Photographing a Person: A test of focal lengths

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

plevyadophy wrote:

clengman wrote:

plevyadophy wrote:

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

Another interesting experiment would be to compare a shot of your model at EACH focal length with the camera mounted on a tripod in portrait mode and then landscape mode; this would allow one to see whether the orientation of the camera exaggerates or lessens the effects of distortion and what this looks like.

I'll save the time. If you keep the camera at the same distance from the model, it won't change anything but the orientation of the frame. If you rotate to portrait and then move the camera closer so the model's head and shoulders occupy the same proportion of the frame height (along the long dimension as opposed to the short dimension of the frame) the model's features will appear to be slightly more exaggerated. ...because you moved the camera closer, not because you changed the orientation.

Thanks for this and looking forward to your next comparison test along the lines suggested above.

Warmest regards,



Thanks for the prompt and detailed response.

The reason I asked is because if a lens has barrel distortion, it's often (correct me if I am wrong) more visible in the landscape orientation. So I was thinking that perhaps this barrel distortion, something that I understand to be more prevalent amongst zoom lenses, might have a different impact on the image (features of the subject) depending upon whether one shoots portrait orientation or landscape. No?



Okay, this isn't really a question about perspective then, but I understand what you're getting at. Barrel distortion is more pronounced at the edges of the image circle, so at the extremes of the long dimension of the frame barrel distortion may be slightly more noticeable than at the extremes of the short dimension of the frame (because your looking at a part of the image that is closer to the edge of the image circle, right?).

In any event, for a rectilinear lens, I think barrel distortion is rarely so great that it would be very noticeable in a photo of a human face. It's much more noticeable in photos with strong straight lines near the edges of the frame. It's also pretty easy to correct small amounts of barrel distortion in software without much penalty.

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