The right lens for the job

 From wide-angle to telephoto, the lens you use has a huge impact on the way your portraits look.

Find out which lens you need to use when...

You often hear people talk about lenses altering perspective, but thatnot strictly true. Changes in perspective are caused by the distance that you are shooting from; the lens just governs how much of the scene is included.

The idea that lenses affect perspective comes from the simple fact that to get the subject the same size in your shot you will be much further away if you use a long focal length lens than if you use a shorter one. So shooting from a distance with a longer lens will make the subject appeal-closer to the background than if you shoot closer in with a shorter focal length.

Classic lenses

The classic lens for portraits is a short telephoto. These are lenses with a focal length of around 40mm to 70mm on an APS-C camera or 60mm to 105mm on full-frame cameras.

These lenses are great for shooting head-and-shoulders portraits from a reasonable distance away. This means therelittle distortion of the subjectfeatures.


O The shooting distances mean that you get a ’perspective in your shots.

O Fixed focal length versions of these lenses offer wide maximum apertures, so are good for getting shallow depth of field.


O Because ita classic choice, ithard to make your shots look creative, as youalways be the same sort of distance from the subject, and get a similar perspective.

Digital Camera Aueust 2012  felephoto lenses:

Shooting from a long

distance from your subject with? a long focal length lens can produce some strikingjesults. It will make the background (and any objects in the foreground) appear to be much closer to the subject, giving a far more enclosed and almost claustrophobic effect.

This is easy to do when shooting head-and-shouldcrs portraits or close-ups, but to get the whole figure in the frame you ll need plenty of space. So think about this when choosing the location for your shoot.


Itvery easy to get attractive shallow depth of field effects.

Shooting from a long distance makes the background and foreground appear much closer to your subject.


You can end up standing a long way from your model, making it difficult * to communicate with them.

Youneed plenty7 of room to shoot anything wider than a head-and-shoulders portrait.

Wide-angle lenses

Lenses with a focal length of 18mm or less on an APS-C camera (or 28mm on a full-frame camera) are often overlooked when shooting portraits. But they are excellent when you want to include the background as part of the image, or if you have limited space to include the whole figure.

Watch out for distortion when you get too close though, because iteasy for legs or arms that are close to the camera to appear much larger than the rest of the subject.

Youneed to find a good-humoured and understanding model if you use a very

short focal length lens, because youhave to get very close, and the distorted features that this can create can be unflattering.


Iteasier to include more of the background with a wide-angle lens than it is with a longer one.

You can shoot full-length shots without having to stand miles away from your subject.


Cet too close when taking a head-and-shoulders shot, for example —and youdistort your subjectfeatures (although this effect can also be used deliberately). Oltpretty difficult to get shallow depth of field with a wide-angle lens.

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