The Best Lenses for Pet Portraits [All Camera Brands]

While it’s true that you can use an old smartphone or kit lens to get great pictures of your pet, good pictures are much easier with a good lens.

To enhance the look and feel of your shots, you’ll want to use a lens that is suitable for what you want with pet portrait photography; soft bokeh, incredible sharpness and stunning detail.

Many of the lenses we cover are really affordable and also multi-functional, so you can use them for a variety of situations. Although if you’re not ready to commit to buying a lens then renting one of these for a few days to get your own shots is a very inexpensive alternative. You may be surprised at the price of lens rental.

For every lens we examined, we asked the following questions:

1. Sharpness – How sharp is the lens, especially at its widest aperture?
2. focal length – Between 35mm and 200mm is ideal (from wider shots, to tight portraits).
3. Quality – How many aberrations, flares and vignettes are visible, and are they of the best quality?
4. bokeh – Soft, soft bokeh makes your pet stand out and simplifies distracting backgrounds.
5. Price – Do you have to sell your car to get one? Better lenses are worth every dollar.
6. Auto focus – Is fast and accurate, especially if your pet likes to move around.

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Which Pet Portrait Lens Should I Buy?

70mm – 200mm f/2.8 or greater Telephoto

Zoom & Prime

1. Zoom or Prime?

Many professional animal portrait photographers prefer prime lenses because they are usually sharper and have a much larger maximum aperture. The difference between f/1.4 and f/4 is huge, both in the shutter speed and the ISO setting you need to use to get the shot you want, as well as in the bokeh. We recommend a minimum of f/2.8, but if you want a beige background, get a prime.

With a zoom lens you don’t need to be moving all the time, which is sometimes a big plus as you don’t want to distract your pet by trying to quickly approach it. If that’s important to you then a zoom is probably a better choice, but if for portraits you usually have enough freedom to move around as you wish, you’ll easily see the benefits of a prime lens.

2. Focal Length

This is the most important factor! With a wide-angle lens, you have to get really close to your pet, which ends up distorting their face and features. For portraits, use 35 mm to 200 mm.

35mm lens great for showing more than just your isolated pet, this focal range is great for shots showing larger surroundings, rooms, nature and beyond
50mm lens ideal for full-body shots and casual shooting sessions
85mm lens has the perfect combination of focal length and bokeh, and is also most useful for narrow shots
135-200mm lens best for when you want to give your pet a little more room to act naturally, or if you’re looking for the most blurry background

Most photographers use 50mm and/or 85mm lenses. So either one is a safe choice. If you can’t decide which length to use, use whatever zoom you currently have and stick with one length for a few days to get a feel for it.

3. Auto Focus

Unless you prefer manual focusing, you want AF you can rely on. Shooting with a large aperture is tricky because your focus has to be precise. If you accidentally focus on the nose instead of the eyes at f/1.2, it could ruin the shot. You always want to make sure your lens doesn’t have front/back focus issues and is as accurate as possible. If you’ve never done any of the tests before, check out the video explaining how here.

4. Fig Stabilization

Having an IS is always a huge plus, but unless your pet is always completely still, you won’t really benefit from it here. This is why you shouldn’t worry too much if the prime isn’t equipped with IS, that large aperture should suffice.

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