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Gear Talk => Canon General => Topic started by: koolman on November 02, 2011, 02:40:03 AM

Title: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: koolman on November 02, 2011, 02:40:03 AM
Can good portraits be taken at 50mm (eq) ? I use a rebel and find that for head and shoulder shots taken at about 4 feet away from the subject, 35mm seems nice. (35 x 1.6 = 56)

Does this contradict the long standing notion that you need a 100mm (eq) for a good portrait ?

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Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: NotABunny on November 02, 2011, 04:17:06 AM
Does this contradict the long standing notion that you need a 100mm (eq) for a good portrait ?

Never heard of this, but I've read that the geometric perspective of 43 mm FF is similar to that of the human eye. However, I find it boring to see in photos the same perspective as the eye, so it depends on what you like.
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: Old Shooter on November 02, 2011, 04:34:18 AM
If you go to this thread there were some pretty good points bantered about...

http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php/topic,1978.0.html
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: AprilForever on November 08, 2011, 03:25:52 PM
Of course you can use it! The picture you posted looks quite nice. Just be careful not to exagerate the size of chins and noses. Careful model directing will yield you great pictures!

I like this picture you have posted, keep it up!
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: JR on November 08, 2011, 04:34:46 PM
I use 50mm for portrait all the time on a FF and I love it.  I also have the 85mm for tighter shots but my 50mm is almost always on my cameras.  I find very versatile, so dont hesitate to use it.
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: 7enderbender on November 08, 2011, 05:02:15 PM
Can good portraits be taken at 50mm (eq) ? I use a rebel and find that for head and shoulder shots taken at about 4 feet away from the subject, 35mm seems nice. (35 x 1.6 = 56)

Does this contradict the long standing notion that you need a 100mm (eq) for a good portrait ?

(http://)


I think either of this can work. And there are indeed different notions about this question. You will find people who will tell you that 100mm is already too tight and flattens out facial features too much. I don't find that to be true necessarily and like using 135 or 200mm lenses for this - especially outside and with kids.

Assuming here that you have a "crop" camera the 50 will actually give you the equivalent of about 85mm which is also considered a (if not THE) standard focal length for portraits.

But then again I also like fast 50mm lenses for portraits (on full frame) so your 35mm may work well for you as well.

When using a zoom I find myself ending up in the 70mm vicinity a lot - especially inside and when using a neutral background.

It's all good.
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: archangelrichard on November 08, 2011, 05:14:38 PM
It depends on your definition of a portrait - the picture given does not fit the normal definition of a "portrait"; it is an OK picture but not a portrait
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: Mt Spokane Photography on November 08, 2011, 05:38:46 PM
85mm to 135mm is the traditional focal length for portraits on full frame.  This would translate to about 50mm to 85mm with a 1.6 crop camera.

So, 50mm is close to the traditional portrait range for your Rebel.

Of course, you can use any focal length that produces results you like.  Some even use ultra wide, while others feel that 300mm flatters the face by shrinking the features.

If you are pleasing yourself use what you like.  If you are trying to produce a flattering portrait to give or sell to someone, stick with a traditional focal length unless you have a specific request.
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: dr croubie on November 08, 2011, 06:30:31 PM
One taken on the weekend at a halloween party, using a Samyang 35/1.4 on a 7D, so about 56mm.
I was about 2-3m away, live-view MF held about chest-high, slightly cropped (about 80% of original area).
The lower focal length was useful as otherwise I would have had to step back into the garden, and it also kept DOF a bit longer than normal, manual focussing that quickly in that low-light isn't too easy, and I needed a margin-of-error for movement on the widest-aperture available.
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: dr croubie on November 08, 2011, 06:33:35 PM
It depends on your definition of a portrait - the picture given does not fit the normal definition of a "portrait"; it is an OK picture but not a portrait
My definition is a picture of one person, doesn't have to be head-only or head+shoulders. Full-body and 'environmental' portraits are still portraits in my books. But that's just me, anyone have other definitions?
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: Mt Spokane Photography on November 08, 2011, 11:47:21 PM
It depends on your definition of a portrait - the picture given does not fit the normal definition of a "portrait"; it is an OK picture but not a portrait
My definition is a picture of one person, doesn't have to be head-only or head+shoulders. Full-body and 'environmental' portraits are still portraits in my books. But that's just me, anyone have other definitions?

I agree, that first image meets the definition of a portrait.  The second one is not, because there is no face or expression, its a snapshot.

Here is a commonly accepted definition from wikipedia, andthe image of the young boy certainly certainly qualifies.

A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person. For this reason, in photography a portrait is generally not a snapshot, but a composed image of a person in a still position. A portrait often shows a person looking directly at the painter or photographer, in order to most successfully engage the subject with the viewer.

Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: sbryson on November 09, 2011, 12:25:12 AM
This article might be of interest.  Comparative shots at different focal lengths.

http://gizmodo.com/5857279/this-is-how-lenses-beautify-or-uglify-your-pretty-face
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: koolman on November 09, 2011, 03:29:33 AM
Of course you can use it! The picture you posted looks quite nice. Just be careful not to exagerate the size of chins and noses. Careful model directing will yield you great pictures!

I like this picture you have posted, keep it up!

Thanks April - its nice to get a compliment. The picture is my 9 year old son, taken with a 35mm 1.4L at 1.4 in my living room using daylight. I was sitting in a chair about 4-5 feet from him.
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: briansquibb on November 09, 2011, 05:02:10 AM
Personally I find the 135F2 best on ff. The quality of the lens is very good, bokeh is excellent and the little extra reach stops distortion. It is also good for dog portraits at about F4
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: NotABunny on November 09, 2011, 05:36:10 AM
The important thing is the distance between the lens and the subject, combined with the size of the features that you're photographing (usually facial features).

If you try a head only portrait with a 35...50 mm FF, you're likely to increase too much the nose and cheeks. Whereas a focal length beyond 85 mm will force you to keep a distance significant enough to keep away such distortions.

However, if you try half / full body, even 35 mm is perfectly acceptable.
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: wockawocka on November 12, 2011, 04:28:13 AM
Close up facially 135L, Headshots 85L, 3/4 portraits 50L, human eye equivalents 45 TS-E, Full length 35L
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: briansquibb on November 12, 2011, 07:26:50 AM
Close up facially 135L, Headshots 85L, 3/4 portraits 50L, human eye equivalents 45 TS-E, Full length 35L

That is ff or 1.6?

I would say 1.6 from experience as I use my 135 for headshots on the 5DII
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: wockawocka on November 12, 2011, 08:50:59 AM
No, on full frame. 135mm whilst flattering, can end up with you leaning backwards over a wall to get someone into the frame.
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: willrobb on November 17, 2011, 01:13:05 AM
Whether on a FF or 1.6 crop body, a 50mm lenses great for portraits, probably the most versatile lens for portraits in my opinion. You can get in close, focus on eyes only, get brilliant 3/4 body crops and even do great full body shots....just as long as you have enough space to move anyway. The best thing about any of the 50mm lenses is the wonderful bokeh you get, for evey portrait assignment I use the 50mm f1.2L, my 70-200mm f2.8L and sometimes even my 24-70mm (or even my 17-40mm f4L) when I needrk include a lot of the background in the shot.
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: briansquibb on November 17, 2011, 03:03:51 AM
Whether on a FF or 1.6 crop body, a 50mm lenses great for portraits, probably the most versatile lens for portraits in my opinion. You can get in close, focus on eyes only, get brilliant 3/4 body crops and even do great full body shots....just as long as you have enough space to move anyway. The best thing about any of the 50mm lenses is the wonderful bokeh you get, for evey portrait assignment I use the 50mm f1.2L, my 70-200mm f2.8L and sometimes even my 24-70mm (or even my 17-40mm f4L) when I needrk include a lot of the background in the shot.

50 is too short on a ff for just heads, fine for full body and head/shoulders. I would suggest, for realism, the 85mm and if getting in close the 135 f/2
Title: Re: 50mm Focal length for portrait
Post by: koolman on November 17, 2011, 04:32:00 AM
I use a rebel 1.6 crop. I found that for a meaningful portrait - if I use a 35mm - I need to get quite close - or I get a body shot. Depending on the subject and surroundings - body shots can be great - or weak - portraits. One common problem is that a body shot in a non studio setting, often has clutter around it that distracts the picture.

However many times especially at home - and especially when I am shooting more then one person, the 35mm works better then a 50mm - that requires a larger space.

Like everything else in photography - there are no iron rules - and each situation requires a choice of wise compromises between various factors to get the best choice.

I personally use a 35L for portraits sometimes - and get great results.