Prime lenses offer many advantages when it comes to portraiture. Sure, they might be restricted in focal length, but that's a worthy trade when you're given less chromatic aberration and the sharpest image quality. They’re also typically more compact, making them easier to carry around when on location. Whether you’re photographing a couple at their wedding venue or shooting a senior portrait in a local flower field, Sony has a number of prime lenses that make for great options when capturing portraits on location. Below we’ve gathered a list of some of the best Sony primes for location portraits, including a few you may not have previously considered. See what other portrait photographers have to say about them and some of the location portraits they've made.
Whether you’re photographing a couple at their wedding venue or shooting a senior portrait in a local flower field, these Sony primes are great options for capturing portraits on location.
Known for its crisp resolution and creamy bokeh, you’ll find the Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master in the kits of most portrait photographers. The large-aperture prime telephoto is ultra sharp from corner-to-corner, even at f/1.8. Add in its excellent response, precise and quiet autofocus and portability, and you really have the perfect option for capturing portraits while on location.
Sony Artisan and fashion photographer Nino Rakichevich calls the Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master “The Bokeh King,” saying it’s a must-have lens for every fashion photographer and wedding photographer. “Anyone who really likes bokeh must have this lens. I was very excited when they came out with it and a week after I took it to Paris to shoot fashion and I just absolutely loved it.” See the beautiful on-location portrait he captured with the lens below and read more in What’s In My Bag: A Look At The Photo Kit This Pro Uses For Runway And On-Location Fashion.
Photo by Nino Rakichevich. Sony Alpha 7R III. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master. 1/1250-sec., f/1.8, ISO 200
Seeing the Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master prime on this list is really no surprise. It’s been a popular portrait prime for years, and it’s of course no different for location portraits. Many find it to be the perfect focal length for capturing someone in frame, and the background bokeh the G Master name has become associated with adds to its allure for taking portraits on location.
Bronx-based creative and Alpha Collective member Dennis Cacho calls the Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master the King Of Portrait Photography, and he’s also found other uses for the focal length. “For me, I’ve been able to use this lens in many scenarios outside of portraiture like landscape, street and minimalistic photography.” Read more about his gear and see more of his work in What’s In My Bag: See This Creative's Kit For Street Photography, Portraits & More.
Photo by Dennis Cacho. Sony Alpha 7R III. Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/250-sec., f/1.4, ISO 50
Photographer Eric Ward doesn’t consider himself much of a portrait photographer, but the Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master has convinced him to create more portraiture. “When I began using this lens for portraits it was instantly a favorite,” the Alpha Collective member says. “I’ve used the 85 for portraits in sunflower fields to my own living room with my kids. While portraits have never been an area of my photography that I’ve shared much, the 85mm f/1.4 has convinced me to shoot more portraits.” Read more in What’s In My Bag: Littlecoal's Versatile Kit For Scroll-Stopping Imagery.
Photo by Eric Ward. Sony Alpha 7R III. Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/320-sec., f/2.8, ISO 400
Another G Master prime equals another lens with magnificent bokeh. The Sony 100mm f/2.8 STF G Master is a unique lens and a sleeper in the Sony lineup. It’s exceptional for portraits, especially when shot wide open, and the 100mm focal length is flattering for photographing faces. The lens creates a beautiful separation between subject and background and is another fantastic choice for those shooting portraits on location.
Professional photographer Noel Claude II’s primary focus is in portrait, fashion and lifestyle photography. He captured the image below using the Sony 100mm f/2.8 STF G Master, which he says allowed him to get amazing compression. “This image was taken at 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 100. I was able to get amazing compression as well as achieve perfect focus utilizing the STF feature of the 100mm f/2.8 G Master lens. It gave me the depth of field of an f/2.8 aperture while providing the exposure and sharpness of a lens at f/5.6 which is truly the best feature of this lens for portraits. It's a unique lens that makes the subject pop from the scene while rendering the environment beautifully.” Learn more about how he created the image using the lens and lighting in Behind The Shot: How A Unique Lens Made This Portrait In The Poppies.
Photo by Noel Claude II. Sony Alpha 7R III. Sony 100mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/1000-sec., f/5.6, ISO 100
The Sony 85mm f/1.8 is compact, lightweight and a great value option for capturing mid-length or close-up portraits on location. When shooting wide open, the lens produces excellent bokeh and its sharpness remains stopped all the way down. It may not be a G Master, but it’s a classic focal length for portraits and a solid option that packs a punch.
