I am quite amateur with a camera but I want to become good in fashion photography. A top model has agreed for a photo-shoot for free and in return she wants me to make a portfolio. We are planning to take the photos on a beach during day light. I have only used a Nikon D5600 and Nikkor AF-P 18-55mm kit lens.

I read in the internet that 50mm on a FX camera is close to what the human eye sees. Also I wanted to keep my distance between me and the model in the range of 3 and 10 meters. So I thought I should rent a 35mm instead as it would give almost 50mm view on a DX camera (35mm x 1.5 crop-factor = 52.5mm). However 35mm view on my kit lens appears zoomed in, its not what my eyes see. Instead the 24mm looks more natural. Is 35mm on a cropped sensor good for fashion photography considering the distance between me and the model ? or should I use 24mm ?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ sand + salt water + wind + camera + lens = ??? \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 12:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xiota I don't understand what you are trying to convey \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 13:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PremRamman That wind will blow salt water and sand around - both of which are not the best friends of electronic equipment. \$\endgroup\$
    – flolilo
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 13:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Reiterating what xiota and flolilo have said - if you choose to rent gear, beach damage will probably be explicitly listed in the rental agreement and you may be held liable for full replacement value of lens. Do make sure you're careful with it. \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 15:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Abiding by everyone's suggestion I decided to rent 70-200mm 2.8g lens and also bought 50mm 1.4g. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 17:04

5 Answers 5


Photography is not (necessarily) about giving the viewer a "as you would see it"-perspective. Photography is about offering additional perspectives. If this was not true, the only good photos would be with roughly the same angle of view that the human eyes give us, shot at eye-height.

This, however, is not true. I would even go as far as to say: Those are the most boring photos that anyone can make.

It is much more about whether you like the look that 24mm deliver or not. You can make stunning photos with all focal lengths just as you can make boring ones. It all depends on what you want to do. And that still holds true in fashion.

My recommendation: See which focal length(s) you like the most on your zoom lens for the look you want - and also see where it puts limitations on your work. Buy accordingly - but always remember that a more expensive lens does not mean that your photos will automagically get better. I have seen stunning pictures taken with kit lenses - and I have seen pictures taken with five-digit $ lenses that are absolutely tedious.

Note that this also means that you have to know your gear and its limitations well before the critical shooting. It also means that going into the shooting, you should have a concept of what look you want to achieve. IMHO, routine means everything in professional work.

Regarding equipment in fashion: Direct sunlight and fashion photography do not get along well ;-) Bring diffusers, reflectors, and maybe even a fill flash. To get all of this working, see if you can find a friend to assist you with holding that stuff.

As mentioned first by juhist, bring some ND-filters (maybe 1EV and 2 EV) with you, as sun + fast lens = many, many EVs.

Also, as Tetsujin mentions: Primes are not everything. Zoom lenses like the 70-200 f/2.8 (and even f/4) offer incredible performance and don't force you to go with one perspective all the time as prime lenses would. E.g. most of my professional work, I do with my 24-105 f/4, because it works well in all conditions and the shots it offers well over-satisfy the needs of my clients. The below mentioned 100mm f/2.8 is my go-to-lens (ATM) for controlled situations where I need the tiny bit of extra performance that it offers.

Anecdote: A friend of mine is a semi-professional model. In the beginning of her "career", she asked me to help her with her portfolio. We mostly did medium long shots and medium close-ups - mostly "in movement", some more classic still portraits. What lenses did I use? Mostly the 100mm f/2.8L Macro. Was it the only lens that could do the job? No, absolutely not. But I already owned it, it offers a reasonable ability to separate the subject from the background (which I wanted), and I simply love its color rendition. And most importantly: I wanted that exact angle for my work - the photos I made would not have worked well with, say, a 50mm lens.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm definitely with you on the 'long lens for portrait' aspect. I threw in my own answer with an expansion/alternative approach on that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 12:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tetsujin Funny thing about that: I included the "don't use a critical shooting as training"-portion just before reading your answer. It's hard to like one's own answer when others do such an incredible job. This community is just too awesome :) \$\endgroup\$
    – flolilo
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 12:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I heartily agree - but sometimes, learning on the job is just what's going to happen. If you're not an actual professional, I'm sure it's allowable ;-) Heck, I do it on every shoot - I learn something new; I'm by no means a 'seasoned pro' yet. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 13:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ That was why I went with the initial zoom recommendation - if you don't like the length, twiddle it a bit until you do ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 13:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding diffusers, reflectors, fill flash and ND filters I am quite confused when to use when or I should be using all of them together. Should I be posting a different question for this ? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 17:09

There's nothing wrong with the existing answers - but my thought is that essentially you're going to be learning on the job which is going to bring its own set of issues anyway.

