Why Are Wide Angle Lenses Avoided for Portraits?
When it comes to lens selection, or more specifically focal length selection, some choices are obvious. If you’re shooting a really big wide scenic landscape and want to show it all at once, you need a wide angle lens. If you want to photograph a tiger (and not get eaten while doing it), you’ll choose a long telephoto lens. If you’re photographing tiny flowers or bugs, you’ll choose a macro lens. Pretty straight forward, right? But what about portraits? The choice may not be so obvious here — although it may seem so once you look at some samples! Here’s a self portrait with quite a wide angle lens. (No one wanted to volunteer for this test… I can’t imagine why!!) This is an 8mm lens on a Micro Four Thirds camera, which puts it at 16mm full-frame equivalent (and about 10mm on APS-C).
Yikes! That’s awful. My forehead is monstrous, my nose is practically poking through the lens, and the background is far too visible — we see too much background, and it’s mostly in focus (there’s very little of that lovely bokeh we seek in portraits). Even though this was shot wide open at f/2.8, you get the background mostly in focus because on a wide angle lens, your depth of field is considerably larger at any given aperture than it is with a standard or telephoto lens. And finally, while you can’t really tell here, the camera was mere inches from my nose to fill the frame with my face. So the problems here are:
- Distortion of the face
- Too much background
- Background is too much in focus
- You have to get really close to your subject to fill the frame.
I’m sorry you had to see that. Now let’s try a standard focal length of about 50mm. (post continued on DxO's Blog; link below…)