Photographing a Person: A test of focal lengths

Started Apr 10, 2013 | Discussions thread
clengman Senior Member • Posts: 1,964
Re: Photographing a Person: A test of focal lengths

s_grins wrote:

clengman wrote:

It seems to me that what most consider to be the transition range from a "distorted" head shot to a "normal-looking" head shot corresponds to focus distances that are in a range from about a half an arm's-length for the 17mm lens (~1.5 feet or "uncomfortably close standing distance") to just beyond an arm's length for the 45mm lens (>3.5 feet or "plenty of personal space").

Interesting, no?

Perhaps individuals that prefer portraits taken at 75mm are just less comfortable being physically close to other people.

Any psych students out there can feel free to use this for the basis of a dissertation. I don't require coauthorship. Just include me in the credits.

Edit: Dagnabbit! Looks like I got scooped.

Tom, that's a really cool article!

richj20 wrote:

In another thread, I posted photographs of people taken at different focal lengths. I thought it would be useful to do a test with the same person at different focal lengths, so I enlisted the help of my neighbor.

The test wasn't as controlled as I would have liked: he changed is head angle slightly a few times, but I think an overall impression can be gotten.

(I'd like to get a manequin and do a similar test!)

Also, I moved his location when the sun became harsh on the face.

I positioned the tripod to frame approximately a head-shoulders pose, and moved back accordingly as I changed focal lengths from 12mm (a little less than 2 feet from lens to face) to 150mm (about 14 feet from lens to face).

Here they are -- focal lengths in m4/3 format, so double them to get full frame equivalent.

- Richard-
"Careful photographers run their own tests." - Fred Picker


I do portraits with wireless remote shutter release. Proximity from me to person is based on his convenience, not mine. Meanwhile, I'm focused on client's face expression. The lens I use most is Sigma 30mm, and before ir was 14-45 zoom set to about the same focal distance.

You misunderstood me. I'm not talking about a photographer and his/her comfort level with a model. I'm talking about an individual's perception and the relationship of subject distance and perspective. My thought was that perhaps an individual that is more comfortable being in close proximity to other people might not have as much of an aversion to the type of perspective effects that result in photos taken from very close subject distances. On the other hand someone who is more standoffish, might not be as accustomed to seeing faces from up close and might be more put-off by portraits taken from very close subject distances.

Does that make more sense?

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