Impact of Focal Length on Portraits

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A lot has been written about the 'right' focal length lenses to use when taking portraits. Mainly, most such writers claim that a longer lens is a so-called portrait lens.  I have written a number of times that I generally disagree.  Any lens can be a portrait lens. In fact, I almost always use a wide-angle lens in my work. The longest I own is the Canon 85mm/1.2L which I find myself moving against (though lately I've been forcing myself to use it more)

Now the above pictures are of my lovely friend Mary who is both beautiful and kind enough to sit for me whenever I ask.  On the left is a wide-angle shot of her (28mm) and on the right a longer shot (85mm).  The thing is, what makes these two images look so different is not entirely the lens, but rather the distance I was from her.  In the first I was about 8 inches away, and the second about 4ft. I moved distances to keep a similar field of view between the two shots.  As I've written about before, if I had taken both pictures from the same distance and cropped the wide shot to match the long one they'd look identical (of course with much less resolution in the cropped shot)

When all is said and done, the shot on the right is arguably a better portrait.  But there's something also intersting about the one on the left. Much more in-your-face in a way that really has some impact.  Food for thought.

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