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Portrait focal length


TPF Noob!
Jan 21, 2007
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So Cal, of course
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I have heard that 85mm is a good focal length for portraits. So with a 1.6 camera, should I be using 50mm to 55mm?

Thanks in advance
On full frame, I'll generally like to shoot between 50mm to 100 (135mm stretching). So on a 1.6 crop the nifty fifty will be a good starting point.

Of course this is just rule of thumb and these "rules" are meant to be broken.
The standard focal length for portraits is 85~135mm. Divide by 1.6 to find your equivalent mm.

You should pick a lens based on what YOU want to do, not what tradition tells you.
Percieved wisdom is to use a zoomier prime rather than a wide lens as a wide lens would distort your subject's pictures - i.e. it might make a nose look bigger etc. But rules are there to be broken - that might be perfect for your needs.
The idea is that a longer focal length is more flattering to your subject because it will tend to compress features. The opposite is true of wide angle lenses, which tend to accentuate features and have distortion.
The proper focal-length for protraits depends on one thing, your style of photography. anyone can tell you what you should use but the proper focal-length depends on you.
you could use a telephoto to make your subject thinner....or a well placed wide angle to make their chest area humungous..
All humour aside...try out a few different lengths. I find that my 70-200 works quite well for portraits.
Remember that shooting with a lens on a less than full frame camera isn't changing the optics of the lens but rather crops the image... The same way as if you were to crop the image in PS latter. Cropping is not changing the lens you use, but rather changes the amount of the image you are viewing. I could shoot almost exclusively with a 70-200 f2.8 and a 50 f1.4. Portraits look great with both depending on the surroundings. but in short,,, yes 85mm is the ideal.
The idea of a standard focal length is not to restrict your style to it. It's to help beginners get started on finding their own style, what the standard work for them and what didn't.

Although, one basic question you could answer at this level, you want to do full-body portraits or headshots mainly?

This is especially important if you're shooting mainly indoor.

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