WHEN TAKING PORTRAITS that include the location as well as the subject within the frame, it’s important to understand how the scene looks completely different depending on the focal length of the lens in use. While many beginners are concerned only with ensuring the subject fills a particular area of the frame, experienced photographers look to use a focal length that gives the perspective they desire in the image.
By using a wide-angle and moving closer to the subject, they are set against a wider view of the general scene that boasts far more depth. By using a telephoto setting.a smaller proportion of the scene is visible and perspective is compressed. There’s no right or wrong focal length to use — you should select whatever gives the effect you want. If you’re unsure, it’s very easy to place your subject in the scene and shoot at a variety of focal lengths, adjusting your distance from the subject and seeing how the background changes each time. That’s exactly what we did here with this set of, ranging from ultra-wide-angle through to super-telephoto.
We’ve thrown in fisheye shots into the mix, too, just to give you a taste of what these lenses are capable of including in the frame. With this set of images, we placed the subject in the middle of a single-lane road in a narrow street. The first image was taken with our model only a few centimetres away and used an 8mm fisheye lens, then as we extended the focal lengths, we moved slightly further away, keeping the subject approximately the same size in the frame. By the time we were shooting with a telephoto lens.we were a few metres away! The results, when viewed as a complete set, are startling.with the change in how the backdrop relates to the subject proving particularly strong.
By trying out this exercise in a variety of locations, you can experiment with the relationship of subject and background, allowing you to develop an understanding of how certain lenses work best to produce the effect you want. By doing this, you can improve your compositions by being able to control and determine how your subject relates to the scene, which is a key skill to master when shooting location portraits.