Photographing a Person: A test of focal lengths

Started Apr 10, 2013 | Discussions thread
Ken Phillips Forum Pro • Posts: 16,361
The magic number is 135mm on full frame

This may have been mentioned, but 135mm on full frame (or equivalent for crop sensors) is perfect for head shots. Wider lenses for more of the subject, of course.

It is obviously NOT focal length that determines "the look", it's distance from the subject. For a head shot, we used our wonderful Canon FD 135mm f/2.0 (back in the day, of course! Up through 2000 or so, we still used manual focus Canon A1 and F1 bodies.)

If you shoot with a 50mm lens from the same distance, and crop/resample to match what the 135mm lens captured, the perspective will be identical.

My "cheap" setup back in D60 (not 60D!) days was the 85mm f/1.8, giving me the same distance from the subject with equal framing. After that, on -1D bodies, we used the 70-200 lenses to good effect.


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