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stepatee
29th of February 2008 (Fri), 20:05
Have recently been asked by several people the best distance to be from a subject when shooting portraits. I personally prefer the 135L on the 5D and then stand at the required distance, but I usually suggest they find what works best for them in what ever situation they are in (space restrictions, subject, lens lineup, etc).

I was then asked about the following article from Ken Rockwell. I know he is not well liked on these forums, but I wanted to know your thoughts on his 15 feet optimal distance thoughts. (no Ken Rockwell bashing please!)

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/portrait-lenses.htm

Maybe I don't pay enough attention -- but I haven't ever seen someone use a 400mm f/2.8 for a simple headshot!

I also had never heard of Nikon's DC (defocus control) lens -- found it to be interesting. Does Canon have any lenses that do this -- or will they ever?

Thanks for your thoughts!

Rubberhead
29th of February 2008 (Fri), 21:05
One of my favorite portriats of my wife was a candid taken with the 400mm f/5.6L.

Familiaphoto
29th of February 2008 (Fri), 21:38
I've seen the 70-200 range used quite a bit for portraits. However, my personal favorite is the 85 f/1.8. :D

Don Powell
29th of February 2008 (Fri), 23:19
It seems that there are lenses and a certain distances that will work for most situations, such as 85-100mm for formal type portraits on FF. Every subject is different, so just as lighting or angle can be used to shorten a nose, widen or narrow a face, so it is with the choice of lenses.

I have used 200mm and 300mm for some portraits, on film, that were very well liked by the subjects.

silvex
29th of February 2008 (Fri), 23:46
I have used the 100f/2.8 macro for shoulder/head shot with pleasant results.

penagate
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 02:20
I also had never heard of Nikon's DC (defocus control) lens -- found it to be interesting. Does Canon have any lenses that do this -- or will they ever?

135mm f/2.8.

(Assuming that 'defocus control' means spherical abberation. Rockwell's explanation of it was unhelpful.)


Edit: Found a review of the 105mm DC Nikkor (http://dantestella.com/technical/1052.html). Slightly more helpful.

Meaty0
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 05:58
Have recently been asked by several people the best distance to be from a subject when shooting portraits. I personally prefer the 135L on the 5D and then stand at the required distance, but I usually suggest they find what works best for them in what ever situation they are in (space restrictions, subject, lens lineup, etc).

I was then asked about the following article from Ken Rockwell. I know he is not well liked on these forums, but I wanted to know your thoughts on his 15 feet optimal distance thoughts. (no Ken Rockwell bashing please!)

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/portrait-lenses.htm

Maybe I don't pay enough attention -- but I haven't ever seen someone use a 400mm f/2.8 a simple headshot!



I also had never heard of Nikon's DC (defocus control) lens -- found it to be interesting. Does Canon have any lenses that do this -- or will they ever?

Thanks for your thoughts!

The best distance to stand depends on whether you're zooming with your feet or not. And how much of the model you want in the frame. And if he/she can't hear your instructions, then you're too far away:D

sebr
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 06:27
I like the 100mm perspective on a 1.6x crop, but find 50 mm to be far more versatile as it gives more framing options indoors.

And if he/she can't hear your instructions, then you're too far away:D
Or you don't speak loud enough ;)

SkipD
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 08:17
Since perspective (as in the relative sizes of subject elements at different distances - noses vs ears, for example) is totally controlled by the distance between the viewer (or camera) and the subject(s), the focal length really has nothing to do with the perspective.

What you want to do is find a decent distance between the camera and subject to provide the perspective that you - and, of course, the subject(s) - like and then choose a focal length that lets you fill the frame properly to make the image you are looking for.

I suggest that, especially for portraiture, you never "zoom with your feet" to frame the subject in the camera. Consider the perspective first and then choose a focal length that works properly.

I like to use a distance of about eight feet between the camera and subject(s) for most conventional portrait work.

Another thing to think about: Even in this thread, there are recommendations for focal lengths that do not even suggest the camera format (size of the film frame or DSLR sensor). My suggestion is to either get that information relative to a recommendation before using the recommendation or totally ignoring the recommendation. Every combination of a particular focal length and various camera formats will provide different results.

Wilt
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 09:11
Shooting things is not merely the size they occupy in a frame. There is also the factor of 'perspective', which is the relationship of that object to surrounding items that should be considered also. The spatial relationship of facial features to each other is one of the things that we grow accustomed to seeing in loved ones.

Here are a couple of photos to illustrate the 'flattened perspective' of a longer shooting distance vs. shorter shooting distance, resulting from longer lens vs. a shorter lens...

First a 'portrait' taken from a longer distance, using a 135mm lens on APS-C, of a soup tureen, whose diameter is about the same size as the height of the human head...
http://i69.photobucket.com/albums/i63/wiltonw/IMG_4593.jpg


And now the same shot taken from about 3' away using a 50mm lens.
http://i69.photobucket.com/albums/i63/wiltonw/IMG_4594.jpg

I have very deliberately positioned the camera to point at the same feature of the tureen using the identical angle to that feature. Then I have sized the final image to make the tureen the same diameter in each shot, and positioned in the frame as close to identical as possible.

Note that the wooden base has a different size in the two shots, even though the tureen itself is almost identical. Note also the sense of depth in the box itself in the shot with the shorter shooting distance resulting from shorter FL, versus very much less sense of depth with the longer shooting distance resulting from the longer FL...the 'flattened perspective' of the longer shooting distance when using longer FL. Note also the handle which was deliberately positioned to simulate the nose as the most forward part of the 'face' and its relationship to the lid handle.

Classical portraiture has used 100mm lens on 135 format frames as the classic head & shoulders FL. The reasons are that it provides the perspective that we are accustomed to seeing those who are relatives and friends, shot from about 8-10' away it also provides a nice convenient amount of space for our lighting equipment, and it also puts us close enough to the subject that we can move forward for an incident meter reading or we can readily approach the subject to adjust the pose and hair or lighting without being forced to walk longer distances throughout the portrait sitting.

Yes you could shoot from 15' away as Rockwell suggests, but you would need a 30' shooting area to accomodate background, separation space between background and subject, shooting distance, room for the camera and for you to work without being overly cramped. Shooting from 9' you can use a 24' long shooting area. Which do most of us have available to use, the shorter or the longer distance?!


[keyword = perspective, portraiture]

stepatee
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 09:18
Thank you everyone!

SkipD -- Thank you for your explanation!

Wilt -- excellent example. I think I will try to shoot some examples to show people that ask!

SkipD
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 09:42
Here are a couple of photos to illustrate the 'flattened perspective' of a longer lens vs. a shorter lens...I almost never disagree with Wilt, but here is one thing I disagree with.

The 'flattened perspective' really is not attributable to the focal length used, but the physical distance between the camera and the subject. Once folks fully realize that, they often become better photographers.

