Lens for Portraits – my nose is too big!

With lighting sorted and a relaxed subject, we’re a long way down the road but we’re still not done. This time, we’ll look at the camera, where we put it and what we can put on it. It always surprises me what big a big difference a small change can make – let’s think about the right lens for portraits

Camera Position

There are three positions we can use for the camera and it’s all to do with eyeline. Should we be looking down at our subject, looking up, or straight on at eye level?

There are merits to each of these positions and sometimes it’s simply down to the version you prefer. The psychology bit would suggest that if the subject is looking down in the picture (i.e. the camera is below eye level), then the subject is more imposing, more in charge, which may be the right thing but can also make the subject look supercilious and looking down their nose. Conversely, if the subject is looking up at the camera then they can appear to be submissive and may not be the right angle for a business shot. This is the same subject from the two angles.

These are somewhat exaggerated positions but do show the point well.

The aesthetic perspective allows the subject, in the case of the upward looking shot, to straighten the neck and smooth any lines – perhaps not an issue for this person, but certainly can be for some.

The middle ground eye level shot suggests a meeting of minds, a position of equality, and someone you can do business with.

Overall, I tend to favour the shot from slightly above the subject eye level to still appear equal yet with the opportunity to address some of those lines!

What about focal length?

With everything sorted then we should be good to go, just need to sort that lens for portraits out…

Sometimes I hear a client tell me their nose is too big or they don’t like their smile or various other issues they have. We are after all, our own worse critic, so if do want to accentuate or minimise features, then we can look to our kit bag of lenses. Lenses vary significantly in what they do. There are three main types. The wide angle (for getting loads in the shot and great for landscapes), the telephoto (for getting up close to subjects – think of zooming in) and there is the mid range. As well as including a varying amount of what is in front of the camera, they also have another attribute and that is to disort the picture and this is simply to do with the way that optics work. A wide angle makes close up objects appear to bulge out and become more prominent whilst the tlelphoto tends to flatten the subject, and as you might suspect the mid range lens will be somewhere in the middle.

Here’s a wide angle and a mid range shot, again taken to accentuate, but you can see a perfectly normal nose on the right and a rather more bulgy one on the left, due to the distortion of the wide angle lens

There is an “ideal” focal length for portraits and this tends to be around the upper mid range, lower telephoto end where features are generally slightly de-emphasised, but each subject is different and simply choosing a different focal length can make a good shot great – happy snapping!

For more information on how to handle headshots or to book a session, contact the author, andy@photohello.co.uk

In the next blog, I’ll be having a look at more lighting ideas

Did you Stop and Look?

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