I'd say, yes, rent a lens, but don't rent one in the range you already have, unless you've got a fair amount of money to throw at it.

You are also going to need some soft reflectors &/or diffuse lighting to get rid of the hard shadows a sunny beach scene is going to put in your way, so don't spend all your money on lenses.
...and, as mentioned elsewhere, rent a good set of ND filters so you can shoot wide open in bright light.

I would go for Nikon's top-end 70-200mm zoom - the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8E FL FX VR ED N (Link is to a Ken Rockwell review, who some people love & some people hate ;-). You'll be missing between 55 & 70 mm, but you can probably survive that.
70mm on a crop sensor is about 105mm FF - which some would argue is 'the best' portrait lens length.
I have the FF 50mm 1.4 on crop frame (D5500) & whilst it is definitely my 'best lens', as I don't own a 3 grand zoom like the Nikon, I often shoot portrait with an inferior 70-200 because of the additional depth compression & soft background that can be achieved with it.

I'd even go as far as to say shooting portrait on a longer lens is 'easier' than on a short one. Even when I was a newbie, my family loved to be "papped" at 200mm. They loved the fake intimacy of the paparazzi look over anything I did that they thought they could achieve on their phone.

If you have the money, rent the nifty fifty too, or get Nikon's 24-70 too... but I would really go for a good zoom rather than plumping for one prime. It will just give you flexibility even if you will sacrifice ultimate quality.

A late thought prompted by xiota's comment, "sand + salt water + wind + camera + lens = ???"

You may not wish to change lenses at all on a beach.
You don't have a weather-proof camera & this is not a weather-proof lens, so you'll still have to be careful, but...
In that case, & even though it is a (relatively-speaking at £1,000) budget lens, I'd have a look at what I call my 'guilty pleasure' lens - the Nikon 18-300mm VR DX AF-S G ED NIKKOR (again, a Rockwell link) as a "do anything" lens. It's not the sharpest in the knife drawer, but it does a fair job most of the way through its range. Your camera can automatically correct for its distortion at least out to 200mm, when it starts to get a bit uncorrectably soft compared to a 'good' lens, but it really doesn't do a bad job at all.
I'd call it a good "learning on the job" lens.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is Ken Rockwell the grumpy the-digital-picture of Nikon? ;-) \$\endgroup\$
    – flolilo
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 13:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Grumpy & opinionated. I quite like him actually, call spade a spade & all that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 13:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was a bit irritated by him at first, but once you get what he's looking for in equipment, it's actually quite interesting and funny to read his articles. \$\endgroup\$
    – flolilo
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 13:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah - he doesn't mind sticking his neck out - I do like that he calls the above mentioned 70-200 'the world's best'. Whether it's actually provably true or not, it would make you feel cozy to own one ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 13:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @flolilo Not really (comparable to Bryan Carnathan at TDP). Ken just publishes opinions without backing them up with actual test images under controlled conditions and the like. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 22:04

Some simple trigonometry can help here, but it's just an estimate... Let's say your model is 1.7m tall. In order to capture a pose at full height, assuming portrait orientation, you're going to need an angle of view on the long side of your sensor of between about 10 and 32 degrees (at 10 meters and 3 meters, respectively). For other poses, if you assume about half his/her full height, you would need between 5 and 16 degrees. On my 1.6X crop sensor Canon, those numbers correspond to about 38-250mm in focal length. Your 1.5X Nikon would be a little different than that (40-270mm or so), but that does tend to indicate the 35mm might be a bit short for keeping your expected distance. Of course, that doesn't include extra space for framing (you probably don't want the model to take up the entire image in every shot...), so you can probably reduce that estimate a bit, and maybe 35mm is right on the edge of what you are looking for. A 50mm, 85mm or 100mm might be a good idea to have along as well (or even just a zoom that covers a good portion of those in its range).

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    \$\begingroup\$ That all depend on whether you want to do typical portrait work emphasizing the model's face, or fashion work emphasizing the model, the clothing and the environment in which it is being worn. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 22:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelC True... the bigger point that I guess I was trying to make is that it isn't that hard to figure out what focal length you need for a specific job... Perhaps I'm just too subtle, though... \$\endgroup\$
    – twalberg
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 2:13

It depends on what kind of look you want and how long is your possible working distance.

