Using Focal Length to Shape the Face

When shooting portraits it’s important to take into consideration the focal length of your lens. As Jay P. Morgan explains in the following video, depending on what focal length you’re shooting with, you could get some rather undesirable distortions of your subject’s face.  Some of these distortions can be remedied by moving further from your subject, but that it is not always possible. Have a look at the short video tutorial to see what lens will best suit your needs:

You can see in the photograph directly below that a 135mm lens offers very minimal, if any, distortion. This is what makes the 135mm lens Morgan’s choice when taking headshots and portraits.

135mm lens

Here is an example of a 70mm lens. You can see some minor distortion on a 70mm lens; the face is slightly thinner and elongated…

70 mm lens

And finally, a 24mm. The distortion on a 24mm lens becomes very noticeable. The model’s face appears alien like…

lens focal length

Morgan did make some adjustments to these photographs; however, the lens distortion you see here was not changed during editing. Hopefully, this gives you a little more perspective on how focal length works and what to expect from each of your lenses.

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One response to “Using Focal Length to Shape the Face”

  1. I remember a few years ago when I first started photographing weddings. Really, I didn’t have a clue but at the time I thought I did! LOL!! One special wedding I did I used a new 14mm wide angle lens that I had just sent for. I was so excited about using this new lens for this very formal wedding. I didn’t even bother to try it out first! At the time I didn’t know the meaning of lens distortion. I didn’t have the intentions of using this lens throughout the wedding until I took a few shots of a couple of guests. Check out the results and thought, “Hey, this looks great!” I think I will continue shooting with this lens.. It looks fine on the camera so I decided to go ahead and use it… . I was pretty proud at the time and everyone was very anxious to see my pictures. They knew I was taking a truck load of shots and they could tell I was enjoying my job. Once I got home and downloaded them to the computer, I knew I had made the biggest mistake of my life!!!!! Everyone was distorted to the point of looking like….. YES Aliens.!! Here I had about five hundred pictures with the bride and groom and the whole wedding party and guests supporting huge heads and small bodies. !! I cried throughout the rest of the night. I cried a lot during the whole month it took me to fix their heads and bodies! Not an easy task for sure and very time consuming. I worked 12 hrs. a day during that whole month. I was finally able to present them my pictures looking normal… Someone upstairs helped me!! Whatever I did worked!! What a lesson learned on all of this!!
    After this whole episode I continued to shoot weddings but with a suitable lens and from then on, I felt weddings were very easy. Any wedding would be easy after a struggle like that. Tena

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