Best Value Lenses For Boudoir Photography in 2020

In this article we’re going to take a look at the best value lenses for boudoir photography, and what I mean by best value is that all these lenses produce high quality images at a very low cost. We’re talkin’ under $300… under $200… and yes, even under $100! 

Now that’s music to your ears, right? You bet. And to mine as well. There is, however, one exception and that’s the outlier that can be gotten for under $800. But we’ll get into all that in a moment.

Right now you may be asking yourself…

What are the best value lenses for boudoir photography in 2020? 

Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D AF

Nikkor 35mm f/2 D AF

Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 D AF

Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 D AF

Tokina 100mm f/2.8 for Nikon or Canon

Now, you probably noticed two things here. One is, they’re all prime lenses, and two is that they’re all Nikkor lenses except one — the Tokina at the bottom of the list for either a Nikon or Canon body.

Now I realize many of you probably shoot with a Canon, and that’s fine. You may just want to skip to the Tokina review near the end and call it a night. For those who shoot Nikon, you’ll obviously get a lot more out of this list… that’s just how the cookie crumbles.

The main point of this article, though, was to find the best value lenses for boudoir with the highest quality image output for not a lot of dollar output — hence the title. 

Saving Money With Value Lenses

I don’t know about you but I like saving money. I like finding deals that can me save money but I also like high-quality. I like best quality, actually, but “best quality” can be rather pricey. So, this is the area I usually operate in — welcome to the land of “High Quality at a Low Price”!

Shooting Boudoir With Prime Lenses

All lenses listed here are prime lenses, so if you’re new to prime lenses and shoot boudoir there’s nothing to be afraid of. You may have started with a kit zoom lens and heard that prime lenses were only for “serious” photographers. 

It really has nothing to do with whether or not you’re serious or just a hobbyist, but more with the kind of photography you shoot.

Shooting boudoir with prime lenses is easy since the photographer stays in close proximity to the subject. A step forward or a step back is not that arduous a task as say, shooting an event with a prime lens where moving closer to or further away from your subject is not only more taxing but also, in some cases, impossible because of the physical layout of the space or intrusion into the event itself. (Warning: Do not shoot an event with a prime lens… unless you’re a masochist.) 

Advantages To Shooting Boudoir With Prime Lenses

Prime Lenses Are Sharper Than Zoom Lenses

The big advantage of shooting with one of these prime lenses is that there are fewer elements (glass) in the lens so your images will be sharper than what you can get with a zoom lens at a comparable price.

Prime Lenses Weigh Less Than Zoom Lenses

Boudoir is a hand-held sport and a lighter lens will help keep your hand steadier reducing camera shake. That too helps in producing sharper images. 

A Word About Auto Focus

All the lenses listed here are auto-focus lenses, that’s what the “AF” stands for. Time is money and part of running a successful boudoir business is getting as many different poses and outfits shot in the least amount of time. Using a lens with auto-focus is critical to that equation. 

Shooting with a manual focus lens takes more time (and patience) and you should save that methodology for more personal projects where you have the luxury of time. That’s my opinion.

I learned that lesson the hard way. 

I bought a Zeiss 50mm Planar 1.4 ZF2 (manual focus) a while back and it’s a beautiful lens. Probably one of the best 50mm lenses you can buy. Made of metal and glass, it’s weighty and feels so much better than the plastic lenses they mass produce today, but alas… I found it just wasn’t practical for my workflow.

It slowed me down so I switched to the Nikkor 50mm 1.8 D AF that’s listed here. (I was using the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G but found the 1.8 D to be slightly better and lighter!) I still have that lens, the Zeiss. I like owning it and just can’t seem to let it go.

Features of the Best Value Lenses For Boudoir

Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D AF

Nikkor camera lens on table

The 50mm is the workhorse lens of boudoir. It’s the lens most boudoir photographers use most of the time. Sure, you may throw on a 35mm or 85mm for a series or two, but the 50mm is the lens that pulls most of the weight on your shoot.

Make sure you get the “D” series though if shopping for one.

This 50mm is small, compact, and lightweight weighing in at just 5.5 ounces. It produces good micro-contrast and with a 1.8 aperture, is ideal for shooting in low light. Overall, just a great value. New, it’s around $135 but you can find ‘em all day long used for under $100. 

Nikkor 35mm f/2 D AF

If you like to go wide and capture more of an environmental portrait type shot (which I do often with my boudoir), you’ll want a good 35mm. Like the 50mm above, this too is small, compact, and lightweight at just 7.2 ounces.

Again, make sure you get the “D” series.

It too has great micro-contrast and at f/2 is good for low light conditions. New, they’re around $380 but you can find them used easily between $280 — $230, or less if you really shop around.

Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 D AF

Moving to the other end of the spectrum from the 35mm would be the 85mm f/1.8. Giving you more compression of the background, this portrait-style lens is good for getting in close with your subject without the distortion that a 50 or 35 would give you.

Capable of producing a shallow depth of field, this lens will really isolate your subject from the background and make her stand out.  

A bigger lens indeed, but still weighing less than a pound at 13.2 ounces, this medium telephoto fixed lens is a great value at under $300.

Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 D AF

This is the outlier I mentioned at the beginning. It’s the exact same lens as the f/1.8 but at f/1.4

Is the wider aperture setting worth the price at just under $800 used? Not to me. Unless you’re shooting a lot of portrait-style boudoir by candlelight, I’d recommend you save about $400 and go with the f/1.8

Tokina 100mm f/2.8 for Nikon or Canon Bodies

Like the 85mm above, this too is a portrait-style lens that will give you excellent compression of the background. Some argue that the 105mm focal length is the ideal focal length for shooting portraits and this Tokina at 100mm is right about there.

Even if you don’t shoot a lot of portrait-style boudoir images, these 85mm and 100mm lenses will add variety to your boudoir session by giving your images a different “look” and “feel” than what you can capture with your 50mm and/or 35mm… and variety is what will increase your sales. 

Like the 85mm f/1.8, this Tokina can be had for under $300. Think about that for a moment. Usually, the go-to lens for this style of shot is the 70-200mm f/2.8 which both Canon and Nikon make a great version of, but at around $1650 used and close to $3000 new, and heavy (over 3lbs!), there’s no way that lens could make it on this list. 

The Best Value Lens and Body Combination For Boudoir

I recently wrote an article entitled, “The Best Camera Value For Boudoir and Where To Buy It In 2020” and in it I talk about the Nikon D800 and D800e. You can read about it by clicking the link.

Along with the recommendations in this article, if you’re seriously getting into boudoir or want to make the jump to full-frame, you can get yourself a great camera body and three lenses for around $1450 total!

Nikon D800 with lens
Nikon D800 with Nikkor 50mm 1.8 D lens

Figuring $800 for the D800 or D800e

$100 for the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D AF

$250 for the Nikkor 35mm f/2 D AF 

$300 for the Tokina 100mm f/2.8 or the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 D AF

Picking just two of these lenses (the 50mm & 35mm) would bring your cost down to around $1150.

And just one (the 50mm) would bring it down even more to around $900.

(These prices reflect buying everything used, but in “excellent” to “good” condition.)

$900 bucks for a great full-frame camera body and sharp lens to get started in boudoir. That, my friend, is a great value. 

A Trusted Source To Buy From

If you’re like me and like to save money buying high-quality used camera bodies and lenses that are rated “excellent” to “good” condition then I recommend two places.

KEH.com and UsedPhotoPro.com

I do receive an affiliate commission if you buy from either of those two places (and it’s greatly appreciated), but it’s where I go myself to buy from. 

KEH is going to have more in stock but if you find it on UsedPhotoPro it will most likely be cheaper (they don’t always have what you want in stock though).

If you’d like to read more about these two stores and how they compare to Amazon, eBay, the official Nikon or Canon site, or a private seller, then check out this article here called, “The Best Camera Value For Boudoir and Where To Buy It In 2020”.

Conclusion

Professional cameras and lenses can be expensive, but you can still get a great body and lens for your professional boudoir business at a drastically reduced price from buying everything brand spanking new. 

Take that money you save and use it to build your portfolio. Use it to pay for a makeup artist, or a model or two, or rental space in a studio somewhere, or acquiring a piece of furniture like a chaise lounger or settee for your clients to pose on, or sample albums and wall art (because eventually you’ll have to buy those too).

Oh, and don’t forget marketing, like Google Ads, Facebook ads, business cards, gift vouchers, and on and on.

Once you get your business up and running, and you’re getting steady clients, and you’re making a decent profit should you entertain getting a new camera or lens or whatever latest and greatest shiny object is out there that camera manufacturers are waving in front of your face like a carrot on a stick.

Do it when you can afford to do it. But right now, you’ve got a business to start and run and make profitable — and the less you needlessly spend to begin with means the faster you’ll be in profit. 

Thanks for your time!

If you found this article helpful, pass it along to someone who may also benefit.

Charles Mitri

Founder / Lounge Boudoir

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Charles Mitri

Charles Mitri is an award-winning boudoir photographer and also founder and writer of LoungeBoudoir.com, an educational blog and resource website for boudoir photographers worldwide. He lives in Yorktown, Virginia.

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