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How To Find The Best Focal Length For Portraits

March 14th 2017 9:48 AM

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We teamed up with CreativeLive to provide you with these quick & easy tips straight from our Photography 101 Workshop to help you master photography one step at a time. Stay tuned for more from this series and watch the rest of our Minute Photography tips here!

Focal length impacts your subject

A lens’ focal length will have a heavy impact on the look of your subject. Zoom lenses like a 24-70mm or a 16-35mm are super versatile but you must be careful when it comes to composition for portraiture. Be sure to frame your subject closer to the center of your frame to avoid any distortion that takes place on the corners of the frame.

Wider angle focal lengths, anywhere from 16-35mm can heavily distort your subject’s appearance. You can see how the above image shows that when subjects are placed towards the edges of the frame there is heavy distortion. Choosing a lens like this for your portraiture can unflatteringly add weight and distort their figure.

[RELATED: HOW LENSES AFFECT COMPOSITION | A LOOK AT COMPRESSION & DISTORTION]

what lens should you use for close up portraits?

For close up portraits, a focal length of 85mm and up is ideal, and an 85mm is arguably the most used portrait lens no matter the genre of the industry. Anything beyond 85mm is also acceptable and will do the same job compressing the background with minimal distortion.

Although using wider lenses cause more distortion, they can be used effectively but must be used with purpose. For example, you can use a 35mm lens and shoot bottom up on a subject can give them an appearance of strength in the frame, while shooting vertically using a 24mm elongates the limbs and slenderize figure.

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Terms: #Focal Length

Shivani wants to live in a world where laughter is the cure to pretty much everything. Since she can’t claim “Serial Bingewatcher” as an occupation, she’ll settle for wedding/portrait photographer at Lin and Jirsa & marketing coordinator here at SLR Lounge. For those rare moments when you won’t find a camera in her hand, she will be dancing, eating a donut, or most likely watching Seinfeld.

Follow her on Instagram: @shivalry_inc

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