Portraits with a 400mm lens! Photography rules are made for learning, understanding and then breaking, an EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM is not the lens that most people would think of as a portrait lens.


Portraits with 400mm lens

I was working with Speedlite flash at a Canon event. My subject for the two days was the lovely model, Georgia. During the event I gave live demonstrations of what you can do with Speedlites, using a variety of modifiers and light shapers from Lastolite.

During a bit of down time at the end of the day, I opted to try something a bit different. I started with a 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, and some backlit portraits of Georgia, lit only with natural light. Soon the 300mm was swapped for the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, and I moved Georgia to sit facing some huge windows. The other side of the windows was soft grey skies, just perfect natural illumination, thanks Birmingham 🙂


I asked Georgia to sit on a seat and start to pose, directing your models over the distance that the 400mm lens is a challenge without a radio or megaphone. Georgia has plenty of experience and she was happy to change her pose and angle to the camera freely. It can be a challenge for the model working like this, as they don’t know when the photographer is taking a photo.

Shooting wide open I took a series of photos, mostly at f/2.8. On closer examination there’s enough depth of field in the photos to ensure the whole of her face is sharp, but the way the background falls off is just lovely.

Portraits with 85mm lens


Just to prove I’m not completely crazy, here’s a shot taken with a regular portrait lens, the EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM. Yes I want one even more now, but I won’t be selling my nearly 30 year old EF 85mm f/1.8 USM.

I’m doing some more events in the coming weeks, maybe I’ll see how 600mm or 800mm looks…

You can also follow Georgia on Instagram @ukmodelga

About the author

Full-time photo tutor and photographer. I love to share my knowledge and skills to make photos, videos and teach others. I write books and articles for photo magazines and I always have at least one Speedlite flash in my camera bag