When it comes to portrait photography, professionals suggest that you use a lens at the telephoto end of the spectrum. For instance, 85mm has been established as an ideal focal length for portraits. Some photographers use a 200mm lens for portraits because of the nice compression and the background separation this focal length can provide. But Tony & Chelsea Northrup have a different idea. In the following video, they discuss wide angle portraits and why 24mm is the lens of honesty:
Wide angle lenses force you to be close to your subject and be intimate with them. There’s no hide and seek, so the expressions are pure.
“I think 24mm is the focal length of honesty. It’s the focal length of your friends.”
Why? That’s because most smartphone cameras use a 24mm equivalent standard lens; the images that you post of yourself, your family, your pets, and your friends on social media are all taken at 24mm. It has no association with commercial production but has a friendlier touch.
Telephoto lenses got popular because they were mostly used in commercial broadcasting. Movies, TV shows, and the news were all shot with telephoto lenses, and people got used to that perspective. Telephoto lenses provide a commercial vibe while wide angle lenses produce a natural, honest, and friendly feeling.
You might argue that you can’t get a professional look with a blown out background using a wide angle lens. That’s true to some extent, but lens manufacturers have come out with lenses like the 24mm f/1.4 that can create great background blur, especially when shot from a closer distance. Heavy background blur is a trend that is fading away, anyway, according to the Northrups.
If you haven’t tried wide angle lenses for portraits yet, go ahead and challenge yourself. Get closer and try to make photos that are casual instead of overly professional and polished. You’ll get much more genuine photos with a wide angle than you would with a telephoto. Are you up for the challenge?
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