Lecture 15: Cameras & Lenses (39)

So in this and the past couple of slides we see that an object can be the same size in an image while looking very different depending on if one were to take the picture close up with a high FOV or from far away with a low FOV. However something that isn't really discussed is whether there is an "optimal" choice. Obviously art and such is subjective and there could be different uses for each, but I am still curious regardless if anyone with photography experience might know if there's some kind of rule of thumb to follow for making a shot look better. My basic understanding at the moment is that people generally tend to look better from further away with a lower FOV but it's not exactly obvious why that is besides just how the final picture "feels". Maybe it's because we as humans are not "used to" seeing most things from up close?


I have two points to bring up. The first point involves the background. With larger FOVs, the background is much wider and also less blurry. This allows the viewer to take in the surroundings a lot more than for smaller FOVs, where there is much more focus on the person. So, for example, in lecture, Professor Ng said that a portrait photographer in this case would probably choose this 200mm shot since the person is the clearest focus of the image.

Another idea to consider is that, when the camera is closer, slight differences in depth are more pronounced. For example, in the 16mm shot, it is much more apparent that the person's arm is closer to the camera. Indeed, in that photo, the person's head seems further away, almost as if they are leaning slightly backward. On the other hand, in this 200mm photo, where we are much further back, the person's arm is closer, but relatively not much closer to the camera lens from the rest of their body. This might be closer to why you might feel like a lower FOV would make someone look better.


Another example of this change in FOV popping up is in the TikTok 'Face Zoom' trend - people would compare photos of themselves close up at 1x zoom, then step away from the camera and zoom in and magically 'look better'. This TikTok does a good job of explaining why that phenomena is a result of the change in FOV rather than focal length: https://www.tiktok.com/@technicallyalex/video/7146197492105841962

To both points above, I do think that a major reason these portraits with lower FOV look better is because it more closely mimics how we normally see people. In these examples, as we get further away from the subject, we see more of her face as well (both sides of her face + ear being visible at this distance vs close up).

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