Using a Canon Macro Lens for Portraiture

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

My favorite focal length for portraiture is typically 85mm and in a world populated by LED studio lighting a faster lens is appreciated as well. But there is more to shooting portraits than shooting one kind of lens and using one kind of lighting —all the time.

Sometime a lens can have two different functions at the same time, take the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro lens for example. It is one of Canon’s L” series lens and their first telephoto macro lens that includes Hybrid Image Stabilization. That feature even works in 1:1 macro mode compensating for both angular and shift camera shake during close-up shooting.

But you can use this longer focal length for headshots and they’re especially useful for outdoor portraiture when you want to separate your model from the background using shallow depth-of-field. For indoor photographs where space is limited you may have to work a little closer to the subject but even when shooting with zooms I still tend to shoot at the longer end of the lens range to minimize any hint of distortion. So using the the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro for studio portraits was something I really wanted to try.

How I made this shot: The subject is my former muse, Erin Valakari model who has great skin that can easily handle the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro lens’ unflinching optics. This lens renders every tiny freckle on her face in perfect sharpness.

Camera used was a Canon EOS 5D with an exposure of 1/100 sec at f/8 and ISO 200, with my typical lighting setup using Paul C. Buff monolights. Background was a  5×7-ft Savage Photo Gray Infinity vinyl background that’s suspended on an old falling-apart set of JTL background stands. One of the reasons I like this background is that it’s perfect for color correcting using PictoColor’s iCorrect Portrait. Just click on the background and viola! skin tone is perfect.

At $749, this lens is not horribly expensive but it’s not cheap either. So don’t forget that many of these kinds of lenses are available used. KEH Camera sells a grade of used equipment they call “Bargain” at prices that are quite low. Equipment with this rating might not look great but will function properly and have good glass. Buying bargains likes this gives you to have access to higher quality lenses than your lens budget might otherwise dictate.


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My book Joe Farace’s Glamour Photography is full of tips, tools and techniques for glamour and boudoir photography and includes information on all of the cameras used as well as the complete exposure data for each image. New books are available from Amazon for $27.43 with used copies starting at $7.38 as I write this. Kindle version is $11.99 for those preferring a digital format.