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  1. #1

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    why 85mm lens for portraits?

    Hi, why use an 85mm lens for portaits - surely a 50mm will do?

  2. #2
    bobwysiwyg's Avatar
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    Good explanation from a mag. several years ago;

    The best lens for portraits is more often than not a short telephoto—85-135mm for a 35mm camera. Why? Because short teles produce a good head size at a shooting distance that produces pleasant perspective. If you use a wide-angle lens, you have to move very close to your subject to get a good head size, and moving close expands perspective, elongating the subject's features. If you use a really long lens, you have to move back to get a good head size, and moving back compresses perspective, flattening the subject's features. Using a short telephoto focal length will give you the best results most of the time. But don't let this rule out creative choices of focal length and shooting distance.
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  3. #3
    Steve Smith's Avatar
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    It depends on how close you want to get. With a 50mm lens, you need to get closer to the subject than with an 85mm to get the same amount of the person (e.g. head and shoulders) in the frame.

    When you get closer you change the perspective. Too close and features look different. e.g. noses look larger and the image is generally un-flattering.


    Steve.

  4. #4

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    Any lens will do, it all depends on your intend for the portrait.

    The only advantage the 80 has over the 50 is it will isolate the face from the background a little more. It also give you a little more social distance from the sitter.
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

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  5. #5
    David Brown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abudhabiandy View Post
    Hi, why use an 85mm lens for portaits - surely a 50mm will do?
    Yes, a 50mm will do. One uses something else because one wishes to.
    David
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  6. #6
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    One issue is nose-to-ear ratio. At 50mm, if you fill the frame with your subject, you will find that the nose gets a bit exaggerated relative to the ears, because the field of view is quite large. Of course you can stand back further and crop... but then you throw away quite a lot of frame. 85 usually balances faces out a bit more, especially Western faces. Actually I like 105 even more, especially for tighter crops.

    Let me suggest standing in front of a mirror with the different lenses, fill the frame, and just see what perspective does for ears and noses!

    I think 50 is effective for environmental portraits, but tight crops or head-and-shoulders shots with that field of view won't flatter.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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  7. #7
    JBrunner's Avatar
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    For the classic portrait 85mm provides a more natural appearing perspective. A head and shoulders 50mm portrait creates a subtle unnatural distortion of the features. Also, a good 85mm shot on a wide aperture provides a pleasing bokeh, isolating the subject from the environment, and reinforcing the subject of the portrait as the subject, rather than just part of a composition.

    There are no rules, just reasons.

  8. #8

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    one reason why i see it suggested to use a short telephoto lens,
    is so you are not in the face of your subject if you are doing a head/shoulders thing.

    it isn't a rule to use a 85mm lens, but like most "rules" they are there to be broken ..
    so use whatever lens you want...
    i often make environmental portraits
    with 50mm or wider lenses.
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  9. #9
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    If you like long thin noses use a 50 mm lens, if you wish normal perspective use about a 105 - 135 mm lens, if you want something in-between use 80 mm. It is all a matter of perspective.

    Of course, you can go for a 28 mm lens and get all nose.

    PE

  10. #10
    Rick A's Avatar
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    My favorite portrait lens is my Zuiko 100 f2.8 . I like to be a little further away from my subjects so they dont feellike their space is being invaded, and they relax a bit more. The 85 would be my second choice, but the 50 ONLY if nothing else is available, at that distance there is distortion of facial features on bust shots and close-ups.
    Rick

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