When shooting head-and-shoulders portrait photography or a simple headshot with an SLR or DSLR, lens choice is very important. The lens you choose to use will determine whether or not your subject is distorted and the amount of the image that is in focus. Canon currently has about 68 new lenses available and Nikon lists about 79 lenses available. So how do professional corporate photographers and headshot photographers decide which to use? Choosing a lens with the right focal length will ensure the subject is not distorted and the right aperture will ensure the background goes out of focus, emphasizing the subject. Here you’ll see the following guidelines in action with some great examples of corporate photography NYC produces.
Every lens is labelled with a focal length, measured in millimeters (mm). If you choose a lens too wide, also referred to as too short of a focal length or too low of focal length number, your portrait photography subject will appear stretched. Adding 100 pounds is no problem with a wide enough lens positioned close enough to a subject. Choose a lens with too long of a focal length or too “zoomed” in and you better have a lot of distance between you and the subject otherwise they may not fit in the frame.
When looking at focal length, its important to know if your DSLR has a full-frame or cropped-frame sensor. Cameras with full-frame sensors have a sensor the same size as a piece of 35mm film and therefore interact with lenses the same as their film counterparts. However, camera’s with cropped frame sensors feature sensors that are smaller than 35mm film. Consequently. less of the image produced by the lens is captured, giving the appearance that the subject is closer/larger. Camera’s with a cropped frame sensor have a conversion factor that can be multiplied by the lens’ focal length to understand how this smaller sensor affects the lens. For example, if you are using a 50mm lens on a camera with a cropped frame sensor with a conversion factor of 1.6, you would multiply the focal length of 50mm by the conversion factor of 1.6 to discover the lens is actually acting like an 80mm lens would on a full frame or 35mm film SLR camera. i.e. 50mm x 1.6 = 80mm. When reading focal lengths just know that its referring to the lens as it would be viewed on a DSLR with a full frame sensor or a film camera. Those with cropped frame sensors will need to multiply the focal length by their crop factor in order to have the appropriate focal length equivalent. For a more detailed explanation of crop factor check out B&H
Typically, a lens with a focal length between 80mm and 135mm will work best for headshots and head-and-shoulders corporate portraits. This range is not absolute, however from a distance of about 10 feet, give or take, it will create an image that lacks the distortion of wider angle lenses. Meanwhile, the lens allows the whole subject to fit in the frame while working within a relatively compact space. If you then position the background about 5 feet behind the subject and use an aperture, also referred to as an f-stop, of f5.6, you’ll have a good setup allowing enough space for the background to drift out of focus. You can certainly change the aperture to suit your needs just understand that, using a lower aperture number will reduce the amount of image that is in focus and if you lower it much more than f5.6 you may find that only a portion of the person’s face is in focus. For example, other portions closer or further away, like the nose and ears respectively, may drift out of focus. Increase the aperture value much beyond f5.6 or f8, and you’ll see more of the background come in to focus and take emphasis away from the subject.
As with all rules in the creative field, these rules are meant to be broken, However, I recommend following these guidelines until you fully understand why they work and then you can then justify breaking them. Now visit your favorite camera store , hand over that wallet and you’re on the right track to produce some of the best head shots and corporate photography nyc can handle.