There's a way to prove this: Shoot a series of photos of a subject such as Wilt's excellent demo subject from the very same position - about 9-foot distance would be a good choice for this example. For each shot, change the focal length from what would be "normal" for the distance to the shortest focal length you have. Then, crop all of the images to match the framing of the one taken with the longest focal length. The result will be a series of shots with identical perspective (relationship of near to far elements in the subject).

algold
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 09:48
As it's been mentioned already, the only DC lens in the Canon range is the Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 SF (soft focus) lens:
http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/Canon%20EOS%20Lens%20Tests/45-canon-eos-aps-c/359-canon-ef-135mm-f28-sf-lab-test-report--review

As for working distance, 2.5-3.5m is the most comfortable distance for me. I use APS-C camera and the usual FL is 60-135mm for tight head shots to about half-length portraits.
just my $0.05

Wilt
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 10:11
I almost never disagree with Wilt, but here is one thing I disagree with.

The 'flattened perspective' really is not attributable to the focal length used, but the physical distance between the camera and the subject. Once folks fully realize that, they often become better photographers.

There's a way to prove this: Shoot a series of photos of a subject such as Wilt's excellent demo subject from the very same position - about 9-foot distance would be a good choice for this example. For each shot, change the focal length from what would be "normal" for the distance to the shortest focal length you have. Then, crop all of the images to match the framing of the one taken with the longest focal length. The result will be a series of shots with identical perspective (relationship of near to far elements in the subject).

Skip you misinterpreted my demo...I am 100% in agreement that perpective is indeed CAMERA POSITION related, not FL related. The first shot I took was about 10' away, the second was about 3' away. Rest assured, we agree! :D I edited my earlier message to state 'longer distance resulting from longer FL' so that someone else does not jump to the wrong conclusion about my demo.

JimAskew
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 10:18
For all,

I just wanted to say that this is an excellent thread with excellent information being offered. This is what POTN is all about...my thanks to all who have contributed here :)

Wilt
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 10:28
Thanks, stepatee, for posting the initial thread with DISTANCE as the key factor, rather than asking the typical 'best portraiture FL' question! distance = perspective, perspective = flattering the subject.

Someone reading this thread should also conclude that if I have a portly subject, I should not stand too close with a short FL, due to risk of exaggerating their already oversized feature. I am better 'flattening' them with a longer shooting distance, if I can!

Wilt
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 11:18
And just to prove that FL does not alter the perspective (spatial relationship) or the portrayal of an object, the first shot at 200mm, then the second shot at 20mm (I apologize for the quality difference, in part due to show shutter speed on carpet and in part due to the need for 10x greater magnfication of the cropped image!)

http://i69.photobucket.com/albums/i63/wiltonw/IMG_4600.jpg
http://i69.photobucket.com/albums/i63/wiltonw/IMG_4601.jpg

SkipD
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 16:00
Skip you misinterpreted my demo...I am 100% in agreement that perpective is indeed CAMERA POSITION related, not FL related. The first shot I took was about 10' away, the second was about 3' away. Rest assured, we agree! :D I edited my earlier message to state 'longer distance resulting from longer FL' so that someone else does not jump to the wrong conclusion about my demo.Actually, I didn't misinterpret anything, Wilt. I knew you were right on the money. It's just what newbies could have read into the focal length thing. We're on the same page with this one like most of the time :p .

Moderators - we absolutely need to have this thread, along with its photos by Wilt, made into a sticky.

Meaty0
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 18:28
Sorry to disagree with all you guys. I've done a lot of portrait work and focal length plays a BIG (and I mean big) part in perspective. Okay..you can take a straight-on shot with almost any lens, but no-one appreciates the big nose a 20mm W.A. lens gives you...but nevertheless...straight on perspective will be the same.

FL comes into play when you choose an unusual perspective. Say...photographing a model from above...looking down. A 400mm lens will give you a lovely blurred image unless you hire a crane to lift you up high enough. A "normal" portrait lens in the 85 to 100mm range will do nicely.

What if you're photographing from the ground up at your short model? With longer FL lenses you may not even have her in the minimum focal distance of the lens (unless you use extension tubes or something).

Focal Length DOES have something to do with perspective....and point of view. You also have to consider the "compression of field" that long lenses give...but that's another story.

Basically, I guess what I'm trying to say is, Focal Length is an important consideration when you have restrictions on your subject-to-camera distance.

flipstyle72
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 18:37
For all,

I just wanted to say that this is an excellent thread with excellent information being offered. This is what POTN is all about...my thanks to all who have contributed here :)


I learned a few things..but i'm still confused how far of distance between camera and subject...lol.

xarqi
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 18:49
Sorry to disagree with all you guys. I've done a lot of portrait work and focal length plays a BIG (and I mean big) part in perspective. Okay..you can take a straight-on shot with almost any lens, but no-one appreciates the big nose a 20mm W.A. lens gives you...but nevertheless...straight on perspective will be the same.

FL comes into play when you choose an unusual perspective. Say...photographing a model from above...looking down. A 400mm lens will give you a lovely blurred image unless you hire a crane to lift you up high enough. A "normal" portrait lens in the 85 to 100mm range will do nicely.

What if you're photographing from the ground up at your short model? With longer FL lenses you may not even have her in the minimum focal distance of the lens (unless you use extension tubes or something).

Focal Length DOES have something to do with perspective....and point of view. You also have to consider the "compression of field" that long lenses give...but that's another story.

Basically, I guess what I'm trying to say is, Focal Length is an important consideration when you have restrictions on your subject-to-camera distance.

Selected focal length may influence the distance required for the shot; the available distance may influence the focal length needed for the shot. In both cases, it is the difference in distance, not the difference in focal length that affects the perspective.
This is my understanding, right or wrong.

DAMphyne
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 18:59
Right!

n1as
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 19:17
I learned a few things..but i'm still confused how far of distance between camera and subject...lol.

I'd say no closer than 8 feet.

n1as
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 19:21
...it is the difference in distance, not the difference in focal length that affects the perspective.
This is my understanding, right or wrong.

You are absolutely, 100% right. It has been shown time & time again, even in this thread, that the lens choice does NOT cause the perspective change.

But that is a piece of info that boarders on being useless. When you change lenses, it is natural to then also change your distance. The two go together so, while the lens isn't really the culprit for perspective changes, it is very tightly coupled with the real culprit.

Meaty0
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 20:31
Selected focal length may influence the distance required for the shot; the available distance may influence the focal length needed for the shot. In both cases, it is the difference in distance, not the difference in focal length that affects the perspective.
This is my understanding, right or wrong.

Maybe correct! You see it depends on your definition of perspective. If you use a prime lens and change your distance, you change the "amount" of your subject in the viewfinder. If you class that as a perspective change, then you need to alter the focal length to compensate for the image size change.

The posters question however is "what is the best distance to be from the subject when taking portrait shots", not what is the best perspective.

To answer the poster's question, every good portrait photographer knows that you MUST be precisely 10' from your subject or your image will be crap.;) Just like the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42.

JimAskew
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 20:36
I learned a few things..but i'm still confused how far of distance between camera and subject...lol.

Tonight I was reading The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby, PeachPit Press, and in Chapter 6 he discusses portrait photography and offers the following basic advice:

Focal Length: Lenses in the 85-100MM range are considered "portrait" lenses.

Distance: 10 - 12 feet is considered to be a good working distance for portraits.

He goes on to say that the focal range and distance combo stated above is ideal as it gives you working room with your subject, does not distort features, and allows you to fill the frame with the portriat.

This is a wonderful book and his chapter on photographing people (CHAP 6) is just great.

