70-200mm F4 Portrait

Started Apr 16, 2017 | Discussions thread
JimKasson Forum Pro • Posts: 32,137
Re: Portrait peeping?

FingerPainter wrote:

JimKasson wrote:

FingerPainter wrote:

JimKasson wrote:

Here's an data point: Karsh used a 14-inch Commercial Ektar for many of his images. That's about 350mm. The diagonal of an 8x10 neg is about 160mm.

I think you'll find it is actually around 315mm.

Yes, I was thinking of 4x5. I did get the FF equivalent right below.

Indeed you did!

So he used about a 50mm FF equivalent lens.


If his famous 1941 portrait of Churchill was taken with that setup, the photos during that session were taken from a range of shooting distances between about 2.3m to 2.7m. Karsh was given very little time and knew he had no time to change lenses, and that he'd have to shoot photos of Churchill alone and with the Canadian Prime Minister. Also the available space was restricted. Considering the circumstances, a normal lens seems an appropriate choice.

I'm sure you'd agree that Karsh did not act to achieve "intimacy" with Churchill. His goal was not a conventionally flattering portrait, but rather to bring out belligerence. Belligerence is better portrayed with a shorter shooting distance. When shooting headshots for an actor auditioning for the part of a violent bad-guy, shorten shooting distance and shoot from below eye height, so as to emphasize the chin.

Perhaps the point we should take from the analysis of Karsh's work is that even when he was aiming for something other than a conventionally flattering portrait, Karsh usually worked from a longer distance than you seem to have in the portraits you showed.

I'm not at all sure whether shooting distance drove focal length choice or focal length availability drove shooting distance for Karsh. If he was conscious of and driven by the effects of shooting distance, then 2.3m would seem to be shorter than what he'd consider optimal for typical shots. One exception to such distances is his headshot of Fidel Castro. But perhaps this photo is an indication that framing and available focal length drove shooting distance.

Thanks for the discussion.

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