suited for portraits and are no exception for taking some stunning family portraits.

canon 50mm family portrait

Prime lenses have extremely good image quality and are fast lenses. This makes them a very good choice for a great lens for family portraits.

Starting out a 35 mm prime lens ( Sigma 35 mm F 1.4 ART is a very good lens at this focal length and comes with both canon and Nikon mounts) is ideal choice for indoor family portraits especially for group portraits with two to three family members. This also a good choice for kids portraits indoors.

The next obvious choice is the 50 mm prime lens. All manufacturers have very good 50 mm lenses and anyone will work well. The 50 mm F1.8 STM from canon is the best DSLR lens for family portraits below $150. If budget is not a concern then you can for F1.4 or F1.2 versions. These will give you better image quality , low light capability and faster focusing.

The next prime lens in line is the 85 mm followed by 100 mm. Both offer similar image aesthetics. The 100 2.8 lens offers a unique advantage , it can shoot macro and that makes a world of difference for newborn photography. An Canon 100 F2.8 Macro ( Both L series and non L version) is the best lens for family portraits for newborn babies.

Best Zoom lens for family portraits

Prime lenses have fixed focal length and you will have to move around to frame the subject properly. The zoom lanes gives you the advantage of adjusting the focal length while shooting and this make it a lot more versatile.

I recommend three zoom lenses for family portraits The 16-35 , 24 -70 and 70 -200.

All manufactures have a very good 16 -35 mm lens. Canon 16-35 F2.8L and Sigma 16-35 F1.8 Art series lens are the best lens choice for indoor family portraits and group shots. They give a you enough flexibility and have great image quality and are also fast lenses.

family portrait with 24 -105

The next choice is 24-70 or even 24-105 . Again this range is also well covered by both Canon and Nikon. Even third party lenses in this range are very good. Both these lenses offer great focal length range , good image quality and fast autofocus capabilities and this makes them most versatile lens choice for family photography.

The last but not the least the 70-200 F2.8 or F4 version is definitely the best lens for family portraits when it comes to outdoor shooting. It can handle wide variety of subjects , candid shots, group photos , kids running around and everything in between. It is also an ideal les for wedding family portraits.

Best lens for large family portraits

A 35 mm prime les is my first choice for best lens for large family portraits. This lens gives you ability to take large group photos of family members without forming multiple rows.

best lens for large family portraits

This lens works great indoors and outdoors as well. Canon 35 mm F1.4 or 1.2 version and the Nikkor 35 mm F1.4G are very good choices at 35 mm focal length.

If you do not have the primes lens and do not want to spend a lot on money buying one then you can go for either 16-35 or 24-70 zoom lens. Both cover the 35 mm focal length and also offer some additional flexibility as well.

large family portraits

Avoid using the 16mm part of the wide angle lens as the group photo will be distorted and people on the edge will also be blurred out.

For large family portraits you need edge to edge sharpness throughout the frame and a prime les stepped down a little bit to say F4 or F5.6 will deliver some great large family portraits.

Best canon lens for family portrait

Canon offers a large selection of lenses for their full frame and APS- bodies. Lets take a look at some great choices for family portraits.

  • Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM : This is a great lens and my lens of choice for capturing some stunning family portraits. The lens is fast and extremely sharp , fairly light and compact as well. This can be used mainly indoors and for large family portraits outdoors.
  • Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM : This is the best budget lens for family portraits and in general family photography. This is one of the cheapest lenses in the market and offers great image quality , compact size and fairly good autofocus system. If I have to pick just one lens and have a budget constraint then I will go for this lens. If you have the budget you can also go for the F1.4 or F1.2 version.
  • Canon EF 24-70mm F/2.8L II USM : This is my choice of most versatile family portrait lens. Offers good image quality , fast autofocus and wide focal length range. An overall good choice for family portraits. The wider end can also be used for large family portraits. It is a little bulky compared to other choices.
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM : This the best lens for family portraits when it comes to outdoor photography. The F2.8 version also exists but is a lot more expensive. You do not really need F2.8 at longer focal lengths and can get good background blur even at F4.
  • Canon EF 100 mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro : This is a very good lens for photographing newborn babies. The macro capabilities enhance its ability to take some really nice pictures of newborn babies with out of focus backgrounds and very shallow depth of field.

Best Nikon Lens for family portrait

Similar to Canon , Nikon also offers a lot of great lens choices in similar focal length range. Here are some choices from the Nikkor lens series.

  • AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G : Similar to canon , Nikon also offers a great lens choice at 35 mm focal length. This is ideal for family portraits for Nikon users , especially for indoor photography.
  • AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G : The les has a re-designed optical system that includes Nikon’s exclusive Silent Wave Motor (SWM) and Nano Crystal Coat (N). The AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G inherits its predecessor’s ultra-fast f/1.4 maximum aperture and rounded nine-blade diaphragm for superior depth-of-field and background blur (bokeh) performance. The lens works with both Nikon D-SLR or HD-SLR—in the studio or in the field.
  • AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR : The first NIKKOR lens to feature an aspherical Extra-low Dispersion glass element, the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR is an FX-format 2.9x normal zoom lens that offers a maximum aperture of f/2.8 across the full focal length range of 24-70mm. This is a great versatile lens for family portraits.
  • AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR : This the best lens for family portraits when it comes to outdoor family portrait photography. The F2.8 version also exists but is a lot more expensive. This lens offers great image quality and flexibility for shooting wide variety of subjects in outdoor or even in studio environment.

Best Sigma and Tamron lens for Family portraits

Both sigma and Tamron offer many lenses for canon and Nikon and even Sony mounts. Today we will look at only two lenses from these third party manufacturers that you need to look at beyond the Canon and Nikon lenses.

Sigma 18-35mm 1.8 DC HSM

This is by far the most versatile lens from Sigma for capturing great indoor family portraits. It offers the 16 – 35 focal length range at a constant aperture of 1.8 and the great news is it is usable at F1.8 and you do not need to step down.

It offers one of the sharpest center of the frame performance in this category and is highly recommended for indoor family photography. The F1.8 max aperture makes it really fast lens . The autofocus performance is also very good along with great background blur.

This is definitely one of the best lens for family portraits indoors.

Best Tamron lens for family portraits

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC G2 is probably the best Tamron lens for family portraits and offers great flexibility and image quality for outdoor photography.

You can use this les to shoot some tight portraits , head shots or overall family action in candid photographs outdoors.

The image quality on this lens is truly outstanding. It can go head to head with its professional-level competitors in terms of sharpness, quality , bokeh and most other aspects.

In fact, the 70-200mm is sharp at every focal length, at every aperture, and in every area of the frame. Chromatic aberration is well-controlled.

Best lens for family portraits : Summary

Lest summarize all the options we saw and come to the 5 best lenses for family portraits. Except the first Sigma option , you can select the lens manufacturer of your choice.

16-35 F1.8 Sigma LensBest allround indoor family photography lens
50 mm F1.8Best budget option for family portraits , great overall lens for indoor and outdoor family photography.
35 mm F1.4Best lens for family photography in indoor condition , can also be used for outdoor large family portraits
100 mm F2.8 MacroBest lens for photographing newborn babies
24-70 F2.8Best allround lens for indoor and outsoor family photography
70-200 F4Best outdoor family portrait lens
Best lens for family photography

I hope you found this article helpful. Do not forget to comment with what les you use and any great lens that I missed out.