Meaty0
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 20:39
When you change lenses, it is natural to then also change your distance.

You might, but I sure don't.

I'm presuming here that you mean you change your apparent distance? I don't change from a 50mm to a 500mm lens to photograph a bird up in a tree and then run 1 mile away to make it have the same "perspective". Nor do I stick with the 50mm and climb up the tree.

SkipD
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 20:43
Sorry to disagree with all you guys. I've done a lot of portrait work and focal length plays a BIG (and I mean big) part in perspective. Okay..you can take a straight-on shot with almost any lens, but no-one appreciates the big nose a 20mm W.A. lens gives you...but nevertheless...straight on perspective will be the same.

FL comes into play when you choose an unusual perspective. Say...photographing a model from above...looking down. A 400mm lens will give you a lovely blurred image unless you hire a crane to lift you up high enough. A "normal" portrait lens in the 85 to 100mm range will do nicely.

What if you're photographing from the ground up at your short model? With longer FL lenses you may not even have her in the minimum focal distance of the lens (unless you use extension tubes or something).

Focal Length DOES have something to do with perspective....and point of view. You also have to consider the "compression of field" that long lenses give...but that's another story.

Basically, I guess what I'm trying to say is, Focal Length is an important consideration when you have restrictions on your subject-to-camera distance.Unfortunately, you are misunderstanding the truth.

When one chooses a longer focal length, the tendency is to move farther from the portrait subject to get the desired framing. The perspective (defined here as the relationship in size between elements of the subject that are different distances from the camera) is more pleasing with the longer lens and the greater camera-to-subject distance. This is quite true, but many photographers - and you too, it seems - believe that this difference in perspective change is completely due to the choice of the lens' focal length. That, as proven above by Wilt's photos, is absolutely false. The difference in the perspective is 100% a function of the distance between the camera and the subject. This is absolute undisputable fact, and is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt in this thread.

As Wilt did with the second set of photos of his pot ('scuse me - tureen :p), if you keep the camera in the same location that you might use with a 100mm lens and merely change to a 20mm lens to do the shoot, then crop the image to the same framing you would have had with the 100mm lens, you will have absolutely identical perspective as you would have had with the 100mm lens.

Again - the perspective is purely a function of distance, and then the focal length is chosen to frame the subject as desired. Quite a few photographers get the shot correctly, but just think incorrectly that the lens choice itself is the cause of the perspective change.

Meaty0
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 20:44
Tonight I was reading The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby, PeachPit Press, and in Chapter 6 he discusses portrait photography and offers the following basic advice:

Focal Length: Lenses in the 85-100MM range are considered "portrait" lenses.

Distance: 10 - 12 feet is considered to be a good working distance for portraits.

He goes on to say that the focal range and distance combo stated above is ideal as it gives you working room with your subject, does not distort features, and allows you to fill the frame with the portriat.

This is a wonderful book and his chapter on photographing people (CHAP 6) is just great.

I've read Scott's fine book. Don't forget...that is just a GUIDE. What if you want to photograph only the model's face....or eyes? 10' - 12' is going to be too far (unless you change to a longer lens!)

The problem with the poster's question is, it's not specific enough. The distance depends on 1. What focal length you are using, 2. How much of the subject you want in the photo, and 3. How big the subject is, and to a certain extent, 4. The crop factor of your camera.

It's all relative. But 85mm is a nice portrait lens.

Meaty0
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 20:47
Unfortunately, you are misunderstanding the truth.

When one chooses a longer focal length, the tendency is to move farther from the portrait subject to get the desired framing. The perspective (defined here as the relationship in size between elements of the subject that are different distances from the camera) is more pleasing with the longer lens and the greater camera-to-subject distance. This is quite true, but many photographers - and you too, it seems - believe that this difference in perspective change is completely due to the choice of the lens' focal length. That, as proven above by Wilt's photos, is absolutely false. The difference in the perspective is 100% a function of the distance between the camera and the subject. This is absolute undisputable fact, and is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt in this thread.

As Wilt did with the second set of photos of his pot ('scuse me - tureen :p), if you keep the camera in the same location that you might use with a 100mm lens and merely change to a 20mm lens to do the shoot, then crop the image to the same framing you would have had with the 100mm lens, you will have absolutely identical perspective as you would have had with the 100mm lens.

Again - the perspective is purely a function of distance, and then the focal length is chosen to frame the subject as desired. Quite a few photographers get the shot correctly, but just think incorrectly that the lens choice itself is the cause of the perspective change.

I'm not misunderstanding anything. Please define "desired framing" and tell me where the poster defined it? If you're argument were true, we would have only one focal length lens and no zooms.

SkipD
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 20:53
I'm not misunderstanding anything. Please define "desired framing" and tell me where the poster defined it.What I meant by the line When one chooses a longer focal length, the tendency is to move farther from the portrait subject to get the desired framing. is that if you had, for example, an 85mm lens on your camera and found a position that allowed you to get the desired framing (the image you wanted, that is) of the subject and then you changed to a 105mm lens, your tendency would be to move further from the subject to keep the desired framing similar to what you had with the 85mm lens.

The perspective would change from the first situation (using the 85mm lens from X distance) to the second situation (using the 105mm lens from a further distance). However, it is NOT the focal length that makes the perspective change. It's the distance change that makes the perspective change.

JimAskew
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 20:55
I've read Scott's fine book. Don't forget...that is just a GUIDE. What if you want to photograph only the model's face....or eyes? 10' - 12' is going to be too far (unless you change to a longer lens!) ...

I completely agree that Scott's comments only serve to guide...but they do offer a starting point from which the photographer can then apply and alter to achieve his/her objectives for the shot. In the section I quoted from he was talking about capturing head and shoulder portriats.

Meaty0
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 21:05
Maybe I don't pay enough attention -- but I haven't ever seen someone use a 400mm f/2.8 a simple headshot!

Thanks for your thoughts!

Sure you have! Every time you look at an image in the paper of a football player taken during the game, you can bet it was taken with a lens of 400mm or longer:) ...and probably wide open or close to it.

Meaty0
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 21:10
What I meant by the line When one chooses a longer focal length, the tendency is to move farther from the portrait subject to get the desired framing. is that if you had, for example, an 85mm lens on your camera and found a position that allowed you to get the desired framing (the image you wanted, that is) of the subject and then you changed to a 105mm lens, your tendency would be to move further from the subject to keep the desired framing similar to what you had with the 85mm lens.

The perspective would change from the first situation (using the 85mm lens from X distance) to the second situation (using the 105mm lens from a further distance). However, it is NOT the focal length that makes the perspective change. It's the distance change that makes the perspective change.

Yes that is so. But my point is...this doesn't help "define" the optimum distance to photograph a portrait...because...it depends! And one of the things it depends on is focal length of your available lens. And the "perspective" you want is another determinant.

DAMphyne
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 21:11
A guide is indeed an aid to beginning. It's not a book of Laws.
The only Law here is in regards to perspective, other-wise known as Point of View.
POV is solely determined by distance and position.
Skip has it right.
If you are trying for a "Head & Shoulders" portrait, and realize the 50mm lens causes the protruding nose syndrome. You switch to a 100mm lens to eliminate the problem. You have to move back to get the H&S in the frame, thus you change perspective. If you stay in the same place, you get the nose and chin. This change in distance is what takes the PNS problem away, not the difference in lenses.

