Portrait Focal Lengths, Putting Myths Aside For Clarity

Surely you have run into this situation while trying to get a better handle on what sort of lenses and gear you should invest in for portraits. You have a small space and you are asking for wide angle lens suggestions and everyone goes off the deep end about not using wide angle lenses for portrait without actually explaining why; or by using over simplified responses like ‘bad distortion!’

Mark Wallace and his crew over at Adorama TV recently did this great video in which they go over this very topic. You can read about photography all day, but in the end, it really comes down to many of us being visual learners, we need to see it in order to understand it. So rather than I rambling on for a bit, let’s just jump into the video and we can discuss after…

So now you know a little more about why the consensus is that telephoto lenses are the way to go for portraiture. You have seen it with your own eyes, and you should now be able to wrap your head around it.

But let’s also not forget to consider crop factor, if you are shooting on a crop sensor camera than you need to remember that you need to compensate for that. For example, on my Fujifilm X-Pro2, I am almost always shooting at 35mm, sometimes 28mm or 23mm. That gives me an effective view of 50mm, 42mm, and 35mm in full frame equivalence (more or less).

This, of course, is only valid if you are trying to create the classic and common look of portraiture. If you have a unique artistic vision and can produce the look you are going for with a wider lens than going for it, just understand that many will not ‘get it’ and be prepared to have to explain your choice when sharing with other photographers.

There are more great videos like this over on the Adorama TV website, so be sure to check that out! If you are looking for some suggestions on portrait lenses, be sure to check out our ‘Perfect Portrait’ series:

Anthony Thurston

Anthony is a Portland, Oregon based Boudoir Photographer specializing in a dark, moody style that promotes female body positivity, empowerment, and sexuality. Besides The Phoblographer, he also reviews gear and produces his own educational content on his website.