Wide angle versus Macro lenses for shooting portraits. Ups and downs in using them.
Basic Photography
September 7, 2018

The most common photography questions surround the gear required for photography. Questions like “Which lens is the best to shoot portraits?”, “Which camera will get me the sharpest images?” flood the internet every single day. Photography gear fascinates us all. Being a creative art form that it is, every lens can be used to shoot every genre of photography. For example, a telephoto zoom lens can be used to shoot landscapes, wide angled lenses can shoot wildlife and macro lenses can do portraits and so on. The list continues till infinity. At the end of the day, it is your final image that matters. Coming to the world of portrait photography, the lenses mostly used are prime lenses. Some telephoto lenses are also used to get the shallow depth of field. What about wide angle lenses and macro lenses? Can we do portraits with these? Yes, certainly. Let us take a look at how we can shoot top notch portraits with wide angle and macro lenses and discuss about the disadvantages of using them.



Wide Angle Lens:

Normally we don’t use a wide angle lens for portraits. We use the standard prime lens or the telephoto lens. A wide angle lens gives us more details about the location and the surroundings. As a result, we get a lot of information regarding the environment of the subject. Thus, although this gives us a brief story, the depth of field remains quite deep and that can lead to a lot of distractions. A wide angle portrait can also have some distortions, which is normal for the naked eye, since when we see a person from the nearest we visualize distortions. Excess distortions can also introduce humour in your photographs!

Here are a few things you ought to keep in mind while doing wide angled portrait photography:

1. Tackling distortions – Before you click a photograph, decide whether you really require distortions. If not, then avoid it at any cost, or else it will render your photograph unusable. Keep your camera parallel to ground. Any upward or downward angle will introduce distortions.

2. Sky fit – Try taking an environmental portrait with the sky as your background. With a wide angle lens pointing slightly upwards, the subject’s face may have a little distortion but with the huge sky behind, it may add a bit of ‘surrealism’ to your photograph. Remember, wide angle lenses offer very large depth of fields and hence you need to tell a story with your portraits every single time. If that is not followed properly, the excess distractions in the frame can eat up your subject!

3. Angles – Angles are extremely crucial in wide angled portraits. Choose the correct angles. Extreme angles can make the subject look either tiny or gigantic since you are on wide angle lens.

4. Get close to your subject – This is an obvious one. You need to very close to your subject while shooting with wide angle lens. This is not a standard 50mm, remember!

Wide angle lenses will give you the opportunity to shoot story telling portraits; something that your telephoto zoom lens won’t be able to. Now it is not possible to tell a story every time and that can be a pain while shooting wide angled portraits.

Macro Lens:

Use of macro lens for portraits is a highly debatable topic for photographers. Some love shooting with these lenses while many hate it.

Macro lenses are great for portraitures since they can capture even the minutest of details. These lenses are very sharp; almost too sharp for portraits. For photographers who are looking to shoot close ups and headshots a 1:1 macro lens can be a fantastic option. The crispness of macro lens is almost unparalleled. Although the focusing is a big issue, if the focus can be achieved perfectly the resulting images will be razor sharp and worthy of high quality prints. One issue you will face with standard lenses is that you will not be able to get very close to your subject since there is a minimum focusing distance of every lens. This problem is not there in macro lenses since these lenses have very minimal minimum-focusing distance. This is a huge advantage for those who are looking to go up close and shoot minute details.

The disadvantages:

1)   Darker lenses:

Macro lenses are often called darker lenses since they tend to produce relatively darker images. This is because when these lenses are made to focus closer than infinity, they tend to lose out on the aperture. So a macro lens with an f/2.8 aperture tends to be working somewhere in the f/3.5 range. A 1:1 macro lens may give you crisp images but not the best bokeh effect that a prime lens can produce. If you are more a fan of the bokeh effect in portraits, you should not go for a 1:1 macro lens.

2)   Focusing and the extra sharpness:

Focusing is a bit of an issue with macro lenses especially if you are shooting moving or action portraits. The focusing of macro lenses works a tad slower than their non-macro prime counterparts. The extra sharpness that a macro lens offers maybe great for macro photography but portraiture is a whole different ball game. Portraits don’t demand too much sharpness. They need to be a bit on the softer side in order to hide the imperfections present in the face.

3)   Focus breathing:

The focal length of a macro lens tends to slightly vary between minimum focus and maximum focus. This can change your frame a little bit even though the camera hasn’t moved.

So we have seen the ups and downs of shooting portraits with wide angle and macro lenses. It is up to you to choose the lens with which you are most comfortable. Wide angles portraits will give you the chance to weave magical stories whereas macro lenses will enable you to capture the sharpest details!



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