SkipD
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 21:17
Yes that is so. But my point is...this doesn't help "define" the optimum distance to photograph a portrait...because...it depends! And one of the things it depends on is focal length of your available lens. And the "perspective" you want is another determinant.I don't disagree.

The answer to the question "what is the ideal camera-to-subject distance for portraits" is definitely something like "it depends" ;).

However, there are definitely guidelines that can be given to the neophyte such as 8 to 12 feet between camera and subject for the "typical" portrait, assuming that you want a pleasing conventional perspective.

What focal length to suggest using depends entirely on the format of the camera involved, the chosen camera-subject distance, and how large the subject area is that you want to capture (it could be a single head/shoulders or a group of folks). Obviously, the photographer may not own a lens that covers the ideal focal length for a given distance/framing situation but he/she should be aware of the negative factors involved with getting too close to the subject.

Meaty0
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 21:32
Hmmm. I believe there is a lens called the "perspective lens" which was invented by an Australian guy for the motion picture industry. It changes perspective WITHOUT changing camera-to-subject distance. The subject appears to stay in focus and the same size while the background appears to move further away (or closer to) him/her. I would love to see the optics of that lens.

SkipD
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 21:41
Hmmm. I believe there is a lens called the "perspective lens" which was invented by an Australian guy for the motion picture industry. It changes perspective WITHOUT changing camera-to-subject distance. The subject appears to stay in focus and the same size while the background appears to move further away (or closer to) him/her. I would love to see the optics of that lens.I couldn't find anything like that with a few minutes of Google searching but if you can find info about it I would be extremely interested in seeing it.

Meaty0
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 21:55
I couldn't find anything like that with a few minutes of Google searching but if you can find info about it I would be extremely interested in seeing it.

Not sure yet....but I have seen it used in many movies, particularly horror movies. Could be the Frazier Lens. Will investigate.

xarqi
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 22:41
Not sure yet....but I have seen it used in many movies, particularly horror movies. Could be the Frazier Lens. Will investigate.

Ahh - I've seen that effect too. I've always assumed it was a synchonised combination of zoom and dolly motion to maintain subject magnification.

P.S. In fact - it's called a "dolly zoom" apparently: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_zoom

stepatee
1st of March 2008 (Sat), 22:43
Thanks everyone for your comments-- I agree my question was an "it depends" question, and that is normally how I answer people. I guess my main question was in Ken Rockwell's article stating that 15 feet is the "optimal" distance for the "optimal" perspective, as I had never heard of the magical "15 feet"!

Wilt -- great pictures to demonstrate how perspective is affected by distance!

Meaty0
2nd of March 2008 (Sun), 00:14
Ahh - I've seen that effect too. I've always assumed it was a synchonised combination of zoom and dolly motion to maintain subject magnification.

P.S. In fact - it's called a "dolly zoom" apparently: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_zoom


Hmmm...maybe...but I'm sure the Frazier Versatile Lens system had something to do with it and the camera remained still...the lens did the work.

Meaty0
2nd of March 2008 (Sun), 00:16
Thanks everyone for your comments-- I agree my question was an "it depends" question, and that is normally how I answer people. I guess my main question was in Ken Rockwell's article stating that 15 feet is the "optimal" distance for the "optimal" perspective, as I had never heard of the magical "15 feet"!

Wilt -- great pictures to demonstrate how perspective is affected by distance!

Neither have I. But then other portrait experts might have differing views.

Wilt
2nd of March 2008 (Sun), 09:42
Tonight I was reading The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby, PeachPit Press, and in Chapter 6 he discusses portrait photography and offers the following basic advice:

Focal Length: Lenses in the 85-100MM range are considered "portrait" lenses.

Distance: 10 - 12 feet is considered to be a good working distance for portraits.

He goes on to say that the focal range and distance combo stated above is ideal as it gives you working room with your subject, does not distort features, and allows you to fill the frame with the portriat.

This is a wonderful book and his chapter on photographing people (CHAP 6) is just great.


You could have saved yourself the cost of buying a book. I stated in my message #10, with the comparative photos taken from two locations to demonstrate change of perspective,

"Classical portraiture has used 100mm lens on 135 format frames as the classic head & shoulders FL. The reasons are that it provides the perspective that we are accustomed to seeing those who are relatives and friends, shot from about 8-10' away it also provides a nice convenient amount of space for our lighting equipment, and it also puts us close enough to the subject that we can move forward for an incident meter reading or we can readily approach the subject to adjust the pose and hair or lighting without being forced to walk longer distances throughout the portrait sitting."

If anyone would like to pay me for my instructional elloquence in the preceding paragraph, contributions may be sent to me at my place of business. :cool:...;)

PS My comments about portraiture are entirely independent of the venerable Mr. Kelby, as I have not read even one of his books! We just have similar opinions on the same points. :cool:

n1as
3rd of March 2008 (Mon), 17:35
How about this. I shot some pics at various distances: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 paces from the subject using my 17-55 and 70-200 lenses. I adjusted zoom to make his head the same size then further tweaked it in Lightroom so all the heads were the same size.

You tell me how far back is the best distance?

And are these pics show from far to near or near to far?

n1as
3rd of March 2008 (Mon), 17:36
Two more

n1as
3rd of March 2008 (Mon), 17:37
Last two.

Meaty0
3rd of March 2008 (Mon), 19:56
Far to Near

Wilt
3rd of March 2008 (Mon), 20:08
Far to Near

Somewhat confusing, because the ability to see the left ear is not directly related to the fullness of the face in the examples.

Typically, a closer shooting point would make it harder to see both ears on a 3/4 face portrait and easier to see the other ear as you move farther away. And as you move farther away, you should be able to see less round curvature in the face and a fuller view of the mask of the face.

But I'm not seeing the two factors consistent in correlation in the shots

Meaty0
3rd of March 2008 (Mon), 20:21
My choice is based on the "apparent distance" from ear to nose. It looks longer (and the nose looks more prominent) as you go down the page. Therefore, I deduce a longer FL has been used for the first images and a shorter FL for the later images. Hence he started out further away and moved closer with the 17-55.

Meaty0
3rd of March 2008 (Mon), 20:23
Also....if one believes the hype about the 70-200, there should be a difference in image quality between that lens and the 17-55.

n1as
3rd of March 2008 (Mon), 20:51
You guys are right, the shots go from far to near. EXIF data will tell you the FL of each shot ranging from 200 to 55.

What I discovered surprised me. I did not like the 55mm shot at 1 pace (1 yd, 1 meter, 3 feet give or take). Too much nose. I thought things looked best at 4 paces which happened to be the first pic on this page and was shot at 127 mm.

Hmmm.

Also, the 70-200 f/4 IS was shot at f/4 while the closest shot was shot at f/2.8 with the 17-55 IS. Sharpness-wise, I was pretty darn happy with all of 'em!

tonylong
3rd of March 2008 (Mon), 20:54
How about this. I shot some pics at various distances: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 paces from the subject using my 17-55 and 70-200 lenses. I adjusted zoom to make his head the same size then further tweaked it in Lightroom so all the heads were the same size.

You tell me how far back is the best distance?

