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How Focal Length Can Dramatically Change Portraits

Lens focal length choice is more than just a number
Photo of portraits at different focal lengths

The focal length you pick can drastically change what your final image looks like when shooting portraits, according to portrait pro Anita Sadowska. In the below lens comparison video, Sadowska pits a Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master vs a Sony 24-105mm f/4 G Master vs a Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master on a Sony A7R IV to demonstrate the importance of focal lengths in portraits.

In the clip, Sadowska photographs a model from as wide a focal length as 12mm all the way through to 200mm to show how different focal lengths can “affect the final look and feel of the image.”

“Whenever I decide on my lenses that I’m going to use for my photo shoots I always have to keep a few things in mind,” she says. “How much distortion do I want to have? Do I want the drama in my images or am I trying to keep it a bit softer and more romantic? That helps me decide on which lenses I go for.”

To demonstrate how important this choice can be, Sadowska takes three photos at each focal length: a close-up portrait, a half body shot, and a full body shot. Watch below where she shares her results.


“You’ll get to see how much it affects the final look,” she explains. “I’m going to take photos with all the lenses with different focal lengths. I’ll be starting with the 12-24 G Master and we’re going to see how it looks. Obviously, I’ll be in different placements throughout the video because each lens I have requires me to be further or closer up. I’ll try and keep the framing the same basically.”

Check out the clip and let us know which focal length was your favorite for portraits. If you want to see more of Sadowska’s work, read our interview with her from last year, which was one of the most popular stories of 2020 on our sister site, Digital Photo Pro.


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