Portrait photographer and Sony Artisan Miguel Quiles he finds the Sony 85mm f/1.8’s image quality to be very comparable to that of top of the range lenses, but with a much lower price point. “In just about every photo shoot that I do, whether it’s in studio or on location, it’s almost certain that I’ll be using the Sony 85mm f/1.8 lens at some point.” Read more in The Under $600 Prime Lens This Portrait Pro Always Has In His Bag.
Photographer Gabriel Andre loves to shoot in low light, and the Sony 85mm f/1.8 is his choice for low light portraits on location. "I like this lens for its sharpness, the creamy bokeh, the compression that can be achieved with it, and its low light capabilities. I usually use it for portraits and to get closer shots of points of interest within landscape scenes. At f/1.8 - f/2.2, I can practically shoot under the moonlight, which allows me to get creative with some single light portrait ideas. The second thing I use it for is street photography. It may seem a bit counter intuitive, but once you have an 85mm on in the streets, you start seeing compositions you don’t with your naked eye. And it quickly becomes very addictive." Read more in What’s In My Bag: One Camera, Prime & Zoom For Magical Low-Light Travel Photos & Videos.
Photo by Gabriel Andre. Sony α7 III. Sony 85mm f/1.8. 1/125-sec., f/1.8, ISO 3200
The Sony 50mm f/1.2 G Master allows for faster shutter speeds and lower ISO in low light settings, making it ideal for portraits on location where you can’t control the light. The shallow depth of field at f/1.2 combined with the focal length gives a nice cinematic style. If you want a top nifty fifty with excellent resolution and dramatic bokeh, this is the lens for you.
Portrait photographer Hananiah Aldrich also likes to pair the Sony 50mm f/1.2 G Master with her Sony Alpha 7 IV for location portraits. “They call this lens the nifty fifty for a reason,” she says. “It is the perfect focal length for almost everything. The 1.2 on this lens makes me pick it up more and more. It has an almost 85mm feel to it, but with a shorter focal length allowing me to interact more with my subjects. This is one of those lenses everyone needs in their bag. I primarily use this lens for my outdoor on location shoots.” Read more in What’s In My Bag: A G Master Prime & Zoom Kit For Max-Color Portraits.
Photo by Hananiah Aldrich. Sony Alpha 7 IV. Sony 50mm f/1.2 G Master. 1/1600-sec., f/1.2, ISO 200
Photographer and Alpha Collective member Ivan Wong creates eye-catching futuristic portraits on location using the Sony 50mm f/1.2 G Master. “The 50mm is the focal length that I’ve started shooting portraits at,” he says. “Before I liked to shoot wider head-to-toe shots of models, now I have become more comfortable shooting more compressed head-to-body shots. This lens can also be used to shoot full body shots at wider distances between the subject and me, but has less distortion on the subject compared to the 35mm. Similar to the 35mm f/1.4, the 50mm f/1.2 is my go-to for bokeh and low-light conditions. This lens is also extremely sharp and fast, which works incredibly well with the high fps of the Alpha 7R IV and Alpha 1.” Read more in What’s In My Bag: A G Master Lens Kit For Cyberpunk Portraiture.
Photo by Ivan Wong. Sony Alpha 1. Sony 50mm f/1.2 G Master. 1/80-sec., f/4, ISO 320
The Sony 55mm f/1.8 is a compact and lightweight option that renders gorgeous bokeh to isolate your subject when photographing on location. You can expect tack-sharp portraits across the entire field of view and at all apertures. It’s still viewed as one of the greatest lenses ever made and continues to be a popular choice for portrait photographers.
Wedding photographer Emily Schutz says the Sony 55mm f/1.8 is hands-down her favorite lens. “It’s glued to my camera and I produce 90% of my work with it,” she says. “It’s incredibly fast at nailing focus for ultra sharp images, which is hugely important during the fast paced moments on wedding days. The bokeh is buttery and compliments the overall image so well. The focal length is ideal for me as it allows versatility to capture everything from up close intimate moments such as portraits, to the wider scenes that tell the full story.” Read more in What’s In My Bag: A Wedding Photographer’s Essentials For Capturing Couples In Love.
Photo by Emily Schutz. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 55mm f/1.8. 1/250-sec., f/1.8, ISO 50
Photo by Emily Schutz. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 55mm f/1.8. 1/500-sec., f/5.6, ISO 50
Not only does the Sony 35mm f/1.4 G Master produce stunning imagery with beautiful bokeh, it’s also surprisingly small and lightweight, making it easy to carry around on location all day. The wider maximum aperture also allows the lens to perform superbly in low light conditions, another plus for location portraits. It’s a great focal length to capture some of the environment and one you could keep on your camera for the entire location portrait shoot.
Sony Artisan Chad Wadsworth is a music culture and commercial lifestyle photographer, and he always packs the Sony 35mm f/1.4 G Master prime in his kit for location portraits. “Everyone needs a great 35mm lens in their bag and the 35mm GM is my go-to for low light scenarios or when I want that crisp environmental portrait look. For this image I paired it with on-camera flash to make the carnival scene with Austin musician Mélat pop even more.” Read more in What’s In My Bag: An Alpha 1 Kit For Music Culture & Commercial Lifestyle Photography.
Photo by Chad Wadsworth. Sony Alpha 1. Sony 35mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/640-sec., f/5.6, ISO 640
You will also always find the Sony 35mm f/1.4 G Master lens in elopement and wedding photographer Henry Tieu’s kit, as it’s his go-to for portraiture. The Alpha Collective member says, “A 35mm is such a wedding photographer ‘must-have,’ and this particular G Master version is the one, the only and nothing else can compare to it. I love that it is super light-weight but so durable. I use this lens to capture most of my portraits.” Read more in What’s In My Bag: A Ready-For-Anything Adventure Elopement & Intimate Wedding Photography Kit.
Photo by Henry Tieu. Sony Alpha 7 IV. Sony 35mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/500-sec., f/2, ISO 500
Other Solid (& Perhaps Surprising) Options To Try
The Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G – it’s not just for close-ups. That's right, the G-series Macro prime might not have immediately come to mind when you were thinking of lenses for location portraiture, but trust us when we say it's a solid choice. Beautiful bokeh? Check. Incredible sharpness? Check. Fast autofocus? Check. It has everything you need in a good portrait lens, and the detail you're able to capture for location portraiture with the Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G makes it one of the best.
When you think of a wedding photographer using the Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G, you probably think of them capturing the close-up details like the decor or the wedding rings. But outdoor wedding and adventure elopement photographer Ebony Logins loves the lens for portraits and says it never leaves her camera for wedding day. “When I first used this lens, I was blown away by the macro peaking feature! I can consistently produce impeccable macro images because this lens gives me all the tools I need to nail focus and depth of field up-close. This lens never leaves my camera, because it’s the perfect telephoto for portraits as well as capturing candid guest reactions during a wedding day. The way it captures light and bokeh always makes me smile!” Read more in What’s In My Bag: A Photographer's Kit For Documenting Adventurous Weddings & Elopements.
Photo by Ebony Logins. Sony Alpha 7R III. Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G. 1/1250-sec., f/2.8, ISO 800
The Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master is another prime lens to consider for location portraits. You might think of its focal length as too wide for such a use, but many portrait photographers find it feels closest to what their eye sees and creates beautiful and unique portrait imagery. It’s great for using on location and produces high-quality portraits that don’t disappoint.
Photographer Mickie DeVries’ focus is on portraits and families, and she is particularly passionate about making portraits of children. She likes to pair the Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master with her Sony Alpha 7 III to help capture the wonders of childhood. “Sometimes 35mm isn’t quite wide enough for me, so I'll reach for the 24mm for that wider angle. I also like that this is a super fast lens that makes shooting in low light possible. This lens is also super sharp and creates the most beautiful sunbursts when I stop down the aperture. And when photographing children, the sunburst can make an image feel like a fairytale! As you can see in the two examples I included of the 24mm, the lens truly gives off that dreamy quality I’m looking for.” Read more in What’s In My Bag: A Pair Of Unexpected Sony Primes & A GM Zoom For This Portrait Photographer.
Photo by Mickie DeVries. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/320-sec., f/13, ISO 1000
Portrait photographer Hananiah Aldrich primarily shoots in the studio, but also likes to get outside on location any chance she gets. You’ll find the Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master in her kit, a very specific focal length that she says she has to be careful with for portraits. “Too close and the face becomes super thin, and distorted, but used correctly it can be a powerful tool. Using the wide to my advantage I’m able to capture more of my environment and emphasize certain features that give a memorable look. I will often use this lens for fashion, models and creative shoots.” Read more in What’s In My Bag: A G Master Prime & Zoom Kit For Max-Color Portraits.
Photo by Hananiah Aldrich. Sony Alpha 7 IV. Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/2000-sec., f/1.6, ISO 160