Two Minute Tips: Why a wider focal length is not the cause of distortion in your portraits


posted Monday, December 10, 2018 at 3:30 PM EDT


Conventional wisdom often states that the focal length of your lens affects how a subject appears, especially with respect to how a person appears in a portrait. Photographer David Bergman argues in the latest episode of Two Minute Tips for Adorama that this is wrong and that a wider focal length doesn't necessarily result in unflattering portraits. 

You’ve likely heard people rally against using a wide-angle lens for portraits because it isn’t flattering. What is actually happening here is that when comparing portraits shot at different focal lengths, you must move closer to make the subject appear the same size in the frame when you are shooting with a wider lens versus a longer lens. When you get closer to your subject, the relative distance of their features are exaggerated. Bergman states that “it’s actually the distance that causes most of the change in perspective, not distortion from the lens.”

If you have access to only a wide lens and want to take a nice portrait which has the “look” of a longer lens, what you must do is stay further away from your subject and fight the urge to fill the frame. If you crop the images, you will see that a subject looks essentially the same at all focal lengths. Of course, if you are cropping an image shot at 11mm to have the same look as an image shot at 200mm, you are going to be doing a lot of cropping.

(Via Adorama