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  1. #51
    Allan Swindles's Avatar
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    Just an observation here folks, as a retired professional portrait photographer. I always found that double the standard focal length was good for head and shoulder portraits and for a tight head shot I would choose a 3x mag. but it does depend on the final size of the image and the viewing distance, as has already been indicated, but also the effect you are trying to achieve. A tight head shot enlarged to say 30"x40" might look good at distance, but closer, well? Times have changed over the years. In the UK, the BBC as I recall, would never shoot a close portrait with a wide angle lens. Not so these days, anything goes. I think they excuse it as reportage and the public have been seduced to it. It does not however, mean it's good photography.
    I'm into painting with light - NOT painting by numbers!

  2. #52
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allan Swindles View Post
    Just an observation here folks, as a retired professional portrait photographer. I always found that double the standard focal length was good for head and shoulder portraits and for a tight head shot I would choose a 3x mag. but it does depend on the final size of the image and the viewing distance, as has already been indicated, but also the effect you are trying to achieve. A tight head shot enlarged to say 30"x40" might look good at distance, but closer, well? Times have changed over the years. In the UK, the BBC as I recall, would never shoot a close portrait with a wide angle lens. Not so these days, anything goes. I think they excuse it as reportage and the public have been seduced to it. It does not however, mean it's good photography.
    While I understand your background, and respect it and your opinion, your comment about using wide angle lenses for portraiture seem a little like they are universally not good, just because you said so.
    My experience is nowhere near as impressive as yours, but I would still like to interject that some of my own most successful portraits, close-ups or full figure, have been with wide angle to normal lenses. The shorter focal length has leant an intimacy to the photographs that I find rewarding, and an interesting point of view that I think doesn't subscribe to convention, but instead highlights a strong emotional connection.

    My question to you is: What, exactly, makes the longer focal length 'better'? I'd seriously like to hear your view of things; perhaps I can learn something I didn't know, or it will be interesting discussion.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  3. #53

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    RE perspective distortion and print viewing distance: I don't view photos with one eye closed nor at a specified viewing distance.

  4. #54

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    To put it bluntly, the longer the focal length (and the greater the distance to the subject), the less interesting a portrait will be. But coming in close is too confrontational for most people, and takes away form the flattering image most customers of a commercial portrait photographer will desire.

    Then again, I just happened to see Arnold Newman's "portrait" of Piet Mondriaan. Quite distant, but the composition really makes the image.

    Just saying...

  5. #55
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old-N-Feeble View Post
    RE perspective distortion and print viewing distance: I don't view photos with one eye closed nor at a specified viewing distance.
    On large prints the effect even works with two eyes.

    Old, I can't speak to how the distances that you view photos at but I think you might be surprised just how regularly most people do.

    When I had my studio it was interesting to see people adjust to the size of their photos. 8x10s elbows bent a bit, 5x7s bent more, wallets bent tight, 16x20 elbows straight and locked or starting to step back.

    In our homes the hallways and furniture and entrances and other whatnot also regularly define our viewing distances. 8x10s behind a couch regularly get people leaning forward to see the subject matter.

    This is part of the magic of standing where the photo is naturally going to be viewed from, with a placeholder where it will hang and figuring out what lens and if that size print will work. It allows you to see if the viewer will be comfortable viewing it from there.

    Personally I find that when a print is hung behind a couch, the subject matter needs to be printed larger to keep viewers from leaning over the couch.
    Last edited by markbarendt; 12-13-2012 at 06:12 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Hit wrong button
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  6. #56

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    Projection Size & Viewing Distance to Preserve Perspective

    If you take a picture of the same scene, one with a 35mm lens, and the other with an 85mm lens, how exactly would you position the prints so that the perspective would be the same, with relation to the viewer?
    There are at least two ways to do this. Here is the simpler, more intuitive approach.

    The original scene perspective is preserved if we view a print the size of the negative at the same distance as the focal length of the lens used to photograph the scene for infinity focus.

