I have a Nikon D800 and a 70-120mm zoom lens and a 105mm macro lens. I am doing portrait photography and I want to be able to take photos at close range (just a few feet away) while still capturing the subject's full body in the photo.

It seems that the lenses I have only get the face unless I am very far away. Should I get a wide angle lens?


Because perspective issues come into play with wider lenses, the normal practice for full body portraits is to use a lens with a normal field of view (FoV). This will require greater camera to subject distance but will result in a portrait that does not distort the features of the subject. Both of your lenses are in the beginning of the telephoto range, so a lens in the 40-70mm range, while considered a normal lens, is wider than either of your two lenses. The classic focal length for full body portraits is at around 50mm for a camera using 35mm film or a sensor that is the same size such as your D800.

Remember, perspective is determined by one thing only: shooting distance. Focal length is only secondary in that it determines the shooting distance for a particular framing. If you are using a 50mm lens on a full frame camera, to get the same subject framing from the same distance you would need to use a 33mm or so lens on an APS-C body. Both lenses will demonstrate the same perspective when used at the same shooting distance. If you used the 50mm lens on the APS-C camera you would need to back up 50% further to obtain the same framing. At that distance, the perspective obtained would be the same as a 75-80mm lens on the full frame camera.

  • @Michael_Clark I have the same question as the OP, but I have 1.6-factor cropped sensor. If you suggest a 50mm for the OP, does that mean you would suggest a 50/1.6 = 30mm lens for me? Jan 20 '14 at 18:37
  • 2
    33.3333mm is closer to 35mm than 30mm. Shooting distance alone determines perspective. The focal length and sensor size combination then determine the angle of view.
    – Michael C
    Jan 21 '14 at 0:37

You could, but all of your shots will suffer from perspective distortion. Whatever is closest to the camera will be disproportionately larger than what is not as close. So if you shoot at eye level and tilt slightly downward the head will be larger than the body like you see in the caricature paintings. Likewise, if you shoot low and tilt up then the legs will be elongated. If you try to shot from the waist you'll end up with a large waist area. This is why people like the 50-85mm lenses: to get the whole person in the frame you need to stand far enough away that perspective distortion is not an issue.


Wide-Angle lenses generally aren't recommended for portraits, since they distort features. Something around a 50mm lens is, for some people, the widest they are generally willing to go unless they specifically want distortion for an effect. Try using a normal lens, around 50mm, and see how that works out for you.

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