Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Using a telephoto lens for portraits

  1. #1
    Alis's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    1,544
    Real Name
    Ali

    Using a telephoto lens for portraits

    Hi Guys,

    I was reading one of the CiC tutorials on telephoto lenses and this sentence was a bit surprising:

    Normalizing the relative size too much can make the scene appear static, flat and uninteresting, since our eyes generally expect closer objects to be a little larger. Taking a photo of someone or something from very far away should therefore be done only when necessary.

    Up to now, I always thought that it is actually good to stay far from the subject and zoom in. But looks like based on this tutorial that is not at least in some cases a good thing. However, I have always seen people taking portraits with the 70-200mm lens or the very reason they use the remote flash trigger is to get away from the subject.

    Can someone help me resolve all these theoretical issues (in my mind)?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    New Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Tourouzelle. France
    Posts
    8
    Real Name
    Malco

    Re: Using a telephoto lens for portraits

    Depends on what you mean by "very far away". In the old days, the 135mm was deemed to be the perfect portrait lens. I don't see why that should have changed other than it would be 90mm on a crop sensor. I suspect a head and shoulders with 300mm would possibly look a bit flat.

    Malco

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Virginia Beach, VA USA
    Posts
    1,382
    Real Name
    Mary... or Lucy... either is fine with me. ;)

    Re: Using a telephoto lens for portraits

    I read an article last week, Ali that was saying the same thing that you had always thought... use a telephoto. The reasoning, in the article I read was that it softens the subject and gives a more flattering look, especially to their face.

    I'm not saying it's right or wrong... since I have no clue, but just that I had read the same thing.

  4. #4
    flipmode's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Las Vegas, NV
    Posts
    100
    Real Name
    Chris

    Re: Using a telephoto lens for portraits

    You might to take a look at this article and the examples given. It gives several examples of how various focal lengths affect the perspective and distortion.

    http://www.stepheneastwood.com/tutor...erspective.htm

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    17,662
    Real Name
    Have a guess :)

    Re: Using a telephoto lens for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by Alis View Post
    Up to now, I always thought that it is actually good to stay far from the subject and zoom in. But looks like based on this tutorial that is not at least in some cases a good thing. However, I have always seen people taking portraits with the 70-200mm lens or the very reason they use the remote flash trigger is to get away from the subject.
    Hi Ali,

    Why not experiment and see which you prefer?

    Some extremes ...

    175mm

    Using a telephoto lens for portraits

    35mm ...

    Using a telephoto lens for portraits

  6. #6
    rpcrowe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Southern California, USA
    Posts
    12,196
    Real Name
    Richard

    Re: Using a telephoto lens for portraits

    I am particularly sensitive to the perspective distortion, in portraits, caused by shooting very close to the subject. The distortion is not caused by the focal length but, by the lens to subject distance at which we are shooting. Of course, the lens to subject distance is usually determined by the focal length we are using.

    Some photographers are less sensitive to the perspective distortion than others, so as Colin mentioned, it is probably best for each photographer to decide for him/herself the distances at which they prefer to shoot and to select their focal lengths appropriately.

    Maybe I am "old school" but, I have other photo fetishes besides disliking the distortion caused by shoot at close distances:

    I absolutely HATE horizons that are not level. My eye will key in on a crooked horizon at the expense of any positive attributes of the image...

    I also HATE intentionally tilted images; especially when there are perpendicular reference points such as windows, trees, etc. in the image. I realize, looking at many wedding image offerings on various web sites that tilted images are the chic thing these days.

    We are so fortunate in that we have immediate feedback when shooting digital and also fortunate in that we have the EXIF data to review and decide if we like or dislike the various parameters of our shots...

  7. #7
    Alis's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    1,544
    Real Name
    Ali

    Re: Using a telephoto lens for portraits

    Many thanks, everyone. Very interesting points. I guess I can conclude that there is no hard and fast rule, like any other areas.

    I will have to read those articles suggested here. Thanks!

    I think from the beginning, based on what I have seen and read, I just assumed that being away and zooming in makes portraits look better that Sean's tutorial came as a big shock the other day. That is why I have never tried to compare different shots at different distances to see what the difference is. Good suggestion as always, Colin! BTW, those are very nice pictures, specially the second one came out so nice, so smooth and almost noise-free. Not sure what you do to make them look so good


    I see prime lenses like my Canon f/1.2 L lens has a fixed focal range of 85 that is not that short of a distance even on a full frame camera and I have seen so many adds on wireless triggers for example that should a subject with a flash next to it and then a guy zooming in on with a 70-200mm lens. So I just accepted it as a fact that if you can that is the best way to take good portraits and as Richard mentions get rid of the distortion from a wider angle lens.

    Anyway, point taken. Thanks a lot!

  8. #8
    New Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    6
    Real Name
    Pui Yun

    Re: Using a telephoto lens for portraits

    I just wanted to ask a related newbie-ish question, I can see that wide angle shots can add barrel distortion and telephoto can create a pincushion distortion and that sometimes these affects are desirable based on the type of photo that the photographer would like to achieve. I was wondering if it is possible to modify these distortions so that a wide angle photograph can appear as a telephoto photograph. Hence, we wouldn't have to worry as much about the distance that we took a portrait at (other than losing some resolution during the correction - and perhap losing out on the background compression).

  9. #9
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Windsor, Berks, UK
    Posts
    15,990
    Real Name
    Dave Humphries :)

    Re: Using a telephoto lens for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by Pui Yun View Post
    I just wanted to ask a related newbie-ish question, I can see that wide angle shots can add barrel distortion and telephoto can create a pincushion distortion and that sometimes these affects are desirable based on the type of photo that the photographer would like to achieve. I was wondering if it is possible to modify these distortions so that a wide angle photograph can appear as a telephoto photograph. Hence, we wouldn't have to worry as much about the distance that we took a portrait at (other than losing some resolution during the correction - and perhap losing out on the background compression).
    Hi Pui Yun,

    Welcome to the CiC forums from me, great to have you join us.

    The shooting distance sets the perspective; i.e. the relationship of relative size of an object near the camera to ones further away.

    If you just want a telephoto effect, then yes, you can shoot at a wider angle (say 50mm) and simply crop the image, it will be the same as if you had used a telephoto lens (say 100mm) from the same position. You don't have to mess about simulating distortions like barrel and pincushion, most should be negligible anyway, just crop.

    As you say though, image quality will suffer, obviously depends how much you crop - plus of course; the original quality of the lens and shot (e.g. no camera shake).

    Have a look at this tutorial and the mouse-over images, particularly the one of the dog:
    The left hand mouse-over effect is the same as cropping (and enlarging) - or using a telephoto lens.
    The right hand mouse-over effect is what happens if you move closer (with a wide angle) - but it is changing the camera to subject distance that makes the difference to perspective, not the focal length.

    Cheers,

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •