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Best Lenses for Pet Portraits [All Camera Brands]

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

To improve the look and feel of your shots you’ll want to use a lens that is suited for what you want with pet portrait photography; creamy bokeh, amazing sharpness, and stunning detail.

Many of the lens we cover are really affordable and are also multifunctional, so you’ll be able to use them for a lot of different situations. Although if you’re not ready to commit to purchasing a lens then renting any of these lenses for a few days to get your own shots, is a really low-cost alternative. You might be surprised at the value of renting a lens.

For every lens we checked, we asked these questions:

1. Sharpness – How sharp is the lens, especially at its widest aperture?
2Focal Length – Between 35mm and 200mm is ideal (from wider shots, to tight portraits).
3Quality – How much aberration, flare and vignetting is visible, and is the quality top notch?
4Bokeh – Creamy, smooth bokeh makes your pet pop out and simplifies a distracting background.
5Price – Do you have to sell your car to get it? The lens better be worth every dollar.
6Autofocus – Is it fast and accurate, especially if your pet likes to be on the move.

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Which Pet Portrait Lens Should I Buy?

popular canon lenses

70mm – 200mm f/2.8 or Larger Telephoto

Zooms & Primes

1. Zoom or Prime?

Many professional pet portrait photographers prefer prime lenses due to the fact that they’re usually sharper and have a way bigger maximum apertures. The difference between f/1.4 and f/4 is enormous, in both the shutter speed and ISO settings you need to use to get the desired shot, as well as in bokeh. We suggest a minimum of f/2.8, but if you’re after those creamy backgrounds, get yourself a prime.

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

2. Focal Length

This is the most important factor! With a wide-angle lens you need to be really close to your pet, which ultimately distorts their faces and features. For portraits, stick to 35mm to 200mm.

35mm lenses are great for showing more than just your pet isolated, this focal range is great for shots that show the broader environment, room, nature, and so on
50mm lenses are ideal for full body shots and casual shooting sessions
85mm lenses have the perfect combination of focal length and bokeh, and are also most usable for tight shots
135-200mm lenses are best for when you want to give your pet a little more space to act naturally, or if you’re looking for the most background blur

Most photographers use a 50mm and/or a 85mm lens. So either one is a safe choice. If you can’t decide what length to go with, use whatever zoom you currently have and stick to one single length for a few days to get the feeling.

3. Auto Focus

Unless you prefer manual focusing, you want AF that you can count on. Shooting with large apertures is tricky since your focus needs to be spot on. If you accidentally focus on the nose instead of the eyes at f/1.2, that might just ruin the shot. You always want to make sure your lenses don’t have front/back focus issues and that they’re as accurate as they can be. If you never did any tests before, check out the video explaining you how here.

4. Image Stabilization

Having IS is always a big plus, but unless your pet is always completely still, you won’t actually benefit from it here. This is why you shouldn’t worry so much if a prime doesn’t come with IS, that big aperture makes up for it.

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