Lens lengths and face shapes

November 12, 2012 Published by . Leave your thoughts

Last week I wrote a quick post about working with photographers who are willing and able to adjust their equipment and techniques in order to successfully get the most flattering image of you possible.  I was thinking about that this weekend when I was photographing an old friend of mine who stopped by for some new headshots, since he is about to start his own business.  I asked him to humor me for a moment as I took his photo with 3 different lens lengths to see how each lens would change the shape of his face.

As you can see, the effect is subtle, but definitely visible.  The 74mm lens seems to shrink his head and make it look narrower and pointier than it is.  He has an oval-shaped face and this lens tightens the oval and rounds his jawline too much, until it almost disappears.  The 200mm lens flattens his features and squares his jaw, but it also makes his forehead look smaller than it is and squares his jaw too much- it makes his face look square-shaped, when it doesn’t look like that in person.  It also makes his ears seem like they stick out just a little more than they do in real life.

We looked at these photos together and decided the best lens length for him was the 105mm.  It squared his jaw more than the 74mm, but not too much like the 200mm.  And it also just looked most like what other people see when they look at him, and what he recognizes as the face he sees in the mirror every day.

And that’s the most important factor: does the photo look like you?  It sounds so simple, but it’s the reason I call my business “Organic Headshots.”  Headshots should be natural, or “organic” in a way- they should convey on paper (or on a digital screen) a flat image of the real you, so when people see the photo they think, “Hey, I know that guy.  He’s awesome.  Man, he looks so friendly and approachable.  What a swell guy.”

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