I would rent at least 35mm and 50mm primes. For shooting human subjects, you don't always want the field of view that human eye sees. Humans remember the looks of other humans as they appear from a quite long distance (sorry I don't now find a source which says what the distance is). At short distance, the ears can look smaller than they appear from long distance.

Also, you may want to throw the background out of focus with background blur. Now, to achieve background blur, you can either use a wide aperture (but this decreases depth of field), or a long focal length (this can create background blur without too shallow depth of field).

Additionally, if you want to emphasize the human subject, 50mm would be good. If you want to emphasize the environment the human subject is in, and capture as much of the environment as possible, 35mm or 24mm would be good. However, your kit lens already has the 24mm aperture and background blur with 24mm is low and depth of field deep, so a faster aperture than your kit lens doesn't buy you really anything.

If you have a model for free, now is not the time to save on equipment and use only one focal length.

My suggestion is therefore:

  • Use your kit lens for 24mm and shorter, use it wide open (which is probably around f/4)
  • Rent a fast 35mm prime
  • Rent a fast 50mm prime, at 10 meter distance the field of view is 4.8 m x 3.2 m which seems large enough, and you can get some beautiful background blur at this focal length and fast aperture

If you really really want to save on lens rental costs, I would pick the 50mm and use the kit lens for 35mm too. The reasoning being that background blur at 35mm is more difficult than at 50mm, so the fast aperture of a fast prime is more beneficial for 50mm prime than it is for 35mm prime. Furthermore, the aperture of the kit lens is slower at 50mm than it is at 35mm, so that too favors renting the 50mm over 35mm.

If you have the money to throw at lens rentals, consider renting an 85mm lens too. It is a focal length you can't achieve with your kit lens. The pictures will have narrow field of view and therefore have to be taken from a really long distance, but you may find it useful in some cases. A 85mm can achieve really good background blur, at the same time as having a deep enough depth of field.

Oh, and you may need an ND filter to use f/1.8 in sunlight, because the lowest ISO of your camera is probably ISO 100, and the fastest shutter speed is 1/4000 s.

Consider also lighting: powerful enough fill flash, diffuser, etc. can alter the lighting in ways you can't achieve with only sunlight.


Some cost estimates at lensrentals.com:

  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8 costs $13 for 2 days
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.4 costs $19 for 2 days
  • Nikon 35mm f/1.8 costs $25 for 2 days
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8 costs $20 for 2 days

To me, it's clear that you want to rent at least the 50mm f/1.8 based on these because it's so cheap, if not going for the 50mm f/1.4!

  • \$\begingroup\$ @flolilo Actually, I disagree with your third comment. Background blur and DoF are separate, see photo.stackexchange.com/a/106589/81735 \$\endgroup\$
    – juhist
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 15:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ This entire answer reads like it is mostly concerned with how close one can get to the subject for more or less tightly framed portraits of the model without getting noticeable distortion. That's not usually what fashion photography is about. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 22:11

While 35mm is suitable for some shots, I wouldn't go into a shoot with just a 35mm. Some suggestions, some of which depend on how much time you have with the model:

  • Pick up a fashion magazine or fashion photography book. Consider the equipment that was used for the shots you like. Books about fashion illustration are also interesting to look at.

  • Shoot at a few closely related locations – nearby park, boardwalk, harbor, on pier, under pier, on beach by interesting landmark, in the water, etc. I'd leave the beach for last because of the sand and water. Also, if you wait till the sun has gone down a bit, the lighting won't be as harsh.

  • Plan a couple different styles of dress. Have interchangeable clothing items to provide different looks without having to change too much.

  • Try to include plenty of variety in framing and distances.

  • Consider 24-70/4 or 24-120/4 (for versatility). F2.8 and wider is fine, but you might end up stopping down anyway because you need DOF to cover clothing details, not "just a few mm for just the eyes".

  • Consider 70-200/4 (to avoid jumping in the water with the model).

  • Buy a nifty fifty (50/1.8). Don't rent it. If you don't like it, resell it. The 10-15% sales fee should be less than the cost to rent would have been.

  • Agree with others: Diffusers, reflectors, flash, assistant, etc.

  • \$\begingroup\$ As a starter, I bought the 50mm 1.4g and now planning to rent 70-200mm 2.8G \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 16:54

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