Lens for Portraits

Johane asked,

“My camera is a Nikon SLR D40 and I was thinking of getting a new lens for it. I take a lot of pictures of my daughter and family. I want to get a bigger aperture to get that blurry background that looks so good in portrait pictures but seems like the lower I can go with my camera is 4.0 for some reason and sometimes the pictures turn out blurry itself if I don’t use the flash. I really like natural lighting in the pictures instead of using the flash. What do you recommend for a beginner like me?”

I’m a huge fan of the Nikon f2.8 lenses — the Nikkor 28-70 f/2.8 is on my camera most of the time, but that’s an expensive lens.

You should be able to throw the background out of focus at f4 — you’ll want to ensure that the distance between you and the subject is much smaller than the distance between your subject and the background.

Another alternative to consider is a prime lens.  Both the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 ($200) and f/1.4 ($400) lenses are great, sharp lenses that will act as the equivalent of a 75mm lens on your D40.  That’s a nice focal length for portrait work. It is a different kind of photography (no zoom), and it may take you a bit of time to get used to it, but you can get very nice results.

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