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Author Topic: Ken Rockwell's Fifteen Feet - Portrait Lenses  (Read 103006 times)
Ray
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« Reply #20 on: May 20, 2008, 09:54:27 AM »
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When it comes to taking foto's of people , there are some many opinions on that subject , one would run of of time to read and understand them all:

number one: who are your shooting
number two: why are you shooting them
number three: where are you shoothing
number four: when are you shooting then
and number five will be answered by the first four questions and will give your the equipment to use and lenses to use :

Keep it simple always:
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=196756\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I don't quite see how that is keeping it simple. Nor do I see how answering those 5 questions will help me choose the right lenses and equipment if I don't already understand the sort of basic principles which Ken addresses in his article.

The interesting issue in Ken's article, or at least one that flows on from the points he raised, is that 15 feet is a good distance to shoot a portrait whatever the camera and lens, if maintaining the most realistic facial proportions is the desired intent.

If this statement is true, then it helps enormously in choosing the right lens. One chooses the lens which allows one to fit the subject and composition into the frame from a distance of 15ft without unnecessary cropping, and one chooses the lens which has a sufficiently wide aperture to throw any distracting or unwanted background out of focus.
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zlatko-b
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« Reply #21 on: May 20, 2008, 10:06:48 AM »
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Not to have to defend Mr Rockwell and some of his mis-information but what he was suggesting was not we recall faces from 15 feet, it was that we "use lenses that place us 15 feet from the subject".

This in most cases is probably correct in that "portrait" lenses, as has been expressed here already are roughly in 35mm terms around 100mm for head and shoulders, and 85 for 3/4 to full length.
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Nope, he clearly claims that we recall faces from 15 feet:  "Our brains recall people's facial features as they appear to be from about 15 feet (5 meters) away."

Head and shoulders with a 100mm lens in 35mm terms is not 15 feet.  With that lens at that distance, holding the camera vertically covers a field of view of more than 5 feet.  Head and shoulder is a field of view of roughly 2 feet, which would put the photographer roughly 6 feet away from the subject.  This is why Ken recommends 200mm to 300mm lens for a head & shoulders portrait, not 100mm.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2008, 10:10:40 AM by zlatko-b » Logged

Ray
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« Reply #22 on: May 20, 2008, 10:39:38 AM »
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The issues raised here are interesting. They seem to me to be connected to the concept, 'the camera never lies'.

I've often said myself, 'of course the camera lies'. 'What about the unnatural enlargement of close objects when using wide-angle lenses?'

If Ken is right, that our brains process perception of the human face from a perspective of roughly 15 feet away, even when we are standing just 2 or 3 feet away from someone, then perhaps the camera is not lying as much as we thought it was. Perhaps our perceptions are partly a lie.
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Morgan_Moore
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« Reply #23 on: May 20, 2008, 11:16:06 AM »
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The issues raised here are interesting. They seem to me to be connected to the concept, 'the camera never lies'.

I've often said myself, 'of course the camera lies'. 'What about the unnatural enlargement of close objects when using wide-angle lenses?'

If Ken is right, that our brains process perception of the human face from a perspective of roughly 15 feet away, even when we are standing just 2 or 3 feet away from someone, then perhaps the camera is not lying as much as we thought it was. Perhaps our perceptions are partly a lie.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=196790\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

One thing to consider is that most of us have two eyes and the camera only one

Using our stereo vision we are indeed making internal (brain) reajustments to the perception of the image

While a person may not appear unnatural when viewd close with both eyes try shutting one eye and one can become aware of 'wide angle' type distortion

Whether 15 feet is right who knows but I think it is of critial importance to choose ones dietance first then the lens dependant on the desired crop of the portrait

I have got shorter with my lenses over the years and beleive it has increased the intimacy of my portraiture

this closeness can be challenging to compose in a flattering manner

S
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Ray
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« Reply #24 on: May 20, 2008, 12:03:20 PM »
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While a person may not appear unnatural when viewd close with both eyes try shutting one eye and one can become aware of 'wide angle' type distortion
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=196798\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I'm at my studio retreat at the moment, but when I come in contact with someone, I'll try that, even though she might think I'm afflicted with some disposition.  
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Plekto
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« Reply #25 on: May 20, 2008, 01:17:32 PM »
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Gah.  Baka-boy is at it again.

