Remember the animation showing how focal length impacts the portrait? When you shoot with different focal lengths and your subject takes the same space in the frame, you’ll get a certain amount of distortion. As a matter of fact, this is one of the reasons why camera “adds ten pounds”. In this video, Koldunov Brothers demonstrate how geometry of the face and body depends on the distance from the camera. So, what is it that looks so strange when shooting up close with a wide angle lens?
How camera distance affects the body
When you take photos of two people standing one behind the other, the one in front will always appear taller than the one in the back. But, as you increase the distance of the camera, this difference gets smaller. Take a look at the examples:
How camera distance affects the face
When you shoot a close up portrait with a wide angle lens, the subject can look a bit like Goofy. This goes both for video and stills. The proportions of the subject’s head and face get distorted, and this is why you get an unrealistic portrait.
In reality, your nose is smaller than your ear. When you take a photo with a wide angle lens up close, this proportion gets distorted and your nose appears larger than the ear.
When you step further back (and crop the photo or use a zoom lens), this proportion gets realistic and the face looks more natural. As you make the distance larger, the nose and the ear end up being the similar size.
If the backdrop appears narrower than the subject, stepping back and zooming can solve this problem. This relies on the first point: the difference in size between the closer and the further subject decreases when you move the camera further back. This way the subject will fit the backdrop, and his or her face will also seem more realistic.
You could find these points useful for your next portrait session. And it can come in handy for making a perfect selfie, too. Either way, it will help you make the subject look natural and in proportion.
[Geometry of selfies | Koldunov Brothers]