Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More on perspective

My last post here was about why we might not like what we look at in photographs. And one of my readers, Maximilano da Costa asked a great question. what about taking a photo from 18" with a 100mm lens and then from 60" with the same lens.

Well, the  lens I used here, a Canon 70-200 f/4L, with a Canon 500D closeup lens on it would only focus in as close as 22" so I tried Maximiliano's test at 22" and 60". I hope that is close enough.

Anway, Maximiliano asked if those two images would look the same. I didn't expect that they would. My whole premise is that perspective is determined by camera to subject distance, not by lens.

So, let's take a look at the results...

Camera 22" from the subject's eye
Camera 60" from the subject's eye
I think you can see that the look of the face is quite different between the two. As "promised," the image taken from 60" is much flatter in appearance. Hence looking a little wider/heavier. Here they are side-by-side...

Click to enlarge

Can you see the difference? The image taken at 22 inches has a nice gentle curvature of the cheek as it wraps around from the nose to the ear. The one at 60" is flatter.

This being the internet and all that, I know someone is going to suggest that maybe it is the optics of a zoom lens, even if both images were taken at 100mm. Or someone may suggest that adding the 500D close up filter to allow the 70-200 to focus so close are affecting things. I can assure you they are not.

But in the sense of full testing, I pulled out an old Tamron 90mm macro lens that could focus at 18 inches and repeated the tests. I think you will see the same results...

Camera at 18" from subject's eye
Camera at 60" from subject's eye
 And the side-by-side for closer comparison...

Click to enlarge
Please, don't just take my word for it. What I really want you to do is to go out and try these things yourself. Just because a book says it is so, or some photographer on the net says it is so doesn't mean they are always correct. 

So, go out and take some photos of the same person or mannequin (they tend to hold still longer for a better comparison) and see what happens as you move around them and move closer and further away. And then try a higher or lower camera angle than you usually use. Experiment. These don't have to be images that you show to anyone else. They are references for yourself.  Write your own photography book using the tests you run yourself.

Thank you Maximiliano for asking your question. I love questions. Please post yours in the comments if you have some.



  1. All of what you say makes sense, so why is an 80mm lens recommended as a flattering lens for portaiture, over a 50mm?

  2. Hi David. Good question. I believe that for other people viewing a photo the lenses in the 80mm to 100mm range produce an image that looks more like the subject and gives good drawing to the face. It is when we see ourselves that we are not used to seeing ourselves from further away.

    The 80mm lens causes the photographer to have to back up a little bit to get the framing. The image taken with the 80 probably looks more like the subject as other people see them then does the image taken closer. But to the subject, it might look like they are heavier than they think they are.

    1. Thanks John, these have blogs have certainly been food for thought!

  3. Don't most fashion photographers use supertelephoto lenses, 200mm (?). Wouldn't that add pounds to the models? So the models must be really really thin up close. Conversely, if we are shooting a fattish lady, is it better to get real close to her and fill the frame?


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