What Is A 85mm Lens Good For?

What Is A 85mm Lens Good For featured photo

Do you ever wonder where you can use an 85mm lens? That makes the two of us. I used to think that this telephoto lens with a fixed focal length was only great for portraiture. However, it is more versatile than I initially believed.

An 85mm lens suits portrait and macro or close-up photography. The telephoto focal range lets you get near subjects and capture fine details. It is also great for landscape and street photography.

This article will identify other types of photography for which an 85mm lens is good. I will also share some tips on using this telephoto lens to capture great photos, even in low-light situations.

What Is A 85mm Lens Good For?

An 85mm camera lens offers a short telephoto focal range. That makes it suitable for different types of photography. 

Portrait Photography

Portrait Photography

Most photographers, including me, purchased the 85mm lens for portrait photography. This telephoto lens brings you closer to the subject because of its longer focal length. It can capture fine details of the human face, eyes, and lips. But it is equally useful for capturing full-body images.

Most 85mm lenses also have a large maximum aperture. These prime lenses allow more light inside the sensor and blur in the background.

The aesthetic quality of that blur is called bokeh. It is a desirable visual effect in portraiture because it makes the subject stands out. Bokeh also draws your attention to a particular area in the image.

Bokeh is among the reasons portrait photographers use an 85mm prime lens. You can instantly blur the background and add a stylistic element to your photo by widening the aperture. You can also use a narrow aperture to show the background without losing focus on the subject.

Landscape Photography

Usually, you will grab a wide-angle lens for photographing vast landscapes. After all, this type of lens gives you a wide-angle perspective to capture everything in the frame. So it would seem strange to capture a scenic view with a telephoto prime lens like the 85mm.

However, using an 85mm lens for landscape photography has its benefits.

First, it can help you see details of the location. For instance, when capturing a mountain range, you can focus on one hill or tree to tell a unique story. You can also take pictures of a valley and zoom in on the river between mountains.

Another benefit of an 85mm lens for landscapes is its ability to remove distractions in the scene. If you see people, fences, or roads blocking the view, you can shoot over them to capture the subject clearly. Doing so eliminates unwanted elements that distract the viewers from the main scene.

An 85mm telephoto lens can even minimize distortions in the image. It can capture the great outdoors with great accuracy and clarity.

These things are almost impossible to achieve with a wide-angle lens. So if you want to get into landscape photography, consider using an 85mm lens as well. 

Street Photography

Taking photos of the streets is also something you usually need a wide-angle lens for. But you can still use an 85mm lens, whether prime lens or zoom lens, for travel and street photography.

The telephoto lens can capture street scenes in a cinematic way. It brings you closer to what is going on in the streets. Doing so gives you a unique perspective that adds life to your photos.

An 85mm lens is also good for street photography because you can take pictures from a distance. You are less likely to disturb other people passing by on the street.

You can even avoid unwanted attention during the shoot, which helps capture subjects candidly. No need to worry about bowed heads, accidental eye contact, or awkward people running away once they see your camera. 

Architecture Photography

Architecture Photography

Architecture is another photography genre that typically requires a wide-angle lens. It involves taking photos of buildings and structures in their entirety. That is difficult to do with a telephoto lens like the 85mm. However, it does not mean you cannot use this prime lens for architectural photography.

An 85mm lens paired with a tilt-shift adapter can help you capture different buildings. The adapter lets you change the position of the lens with respect to the image sensor. It shifts the plane of focus and the depth of field to produce a unique perspective. 

The longer lens also lets you get closer to the structure. It can highlight certain parts of the building so the audience can see its architecture in a new way.

Wildlife Photography

Telephoto lenses are known for their ability to capture stunning wildlife photos. And the 85mm lens is no exception to that.

It offers a long focal length that gets you closer to wild animals without scaring them away. At the same time, the telephoto perspective keeps you safe from particularly dangerous creatures like foxes or tigers.

An 85mm camera lens can also photograph tiny details of the subject. It helps highlight the animal’s face or body part. It is great for nature photography.

But unlike super telephoto lenses, the 85mm lens can still capture a considerable amount of the environment. The short telephoto lens helps in storytelling because you can photograph the animals in their home. The surrounding scenery ultimately adds context to the image. 

Macro Photography

A telephoto lens like the 85mm can also suit macro photography. It offers a narrow field of view that brings you near the subject. When paired with a close minimum focusing distance, it can make the object appear larger than they are in real life.

The 85mm lens also has a long focal length for close-ups. It can capture small subjects, like insects, without scaring them away. That is usually the case with wide-angle lenses because they require you to physically get near the subject.

Sports Photography

The 85mm lens is also great for action and sports photographers.

It lets you zoom in on the athlete in the middle of the game. It helps you capture their facial features or emotions, such as triumph, relief, frustration, and pain.

The 85mm telephoto camera lens can also create compelling compositions. They record important moments in the game from a unique perspective. These include scoring, goal celebrations, and team huddles.

Most 85mm lenses also have fast autofocus capabilities. They can seemingly freeze the action of the game. They can also keep up with everything happening inside the court, whether it is basketball or soccer.

Overall, the 85mm lens is ideal for sports photography due to its telephoto range and fast autofocus abilities. 

How to Use a 85mm Lens?

An 85mm lens is different from a standard 50mm lens, which gives you a natural perspective. It offers a closer field of view that brings you nearer to the subject. Hence, it can be challenging to use, especially if it is your first time owning this lens.

Below, I will share some tips on using an 85mm prime lens to capture beautiful photos.

First, choose the right subject that can benefit from a narrow field of view and shallow depth of field. Think of people and wildlife. But you can also use an 85mm lens for capturing details of landscapes or architecture, as I explained above.

Another tip when using an 85mm lens is to adjust the aperture accordingly. Ideally, you want a wide aperture (low f-stop number) to highlight the subject and achieve bokeh. That said, consider a smaller aperture (high f-stop number) to keep more of the scene in focus.

You must also take advantage of the compression created by the 85mm lens. Use leading lines, foreground elements, or surroundings to frame your subject and add context. 

Finally, remember that an 85mm lens is a prime lens. You must walk closer or further back if you want to change the focal length of the lens. However, always maintain a comfortable distance from your subject to prevent accidental cropping. 

Do I Need a 50mm Lens If I Have a 85mm Lens?

Choosing between 50mm and 85mm lenses depends on the type of photography that you often do and your shooting style.

The 50mm lens, also known as the nifty-fifty, is among the most versatile lenses a photographer can use. It offers a natural field of view, similar to what our eyes see. It eliminates distortion, making it ideal for portrait and other photography types. However, it includes more of the background compared to an 85mm lens.

Meanwhile, the 85mm lens is a short telephoto lens. It brings the subject closer to help you capture fine details. It also tends to have better sharpness and faster autofocus speed. Plus, it could just be as versatile as the 50mm lens if you know how to use it properly. The only downside is its high price tag.

If you have the budget, consider buying both types of lenses. You can increase the capabilities of your camera and cover different photography types.


Most photographers use the 85mm lens as a portrait lens. However, this lens is more versatile than you initially thought.

The 85mm lens is good for portraiture and other types of photography. These include landscape, street, wildlife, sports, and nature photography. Refer to my tips above to capture stunning images with this telephoto lens.

Do you have other questions about the applications of 85mm lenses? Drop by our contact page to send your queries.