Orquid "Phoenix"

Orquid "Phoenix"

by ceinmart

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I was browsing some great shots from Herb Ritts and came across this photo (NSFW). It seems like the legs of the woman appear longer in relation to her body. Is this an effect of the lens used?

Since many of the women I photograph are short it would be great if I was able to mimic this effect to make them look taller. The image is especially curious to me because the woman subjects I shoot all happen to have short legs, so the 'lengthening' effect in the photo would be very welcome by them.

If I use using wider angle lenses... How wide would I need to go with an APC sensor?

Does lighting play a role at all?

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She may indeed have long legs, btw. –  rfusca Jan 26 '11 at 15:41
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Also, high heels help. –  Craig Walker Jan 26 '11 at 15:49
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I'm 5'2" (and male, despite my name). Not only do photos of me remind me of how short I am, the photos I take also remind me of how short I am -- because everything I shoot is from a rather low angle. :( –  Rei Miyasaka Jan 26 '11 at 23:31
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10 Answers

up vote 32 down vote accepted

Use a wide angle lens and position yourself low down, as others have stated:

Giant legs on even the shortest subject guaranteed! This was shot with a 10mm, the effect is more subtle at longer focal lengths.

Wide angle lenses accentuate perspective, they increase the distance in size between near and far objects. By getting low you are making the subjects legs the closest thing to the camera, thus they appear disproportionally larger.

This is the same reason you should use a longer lens for regular portraits, a wide angle will make the closest parts of the face (nose, chin, forehead) seem larger which is not very flattering! Taking this advice to the extreme is why you see fashion photogs using 300mm lenses and directing their models using walkie-talkies!

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You mean "This is the same reason you should not use a longer lens for regular portraits," right? –  Jay Lance Photography Jan 26 '11 at 17:38
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@Jay No, I mean "This is the same reason you should use a longer lens for regular portraits". –  Matt Grum Jan 26 '11 at 17:43
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Oh jeez, I'm a dope. For some reason I read that as "This is the same reason you should us a wide angle lens for regular portraits." Off to go find me some coffee and wake up a bit more before I peruse photo.se.com further... :-) –  Jay Lance Photography Jan 26 '11 at 17:46
    
what if you want to maintain the illusion that it is taken from a normal perspective. Ninja style, extend the legs, without people noticed the trick was used. –  Michael Nielsen Jan 15 at 15:22
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A number of answers have focused on the photographic side of things.

Another point is simply how the woman dresses. The more of the legs that are visible, the longer they'll tend to look -- just for example, the shorter of skirt she wears, the longer her legs will generally look. Regardless of whether they happen to be popular at the moment, swimsuits that are cut really high on the hip tend to have the same effect -- it tends to give the illusion that most of what you'd usually think of as "hips" are really part of their legs. Certainly in the picture you've shown, there's nothing covering up her legs (or much of anything else...)

Likewise, almost anything that makes her legs look thinner will also tend to make them look longer. "Skinny" jeans (for one example) can do wonders, and some styles that "flare" out at the bottom can enhance the effect even more.

Of course, a lot depends on exactly what sort of photography you're doing too. If you're doing fashion photography where you have to show a picture of a particular set of clothes, most of this is irrelevant. If you're doing portraits or something on that order, there's generally a lot more flexibility about her wardrobe.

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Excellent point. Often neglected in the search for a more "technical" solution. +1 –  AJ Finch Jan 27 '11 at 14:04
    
Stuffing woman with broad hips in skinny jeans sounds like a baaad idea. It exagerates the pear shape a lot. Flared jeans are better for that bodytype. And of course floor length (maxi) skirts. They can make the model look shorter, but also slimmer. Heels can do wonders to outweight the first effect. –  Ria Jan 30 '12 at 8:19
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There are several aspects of your example that work together:

  • Viewpoint: Get down lower so that the camera is looking slightly upward. This will make your subject seem taller, and it also gives them a more powerful look.

