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  1. #1

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    Distortion in human subjects with LF camera

    I am using an 8x10 camera with a 14 inch lens and I am having real problems with the shape of the subject and the relative proportions of different parts of the body. Normally, I can accept a little bit of distortion with regard to perspective, but with people, the distortion is obvious and just not right. I have two basic questions.


    1) When photographing a standing subject, what should the height of the camera be in relation to the subject?

    2) I have attached a crude drawing of a set up I tried recently which just did not work. My subject was seated on the top step of a porch with the camera at about the same height as the subject (left side of drawing). On the right hand side of the drawing I have shown the plane of the subject relative to the camera, from above. As you can see, the camera was at an angle to the subject and this resulted in a lot of distortion. On the glass, the feet were HUGE in comparison to the head. I fiddled with the front and back movements, but just couldn't get it to work. Would the correct adjustment have been to put both the front and back standards parallel to the subject?

    Does anyone know of any good sources which deal the movements involved in photographing subjects full length?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails photo question.jpg  
    "The beauty and profundity of God is more real than any mere calculation"

  2. #2
    JBrunner's Avatar
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    In this case rear swing would have been used to correct the perspective, with the front to compensate focus. Perspective is controlled at the back by altering the relationship of the film plane to the image projected on it. If you move the part of the ground glass with the feet away, they will get smaller. The best thing to do is set up a box and play.

    In general in regard to "standard" portraiture, the camera lens should be at eye level. Just below for a more dominating pose, just above for more submissive. Of course rules are made to be broken.

  3. #3
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    It would be helpful, if you could post a scan of the photo.

    That said, generally one uses rear tilt and swing to correct distortion and front tilt and swing to control the plane of focus, so if the subject's feet's too big, as Fats Waller was known to have said, one option would be to use rear tilt and maybe swing depending on the subject's orientation to the film plane to correct the proportions of the feet to the head, then apply front tilt/swing to get things in focus.

    It could also be that the camera is too low. You could try for a higher camera position and then use front fall/rear rise to recompose.

    Sometimes you just need to move the camera or pose the subject differently.

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    Last edited by David A. Goldfarb; 08-31-2009 at 07:09 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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  4. #4

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    Jason, does the eye level rule apply to a full length subject, standing?

    David, I would post the photo but as Fats said, her feets was too big, so I didn't shoot it. I didn't want to waste a sheet of 8x10 and more importantly, I didn't want to embarrass her.

    I have some experience with using rear movements to correct distortion but this one was difficult. People are a different ball game, aren't they? If one part of a building isn't quite right, it can just look ... dramatic. But when her feets too big... that's no good.

    Tomorrow, I am going to set up the camera and try the same thing, but this time I will put objects of the same size along the same plane and practise on them rather than on a human subject who had every right to get annoyed and impatient with all my screwing around.

    ...and my personal fave:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWViLtPQMzo&feature=fvw
    "The beauty and profundity of God is more real than any mere calculation"

  5. #5
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    I would think you would need to be farther from your subject. So, if you are filling the frame, a 14" lens is way too short.

  6. #6

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    A good rule of thumb for lens focal length with portraits... full body (standing) use normal FL... waist up use 1.5x normal FL... head/shoulders use 2x... tight head shots use 3x. There are exceptions and pose affects choice.

  7. #7
    keithwms's Avatar
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    I'll just say ditto to what Jason said. Eye level is what I aim for, for a neutral looking perspective... this is the height at which we most comfortably encounter another person, so it is usually a good starting point.

    Having said that, if you look through magazines, I think you will find that males are often photographed from well below the eye level (I guess to give a more dominant, downward looking posture); whereas females are often photographed from above that neutral level (I guess to give a more entreating, upward looking posture). Just something curious that I've noticed in commercial photography.

    I also agree that having more distance from the subject and using a longer focal length are things you must try.
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  8. #8

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    mike, I am not sure that makes sense with 8x10. If a normal lens for 8x10 is 300mm, then for tight head shots I would have to use a 900mm lens. I would need more bellows than any camera I have ever owned and probably an assistant to hold up the front end!!!

    Do folks really use 900 mm lenses for portraits? Am I missing something here?
    "The beauty and profundity of God is more real than any mere calculation"

  9. #9
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keithwms View Post
    females are often photographed from above that neutral level (I guess to give a more entreating, upward looking posture). Just something curious that I've noticed in commercial photography.
    Other reasons for that can be that shooting from above makes the head look flatteringly larger, conceals any neck flabbiness, and avoids the sometimes unattractive up-the-nostrils view (why waist level finders are a bad idea for, say, wedding photographers).
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  10. #10
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    14" is fairly normal for portraits on 8x10". Worked for Karsh.
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