How Lens Focal Length Shapes the Face

It's pretty crazy to think just a small change of focal length can drastically distort your subject's face. In this behind the scenes video , Jay P. Morgan of The Slanted Lens goes into detail to show us each change and how it effected the model's appearance. Maybe you're interested in buying a fixed lens or maybe you're interested in gaining tips on portrait and headshot photography - either way this video is definitely worth checking out.

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Bua's picture

Very nice info! Ta.

Jens Marklund's picture

I guess you should probably add that he is shooting with a full frame. So if you have a different sized sensor, you will need to calculate your equivalent to these focal lengths. 

Jeff DeHaven's picture

One thing to note however; the distortion is the same. A 25mm lens, for example, even on a crop sensor is still going to have the exact same distortion as on a full frame, you are merely seeing the middle of the lens due to the sensor being smaller- it will not actually be 25mm x 1.6 regarding distortion, only zoom factor.

Владимир Фельдман's picture

It's not about distortion but the perspective and perspective depends only from the relative distances from the camera to the different parts of the model's body and face. So the picture shot with 40 mm at full-frame will be exactly the same as with 25 mm at 1.6 crop. It's simple geometry.

Eric Gould's picture

I agree with Jeff. While distance will effect the perspective each lens has an inherit distortion/compression factor. A 50 mm on any sensor up close is not an attractive lens for portraits and a 35mm will distort even more. However, an 85mm - 135mm on any sensor looks good. I see lots of folks with 35mm and they wonder why the people always look "weird" even though the salesmen told it was like a 50mm on a cropped sensor - which makes me cringe on two counts... Ask any wedding photographer what they use to make their brides look the best. I love Jay's video it helps so much with communicating a misunderstood topic - Go Jay!

Deleted Account's picture

Wladimir is correct on this subject. Try to change focal length with out changing distance to your subject. Then crop one picture to much other. The pictures will look identical. What changes perspective is fact that you have to change distance to your subject to maintain your composition.
And wedding photographers usually use distortion and perspective manipulation to make their clients "look the best" ;)

Rich Meade's picture

Tell Platon that 50mm and 35mm are not attractive for portraits.

garrettgibbons's picture

Jeff is correct. It's the same image.

Chris Helton's picture

He even says it in the video, he could move away from her and it will look better but while keeping her face the same size in the frame it will distort. put a 50mm on a crop camera and you have to move further back. crop camera crops the outside of the lens at full frame. the distortion comes from the proximity to the edge of the frame. Think super wide angel, the center looks proper, but the stuff at the very edges is pulled and distorted. put that on a crop camera and it crops that out

Bob's picture

Great minds! Here's a companion article about the more advanced principles of lens' focal length for those who want to know more;

Thewirehead's picture

How Lens (product placement) Focal Len(product placement)gth Shapes the Face(product placement) brought to you by (product placement, product placement, product placement). 

Jockemon's picture

Must be hard for you to watch free high quality videos like this one from the comfort of your own home, without having to pay for a DVD or anything..

I don't even get why they bother making these videos, it's obviously nothing but commercials!


Thewirehead's picture

I would gladly pay if the content was worth it. Lets compare lens focal lengths. OK first 200mm; yeah looks nice the subject is framed nicely. Next, OK, lets look at 50mm; as you can see the subject hasn't moved but more of the background is visible...

Stupendous. /sarcasm

John Cornicello's picture

Sorry, I need to disagree with the effect of focal length. It is distance. I've written about this a few times. One of them: