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Old 01-09-2010, 02:16 AM
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Default Perspective in portraits of people

I love taking pictures of people. Seems like a longer lens works better, although you need the space to be able to move away from your subject.

I saw this web page many months ago and have been looking for it ever since. It's a comparison of different length lenses on portrait shots, which shows the distortion that wide angle lenses give and why they're not a great choice for portrait shots. This should be obvious, but I didn't understand it until I saw it.

Check it out.
Here's a thumbnail view.

Opinions? Advice? I'll admit, I'm still barely beyond the newbie stage.
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Old 01-09-2010, 02:53 AM
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I'm posting this photo and explanation from something I discovered on the Pentax forum.

First, here's the photo.
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Old 01-09-2010, 02:55 AM
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Here's the explanation, which makes me understand the issue even better than the pictures did.
No. I think you're misunderstanding just what perspective distortion actually is.

In your garage picture, perspective is why the gray plastic storage tub on the floor along the left wall toward the *front* of the garage appears much larger than the (presumably) matching tub on the floor along the left wall toward the *back* of the garage. The one in the front looks bigger in this picture because it is so close compared to at the back. That is because we are using a wide angle lens that requires us to stand close to the garage in order to fill the frame.

Zoom to 250mm, and you'll have to stand *much* further away from the garage in order get the whole garage in the frame. When you get to the right distance, you'll find you are so far away that the distance between the two gray tubs pales in comparison to your distance from either of them. So the same picture would show *much* less difference in apparent size.

It works similarly for other objects in the garage. When you are close to it, as you need to be at 18mm, objects at the fron of the garage appear much larger than obejcts at the back of garage. Step back and shoot from 250mm, and things even out more.

This phenomenon is basic Perspective 101 and has been known to artists for centuries - it has nothing to do with lens distortion. It pretty much *completely* explains what the portrait demonstration was showing. At the longer focal lengths, the photographer was far from the subject, so all facial features were approximately the same distance away. As the photographer switched to shorter focal length, he had to move in closer and closer, and as he did so, the difference between the *front* and *back* of the head got more and more significant, just as it did with your garage. So features on the front of the face appear *much* larger and *much* closer than features toward the back of the face. This leads us to perceive the face as very distorted, but it is not the lens that is doing this distorting - it is an inevitable fact of being so close to the face.

We don't notice this in person because our binocular vision helps us make sense of things in three dimensions, but the effect can be very disorienting when reduced to two dimensions, as in a photograph or painting. And this effect is especially disorienting when it happens to a face, because of the special way our brain processes faces.

So what I'm saying is, even in a lens with 0% distortion, those wide angle views would have looked pretyt much exactly as distorted as they do here, because that's what perspective does to faces when you get that close.
Original thread here
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Old 01-09-2010, 04:30 PM
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I like using longer lenses as much as possible. You get lots of control over depth of field.
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Old 01-10-2010, 08:38 AM
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I have used my 80-200 a lot for portraits and you'll see a lot of pro's doing the same. I do have a "portait" lens, it is a 100mm that has a soft edge to it. I was able to get some beautiful shots of a bride once that sold like crazy. If you shoot Canon you are more than welcome to try it.
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Old 01-11-2010, 12:03 PM
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In the portrait world a popular lense was the 85f2 lense. I have one if you want to try it. Closer, wide angle, lenses tend to round the face. Long lenses tend to flatten the face. You can see this in your example. So practice. Zoom lenses are known for having the most effective optics not, not at the extremes of the zoom. But rather just inside either end of the zoom. One thing to check on wider lenses is what they call perspective control. Term? Architectural photography counts on this part of optical physics. If you take the particular wide angle lense and look at this garage door and just move up and down you will see the sides angle in and out depending on your angle ot approach to the doors. IF you shoot it level the doors will show themselves as parrellel not skewed top to bottom or viceversa. So sometimes you have to change your elevation or stance to make this work for you. So check on this.
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Old 01-11-2010, 12:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheeseman View Post
In the portrait world a popular lense was the 85f2 lense. I have one if you want to try it.
That sounds great. One thing I have been concerned about is the 1.5x factor of the DX cameras, like mine. It would be cool to try out your lens.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheeseman View Post
Closer, wide angle, lenses tend to round the face. Long lenses tend to flatten the face.
So the longer the lens, the more accurate the representation of the face? Or is there a sweet spot somewhere between rounder and flatter that I should aim for?

Thanks for all your comments, guys!
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Old 01-11-2010, 12:56 PM
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pretty interesting thanks for sharing, had not considered it, not a photophile, but i like learning stuff like this, it's cool
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Old 01-11-2010, 01:16 PM
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You know I always forget the 1.5x factor. Luckily it doesn't change the f-stop much. So I would then check 50mm and the 85 and see what you think.
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Last edited by Cheeseman; 04-01-2011 at 02:31 AM.
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Old 01-11-2010, 03:13 PM
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Default portrait lenses

Cheeseman is spot on. I'll use either my 85mm/1.8 or my 50mm/1.4 for portrait stuff. on my DX format the 50mm is more like a 75mm so I can be further from the subject (more comfortable for them) and get a nice perspective (no horse faces nor really flat). the nice thing with a fast lens, is that you can shoot the protrait at like f2.2/2.8/3.5 and get a nice Bokeh in the background.

if you want to 'bring' the background forward, use a long lens - it will also magnify the background, making it appear closer to the subject. (think a nice mountain in the background -with a really wide angle lens, you'll need to be close to your subject, which is fine. that also means the background will appear further away. if you grab your 70-300 and rack it to like 200, you will stand further from your subject (although it will still fill the frame similarly), and the mountain in the background will look a little closer.)
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