And are these pics show from far to near or near to far?

Offhand, I'd say the first shot was shot from the closest distance, because the nose especially is more prominent (which most people don't like).

tonylong
3rd of March 2008 (Mon), 20:56
Offhand, I'd say the first shot was shot from the closest distance, because the nose especially is more prominent (which most people don't like).

Oops, my mistake, it must have just been the lighting that made the nose seem more prominent!

Meaty0
3rd of March 2008 (Mon), 20:59
You guys are right, the shots go from far to near. EXIF data will tell you the FL of each shot ranging from 200 to 55.

What I discovered surprised me. I did not like the 55mm shot at 1 pace (1 yd, 1 meter, 3 feet give or take). Too much nose. I thought things looked best at 4 paces which happened to be the first pic on this page and was shot at 127 mm.

Hmmm.

Also, the 70-200 f/4 IS was shot at f/4 while the closest shot was shot at f/2.8 with the 17-55 IS. Sharpness-wise, I was pretty darn happy with all of 'em!

Which is why FL does play a part in portraiture. A longer FL is more flattering and more "flattening".:D

SkipD
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 01:00
Which is why FL does play a part in portraiture. A longer FL is more flattering and more "flattening".:DWhy do you insist on writing that? Haven't you learned by now that it's the distance between camera and subject that makes the difference and not the focal length?

If, by the smiley face, I can assume that you may be joking that still does not help the newbie who believes everything he/she reads on a forum like this.

n1as
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 07:53
I'm guessing Paul just won't learn. Perspective is controlled by distance only. It can be easily shown by fairly simple geometry that this is the case. Laws of physics & all that. The lens does not flatten the image or make noses look bigger. We've shown that clearly.

Maybe Paul is using a different, more inclusive definition of "perspective" to include angle of view?

I wonder if the OP is still reading. When this thread started I did not have an answer for him. Now, after shooting my personal portrait series at different distances, I have an answer. I'm glad he asked the question. It made me shoot some test shots and see for myself which distances are flattering and which are not.

JoYork
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 09:27
I've just read through this thread and I know where Paul's coming from but he's wrong. It's all about perspective and that's controlled by distance. All a longer focal length does is magnify what's there. Thanks guys, it all makes sense now.

Michael_Lambert
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 10:05
I enjoy shooting with my 70-200 2.8L , I will also be recieving my 12-24 this week i hope so i guess if distance between lens and subject is key.. i won't get much use with this lens in the stuido.

Wilt
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 10:25
I'm guessing Paul just won't learn. Perspective is controlled by distance only. It can be easily shown by fairly simple geometry that this is the case. Laws of physics & all that. The lens does not flatten the image or make noses look bigger. We've shown that clearly.

Maybe Paul is using a different, more inclusive definition of "perspective" to include angle of view?

I wonder if the OP is still reading. When this thread started I did not have an answer for him. Now, after shooting my personal portrait series at different distances, I have an answer. I'm glad he asked the question. It made me shoot some test shots and see for myself which distances are flattering and which are not.

We don't know the subject of your photo series...what do YOU think are the more flattering views (ignoring the issue of prominence of the nose)

n1as
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 12:21
We don't know the subject of your photo series...what do YOU think are the more flattering views (ignoring the issue of prominence of the nose)

Good question. I could see essentially no difference between the 3 furthest shots (4, 5, 6 paces). At 1 pace there was a definite amplifying of the nose and shrinking of the ears. That was mostly resolved at 2 paces but it didn't go away cleanly until 3 paces or 4 paces. With all of the shots, I preferred the perspective of the shot at 4 paces, although the shot at 3 was so similar that it was very hard to tell which was which.

Lens FLs (not to get us side tracked) turned out to be 127 and 105 mm or so.

From this experience I'll be looking to do close portrait shots with the 70-200 zoom from a distance of 10 feet give or take. Full body or torso shots will be shot from the same distance using a wider lens.

Wilt
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 12:29
Good question. I could see essentially no difference between the 3 furthest shots (4, 5, 6 paces). At 1 pace there was a definite amplifying of the nose and shrinking of the ears. That was mostly resolved at 2 paces but it didn't go away cleanly until 3 paces or 4 paces. With all of the shots, I preferred the perspective of the shot at 4 paces, although the shot at 3 was so similar that it was very hard to tell which was which.

Lens FLs (not to get us side tracked) turned out to be 127 and 105 mm or so.

From this experience I'll be looking to do close portrait shots with the 70-200 zoom from a distance of 10 feet give or take. Full body or torso shots will be shot from the same distance using a wider lens.

Aha, evidence by experimentation that the classic distance of 9-10' or so yields excellent result, and 12' is better but that distance and Ken Rockwell's advice of 15' both forces the need for a big shooting space but without significant improvement in portrayal of the subject. And while the 9-10' distance may not be 'best', it provides conveniently close shooting distance for adjustment of lighting, pose, etc. without lost time hiking longer distances to everything.

JoYork
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 12:36
I think you get the law of diminishing returns kicking in after about 10 feet or so.

Wilt
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 12:55
What I discovered surprised me. I did not like the 55mm shot at 1 pace (1 yd, 1 meter, 3 feet give or take). Too much nose. I thought things looked best at 4 paces which happened to be the first pic on this page and was shot at 127 mm.!

The definitions of the distances do need some tightening up...'one pace' in military terms is the distance of 30" that a group of soldiers collectively move forward at a single step marching in quick time....1 yard is 36", 1 meter is 39.37". So the '4 paces optimal' definition could make a substantial difference in this test, as short as 120" and as long as 160" !

n1as
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 14:44
The definitions of the distances do need some tightening up...'one pace' in military terms is the distance of 30" that a group of soldiers collectively move forward at a single step marching in quick time....1 yard is 36", 1 meter is 39.37". So the '4 paces optimal' definition could make a substantial difference in this test, as short as 120" and as long as 160" !

Yes, "pace" is vague, intentionally so. I've measured my pace many times in the past to be pretty close to 1 yard. When shooting pellet rifles in the back yard, I can pace out a 25 yard target and I'm within a yard of the right distance according to the laser range finder.

What I wanted out of this test was to get some guidelines that I can use in the real world. I don't always have a tape measure or range finder, but I do always have my feet, so measuring in paces makes sense.

JoYork's observation of diminishing returns was good as well. It means that by the time I'm 3-4 paces away, an error in distance doesn't make any significant difference. It becomes close enough for government work.

So if I want a picture of a couple at a wedding, I can walk up to them, ask them to look at me, take 3 or 4 steps back, zoom to frame the shot and I'm golden.

It also means if I want to take a close up shot (close meaning closer than 2 paces or about 6 feet) I need to start being very careful of head tilt & such because I will be seeing non-flattering perspective in the final image.

Meaty0
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 15:52
Why do you insist on writing that? Haven't you learned by now that it's the distance between camera and subject that makes the difference and not the focal length?

If, by the smiley face, I can assume that you may be joking that still does not help the newbie who believes everything he/she reads on a forum like this.

