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Best focal length for portrait in photography

This is a discussion on Best focal length for portrait in photography within the Digital photography forums, part of the Photography & Fine art photography category; Hello photographers , i was checking some posts about photography , and i saw something strange , and i want ...

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    Default Best focal length for portrait in photography

    Hello photographers ,

    i was checking some posts about photography , and i saw something strange , and i want to ask about it.

    while i was reading this post ( Photography Backdrops ) , i saw that the best focal length to take portraits is 85-100 , is that true , and if it was true , why is that ?


    Thanks alot

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    All though that's sound advice, I have also read some photog's like to zoom wide and pull in close to there subject when doing environmental portraits.


    Basically The 85-100mm(ish) focal range doesn't distort the face as much as most other focal lengths. Remember it will be a different range on a crop sensor camera to a full frame camera. The 50mm makes a nice fast cheap portrait lens on a crop sensor.

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    It is also about distance from the person you shoot. With that length you are far enough away to have room for lights, flashes and such, but not too far so you have to shout for the portraitee to hear your instructions (tilt head to left .... nooo,. the other left ...). Any shorter focal length will put you almost "in their face" which is not good from several perspectives: bad breath, no room for lights, depth of field can become an issue.
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    True, if you are using a shorter focal length you can intrude into the subject's personal space but here is a case for using a shorter lens, a 50-60 mm in Craig Tanner's "The Mindful Eye" a very informative two part critique of a portrait taken with a shorter lens.

    http://www.tmelive.com/index.php/articles/view/759.html

    Hope you can see that without signing up but if not, it's worth the trouble to do so.

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    Approx 85mm would have been the traditional portrait focal length on full frame cameras. For APS-C that translates to around 50-60mm. However you can shoot portraits at any focal length you like. Shorter FLs will give the subject a bigger nose Longer FLs make it easier to blur the background. Joe McNally seems to often use Nikon's 200mm f2 lens for his portraits.
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    I like using between 70 - 200 mm (1.6 crop factor) for mine but really it depends on the effect you are after. The little, cheap 50mm lenses do a surprising job too.

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    What I've read is that focal length's in the 70mm+ range (telephoto) compress the facial features a bit for a more flattering shot as AcelinePanetier mentions.
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    With my old Nikon FM, the portrait lens back then to use was the 135mm. On a DX, I think the equivalent is the 85mm (yes?)
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    I would say balance between big nose and big ears. Long lens seems to make ears look big and short nose looks big. So it will depend on the subject. Women often have ears hidden by hair so long lens but men may need shorter lens to hide ears a bit.

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    I prefer around the 50mm range and a prime and not a zoom lens. With a cropped 30mm prime lens.
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