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Photographers probably take more pictures of people than any other subject. Whether you prefer carefully posed (and composed) photos or more of a candid style, there are a variety of lenses in the Canon EF system that can produce excellent results.

Traditionally, photographers have relied upon moderate telephotos for portraits, lenses such as the 85mm f/1.8 USM or 100mm f/2.0 USM. These lenses allow you to back off a little bit from your subject, and still produce frame-filling shots while minimizing the amount of background distractions. Furthermore, they’re extremely sharp and fast ideal for low-light conditions. Zoom lenses such as the 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, which include these focal lengths, work well in situations where you have a bit more available light. In situations where you want to interact with and control your subject, and minimize the effect of your background, short-to-moderate telephoto lenses may be the ideal choice.

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Longer telephoto lenses may be preferable if you are outdoors and can stand farther back from your subject, and are the lenses of choice if you prefer a candid approach. Zooms like the 75-300mm f/4-5.6 (especially the IS version, with its Image Stabilization that permits sharp hand-held shots in lower light levels), or the professional L-series 70-200mm zooms, are versatile choices that allow you to back off and also tend to throw backgrounds out of focus a useful technique that pros have used to concentrate upon the subject. Fixed focal length telephotos, like the superb 135mm f/2.0L, 200mm f/2.8L, or 300mm f/4L IS, combine these benefits with outstanding sharpness and autofocus speed.

Don’t forget that sometimes including more background in a photo to lend a sense of “place” and tell the viewer something about the subject can be extremely effective. Wide-angle lenses, often ignored for portraits, can be an excellent way to communicate this if you’re willing to move in relatively close to your subject. A 28mm lens (available on the standard 28-80, 28-90, and 28-105mm zoom lenses) is an easy way to begin exploring this technique. Even wider lenses, such as the 24mm f/2.8, can be used to get more background into the picture. And for many professional photographers, a fast wide lens like the 35mm f/1.4L has become the standard lens because of its overall usefulness, its superior low-light capability, and terrific optical performance.

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