I knew you'd bite:D

Meaty0
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 16:21
I've just read through this thread and I know where Paul's coming from but he's wrong. It's all about perspective and that's controlled by distance. All a longer focal length does is magnify what's there. Thanks guys, it all makes sense now.
Hey guys...I'm on your side. Perhaps I'm not making myself clear. The term "perspective" is confusing to anyone let alone a newbie. Perhaps one of you fine photographers would like to precisely define it. I'm not disagreeing that the distance from the subject compresses the focal plane (perspective if you will). Great for flattening big noses etc. And yes, the distance you stand from the subject will have a bearing on the FL you choose.

That's but ONE aspect of a portrait. And a minor one at that. Y'all seemed to have fixated on it; making the "newbie" think that it's the ONLY aspect of portrait photography. Jo...you almost hit the nail on the head.

The optimum distance to stand from the model depends on:

How much of the model you want framed. (Are you doing just the face, head & torso or full length?)

THE FOCAL LENGTH OF THE LENS YOU ARE USING.

And of course, the perspective you are aiming for.

How you want the background to look. While wider apertures tend to defocus the background, focal length plays an important role here to. A telephoto lens gives a narrow focal plane, meaning you can pick your model out in a crowd, or throw the background out of focus nicely. (Now before the flaming begins....a telephoto lens does this because it allows you to stand at a greater distance from the subject and thus compresses the apparent depth of field.)

The FL of the lens you choose is inextricably tied up with these factors. It's not the only factor, but neither is the perspective.

This is why zoom lenses are so handy for portraiture.

Interestingly, when I use the 70-200 f/2.8, it's amazing how many of them are around the 80mm FL and my distance to subject is about 8' to 10'. Maybe that's the answer to the OP's question.

Okay....flame away guys.:D:p

Wilt
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 16:46
Meaty, you rightly point out the fact that your camera position and focal length and field of view are all interrelated, and not isolated.

The classic newbie approach to the problem is almost always first "which FL" which is a shooter's view of the challenge, or they might ignore the FL and simply zoom with the lens rather than with the feet. They consider perspective LAST, rather than considering it first.
Instead, the professional portraitist approaches it from the question of "How do I flatter my subject"...and then chooses the FOV they they wish to portray that within, which defines the FL to use last. Both valid approaches but very different approaches to the same task!

The first approach is to pick the tool to make a picture, which happens to be a portrait. The later approach is to make a portrait, which involves tool selection.

Meaty0
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 16:52
Meaty, you rightly point out the fact that your camera position and focal length and field of view are all interrelated, and not isolated.

The classic newbie approach to the problem is almost always first "which FL" which is a shooter's view of the challenge, or they might ignore the FL and simply zoom with the lens rather than with the feet. They consider perspective LAST, rather than considering it first.
Instead, the professional portraitist approaches it from the question of "How do I flatter my subject"...and then chooses the FOV they they wish to portray that within, which defines the FL to use last. Both valid approaches but very different approaches to the same task!

The first approach is to pick the tool to make a picture, which happens to be a portrait. The later approach is to make a portrait, which involves tool selection.


Just digressing from the perspective, FL thing for a while. I have a question. Which lenses do you take when you go to do...say an outdoor portrait shoot or a wedding?

I used to take the 5D and 24-70mm, 85mm, and the 70-200. Now I tend to take just the 70-200 and the 85. This weekend, I'm doing an outdoor portrait shoot and I'm just taking the 85mm only. (I'll probably take the 40D+17-55 as a back up though.) EDIT: and I might just take the 100-400mm along to see what a 400mm + Loooooooong working distance does :D)

Wilt
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 17:06
Just digressing from the perspective, FL thing for a while. I have a question. Which lenses do you take when you go to do...say an outdoor portrait shoot or a wedding?

I used to take the 5D and 24-70mm, 85mm, and the 70-200. Now I tend to take just the 70-200 and the 85. This weekend, I'm doing an outdoor portrait shoot and I'm just taking the 85mm only. (I'll probably take the 40D+17-55 as a back up though.) EDIT: and I might just take the 100-400mm along to see what a 400mm + Loooooooong working distance does :D)

Outdoor portrait I would bring my 100mm, or 70-200 zoom for an APS-C camera; 135mm or 70-200 zoom for 135 format, or 200mm for 645.

Wedding, 17-55mm along with 100mm f/2 and 135mm f/2.8 for APS-C, or 24-70mm along with 70-200mm for 135 format, or 45-90mm for 645

I always have an 84 degree AOV no matter what format I use, APS-C or 135 or 645!...15mm (APS-C), 24mm (135), 40mm (645)...for the scene setting photos, or 74 degree AOV...17mm (APS-C), 28mm (135), 45mm (645)...for group shots where shooting distance is close. Portrait shots are with 55mm (ASP-C) or 100mm (135) or 150mm (645). Long distance tight shots are 135mm (ASP-C), 200mm (135), 250mm (645).

Mark Kemp
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 17:07
There is one other vital point. If your subject is Mike Tyson and he doesn't want his picture taken the ideal distance is between 200 and 300 miles.

Wilt
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 17:11
There is one other vital point. If your subject is Mike Tyson and he doesn't want his picture taken the ideal distance is between 200 and 300 miles.


No 100 yards is sufficient. He may be big, and he may be strong, but he can't sprint worth beans at longer distances, and he isn't nimble on his feet. (Dancing with the Stars shows that the boxers can't dance!)

Meaty0
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 17:16
Outdoor portrait I would bring my 100mm, or 70-200 zoom for an APS-C camera;

Portrait shots are with 55mm (ASP-C)

So...do you mean you'd shoot with a 17-55?? plus the 100mm or 70-200. Hmm...two very good lenses.

Wilt
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 17:28
So...do you mean you'd shoot with a 17-55?? plus the 100mm or 70-200. Hmm...two very good lenses.

With APS-C I will pick the 100mm f/2 before I pick up a 70-200mm...f/4 is reasonably compact but slow, the f/2.8 is fast but too bulky for wedding work especially compared to 100mm f/2. I have a 135mm f/2.8 if I need a bit more reach.

flipteg
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 19:28
Hey guys...I'm on your side. Perhaps I'm not making myself clear. The term "perspective" is confusing to anyone let alone a newbie. Perhaps one of you fine photographers would like to precisely define it. I'm not disagreeing that the distance from the subject compresses the focal plane (perspective if you will). Great for flattening big noses etc. And yes, the distance you stand from the subject will have a bearing on the FL you choose.

That's but ONE aspect of a portrait. And a minor one at that. Y'all seemed to have fixated on it; making the "newbie" think that it's the ONLY aspect of portrait photography. Jo...you almost hit the nail on the head.

The optimum distance to stand from the model depends on:

How much of the model you want framed. (Are you doing just the face, head & torso or full length?)

THE FOCAL LENGTH OF THE LENS YOU ARE USING.

And of course, the perspective you are aiming for.

How you want the background to look. While wider apertures tend to defocus the background, focal length plays an important role here to. A telephoto lens gives a narrow focal plane, meaning you can pick your model out in a crowd, or throw the background out of focus nicely. (Now before the flaming begins....a telephoto lens does this because it allows you to stand at a greater distance from the subject and thus compresses the apparent depth of field.)

The FL of the lens you choose is inextricably tied up with these factors. It's not the only factor, but neither is the perspective.

This is why zoom lenses are so handy for portraiture.