    Using the focal length of the lens is good enough for most approximations at mid-distance to infinity-focus shots. If you require greater accuracy you can use the focus distance and the focal length to calculate the lens-to-negative distance. This is the actual viewing distance for correct perspective. Here’s a 35mm format example.

    Most of us don’t want to view a 24mm x 36mm print from 50mm or whatever the focal length used. But we can magnify the print size and viewing distance until we get something practical.

    Use the focal length f and let

    v = viewing distance

    w = width of the projection of the 24mm negative dimension in enlargement

    For the 35mm lens on the 35mm format we have

    v/w = 35/24, so

    v = (35/24)*w

    If we choose a projection width of 16.5” to make a 16” x 20” print

    v = (35/24)*16.5” = 24” viewing distance.

    For the 85mm lens on the 35mm format with 16.5” wide projection of the 24mm width of the negative

    v = (85/24)*16.5” = 58.4” viewing distance.

    Viewing the print at the correct-perspective viewing distance preserves the angular relationships that existed at the camera’s lens position. For example, the on-print images of two objects that were 10° apart in the scene at the camera position will subtend 10° at the viewing distance v.

    Of course this can be done for any format. Alternatively, you could fix the viewing distance and size the projection to suit as

    w = (24/35)v
    Last edited by Ian C; 12-13-2012 at 11:15 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  7. #57
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Great explanation Ian.

    To simplify the application of the idea here a bit I might suggest thinking in ratio and understanding that it isn't normal to have viewing lines marked, rounding is okay.

    If we know the viewing distance is about 36" (as if the print is to be behind a chair) and that the print size will be 16"x20" then if we use just the short edge in our calculation we get 16:36, simplify and round just a bit and you get roughly 1:2 as the ratio. (I used the short edge here because the long edge would be cropped to fit the standard paper with 35mm film.)

    So if the short edge of the film is 24mm (the "1" side of our ratio) then the focal length should be roughly 48mm (the "2" side) to get normal angular relationships. If the short edge of the film was 4" then we'd want roughly an 8" (200mm) lens.

    If we plan to print at 8x10 for the 36" viewing distance the ratio changes to 8:36, simplify and round just a bit and you get roughly 1:4 or 1:5 as the ratio. Short side 24mm x 4 = 100mm, x 5 = 125mm.

    We can work backwards too. If all we have for our 4x5 camera is a 6" (150mm) lens and our ratio is 4:6 or 2:3, then a 36" viewing distance would suggest a print with a 24" short edge (break out the roll paper).
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  8. #58

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    Does it really matter what lens was used? Regardless of the angle of view in the photograph, the "natural" viewing distance is going to be about equal to the diagonal of the presented image. This is the distance people general gravitate to when they want to take in the whole image comfortably.

  9. #59
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yashinoff View Post
    Does it really matter what lens was used? Regardless of the angle of view in the photograph, the "natural" viewing distance is going to be about equal to the diagonal of the presented image. This is the distance people general gravitate to when they want to take in the whole image comfortably.
    If thats true, then to get a normal perspective, we should all be using lenses where focal length matches that diagonal measurement.

    There are many other things that constrain viewing distances though like furniture, hallways, ...
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  10. #60

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    Re: Is there a definitive focal length for tight head shots...

    I'll go with whatever lens I have on hand. Because I shoot for myself and really couldn't care less if others like or hate my work and how they're portrayed, when given the luxury of choosing FL (most of my photos are done without planning) I'll choose based on the current lighting and characteristics of the lens. I don't find myself going much longer than 105mm on 35mm. I usually carry a 50mm as my 2nd lens to the 25.

    Basically I don't seek to flatter the subject in their eyes – I seek to record how I see the subject at the moment and how I want the photo to turn out.

    Which is why I'm reluctant to make photos for people (but have no problems making photos of them).



 

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