How Focal Length Affects Headshots

The focal length of lenses used for headshot photography will affect the shape and appearance of the subject. Wider angle lenses like the 24mm tend to distort the subject’s face and exaggerate his or her features. Tighter lenses, such as the 85mm or 100mm, more accurately capture a subject’s face and features in terms of perspective. The trouble with the 85mm, especially when shooting in wide apertures, is getting tack sharp focus. Also, if you shoot with a wide open aperture, you may need to use an ND filter to lower the exposure to a proper level.

The wider the focal length of your lens, the farther back you will need to stand to take a truer portrait. It’s worth noting, however, if you shoot in large raw format, you can always crop the image in post. We also do not recommend shooting headshots with tighter focal lengths, like 200mm, because the physical distance between the photographer and the subject diminishes communication.