It's so much more complex that he can even understand.  So much so that he really just needs to earn to shut up and NOT even bring it up.  Just ask any wedding photographer about the literally dozen or so different factors in every single shot.

Faces are damn hard to deal with.  He should know that he doesn't know anything about it and not even bring it up.  Of course, since he apparently still does it anyways...  Yeah, I'd take anything he says with a small boulder of salt, because he just doesn't know how much he truly doesn't know.

But he is entertaining, I have to admit   I read Ken's site every day as part of my entertainment.    
« Last Edit: May 20, 2008, 01:22:03 PM by Plekto » Logged
dalethorn
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« Reply #26 on: May 21, 2008, 08:56:44 AM »
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.....This is why Ken recommends 200mm to 300mm lens for a head & shoulders portrait, not 100mm.
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That's pretty radical.  I wonder if he was being serious about 300mm (or should I even ask).
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dseelig
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« Reply #27 on: June 19, 2008, 10:32:39 PM »
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And yet another view of rockwell
http://chrisweeks.uber.com/blogs/damn_.html
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Digiteyesed
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« Reply #28 on: June 20, 2008, 01:21:04 AM »
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If you want the whole person standing, you can use a 50-70mm lens. If they sit down, a 70-105mm works great. If you want just head and shoulders, you'll want a 200mm to 300mm lens, at least, since you want to stay at least fifteen feet away.

Damn betcha. But only if you're photographing the Baron Munchausen or Barbara Streisand (before she had several yards of her schnozz cosmetically amputated). For normal people a shorter lens might work better.

Just sayin'.

Of course, since the photographer in question is <genuflect>Ken Rockwell</genuflect>, I'm sure he can just whip one of his Brownies off the shelf and use it for the portrait. Maybe he'll win another award, too.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2008, 01:21:43 AM by Digiteyesed » Logged

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dalethorn
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« Reply #29 on: June 20, 2008, 11:11:15 AM »
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When I was growing up with this stuff, 30-40 years ago, it was common knowledge that you'd take landscapes with the widest lens, most other photos with whatever fit, but for portraits you'd usually opt for 90mm or thereabouts to avoid the facial distortions you'd get shooting close-up.  Since when did Rockwell or digital tech rewrite the logic of portrait shooting?
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Ray
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« Reply #30 on: June 20, 2008, 07:31:12 PM »
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When I was growing up with this stuff, 30-40 years ago, it was common knowledge that you'd take landscapes with the widest lens, most other photos with whatever fit, but for portraits you'd usually opt for 90mm or thereabouts to avoid the facial distortions you'd get shooting close-up.  Since when did Rockwell or digital tech rewrite the logic of portrait shooting?
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According to the specialist site on vision from which I quoted on the previous page, the logic of portrait shooting has already been rewritten as a result of careful experimentation.

The long and short of it is, using a short focal length tends to cause people to look a bit chummy and benevolent; using a long focal length causes people to look smarter and stronger in character, which is the effect one might want to achieve with a formal portrait, and using a lens somewhere between the two extremes, 80mm or 90mm, is a compromise between too chummy and too smart, a sort of bland average or normalcy; the middle way; stay out of trouble.
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dalethorn
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« Reply #31 on: June 20, 2008, 07:58:01 PM »
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According to the specialist site on vision from which I quoted on the previous page, the logic of portrait shooting has already been rewritten as a result of careful experimentation.

