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Wide angle lens tend to make faces more "chubby" than they appear otherwise, and are therefore not used often for portraits, unless the landscape is an important part of the frame.

I'm curious as to whether this "rule" applies to portraits of children and babies as well, since I can imagine a certain amount of "chubbiness" might be more acceptable on children's faces than on adults. Do portrait photographers ever use wide or ultra-wide angle lenses as a main lens for children portraiture, or are long focal lengths the better choice?

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    I'm not sure I would describe perspective distortion caused by a close subject distance as "chubbiness". If a person has a long, thin face, for instance, it will look even longer and thinner with an even longer nose when facing the camera at a close distance. Close shooting distances just tend to stretch the difference between what is nearer and what is not as near to the camera, just as longer shooting distances flatten those same differences. – Michael C Oct 28 '15 at 8:38
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Do portrait photographers ever use wide or ultra-wide angle lenses as a main lens for children portraiture, or are long focal lengths the better choice?

It is highly unlikely that any portrait photographer would use a wide or ultra-wide angle lens as their main lens. Of course it is possible but far from typical.

In the particular case of kids, oftentimes a more "playful" image is perfectly acceptable and thus exaggerated features can be allowed. For example maybe an entire shoot is composed of kids playing on a playground, and thus an UWA lens may be primarily used. But again, this is far from the average portraiture involving children and a standard focal length for portraits is more commonly used.

More information around what focal lengths are typically used can be found here: Which focal-length lens is usually used for portrait photography, and why?

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As always in photography (and most other arts), rules are generally accepted, but they are ment to be broken if it fits your cause.
To answer specifically to the question about children photography: what you describe is not completely wrong and can be applied in the sense you would want to. You can find some examples in the following link. From the second picture onwards, you can especially find some comparisons with wide- and less wide lenses used on a kid:
http://www.studioonashoestring.com/410/wide-angle-lenses-are-for-portraits-too-tutorial/

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A longer lens is pretty much always going to potentially be more flattering than a short lens, but that's true of anyone, regardless of age.

I think an important question to answer is exactly what kind of portrait you are creating. A head-and-shoulders portrait is different from a full-body or environmental portrait. While you might want to use a longer lens for both of them, any perspective distortion will likely be more obvious in the head-and-shoulders shot because you are closer to the subject.

In the real world, I usually shoot with a 35mm lens (on a full frame camera); it's a great length for environmental portraits. But for a closer shot, I would choose something longer -- at least 60mm, perhaps 85, or 105 (or zoom somewhere in that range).

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Facial distortion is likely if the photographer works in too close. Best if the lens used is a moderate telephoto. We are talking 2X thru 2 ½ X of the focal length that is “normal” for the camera’s format. “Normal” is a focal length about equal to the diagonal measure of the imaging senor (or film frame). For the Fx (full frame), that’s 50mm. Thus 100 thru 125mm. A 105mm straddles this range. For the Dx (compact otherwise known as APS), “normal” is 30mm thus the portrait focal length range is 60mm thru 90mm. These values are just a rule of thumb, there is no normal in art, and you are free to follow your heart. Use of these values force the photographer to increase camera to subject distance and that does the trick.

  • But what about with children in specific? Are there any other considerations to add to the general rule? – mattdm Oct 28 '15 at 14:56
  • Facial distortion using too short a lens: You will work in too close. the nose will be rendered too big -- ears too small. Always happens. Use moderate telephoto. – Alan Marcus Oct 28 '15 at 16:54

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