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5 Ways Focal Length Affects Your Subject

Get your lens techniques on point with this primer on how the choice of focal length affects the image being captured. Presented in collaboration with Made In Her Image.

1. Field of View

Images courtesy of @hebishojo (via Instagram).

Wide-angle lenses (e.g., 18mm) capture more of the scene than telephoto lenses (e.g., 85mm).

2. Perspective

Images courtesy of @ycimaging (via Instagram).

Different perspectives of the same field of view can be captured by altering focal length and distance from the subject.

3. Magnification

Both of these images were captured with a 65mm lens. The large-format image (top) was captured closer to the subject, adding more dimensionality to her face and greater sense of depth and separation from the background as compared to the Super 35 image (bottom), for which the camera had to be moved farther away to preserve the same framing on the subject.

As a result of perspective, the perceived distance of the background relative to the subject will change. The longer the focal length, the closer the background will appear.

4. Depth of Field


A shallower depth of field (a more narrow field of focus) can be achieved by using a wider aperture or a longer focal length.

5. Geometric Distortion

Barrel distortion is commonly seen in ultra-wide lenses, while pincushion distortion can be seen in longer lenses. In both cases, straight lines become curved.

About Made In Her Image
Founded in 2018, Made In Her Image is a nonprofit organization committed to social equity in the film, media, and entertainment industry. Their mission is to give young women and non-binary filmmakers of color the opportunity to create their own vision through programming, camps, and workshops.

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