A complete guide to focal length and how it affects focus and depth of field. This is a masterclass in one episode. So sit back and enjoy this ride into how the focal length of your lens can impact depth of field, focus and much more. Master this and it will be a game changer.
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A complete guide to focal length and how it affects focus and depth of field
- The focal length you shoot in can be random (it just felt right) or deliberate. Many photographers find they tend to like how a particular focal length works for the subjects they shoot.
- Documentary shooters often prefer working at 35mm-50mm because it allows them to get close to the action. The viewer feels like they are there.
- Landscape and architecture looks good captured on a wide lens because it captures the sense of space in a location.
- Portrait photography can be shot with any focal length.
- The focal length used in a headshot will also influence the physical appearance of the person being photographed.
- There are many examples online that show the difference a focal length will have on a face.
- It’s worth noting that this is exaggerated at close proximity to the model.
- Lens compression is caused by proximity not focal length.
The difference between wide and long is the:
- Field of View
Focal length only distorts images due to proximity.
- Knowing how a wider or longer focal length will impact the physical appearance of a person can be a useful way to decide on the most flattering focal length to choose.
- As you can see in this example, the model naturally has a very narrow face and the focal length of 200mm gives him the most flattering portrait.
- A person with a fuller face may prefer being photographed at a slightly wider focal length because this will give the face a narrower appearance.
Another important factor to consider when choosing a focal length is something called the angle of view
- When shooting with wider lenses the angle of view or how much of the background is in frame is much greater than when shooting with a longer lens.
- This is important information to know because it can drastically change the way you scout potential locations.
- As you can see in these diagrams a wider lens will also give a wider angle of you or show more of the background.
- A longer lens gives a narrower angle of view or shows less of the background.
Focal Length and Depth of Field
Depth of Field
- A shallow depth of field is used when you want to isolate your subject from the background (portraits).
- A large depth of field is used when you need every part of the frame in focus (products and landscapes)
A large aperture (small f-number) such as f/1.4 or f/2 will produce a short or shallow depth of field, while a small aperture (large f-number) such as f/11 or f/16 will give you focus over a longer distance.
Depth of Field is greater behind the point of focus than in front of it.