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07-26-2012, 12:39 PM   #1
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K(s)evin's Avatar

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So, is a portrait lens...

...a portrait lens, regardless of the number of subjects?

In other words, with a lens you use to shoot a portrait of a single individual (i.e., an 85 1.4), would it also be okay for doing family portraits? Or should I be looking at a different type, or focal length? Obviously the number of subjects in a photo may determine what focal length you have to use. But with a family of 3-8 subjects am I safe with the 85?

07-26-2012, 12:47 PM   #2
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my take is that portrait lenses typically range from 50-135mm depending on indoor or outdoor (mostly related to working distance) and whether it was head shots, head & upper body or full body shots. the real problem with for example the lens you have suggested, is that for a group shot, you may need more distance, (see my first point) and be moved outside simply because of the focal length you pick.

the other thing to consider is that some fast lenses have sharpness fall off quite a bit when wide open, as you move off center in the frame, and also, considering shallow DOF, and the difficulty in having all the family members at the same shooting distance exactly, what do you really want to focus on? I doubt you would shoot wide open for a true group shot. I have seen however, some very nice shots with 2 or 3 people, only one of which is in focus, using a medium tele, and the shallow DOF it gives wide open, as a creative shot.
07-26-2012, 12:55 PM   #3
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A portrait lens, to me, is a lens that allows you to comfortably fit the head and shoulders into the frame, without having to yell at your subject to get heard, or seem too creepy being 1' away.

Usually my Sigma 50 on my k-x works, so that's a 85mm on a full frame.
07-26-2012, 12:58 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by JinDesu Quote
A portrait lens, to me, is a lens that allows you to comfortably fit the head and shoulders into the frame, without having to yell at your subject to get heard, or seem too creepy being 1' away.

Usually my Sigma 50 on my k-x works, so that's a 85mm on a full frame.
I would add onto that though, with the desire to use a longer lens to provide more flattering rendering of the subject. As you start to go wide and get close, the lens does distort quite badly some body parts.

07-26-2012, 02:21 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by K(s)evin Quote
...a portrait lens, regardless of the number of subjects?

In other words, with a lens you use to shoot a portrait of a single individual (i.e., an 85 1.4), would it also be okay for doing family portraits? Or should I be looking at a different type, or focal length? Obviously the number of subjects in a photo may determine what focal length you have to use. But with a family of 3-8 subjects am I safe with the 85?
I think the important part is the perspective you want for the shot. To take a classic portrait, you would want a focal length of 85-135. If you want that same classic portrait perspective, you'll want a wider lens for more people, just make sure to stand the same distance away. To take a picture of four faces (in a 2x2 configuration) with the same perspective as one face, you'll want lens with twice the angle of view. Thus, if you like 85mm (19 deg diagonal) for 1 face, you'll want 40mm (39 deg diagonal) for four faces (aka two faces wide).

Of course, the perspective doesn't change a whole lot (for faces) once you've backed beyond 5-10 feet; back up to 40% farther back, and the faces won't look that much different than switching lenses. Though if you do so, remember that the DOF will become larger, and more of the background will come into focus.
07-26-2012, 02:43 PM   #6
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I photographed 15 people few weeks ago using 70mm Limited. I also photographed about 7 people at 24mm (indoors, more limited space) and to me, longer focals are much more interesting *generally speaking*.
07-26-2012, 05:21 PM   #7
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No way would I personally be shooting a whoe family on APS-C with an 85, at least not by choice. It's already on the long side for a single subject - pleasing perspective, but getting to be a bit uncomfortably long in working room except for a very tight face crop. Shooting a family with an 85 would require a *very* large room, or an outdoor location, and a bit of shouting.
07-26-2012, 06:12 PM   #8
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This is my old-school portrait weapon of choice. I knew it was a great lens, but I didn't use it much 'til I started doing portraits. It's fantastic for that purpose. Like it's tailor-made for it.

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