That's because you're used to seeing people on YouTube and video conferencing with a camera an arm-length away.


People don’t realize how much being accustomed to a format changes our preferences.


Not at all. Quite funny to see all the downvotes, as op was assuming something wrong, as I don't watch face cam YouTube videos since a while and that my initial question is quite recent.


You can do a test…. Imo shots done at 50/85 look noticeably different, but 85/135/200 look the same to me


It’s a very tricky thing, like you’ve said it depends mostly on the face. I usually vary the portraits between the 70-200mm and the 50mm in studio. Location I try to stick with the 35mm The clients selection varies so much it’s still imposible to say what lens they prefer. At least for me.


Large parts of this aren't about the lens so much as the viewing distance and framing of the subject. If you want a headshot with a wide angle lense, you end up like 2' from the person's face. At that distance, the nose is like 5-10% closer to the camera than the person's eye, so ends up looking disproportionately larger. A lens that lets you get the same head framing from 5' or 10' or 100' will "flatten" features because relative to the total distance, there isn't a ton of difference. That wide angle lens from the same distance will be fine, but the subject will fill less of the frame. The most natural look will come from a lens that lets you get the framing you want of your subject from what people might think of as the most natural distance to see it.


I know, that was I was saying I'm talking about body/upper body, to have a similar composition all across the focal range, and solely focus talking about the change of perspective.


I don’t know why you’re getting downvoted for this. We all know it’s the distance and not the focal length that causes the distortion, but for this discussion we can assume that you are talking about keeping the framing the same so different focal lengths dictate different subject distances.


I was indeed assuming the framing was the same. It's not the first time seeing this sub going out of subject / too complex about a quite simple question, so it dont suprise me but I wasn't expecting half of the replies to be that far from my initial question. Maybe I wasn't clear enough as I was quite tired and English isn't my first language, but it was as simple as "do you think perspective changes when using long lenses can be unflatering, like with a wide angle lens, when compared to the same framing with a more "normal" focal"


Traditionally, 90mm +/- is considered to be the most flattering focal length for portraits. YMMV of course.


I love 135mm tbh. But looks a bit more "epic" so not really suitable all the time. But personally I think it makes people look really nice. I'd somewhat solve this by going with a higher f-stop, since the background blow-out can be a bit much if not properly taking backgrounds into account (like some moody bokeh balls at night to some moderation).


Many different opinions here, witch is a good sign. My portrait lens is 75mm, until 90mm it's OK but already a little bit "dull", above, well, no, it is too flat. Of course depends the rending you want/need. Glad to see everyone think differently...!


On full frame - the only lens that I have been using for portraits is an 85mm f/1.8. I have an 80-200 f/2.8 which I only used a few times because it flattens the perspective while my 50mm f/1.4 is too wide.


> Do you think long focal lenses are as unflatering as wide angle lenses ? No.


Wrote an article about this a while ago! My portrait studio does 300 to 500 sessions per month. We personally get feedback from client's on the spot by showing them the photos on an iPad. [https://petapixel.com/2022/02/14/3-reasons-clients-wont-like-your-portrait-photos-and-how-to-fix-them/](https://petapixel.com/2022/02/14/3-reasons-clients-wont-like-your-portrait-photos-and-how-to-fix-them/) Most people, definitely prefer a 50mm or 35mm. 85mm and up widens your face. Dude's like it because it makes them look strong.


Interesting thanks for the link. :) For what type of framing they usually prefer 35/50 ? Full body, shoulder-to-head, upper body ?


All of them. Again, 85mm and up just widens them. The most common request at the beginning of most people's sessions is that they look skinny. I'll say this though, the background on natural portraits looks a bit better on the telephoto lenses, as it's compressed and a bit more interesting.


Two things to consider, first what is your camera's sensor size? If it's cropped, the 135mm becomes almost 200mm. Second, it's a matter of taste. I don't do much portrait photography, but when I do, I really like the 135-200mm on a full frame. For a long time the 85-135 range has been considered the standard for portraits. My favorite was my old Canon 135mmF2 on a film camera. That lens wide open was a thing of beauty -- FOR ME:)


The sensor size doesn't matter matte here, I'm talking about the general idea of a long lens that flatten every compared to a "normal" focal, for an equivalent composition, and how I find long lenses to be unflatering for certain person.


I have the Canon FD 135mm f2 lens and I agree it's beautiful wide open


Your first point about sensor size is not really valid. Yes the picture will be tighter but sensor size wont effect how the models face proportions will look. And thats what OP was curious about.


If someone's using a 135mm lens on an APS-C camera, it will act like a 200mm, meaning you'll have to get further away from your subject which does cause more "flattening".


Fair enough, OP was talking about perspective, not focal length.


Depends on the subject


As a wedding photographer I will often use a 200mm f.2 for full body from the back of a church or in large spaces. If you are able to be unobtrusive this lens allows for the best candids.