  • Lens: Use a wider angle than you would normally use for portraits. Something in the 35-50mm range would probably be good.

  • Posing: In your example, there is much more focus on the legs than the torso. The posing (wider stance, turned to the side), as well as the heels, help draw your eyes towards the legs.

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Great point about posing. I need to get better at that myself. –  AJ Finch Jan 27 '11 at 14:05
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Make sure there is someone even shorter in the photo.

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Good point -- you can sometimes to the same by including smaller-than-normal props as well. –  Jerry Coffin Jan 26 '11 at 17:31
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I'm no expert, but it looks to me like the linked photo may have been taken low to the ground with a slightly upward angle. (Note that you can see the underside of her breasts & chin).

This, plus some sort of wider-angle lens (as @ysap mentions) would tend to distort the perspective to make her appear taller.

With a low shooting position & upward angle, as the point on her body gets higher, it also gets further away from the camera. This will effectively "stretch" the subject. A wide-angle lens will help enhance the effect to the point where it's just noticeable.

Her head & upper body will also appear smaller. That's an important part of how human visual rangefinding works. There's possibly a psychological effect here on top of everything; we expect the proportions of head-to-legs to be one way (from a top-down "eye level" perspective), and changing that slightly is something we pick up on.

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Summary

I'll attempt to summarise the points here

  • Wide Lens
  • Low Point of View
  • Posing (maximise the legs, minimise body width)
  • Wardrobe (dress the model in skinny jeans, slinky dress, etc.)
  • Frame of Reference (avoid or distort)

(I've made this community wiki, so jump in and edit if I've missed anything).

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One thing you can use is a wide angle lens. This way, you shoot close to your subject and the other stuff in the frame gets smaller.

An example, shot @10mm on APS-C:

enter image description here

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  1. Don't give a frame of reference.

    A short person only really looks short when you see them next to other, average sized people - or things which have a familiar height (doors, for example).

    Tom Cruise rarely looks short in his films, but at the same he's not constantly shown in "funny camera angles" (wide angle, shot from below etc). He just isn't generally placed right next to tall people.

    Sometimes the use of camera angles (manipulating perspective) to make someone look taller can backfire, since the effect may be obvious and draw attention to itself when the subject's height may not otherwise have been noticeable.

  2. Distort the frame of reference.

    Hire a bunch of even shorter people to appear with the person. They will seem tall.

    This trick is used a fair bit in films - think Lord of the Rings. They hired some very tall actors, some actors with very large hands, some on stilts and more, to make the hobbits look small when they go into the inn. Opposite with Gandalf. The actor's just not that tall, but they used some very short stand-ins for when you see Bilbo, the Hobbits etc with the back of their heads to you. Likewise they did this with over/under-sized set design/props too.

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Tom Cruise needs a box or suchalike to stand on, but I could not find any photos of Tom on a box. X-Files serie site offered a photo of "Scully-box". –  Esa Paulasto Mar 20 '13 at 6:18
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That particular model does have very long legs in relation to her torso, but that's not all that's going on there:

1) The bathing suit cut above the hip adds to the length of the leg line considerably, as do the stiletto heels.

2) The shot was taken from considerably lower than most amateurs (and many neophyte pros) would take it. Collectively, I think we lost a lot when eye-level viewfinders eclipsed waist-level finders; most women tend to look better in full-body photos when shot from somewhere around their natural waistline, and most photographers would rather not crouch or kneel for some odd reason.

3) Photoshop does wonders when truth-in-advertising statutes do not apply; a free transform can add an inch or two in a way you might not notice, particularly when the background can be distorted safely as well. It's easy to overdo the effect, so take it easy -- but I've yet to come across a woman who has either shorter than average legs or a longer than average torso who was put off by a little white lie told on her behalf. (Just make sure it never gets beyond the "fib" level.)

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Crouch, sit on the floor, or even lie down to take 'leggy' photos is what I was told.

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