For many beginners (and some more advanced shooters alike), it can be revelatory to see a professional photo shoot for an array of reasons. One of which I find more prevalent on beauty shoots, test shoots, and swimwear; and that’s just how far away the photographers often stand from their subjects. Not always, but often.
A friend with a budding media company in the Caribbean and I are looking to possibly build a small studio here in Miami, and outside investment is there. When asked what size of a studio space we need so they could scout, one of the key dimensions I gave them was it should be around 25 ft in length with ceilings no shorter than 10 feet to accommodate V-flats and tall stands and so on. I can address what to look for in a studio another day, but there’s a specific reason we would want 25 feet in length, and that’s for adequate separation from subject. The reason for that? So we can use long glass for good compression. It matters.
I remember being on the beach when Victoria’s Secret model Marissa Miller was being photographed years ago, and the photographer (not Russell James), had to have been a good 60 feet or more from her, with a 70-200, presumably racked out. He was probably shooting full body and still wanting to get as much compression as that 200mm lens was going to give him. Compression really can make a difference, and is why I generally advise for portraits to stay at 85mm or above and certainly no lower than 50.
The compression just helps to remove feature distortion for a more flattering overall look, and at 25 feet using an 85mm, there’s enough space between the end of your lens and the subject to get a full body with room to breathe and move around. Just speaking about it doesn’t make it entirely clear, but there’s a video clip from the movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy put together by Vashi Visuals which illustrates it well (albeit a bit exaggerated) since it was shot on a 2000mm lens.
In the video below, you see two men standing on what turns out to be a runway, with a plane landing in the background. Due to compression, the plane looks as if it’s rather too close for comfort, even though the runway is a mile long and is quite far away from the two men. It’s a bit of a play on the senses but illustrates well how dramatic the effect of compression can be.
Keep an eye out in the coming weeks as I hope to put the Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 to the test with fast jets and pretty portraits.