Stephanie DeFranco is a professional portrait photographer based in New Mexico, USA. She takes us through her five favorite lenses for high school senior portraits.

If you’ve ever been on a session with me, you’ve seen my awkward-ness of trying to switch lens and not drop them. I try to keep my client in the loop of what I’m using so they have an idea of what the photo will look like. This blog is a look into my main pieces of glass I use on almost every session and when I tend to use each specific lens.

Sigma 85mm 1.4

While the 85 mm 1.4 is not Lensbaby it is my workhorse. I shoot 80% of my sessions with it. It creates such a creamy background with the 1.4 setting although I usually leave it around 2.8. I’ve had this lens for almost 6 years and I remember when I bought it. I walked up to the Sigma guy and said, “sale me a lens that I will love.” He seemed a little taken back, but Mr. Sigma Man, YOU DONE GOOD.

So why is this my favorite? I love the way it handles light. It’s tack sharp, even after years of use. The compression is amazing for every type of face. Where wide angles exaggerate, this helps flatten and slim. It’s autofocus and 95% of the time focuses exactly where I want. And lastly, like I said previously, the bokeh is to die for!!

Velvet 85

When I first received this lens in the mail, my intentions were to use it mostly for themed shoots that I wanted more of the “vintage” feel. I had seen people using them for flowers and a couple for artsy impressionism photos but that really wasn’t my thing. I did a Gatsby style session with this lens and LOVED it for portraits. It’s so smooth and soft for a pretty glowy look. It’s amazing for softening skin and because of the 85 mm focal length, I still get the beautiful creamy background with my favorite focal length.

Edge 50

Honestly, I think this picture shows why I love my Edge 50 for seniors. Everyone loves a good lensflare and this is definitely one of my favorites. It’s super easy to focus, just have to find the correct light. People ask me all the time if the evening is really the best time to do photos, and I show them this kind of photo. I have never been able to achieve a lensflare in the middle of the day, so yes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, my Edge 50 never leaves my bag and is always with me for any and every type of photo shoot.

Sol 45

The newest addition to my senior portraits is the Sol 45. It’s brand new and it has definitely grown on me to help create unique photos that everyone wants. The aperture is a set 3.5 so that’s one less thing I have to worry about when out on a session. But this little pancake lens comes with built in texture blades. You can use the lens with or without them and get two different looks. It also creates a very unique sun flare that I had yet to see Lensbaby produce. I’m still working with this lens, but it’s so compact and different that it’s a quick change to shoot with and try something new.

Twist 60

And lastly, MY FAVORITE FAVORITE FAVORITE lens to use with high school seniors. The Twist 60 is amazing and when I post images like the one above, they’re usually the favorites from the album. All of the lens I use, except for the Sigma, are manual focus, which allows for more time to get set and take the photo, but I always clarify with my client to hold still because I’m trying to find the best light and background with each specific lens. The manual focus also helps in slowing down to take time to perfect the shot. With auto focus, it’s just point and shoot, but allowing yourself to look, compose, and click adds that extra sparkle to each photo.

This is also our monthly Lensbaby Blog Circle post, so make sure to continue the circle by checking out Ute’s beautiful blog about how she creates even when life gets busy.

Check out more of Stephanie’s work on her website, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.

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