Photographing children can be one of the most rewarding and challenging subjects to shoot. As a photographer you’ve got to work fast and know how to get the most from your little clients. Here are our picks for the best lenses for getting the job done.
This is the ready for anything lens a family photographer needs. The 24-70 f/2.8 is great if you have to work within arms reach of smaller children. It can quickly transition from a full length portrait to a head shot allowing you to react quickly to spontaneous action. The fast f/2.8 aperture will give you a subtle shallow depth of field effect on the wide end and a nicely blurred background on the telephoto end. These will perform worlds better in low light conditions compared to kit lenses.
For crop sensor cameras the 17-55 f/2.8 is a great alternative with the same field of view as the 24-70.
There is so much that this lens is perfect for in family photography. It is a workhorse portrait lens with beautiful shallow depth of field. It can give you some space between your camera and your subjects. It is ideal for more candid/lifestyle photography because you can hang back and let the action happen, but still get your shot. The zoom range is perfect for following fast moving kids outdoors. The 70-200 f/2.8 is all about flexibility and versatility. We like the f/2.8 versions for the shallow depth of field they create, but some shooters find them quite heavy. If you think weight will be an issue, both Canon & Nikon make f/4 versions that are almost half the weight with little sacrifice in image quality.
For crop sensor cameras, most shooter still use a 70-200. The lens will act more like a 105-300mm range with the crop factor. If you want to maintain the wider end of a 70-200, check out the incredibly fast Sigma 50-100 f/1.8 Art lens. It packs a ton of performance in a compact package.
50MM F/1.2 & 1.4
There is a reason 50mm lenses are loved by so many photographers, but there is something special about them for photographing children. The 50mm prime creates beautiful depth of field. This effect is really enhanced for kid photography because you have to focus close to fill the frame with your smaller subjects. This accentuates your background blur and really makes your subjects pop.
The other thing that’s great about a 50mm is the focal length offers such a natural balance between a wide angle and a telephoto lens. It really feels like you’re there with your subjects. Finally, there is the aperture. At f/1.4 you can shoot in just about any light.
When it comes to renting a 50mm lens, we’ve got a ton of options. For Canon, the 50mm f/1.2L and 50mm f/1.4 are solid choices. Nikon has the 50mm f/1.4G. Sigma makes a glorious 50 for both Canon and Nikon. Sony shooters should look at the 50mm F/1.4 Zeiss FE T* ZA or the fastest lens we carry, the manual focus Mitakon 50mm f/0.95.
For crop sensor cameras, you’ll want to look a 35mm f/1.4 to achieve a similar look.
I like to think about the 135mm f/2.0 as the 85 f/1.4 for kids. Why? If you love the way an 85mm f/1.4 shoots for adults, the 135 will give you the same feel for smaller kids. The extra focal length and fast f/2.0 aperture will give you tons of background blur for wiping out distractions.
Being that this lens is a prime, its better suited if you have older or more cooperative subjects. What you lose in flexibility from something like a 70-200 f/2.8 you gain in image quality and weight savings. Shot at f/2.0-2.8 these lenses are awesome performers.
For crop sensor cameras, look at the 85mm f/1.4 lenses from Sigma and Nikon. While the Canon 85 f/1.2L is a killer lens optically, we usually reserve it for sessions with older children who can stay in one place because of its slower focusing motor.
These lenses should help you get more compelling images during your next photo session. Do you have a favorite that’s not listed here? Tell us what it is and why you like it in the comments below. Need tips for working with kids in your next session? Check out our blog post about how to work with children of all ages.