The long and short of it is, using a short focal length tends to cause people to look a bit chummy and benevolent; using a long focal length causes people to look smarter and stronger in character, which is the effect one might want to achieve with a formal portrait, and using a lens somewhere between the two extremes, 80mm or 90mm, is a compromise between too chummy and too smart, a sort of bland average or normalcy; the middle way; stay out of trouble.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=202658\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Well, that's the answer then.  My wife wants to know why I spent half of my life savings on a gold Rolex, and I can see now that it was that ad with the portrait of the Rolls-Royce president wearing the thing.  Shot with a long lens from the visitor chair, of course.
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Yogesh Sarkar
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« Reply #32 on: June 21, 2008, 05:03:52 AM »
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PLEASE!
I have read a few of mr. Rockwell's comments on various topics including equipment. The last straw for me was when I started doing research on a lens that I was considering. I stayed away from his site because of my doubts of his knowledge based on other times I visited his site and found his opinions for the most part to be not founded on fact.
On various other sites people were commenting favorably on the lens in question, when all of a sudden, there were comments on Rockwell's "report" on the lens. People on other sites were expressing doubts about the quality and reliability and whether to even bother getting the lens. Such a swing in opinion made me consider seeing what this "report" contained. I should have listened to my gut feeling and ignored going to his site, but I did. His "report" was based on a PREPRODUCTION MODEL that he briefly handled at a trade show-"I tried three samples at PMA 2006". People on other sites were falling all over themselves with doubt about the usability of the lens.  Why? Because his "report" would not recommend it due to it's inability to autofocus to his likening. He recommended that people pass on upgrading to this lens based, primarily, on his findings.
The lens in question?

The 105 f2.8 AF-S VR Micro Nikkor!

This site, LL, is indeed for smart people. mr. Rockwell's is for the gullible.
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The way I see it, Ken simply posted about his personal experience with the lens (pre production or not) and I am guessing he made it clear in his article as well. If that is the case, I fail to see how any one can accuse him of anything, especially since he mentioned it clearly and if people fail to see it or fail to take it into consideration, it is their fault, not his!

Personally I enjoy reading his articles; I do try to implement some of the things he talks about. However at the end of the day I just what ever I feel is ok and try to capture photographs from my perspective.

So just read/listen to what every one has to say and at the end of the day, do what ever you feel is right.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2008, 05:06:17 AM by Yogesh Sarkar » Logged

elkhornsun
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« Reply #33 on: June 30, 2008, 05:15:56 PM »
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Fifteen feet is not really helpful in any sense. Are you not going to take pictures of people indoors unless the room is large enough to get 15 feet away.

More relevant is to realize that lenses can distort perspective when they are longer or shorter than "normal". Too short and body parts closer to the camera are exaggerated in size. With longer lenses (and fashion photographers will make use of 400-600mm lenses outdoors with models) there is a flattening of perspective that is flattering.

Normal for a 35mm or FF camera is about 40-55mm while with a DX camera this is 30-35mm. Popular portrait focal lengths with 35mm film cameras have been 85mm and 105mm. They provided some foreshortening of perspective and also providing a more comfortable working distance between the subject and the photographer.

This comfort zone is purely cultural and varies widely. But if you subject is not comfortable having someone 3 feet away taking their picture it will show in the resulting images. On the other hand there are shy or timid souls who shoot from distances with which they are comfortable.

But both the actual perspective, the mental perspective, and the working distance are all factors affected by changes in lens focal length. In addition changing the focal length has a bearing on the DOF and this affects whether all of a person is in focus or even all of their head or both parts of a couple and the background.

To follow Rockwell blindly one should only use a 70-200mm lens for all of their photography and shoot only in large rooms or outdoors, ignoring the environment.
Take a look at the great work of any of the outstanding portrait photographers over the past 125 years and you will find none that follow Rockwell's guidelines - NONE.
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The View
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« Reply #34 on: July 04, 2008, 05:41:09 PM »
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It's his opinion the photographer should "want to be at least about 15 feet away when photographing people in order to achieve realistic proportions",
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=196235\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

If the photographer has bad breath.
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« Reply #35 on: July 05, 2008, 10:42:35 AM »
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So, to cut to the chase, what have you found to be the best method of maintaing pleasing features?
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Light.

These types of rules are really silly.  Imagine if we all followed this 15' "rule."  Homogenized pictures would be the result.  And to quote Arnold Newman discussing people stating rules of photography and the way to do things, he said "run like hell."  Its a good point that we as photographers should understand perception, and to help us with that, there are two books that I am suggesting:  Perception and Imaging by Zakia and Ways of Seeing by Berger (more socially directed).  In addition, one might study Gestalt Theory and Neural Network Theory, both of which can help a photographer make better pictures.

