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Questions about focal lengths
Isn't lenses with a high focal lengths supposed to be used when you cant get close to the subject? And lenses with lower numbers when you want wide angle?Then why is it that portraits are usually taken with lenses with a high number?Surely getting close to the subject is not a problem?..

Comments (11)

Linslus wrote:.

Isn't lenses with a high focal lengths supposed to be used when youcant get close to the subject? And lenses with lower numbers when youwant wide angle?Then why is it that portraits are usually taken with lenses with ahigh number?Surely getting close to the subject is not a problem?.

It's not a problem unless the subject doesn't like you, but it turns out that portraits look more "natural" if they're taken from a distance. Peoples' noses look too big if you take their pictures from nearby (mine looks too big even from a distance...)..

So, over the years, photographers have gone to long focal lengths for portraits and everyone is happy. Usually, around twice the "normal" focal length works well and still allows you to be in the same room as the subject..

Leonard Migliore..

Comment #1

Some of the portrait lenses with longer focal lengths typically have larger maximum apertures (85mm f/1.4, for example) and they are useful for portraits because shooting them wide open (at f/1.4) results in a super-thin depth of field (the portion of the image that is in focus) so the subject is in focus and backgrounds are beautifully blurred out..

Mike..

Comment #2

85mm isn't really a telephoto, even though often that is what is labelled as; anything beyound the proverbial 50mm just about is labelled a telephoto..

When you consider "real" telephotos at 200mm, 300mm, 400mm, 500mm, 800mm, 1200mm, 85mm isn't that great of a telephoto...

Comment #3

Rsn48 wrote:.

85mm isn't really a telephoto, even though often that is what islabelled as; anything beyound the proverbial 50mm just about islabelled a telephoto..

When you consider "real" telephotos at 200mm, 300mm, 400mm, 500mm,800mm, 1200mm, 85mm isn't that great of a telephoto..

I certainly agree. I wasn't attempting to refer to the 85mm as any kind of telephoto, only that if you're considering 10-20mm, 85mm is certainly 'higher'  and faster lenses of any focal length, of course, can be used to isolate subjects by limiting depth-of-field...

Comment #4

I think both of Canon's 85mm lenses (F1.2 and F1.8) are actually both telephotos..

Steve..

Comment #5

A telephoto lens is one whose length is less than the focal length.Bertie..

Comment #6

They are telephotos and I said so, but reallly... come on... they aren't...

Comment #7

First of all, what's a portrait?.

Are you thinking of passport pictures of just a head?.

Anyway,m portraits are taken by intelligent photographers using a lens of whatever focal length gets the parts, or all, of a person into the frame, from a shooting distance the photographer desires..

It may be just a head, from across a street; use a long telephoto lens..

It may be an entire person sitting in a rocking chair holding some knitting, with the knitting and the hands are framed so that they are really big in the photo, and the face is smaller. Use a wide angle lens..

What number describes the focal length of the lens relates to the physical and optical design of the lens; designing the glass elements allows for wide angle lenses to be longer than telephoto lenses, and telephoto lenses to be horther in actual measurement then they are in designated focal length..

In the context of this thread, an 85mm lens would be used on a so-called cropped camera or a so-called full frame camera, both of which look similiar to a 35mm single lens reflex camera. Whether on a 1.5 Nikon or a 1.3 Canon or a 1.6 Canon or a full frame Canon or the new Nikon D3, 85mm is a telephoto lens, capturing significantly less tha a "normal" lens on any of these caemras..

Put an 85mm lens on a 4x5 view camera (big bellows, blanket over your head) and you'd have a wide angle lens..

BAK..

Comment #8

Seeya wrote:.

Some of the portrait lenses with longer focal lengths typically havelarger maximum apertures (85mm f/1.4, for example).

Note that 85mm was a common "portrait" length in 35mm film SLR days. People who wanted to really distance themselves from the subject would use a 135mm lens..

In the age of crop-sensor DSLRs, 50mm is "the new 85", and 85mm is "the new 135". Those old 85mm primes are still useful, but not in the exact same role...

Comment #9

Nice try BAK at defining what a portrait is, but portrait sort of has a formal and informal meaning in the photographic community. You know the type, what you had taken when you graduated high school - "sit here young man on this stool and look toward the camera." Portraits generally mean from the shoulders up or the waist up, but it can be full length..

Karsh was a famous Canadian portrait photographer, know for his images of famous folks, here is a link - this is what is commonly known as a portrait:.

Http://www.westongallery.com/artists/y_karsh/yousuf_karsh.html.

Here's another link on tips for portrait photography, some of the images humorous:.

Http://blog.epicedits.com/...6-inspirational-portrait-photography-techniques/..

Comment #10

Leonard Migliore wrote:.

Linslus wrote:.

Isn't lenses with a high focal lengths supposed to be used when youcant get close to the subject? And lenses with lower numbers when youwant wide angle?Then why is it that portraits are usually taken with lenses with ahigh number?Surely getting close to the subject is not a problem?.

It's not a problem unless the subject doesn't like you, but it turnsout that portraits look more "natural" if they're taken from adistance. Peoples' noses look too big if you take their pictures fromnearby (mine looks too big even from a distance...)..

Excessively long lenses aren't flattering either. Consider the image of a fan at a sporting event taken from 50 yards away..

85-200mm for film or FF.50-135mm for 1.5/1.6 crop...

Comment #11

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