Interestingly, when I use the 70-200 f/2.8, it's amazing how many of them are around the 80mm FL and my distance to subject is about 8' to 10'. Maybe that's the answer to the OP's question.

Okay....flame away guys.:D:p

pure and simple, perspective is just that, where the camera is located (and what it sees) in relation to everything... you keep insisting that the chosen focal length is tied up to where the camera is related to the subject... photographers do change focal lengths to frame a subject from a given perspective but it doensn't mean they are dependent on each other...

disregarding image quality for the sake of arguement, you can shoot a whole day's worth of photos using just a 24mm lens... cropping those photos on the computer to give you the same framing as a 200mm lens, will give the exact same thing (in terms of amount of background, DOF, how flat the image is) as if you used the longer lens...

but once a picture is taken, there is no way to change the perspective...

perspective and magnification (regardless of whether it is achieved by cropping or focal length change) are independent... what you're insisting is how YOU change your focal length to give YOU the framing that you are looking for from a given perspective...

Meaty0
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 20:08
pure and simple, perspective is just that, where the camera is located (and what it sees) in relation to everything... you keep insisting that the chosen focal length is tied up to where the camera is related to the subject... photographers do change focal lengths to frame a subject from a given perspective but it doensn't mean they are dependent on each other...

disregarding image quality for the sake of arguement, you can shoot a whole day's worth of photos using just a 24mm lens... cropping those photos on the computer to give you the same framing as a 200mm lens, will give the exact same thing (in terms of amount of background, DOF, how flat the image is) as if you used the longer lens...

but once a picture is taken, there is no way to change the perspective...

perspective and magnification (regardless of whether it is achieved by cropping or focal length change) are independent... what you're insisting is how YOU change your focal length to give YOU the framing that you are looking for from a given perspective...

I'm insisting on it because it is.

flipteg
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 20:10
as rediculous as it may seem to you, it was stated to make a point... you tell me to give it a rest... if you haven't noticed, that was my first post on this thread... it is you who keep insisting post after post...

Meaty0
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 20:12
as rediculous as it may seem to you, it was stated to make a point... you tell me to give it a rest... if you haven't noticed, that was my first post on this thread... it is you who keep insisting post after post...

Huh?

flipteg
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 20:17
so how is it tied together...? if i stand 8ft from the subject, there is no reason why i can't use a 24mm or a 135mm lens or anything for that matter (if that's the framing i'm going for)... perspective is perspective... magnification is all what focal length is...

flipteg
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 20:17
Huh?

huh...? i was replying to your post before you edited it... so don't act like you don't know what i was talking about...

Meaty0
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 20:24
as rediculous as it may seem to you, it was stated to make a point... you tell me to give it a rest... if you haven't noticed, that was my first post on this thread... it is you who keep insisting post after post...

I didn't understand your statement. Still don't. Nothing to do with my edit.

so how is it tied together...? if i stand 8ft from the subject, there is no reason why i can't use a 24mm or a 135mm lens or anything for that matter (if that's the framing i'm going for)... perspective is perspective... magnification is all what focal length is...


If you stood 8' from your subject, and you're taking a portrait, would you MOST LIKELY use a 24mm focal length lens? If not, why not?

flipteg
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 20:53
I didn't understand your statement. Still don't. Nothing to do with my edit.




If you stood 8' from your subject, and you're taking a portrait, would you MOST LIKELY use a 24mm focal length lens? If not, why not?

before editing your post, you told me my "24mm for the whole day" analogy is one of the most rediculous things you've heard... i stated that to make a point that you can achieve the chracteristics of a long focal length lens by the sole use of cropping...

you told me to give it a rest already... so i'm letting you know that was my first post in the thread...

if i stood 8ft back from a subject, i can think of situations for both times when i will use a 24mm for portraits and times when i won't... depending on how much of the background i want to include...

but if i'm stuck with a 24mm prime and wanted to shoot an impromptu portrait with an ugly background, i'd rather shoot the 24mm prime at 8ft and crop later on the computer rahter than try to frame a tight crop portrait with a 24mm lens on the spot...

as i said before, what you're insisting is how YOU want to shoot your photos... just because you choose your focal length based on where your camera is, doesn't make one dependent of the other...

and before you think i'm just arguing for the sake of arguement, here are two photos that i've taken standing from the same spot... i like tighter portraits but my friend likes her photos to show more background... hence, the two photos...

24mm...
http://i130.photobucket.com/albums/p264/francisfaustino/misc/CRW_0554.jpg

50mm...
http://i130.photobucket.com/albums/p264/francisfaustino/misc/CRW_0555.jpg

Meaty0
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 21:58
if i stood 8ft back from a subject, i can think of situations for both times when i will use a 24mm for portraits and times when i won't... depending on how much of the background i want to include...

There you go! You make a conscious decision to change focal length at your given distance. THAT'S how FL is connected to distance-to-subject.

but if I'm stuck with a 24mm prime and wanted to shoot an impromptu portrait with an ugly background, I'd rather shoot the 24mm prime at 8ft and crop later on the computer rather than try to frame a tight crop portrait with a 24mm lens on the spot... No..what you'd REALLY want is a different focal length. A 24mm lens is going to get the "ugly background" into reasonable focus too...another reason you'd rather go longer.

as i said before, what you're insisting is how YOU want to shoot your photos... Never insisted this is how I want to take my photos at all.

just because you choose your focal length based on where your camera is, doesn't make one dependent of the other... It is a fact that you can shoot your portrait at any distance you like, with any focal length you like, provided that the subject falls within the minimum focal distance of your lens. The fact is...most photographers don't. Shooting with a zoom, I choose a focal length to get the framing I want at the distance I want. Just like everyone else does. If I shoot a prime, I choose the distance I want to get the framing I want, just like everyone else does. If I can't get the distance/framing I want with that lens, I change focal lengths, just like everyone else does.


and before you think i'm just arguing for the sake of arguement, here are two photos that i've taken standing from the same spot... i like tighter portraits but my friend likes her photos to show more background... hence, the two photos...

24mm...
http://i130.photobucket.com/albums/p264/francisfaustino/misc/CRW_0554.jpg

50mm...
http://i130.photobucket.com/albums/p264/francisfaustino/misc/CRW_0555.jpg

And the above two images are a fine example of how FL is tied to your distance to subject. And that scene looks suspiciously Australian.

flipteg
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 23:06
i think what's in question here is practicality vs. the basic definition of perspective...

yes, for practicality's sake, no one will use a 24mm lens with the intention of cropping every photo to the same view as a longer lens later on in the computer...

~~~
focal length = magnification...

perspective = where the camera is located...
~~~

how you use the two together is up to you depending on what kind of framing you're trying to achieve for a given perspective...

for practicality, do they have anything to do with each other...? yes...

but in a pure definition of the words and physics point of view, they are completely separate and independent...

Meaty0
4th of March 2008 (Tue), 23:28
Sounds good to me.

SkipD
5th of March 2008 (Wed), 03:32
It is a fact that you can shoot your portrait at any distance you like, with any focal length you like, provided that the subject falls within the minimum focal distance of your lens. The fact is...most photographers don't. Shooting with a zoom, I choose a focal length to get the framing I want at the distance I want. Just like everyone else does. If I shoot a prime, I choose the distance I want to get the framing I want, just like everyone else does. If I can't get the distance/framing I want with that lens, I change focal lengths, just like everyone else does.The thing that most "photographers" (the untrained amateurs and probably some professionals) DO NOT know is that the distance between the camera and subject controls the perspective. Most "photographers" who use zoom lenses merely take a shot from what seems to be a convenient spot (with absolutely no idea that a different position could create a much better composition) and crank their zoom lens to fill the frame with what "looks good" at the time.

