Portraits, theory vs real life experience.

Started Sep 2, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Life is too short for a flattering focal length.
In reply to Camancha, Sep 2, 2012

Part of this may skewed by cinema: Cinema and television regularly uses a narrower angle of view as its "standard" lens, because of the greater viewing distance relative to display size. And so, a significant portion of the images we're exposed to do have a certain perspective.

Photojournalists often have to work in close quarters, where a longer lens simply wouldn't work. And so, we're actually already very used to shorter focal length portraiture, and shorter focal lengths also demand working distances which are closer to how we actually interact with other people, making the idea that more compressed perspectives are more flattering, quite frankly, BS. Is a person you are dating more attractive when they're sitting across the table from you or when they're standing 15 feet away? Photographic perspective is the same thing.

One of my all-time favorite portraitists used an 80mm lens almost exclusively. Most fixed lens cameras such as in cell phones have a 28 or 35 equivalent lens. One of my personal favorite portrait snaps ever was a head-and-shoulders shot at 35mm equivalent.

I'd be uneasy about going much wider than that for portraiture, because at those focal lengths perspective distortion can happen quite easily if you want it to. But even so, any focal length can be made to work just as well as any other focal length. Landscapes don't have to be wide. Portraits don't have to be long.

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