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When photographing people, don’t get too close to them. This can exaggerate noses and other body parts. So, the correct focal length is a key issue when choosing a new lens.

A macro lens is designed to capture a tiny subject at full size in one shot. Even when photographing a tiny dragonfly, it allows users to get close enough and magnify the subject enough to fill the frame with the object. This applies to photography of everything from bugs to jewelry to architectural details.

All the major camera brands provide lenses perfect for either macro or portrait photography. Look for a classic portrait lens, like an 85mm f/1.4 or a 50mm and 100mm macro lens.

There are also lenses in a lower price range. Some “off-brand” macro lenses perform very well as portrait lenses; they do incredibly well on optical tests. There are two we suggest: the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 and the Sigma 70mm f/2.8.

The Tamron 90mm f/2.8 is a match optically for the best lenses out there. While most lenses don’t test their best at the widest aperture (usually lenses perform much better stopped down at least one stop), it turns out the Tamron does very well at its wide-open setting. So while it doesn’t go to f/1.4, it can shoot at f/2.8 for very shallow depth of field.

The Sigma 70mm f/2.8 is another great possibility. Lens tests and reviews love it for both portrait and macro work. With either of these off-brand lenses, start to experiment with beautiful head-and-shoulders portraiture. The next day, seek out your favorite insects and try some macro work.

Third party lenses are made for all major camera mounts. Every lens has its positive and negative features, so read the reviews and consult with a local camera store to make sure the lens will work for you.


Part two of a two-part series on DSLR lenses, provided by the New York Institute of Photography (

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