The reason for trying to get folks here to understand about controlling the perspectives in their images by deliberately controlling the camera-to-subject distances is so that they have a tool in their bag of tricks to make better composed images.

What I try to teach is that the choice of focal length should actually be the second of two distinct steps in the process of defining an image in the camera. The first step should be finding the proper distance between the camera and subject(s) and the second step should be finding the proper focal length to frame the subject for minimum cropping after the fact. I also try to teach the fact that, to control the perspective (the size of the mountains behind the family group, for example), that distance between camera and (usually the foreground) subjects is often far more important than the focal length chosen.

Your assumptions and what you have been writing in this thread, Paul, have been counter-productive to this teaching process. I realize that you understand what you are doing and that you have tried to be funny. However, I feel that the casual "newbie" reader is definitely going to get mixed messages from your posts (especially early on in this thread) that the focal length choice should be the master choice.

Meaty0
5th of March 2008 (Wed), 04:30
The thing that most "photographers" (the untrained amateurs and probably some professionals) DO NOT know is that the distance between the camera and subject controls the perspective. Most "photographers" who use zoom lenses merely take a shot from what seems to be a convenient spot (with absolutely no idea that a different position could create a much better composition) and crank their zoom lens to fill the frame with what "looks good" at the time.

The reason for trying to get folks here to understand about controlling the perspectives in their images by deliberately controlling the camera-to-subject distances is so that they have a tool in their bag of tricks to make better composed images.

What I try to teach is that the choice of focal length should actually be the second of two distinct steps in the process of defining an image in the camera. The first step should be finding the proper distance between the camera and subject(s) and the second step should be finding the proper focal length to frame the subject for minimum cropping after the fact. I also try to teach the fact that, to control the perspective (the size of the mountains behind the family group, for example), that distance between camera and (usually the foreground) subjects is often far more important than the focal length chosen.

Your assumptions and what you have been writing in this thread, Paul, have been counter-productive to this teaching process. I realize that you understand what you are doing and that you have tried to be funny. However, I feel that the casual "newbie" reader is definitely going to get mixed messages from your posts (especially early on in this thread) that the focal length choice should be the master choice.

I bow to your obviously superior knowledge, but get your facts straight mate.

First: I wasn't trying to be "funny".

Second: I NEVER said that choice of focal length is the "master" choice. It's just something that needs to be considered.

And just to put things into "perspective" (still not trying to be funny here), I was always taught that getting the light right should be the first consideration in a portrait. Newbies take note.

n1as
5th of March 2008 (Wed), 08:20
How about some better definitions of "perspective"?

Perspective 1: Perspective is the relative sizes of objects in an image that are at different distances. Close objects look larger, distant objects look smaller. Their relative size in an image is the perspective.

Perspective 2: Perspective is the vantage point or viewpont of the image. A shot taken from the top of a building looking down gives a bird's eye perspective. A shot taken from a sitting position looking up gives a child's perspective or point of view. In this case, perspective has to do with field of view as well as the relative sizes of objects.

Perspective 1 is ONLY affected by the distance between the objects and the camera's distance from them. The lens has NOTHING TO DO with it. Two AA batteries placed side by side will look the same height no matter how close or far you are away. Separate the AA batteries by 6" front to back and the relative size of the front battery compared to the back battery will change as you change distance no matter which lens you shoot them with.

Perspective 2, since it is a superset of Perspective 1 is not only affected by shot distance, but is definitely affected by lens choice since the lens choice affects the field of view, thus changing the "perspective".


So the question of whether the lens affects perspective or not, depends on your definition of perspective. I suspect that much of this discussion has been due to people using different (or ill-defined) definitions

When we talk about the flattening effect of a telephoto lens, we are by definition talking about Perspective 1 and are attributing to the lens something the lens itself cannot do. Only distance can achieve the flattening. Misinformed photographers (beginners & otherwise) all over the world have been making this mistake for years, thinking it is the lens when in fact it (flattening) has nothing to do with the lens. You can get the same flattening with a wide angle lens by shooting from a "telephoto" distance and cropping.

This is important because you may find yourself some day wanting to take a protrait shot of someone but not having the 100mm "portrait" lens to do it. No problem, set your zoom to 50mm and then back up to 10 feet and shoot away. Crop it on the computer and you have a photo with the same EXACT perspective that you would have achieved with the 100mm lens.

Meaty0
5th of March 2008 (Wed), 14:46
I think the simplest definition is the best. For photography, I believe that perspective is simply "the subject's position in relation to its surroundings as seen from the position of the camera".

In this thread, I believe that some people might think its simply the "distance of the camera from the subject, but that's not correct. It's the "position" too. You might decide to hire a helicopter to hover above your subject for a different perspective for instance.

Also, SkipD confuses perspective with composition in his opening paragraph above. While one can affect the other, they are two separate concepts. I'm sure he didn't mean to use those terms interchangeably.

Meaty0
5th of March 2008 (Wed), 14:59
This discussion raises an obvious question:

If the "flattening effect" of the telephoto lens is (correctly) caused not by the lens, but by the distance from the subject, is the "distorting effect" of the wide-angle lens (e.g. making noses look bigger and distorted) caused by the proximity of the lens to the subject or the lens itself?

Wilt
5th of March 2008 (Wed), 15:09
This discussion raises an obvious question:

If the "flattening effect" of the telephoto lens is (correctly) caused not by the lens, but by the distance from the subject, is the "distorting effect" of the wide-angle lens (e.g. making noses look bigger and distorted) caused by the proximity of the lens to the subject or the lens itself?

Proximity of the lens combined with the wider than normal (compared to what our eyes see and brain notices) field of view. If you hold anything really close, its size is proportionally much larger than everything else, that is normal, but our brain compensates for what our eyes are taking in. A lens sees close things but there is nothing that tells our brains about the proximity, and the wide FOV fools our brain into thinking a more normal viewing distance, so the looming beer belly or butt or bosom or nose is out of context with the wide area that we are otherwise seeing. Same close object seen with narrower FOV len deprives the brain of the wide view, so it naturally thinks "close object"

If we merely bring the photo in close to our eyes when viewing the photo, the brain gets a sense of distance to the looming object, and things in the background have a more customary relationship. Prints do have a proper viewing distance based upon the FL of the lens used to shoot the photo!

Meaty0
5th of March 2008 (Wed), 15:49
Unless you have a wide-angle lens that is "purposefully" distorted such as a fisheye lens?

SkipD
5th of March 2008 (Wed), 17:13
Also, SkipD confuses perspective with composition in his opening paragraph above. While one can affect the other, they are two separate concepts. I'm sure he didn't mean to use those terms interchangeably.There was absolutely no confusion in my statements.

Controlling the perspective (the "Perspective 1" from Keith's post above) by carefully choosing the position of the camera relative to various elements of a subject can contribute greatly to improved composition of an image.