Nope. Of course it depends a lot on the type of portrait you are trying to take. But for a tight-ish head shot or head and shoulders, I love the perspective of lenses in the 85-135 range.


Depends on a couple things, what is your definition of flattering? Thinner, more gaunt (say an older person) looks more "plump" at under 55mm. Someone with a wider face will look slimmer at 85mm and above. Flattering is also very subjective. Also, don't forget that how you frame with a wider lens affects the distortion on the face. Is the chin near the center of the frame or near the edge? This can greatly affect the appearance of someone's face and body. I know pinup photographers that like a wider lens with the booty or boobs with maximum distortion to appear larger and rounder. And I also know fashion photographers that shoot 100mm+ to make people slimmer and taller.




I agree with you and definitely think it depends on the person. I think 70-85 ff eq. is the most universally flattering, but some people look better at like 50 and some look better at 105-135. I almost feel like longer lenses have almost a masculinizing effect that works well for some but not well for others. Under 50 doesn’t usually look great unless it’s a full portrait, since distance to subject definitely plays a huge part as well. All of this is just my opinion though.


I always feel bad for the people in group shots who are on the edges of a wide angle lens photo.


Just get a nice 85mm, they are lovely. I neglected that lens at first but went full frame and with FF I think the 85 is the nicest image quality.


LOL I shoot portraits on my 14mm. I also shoot portraits on my 35mm, 50mm, and 70-200. It all depends on the context and the story I want to tell


I tend to agree. This idea that you’re not supposed to take close or medium close portrait with anything less than 85mm (FF) is one of those ‘rules’ that apply to some kinds of photography but for other kinds are meant to be broken. The way I see it is that the distortion or lack thereof tells our eyes and our brains, consciously or subconsciously, roughly from which distance an image was taken. This means that images shot from closer distances *feel* more like ‘being there’ and images shot from farther away feel more distant. I often aim for intimacy, closeness, and a sense of ‘being there’ in my close and medium close portraits, so I will often use a 50mm for those shots. This focal length puts me pretty much within arm’s reach of the model. I think this puts the viewer there as well, which is where I want them to be. I think from the viewer’s perspective, nobody is thinking in terms of ‘how big is her nose in proportion to ears’. They just experience the image. They see a view from a point that is three feet from the model’s face, so they feel like they’re three feet from the models face. On top of that, if you’re going for a more dynamic look you can go even wider and it will still look great. Just this week I shot a Footlocker campaign on 24mm and another one on 15mm.


> Do you think a long lens, and the side effect of using one such as widening of the jaw/neck, flatness/boxiness of the body,etc.. can be unflatering to someone, in a similar way a wide angle can be (more prominent nose, narrowing of the jaw/neck, exacerbated proportions nears the edge of the frame) Yes, long focal lengths, and the flattening from perspective distortion can be unflattering to people with flatter features. People of European descent tend to have more angular and projecting faces, so the flattening from distance can reduce the prominence of features like the large noses we tend to have. Some Asians tend toward flatter faces, and less protruding noses, so flattening the face is not necessarily flattering.


it depends on the person. with a new model i like to shoot long and short and see what looks better. it's hard to predict. some people look way better one way or the other, and it's not always intuitive judging by their faces.


They can be depending on the person being photographed and what features each type of distortion is exaggerating (though extreme wide is more likely to bungle someones features than the opposite). I'd argue anywhere from 60-90 is about neutral, and if you go beyond that either side then be aware of exaggerating a "negative" feature. My wife has a slightly squarer jaw than others so a very long telephoto is not super flattering - doesn't look bad, just doesn't look optimal. She suits 60mm give or take. If it's a tight headshot then the rules change. That's why it's easier to calculate distortion effects simply by how far away the subject is - the rest of your options just dictate how they're framed. If you ignore barrel distortion (or don't put subject near edge), then any lens will generally get the same results when it comes to "face flatness". I know you've addressed that you know all this, but it's really the best starting point to thinking about this stuff. Unless it's a really tight shot, I'm not a big fan of going beyond 90mm for portraits. It starts feeling flat and "graphical", like a magazine cover. You lose that sense of standing in conversation with the subject. That's just me though, and I still appreciate that long focal lengths open up creative options (bokeh, shallow depth of field and pulling the background "forward"). However those are "arty" choices with the framing and not so much to do with the subject itself which was your question. TLDR: I'd only go beyond 90mm if there was a specific "arty" reason for it - otherwise i don't like the way it makes people look.


It all depends on the situation and artistic choice. I have seen pictures of shoots outdoors where they were doing something crazy like full body shots using 500mm lenses on a beach and having to communicate with a helper next to the model over radio.


I really don’t like the look of portraits done with a wide angle close up. I think they distort and over accentuate the face in the worst way. I feel a telephoto, from 85-135 is kind of the sweet spot. Like the compression that happens to facial features that makes everyone look more in proportion to real life. However wide angles are great for environmental portraits.


Is that why they call 50mm “nifty fifty?”


50mm cringe