35mm(50) vs 50(75) for portraits

So, this isn’t another typical which focal length is better for portrait work. That discussion has been beaten to death, resurrected, and beaten to death. In the Fuji lineup I’ve been able to shoot great portraits with nearly every lens they make

Recently, in an effort to simplify down my kit, I sold off my 35mm lenses. And in the past week I’ve done some portrait stuff with the 50mm f2. Which is what lead to this post.

As mentioned above, the quality of the photos using the 50 f2 is a non issue. What does seem to be an unforeseen issue, is the working distance. When I shoot portraits, I have a ton of interaction with the person I’m photographing. By switching to the 50 from the 35, I feel like it moves me farther enough away that there is a disconnect from the person I’m photographing. I loss of intimacy from the photo because of not being close to the subject. Everyone who tours the loner focal lengths for portraits always do so on technical merits. To me, a good portrait is just as much about connection with the person as it is about the technical side.

I would love to hear the thoughts of other people shooters.
 

mnhoj

gee aahrr
Location
Los Angeles
Real Name
John
I prefer my 45 over my 85 for just that.
I've been enjoying conversing with my subjects while taking "test" shots. A high number of keepers come from it. It relieves the pressure and allows for a natural, relaxed look.
 

Covey22

Hall of Famer
I find it tougher with 50 equivalent. I know portraiture is more than just head-and-shoulders, but my mental and muscle memory are too long ingrained - I automatically fall back to an 85mm working distance.
 

Jonathan F/2

Top Veteran
Location
Los Angeles, USA
I uses to be all about the 50mm FL. I then recently switched it up to the FF 45mm/85mm lenses like John who mentioned it in his post above. Focal lengths that don't do it for me are 35mm and anything longer than 85mm. If you have working space, I think one should only use wider focal lengths when in cramped spaces. Beyond 85mm and you lose the ability to properly direct your subject. I'd rather hit the key prime portrait lengths and then compensate for wider/longer FLs using zooms.
 
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I’ve been finding I feel disconnected from the person I’m photographing with anything longer than FF 50mm. While that isn’t shouting distance, it loses some intimacy. But one of the great things with photography is that it allows for people to work the way they like best.
 

Jonathan F/2

Top Veteran
Location
Los Angeles, USA
I’ve been finding I feel disconnected from the person I’m photographing with anything longer than FF 50mm. While that isn’t shouting distance, it loses some intimacy. But one of the great things with photography is that it allows for people to work the way they like best.

Yeah 50mm is also my favorite, but sometimes you might have a model with a very tall or flat nose and going longer actually helps in minimizing "nasal" distortion! Also I found with some body types, 35mm might make skinnier people look too elongated and 50mm might make curvier people look more stockier. Hence the focal length also correlates just as much with the appearance of the subject.
 
Posting examples of the type of portraits that you shoot would be helpful.

"Environmental Portraits" - a longer focal length lens would be appropriate.
Interacting with the subject to gain the desired portrait means getting closer in.
 
Yeah 50mm is also my favorite, but sometimes you might have a model with a very tall or flat nose and going longer actually helps in minimizing "nasal" distortion! Also I found with some body types, 35mm might make skinnier people look too elongated and 50mm might make curvier people look more stockier. Hence the focal length also correlates just as much with the appearance of the subject.

I’ve found that exploring different angles and compositions helps with all of this also.


"Environmental Portraits" - a longer focal length lens would be appropriate.
Interacting with the subject to gain the desired portrait means getting closer in.
Longer focal lengths would take some of the environment out of environmental portraits. Unless you are farther back.

Getting closer in is what I find I really prefer.
 

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