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A Quick Comparison and Explanation of Lens Focal Lengths: How Different Will Your Photo Look?

You might have wondered what the difference is with all those numbers on lenses. You may have heard people talk about their 50mm or 200mm or maybe even a 35mm. But what does that mean exactly and why does it matter for your photos? Keep reading to learn and see a quick comparison of lenses!



 

What Is A Focal Length?

Without sounding all technical, the focal length of your lens is not the actual measurement of the lens itself from one side to another. What it does do is determine how much of our photo will be captured. Kinda like how much of your photo will be “zoomed” it.The smaller the focal length of your lens, the more of your photo you will see in the frame. The longer the length, the more “zoomed” it will look.

(Side by side comparison- photo taken with her and I standing in the same spot, BUT different focal lengths)

How Will It Affect My Portrait?

Let’s say you are standing in the same spot with your subject in front of you in the same spot. If you were to take a picture with a shorter lens, lets say a 50mm, you are going to get more of your subject and background in the frame. Now don’t move and switch lenses to something longer (like maybe a 135mm). Now when you look through that camera your subject will appear “closer”.

Shorter lenses will give you the ability to get closer to your subject. Longer lenses will require you to stand a little farther away.

The longer that lens is, generally, the more flattering the features of your subjects face will look. The shorter the lens, and your subjects face and nose may look wide, long and not quite as flattering.

Photo shot with a 50mm lens

(This photo was taken with a 50mm 1.8 lens)

Which is Right For Me?

That question really depends on you, how you shoot and who your subjects are. Here are a few things you might want to think about.

You may want to shoot with a shorter focal length if:

  • you shoot young children and need to be close to them to interact and get their attention
  • you like shooting the environment, and want more “background in your scene rather than just the person
  • you want to carry something a but lighter

You may want to shoot with a longer focal length if:

  • you want to most flattering features on your subject
  • you don’t mind standing farther away from your subject
  • you want to achieve a creamy blurriness in your background (you can do this other ways too!- read how here)Shot with a 135mm lens

(This photo was taken with her and I standing in the EXACT same spot, but here with the 135mm 2.0)

There is no right or wrong lens to choose. Play around with the different lens and see the results you get and what you like the best and are most comfortable with. Have fun shooting!

 

I ALWAYS love hearing back from you! Was this article helpful or interesting to you? Let me know in a comment below. And if it did help you, it would mean so much to me if you’d share it with another photographer you think this would help too!

And just one more share since her sister came along for this shoot and I kinda love this shot too;)? Can you guess which focal length I used here?? I betcha can now!how portratis lok different with different lenses

 

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