Yongnuo 85mm F1.8 Shooting Portraits

It has been a while since I did an arranged portrait shooting session so I called up the amazing Wendy for a spontaneous session. I also have recently acquired the Yongnuo 85mm F1.8 lens for my Canon 5D, mainly for shooting portraits. Since I am quite rusty in these kind of posed, directed portraits, it took me a while to warm up and get some shots that I actually liked. I also made a video to talk about why 85mm focal length is my favourite for shooting portraits, and has worked so well for me over the years. My main lens for portraits shooting commercial jobs as well as for my personal projects when I am using my Micro Four Thirds workhorse has always been the Olympus 45mm F1.8, which is very close to 85mm equivalent focal length. You can find the video here (click)

The main reason I got the Yongnuo 85mm F1.8 was because it was a cheaper option, and I bought it used at about 50% of retail asking price, in very good condition. I did not want to spend too much money on the dinosaur Canon 5D, as I was using it mainly just for fun and not earning any income. I did want a portrait lens as I do shoot a lot of people for my photography, and I thought this session would be a great way to start putting the Yongnuo 85mm F1.8 through its paces. The lens performs well, the AF was fast and accurate, I got the shots that I wanted from a 85mm lens, but at the end of the day there was nothing to write home about. The sharpness is decent, good enough, but not excellent. The lens lacks contrast especially if there are stray lights entering the lens. I shot mostly wide open at F1.8, and achieved sufficient depth of field to blur off the background and had that nice subject isolation. Bokeh was smooth and buttery, nothing to complain about here. Hey it is a budget lens remember? For the price I have paid, I am happy with what I get, and I do plan to shoot more with the Yongnuo 85mm on my Canon 5D. 

I have always loved using the 85mm (or near to this focal length) for portraits. The medium telephoto reach allows for good distortion management, the human head, facial features, body limbs all appear proportionate and looking natural without being stretched. The flattering look of a telephoto rendering is what I seek when I shoot portraits. Also because it is quite a long lens, there is some background compression which can help composition, with less background to deal with. The bright aperture of F1.8, combined with a long reach 85mm also renders very shallow depth of field, providing good subject separation from the background, and the bokeh look can be very appealing for portraits. With all the benefits of using a medium telephoto lens, 85mm also strikes the balance of not having to stand too far away from the person you are shooting. I find this to be very important as I can still communicate with the person I am shooting effectively, and we all know communication is what makes or breaks a portrait shot!

Shooting location was at Tamarind Square in Cyberjaya, a popular location for local weddings and portrait photography. Obviously I was shooting alone and I did not have assistants with me, and I needed to move quickly so to minimize drama and improve efficiency I just shot everything with available light. You can see in some situations I could have clearly benefited from having additional lighting but seriously, it was supposed to be a quick and easy shoot. I was not paid, and I seriously did not want to drag on the session unnecessarily. I find natural light on location during that day working quite well, producing very pleasing skin tones and overall good mood for the portraits. 

Oh and Canon's skin tones! How I love the warm, pleasing and somewhat very natural looking people shots coming from the classic Canon 5D! I'd say it does skin color better than Olympus, especially in natural light. 

It was a short but very enjoyable shooting session with Wendy! I do hope to do more similar arranged portrait shooting in the future. Hope you guys enjoy the photographs!

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