Monday, 12 January 2009

Kent Wedding Photography - wide angle lenses

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I received the following question earlier:

Hi David,

I notice you use the 35mm f/1.4 lens a lot for head and shoulders images - and they all look fantastic.

My understanding was that one should use 80mm + to avoid facial distortion in these kind of shots. What's your take?



Hi Geoff,

Thanks for your kind words.

Focal lengths of 80mm and above are typically used for portraiture since it forces you to stand further from your subject in order to fill the frame, giving a more flattering perspective to your subject's face. See my earlier post on perspective and portrait lenses.

The important thing to note is that perspective depends upon distance to subject. If I fill the frame with someone's face using a 35mm lens it probably won't look too flattering. Increasing the distance from the subject will diminish the distortion though. Some of my shots have probably been cropped making it appear that I was closer than I actually was.

Some portrait photographers might find some of my shots taken at 35mm unacceptable. It's all in the eye of the beholder!



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James Mack said...


What are your thoughts on the 85mm L as a more general lens for weddings. Clearly it is fast enough for any environment and ideal for posed portraits, but what about guest shots and candids . Can it focus quickly or will it miss the shot - I keep reading people say that it is slow - but slow compared against what. Do they mean if switching focus from a close to far object. Compared to a 24-70L what % are we talking about here?

Thank you

David said...

Hi James,

The 85mm f/1.2 L and 35mm f/1.4 L prime lenses find great favour amongst wedding photographers. You can use them in all scenarios but there is a learning curve with the 85mm lens.

The 85mm lens is slower to focus than most other AF lenses - I don't have hard figures for you on this though. It does take some getting used to, but if you want an aperture of f/1.2 and awesome optical quality (and I do) that's the price you have to pay! People need to learn how to shoot with this lens - it has a minimum focusing distance of 95cm! Focusing on objects between 1-2m is where people probably encounter most of their problems. Beyond this, focusing becomes much quicker. I use it for candids but you need plenty of space.



James said...

Sorry David,

If you have time, can you please expand on what the difficulties are with this lens and what the learning curve relates to..

What also is the significance of the minimum focusing distance?

I'm looking to buy one but don't want to make a very expensive mistake.

Thanks in advance.!

David said...

Hi James,

The key points to be aware of:

Objects need to be more than 95cm from the focal plane for the lens to be able to focus on them - so you need to keep your distance.

You need to be aware that if you focus on an object between 1-2m away and then refocus on an object further away it can take the lens time to refocus.

Focusing technique needs to be very accurate with wide apertures.

It's not a steep learning curve but, as you can see from the above points, there is one nonetheless.



Jane said...

Hi again David,

I always see pro photographers using their lens hoods indoors - is this needed for flash photography? Does it do any harm leaving it on?

Thank you

David said...

Hi Jane,

I always have my lens hoods on - both indoors and outdoors. They reduce the chance of stray light being reflected within the lens, which causes flare and reduces contrast, and also offer increased protection for your lens.

If your camera has an in-built pop-up flash unit then a lens hood will probably cast a shadow on to your subject, but so will most big lenses without a lens hood. This can be avoided by using an external flash unit.