Back to lenses though.  Just understand that generally as you get closer to a person with a lens, the person will distort a little more.  Also, distortion from zoom lenses tends to be different than from fixed focal length lenses.  

Good luck.
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Jeff Myers
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« Reply #36 on: February 13, 2013, 07:52:59 AM »
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Heres a funny thing about Ken Rockwell and you guys. Ken Rockwell doesn't care what we think. All these people on many many forums that continuously bash KR must feel threatened by him. His sight is not for gullible people as one person said, but it's for intelligent people who appreciate humor with a good review. The funny thing is you guys keep bringing him up in forums to bash him and make fun of him and discredit him but in reality everytime you do, you make him more money and more long time followers.

I would like to pick out a few members here and tell them they are total BS because they posted an opinion different than mine, but I understand that opinions are like belly buttons, we all have one. KR has a site for his, the rest of us post ours on forums. The rest of our opinions are just as much BS as KR's opinions. A review of a lens or body is the reviewers opinions. .

I think the real issue is there are alot of photographers who call themselves "professionals" to boost their egos when in reality they wish they could make as much money as KR by reviewing products and writing articles from their den like he does. All you do is write about KR giving him more money every time you do, and you do it for free. So im sure if he read this and hundreds of other posts like it. He would laugh and say "thank you" for all the money you are making me.

As I find humor in KR site every time I go on, I find humor in this site, esp this thread. A bunch of grown men and women who should be out shooting, instead logged into a forum to bitch about Ken Rockwell, and make him money.

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digitaldog
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« Reply #37 on: February 13, 2013, 09:14:18 AM »
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I don't understand why people read Ken Rockwell's site.

Ditto! Now he may be a super great photographer and he may know a lot of stuff outside of color management. But I've read what he has to say in respect to color management (sRGB) and the guy is totally flat earth, the planet was created 6000 years ago when man and dinosaurs commingled kind of mind set. IOW, he doesn't have a clue unless he's a color management comedian. Therefore, when I hear his name mentioned on another subject, here of all places, I have to wonder who the joke's on. IOW, ignore Ken Rockwell's site.

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All these people on many many forums that continuously bash KR must feel threatened by him.

Misinformation (down right lies) are threatening to those who know better and see this directed at those that don't. The yet misinformed don't deserve Ken Rockwell.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2013, 09:19:07 AM by digitaldog » Logged

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Chairman Bill
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« Reply #38 on: February 13, 2013, 09:57:35 AM »
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Leaving aside the variables that arise from different focal lengths, some basic things worth considering are to do with what different people find acceptable in terms of personal space. Getting too close can be quite threatening for some, too far away maybe impersonal & impacts on any ability to interact (which might be an issue in getting the best from your subject). Pointing a camera at someone can be (as seen by the subject) even more intrusive, and so a certain distance in excess of what might be normal for a conversation, might be justified.
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Jeff Myers
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« Reply #39 on: February 13, 2013, 10:09:58 AM »
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Misinformation (down right lies) are threatening to those who know better and see this directed at those that don't. The yet misinformed don't deserve Ken Rockwell.

What gets me is he says that this is all his opinion. and he shouldn't have to say that.. everything on the internet esp. equipment reviews should always be taken as opinion. To say one camera is the best in the world is opinion.

I take some of KR's stuff as good and some of it as BS. What I find funny is the masses go after him.. not any other reviewers on the web. Since there is a team of "internet Photography review police" out there, shouldn't they be patrolling other reviewers too. Or is it the fact that KR makes a ton of money off this stuff that bothers you.

When you guys are ready to get off Rockwell's back, there is a company in China producing fake handbags and watches. You'd better start a forum to expose them too before the 'misinformed' get taken by the fake products and lies.

I mean you are actually looking out for the misinformed right? and not just Ken R bashing?

I think he has just as much great info as he does humor (that some don't get) and BS. but it amuses me that it bothers so many (so called) professionals. I think that if one were truly a professional, it would not bother them. I also think that all those that go on the web and try to discredit him, actually read his site frequently and therefore make him more money.

It's crazy how every time I google his name along with a topic I'm looking up. Some photographer wannabe shows up wishing he was half the success story as Ken is.

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