Photographing a Person: A test of focal lengths

Started Apr 10, 2013 | Discussions thread
plevyadophy Veteran Member • Posts: 4,258
Re: Photographing a Person: A test of focal lengths

richj20 wrote:

Thanks, everyone, for your comments! They are very informative and revealing. It was not surprising to me that there were differences of opinion about the photographs! And that some didn't see much variance between them!
A few other thoughts:

  • In my other thread, Lindsay D, a professional photographer, wrote, "There are a number of factors which govern the suitability of lenses for people photography." And in this thread, G1Houston elaborates on this in his post All lenses can be used to photograph people, but. This says to me that while rules and formulas are fine, photographers choose their equipment according to the needs at the moment.
  • Some had suggestions for a different methodology. I hope you will be inspired to do a test yourself! I chose to change position to keep the same framing. I like Fredrik Glckner's idea of using a statue to insure the same head position throughout the test!
  • Some wished I had used a straight-on pose, and several referenced some tests where this was done. It maximizes the distortion, of course, but I already know that. For me, the slightly side view minimizes it and makes more useful the focal lengths outside the normally accepted ones.
  • Also, the straight-on view is the least attractive one to me. I do use it, as with this little cutie who wanted her photograph for the bulletin board in the activities building on the Ranch where I was staying over Easter:

And this one of a Ranch mechanic who wanted a sort of tough-guy look for a mug shot:

(Since many have pointed out differences in my test photographs, I imagine you will be able to tell what the focal lengths are in these two)

I ain't so good that I can guess exact focal lengths!!! I wish I was though

But I reckon the piccie of the girl was taken with a wider than normal focal length and at pretty close proximity because her head looks slightly out of proportion to her shoulders which are rather narrow ........... but then she's a kid and often kids have weird shaped bodies until they grow older and their bodies are fully formed, so who knows but I am suspicious.

As for the picture of the huge necked guy, I wouldn't even begin to pretend that I have a clue as to what focal length was used there.

  • And this from a post by G1Houston: "However, there is really no good reason to use a WA lens for head and shoulder shot." Well, what if that is the lens I have mounted at the moment and it's not convenient to switch lenses? Consider the following photograph, which I posted in another thread. I was photographing in the courtyard and plaza of our historic Spanish Mission Inn. I was using my Panasonic 7-14mm lens because of the close confinement. I struck up a conversation with a tourist. We admired each other's hats, so we each took a quick snap. I knew from experience that @14mm (=28mm) I could back away 4 or 5 feet and later crop for a head and shoulder shot. So, I stepped back and moved a bit to the side and clicked. I think it works:

I think it works in the sense that at first glance there's nothing untoward about the piccie but because you have mentioned it I  have looked at it a lot closer than I would normally and i can see a hint, a small hint mind you, of a wide angle lens having been used.

14mm (=28mm)

Another one:

And this one of the boy works just fine in my view.

This brings up the distance factor. If I back away and later crop, the wide angle effect is reduced. Many probably know this.

yes, you seem to have shown this very well in these images (although the discussion, as far as I can tell, seems to more revolve around the issue of not cropping a shot but using wide angles to get in-camera head and shoulders compositions; which really is a no-no)

KLO82 shows another example of the distance factor in his post here:

Again, thanks for all of the comments. It's been very informative.

No, thank YOU for raising the issue and starting a very interesting and informative conversation.

Best of success to all in photographing people!

And the same to you Sir.

- Richard

Warmest regards,


-- hide signature --

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

Post (hide subjects) Posted by
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum PPrevious NNext WNext unread UUpvote SSubscribe RReply QQuote BBookmark MMy threads
Color scheme? Blue / Yellow