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When Nikon photographer Tamara Lackey heads out on location for a family session, two lenses are almost guaranteed to be in her bag: the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED and AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G, with the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II also a frequent flier.

For this shoot, Tamara knew she’d be shooting both indoors and out, and these three lenses gave her the flexibility she needed.

mom and daughter portrait by Tamara Lackey

1. If she could use only one lens…

It would be the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED. “When I do not know what I am walking into, which happens more frequently than one might guess when photographing children, I grab this lens first,” she says. Though it’s gained a reputation as a classic workhorse lens, Tamara likes the fast, smooth zoom operation and precise capture it provides, even with fast motion. It’s definitely the lens she would choose if she could only have one to cover a variety of situations. “I can effortlessly shoot with it using only one hand on the camera and one hand on a reflector,” she adds, “and that is a major plus. I’m a big fan.”

girl sitting in the grass photo by Tamara Lackey

2. Beautiful bokeh with no distortion…

Tamara says the images she can capture with the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G are “soft and dreamy and delicious.” As one of her favorite portrait lenses, Tamara loves that she can get razor-sharp focus and still lose anything she doesn’t want in the frame by selecting a shallow depth of field, all while getting beautiful bokeh. “There’s no distortion with this lens and, it has a nice heft to it,” she says. “I love its crisp, dependable capture.”

black and white family photo by Tamara Lackey

3. When her subjects need a little space…

Tamara calls the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens her “give my subject space lens.” Touting that it’s “fabulous” for action and distant subjects, Tamara finds the vibration reduction so effective that she can avoid tripods most of the time—a big plus in her book. “But one of the key reasons I choose this lens is to give my subjects a bit more freedom and space from the camera,” she says, noting it helps her get more relaxed expressions and change the dynamic of the shoot. The f/2.8 speed creates soft backgrounds while still locking in sharply-focused subjects. “Pairing this with my Nikon D4 allows me all kinds of freedom to confidently shoot fast-moving subjects, cranking up the fast shutter speed to freeze all the fun, sporty action,” she says. No wonder it’s often found on location with her.