What is the best focal length for portrait photography?

 

Today we will explain how to use different focal distance while shooting close-up portraits. There are some particular focal distances that can be used when you try to capture the most important object of your shooting – a face of your model.

The main reason that makes your image look just perfect lies in the type of lenses you use. If we take a wide-angle lens then a face of a model can be slightly distorted, but if you try to use a too long-focus lens, the close-up effect will be lost due to significant distance, and we will lose an opportunity to reveal the true nature of our model.  

the best focal distance while shooting portrait photos

 

Too wide

24-70mm, which is among our favorite lenses, will be the worst choice. However, this lens is used most frequently for close-up portrait photography. We would recommend you to take such photos with the focal distance of 70mm, and even in this case, there will be some distortions. If you want to capture with the focal length of 24mm, to fill a shot, you should make it very close, and as a result, you will get a kind of caricature, that you would prefer not to show to your client as he/she most likely will not be satisfied with the result.

If you shoot using a wide-angle lens, you should be aware that it exaggerates any asymmetry of model's face, significantly exaggerating the areas that are close to your lens while making the far areas even smaller, and also exaggerating the distance between objects. This can be the distance between the neck and the chin of your model; the final result will look very awkward. 

If you increase a focal distance up to 70mm, a portrait will look much better. However, it will be far from perfect and most likely won’t meet your expectations.  If you have to use 24-70mm as you have only this at hand, then it's better to do the following: Step away a little bit and keep some distance between you and your model, so you will get a shot with some free area that you can crop later. 

lightroom presets for portrait photography

 

perfect focal distance

Our two favorite lenses for such kind of photography are 85mm and 100mm. These are the perfect focal distances for close-up portrait photography, as the perspective will not be distorted as in the case of 24-70mm.

the best portrait collection

 

Too long

And if we take a long-focus lens? It will be better, won’t it? Not always.

Photographers prefer not to use long-focus lenses mostly because of practical aspects and partially – aesthetics. The more the focal distance is, the more should be the distance between a photographer and an object of shooting so that it can fit a shot. 

There are two potential problems with such approach. If you are inside, your space will be limited, and it won't be enough of it to use a long-focus lens.

Moreover, when you are too far from your model, your communication with the model is far more restricted. And your client can feel not very comfortable in such situation, so it’s hardly the aim you try to achieve. Significant distance creates some kind of barrier between you and your client; it’s much more complicated to grasp those evanescent “lucky” moments and capture elusive expressions.

 

Our recommendations

You can see that the focus distance plays a significant role in close-up portrait photography as it is related to the results you get and your communication with your client in a studio. We want to create beautiful images and build excellent communication with our client. That's why we recommend you to use lenses with a focal distance of 70-100mm, preferably 85-100mm. If you already have a 70-200mm lens, you can also get outstanding results, just keep in mind how far you can step away from your model.


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