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How To: Right lens for the right shot - Printable Version

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How To: Right lens for the right shot - DennisM - 07-20-2019 09:31 AM

I've been shooting with a 35mm since 1978, most of it self taught. Picked up a camera to photograph my newborn daughter, turned it on her mother (very patient she was) and found I really enjoyed working with the female nude. So with what I've learned from hands on (the camera, not the model in most cases (wry look)) is that the lenses themselves really play a huge role in how the image turns out.

Back in the day of film, a 50mm lens (+/-) was considered a normal lens, below that was wide angle and above that telephoto. 50mm closely resembled the human eye in it's perspective and magnification factor. But the 50mm lens when used close up still resulted in a picture where the center of the image ballooned up and the edges seemed to retreat. I remember reading that many pro photographers recommended using a telephoto lens of about 105 to 110mm to work with faces. If you go too far into the telephoto, then you can wind up with flattening out the image and a reduction in contrast. I started using a moderate telephoto zoom and it seemed to help. Note... modern digital lenses aren't quite the same. So a 50mm film lens is probably about 60-70mm on a digital lens. I forget the method of converting one to the other equivalency.

Fast forward several decades and I've gone back to school to get a degree in art with a focus on graphic design and photography. One of the books I read talked about how the human mind "edits" images without us even being aware of it, autocorrecting for the pincushion effect caused by normal vision in a 3d world. The brain is programmed to ignore automatic routines in every day life, and that's why in a 2d representation like photography we "see" the distortion, but not in the flesh, so to say.

So, long and short of it, if you have too little room to get back from your subject to allow using a telephoto lens, then you really are stuck using a shorter lens and putting up with any distortion.