Four Weeks to Become a Better Photographer (Part 2)

My critiques, and more photos, after the jump.

In August 2007, Assistant Editor Kathleen Davis participated in a four-week course with BetterPhoto.com. Click here to see what she learned that month. For a refresher on how the classes work, click here.

**Posing and Portraiture Techniques taught by Ibarionex R. Perello

Lesson 4: The Impact of Focal Length**

This final lesson in the course was all about the benefits and drawbacks of specific focal lengths. The first that Perello discussed was 85–105mm (which is considered a "portrait lens"), this is the standard lens for portraits because it is very sharp, and can produce a soft background at a wide or moderate aperture, and provides a good subject-to-camera distance.

The next lens covered was telephoto, which at a focal length of over 100mm gives a portrait a look that's very popular in fashion photography—very reduced depth of field that makes the subject pop out from the extremely blurred background. The drawbacks to these lenses are that they can be heavy, expensive, and put a lot of distance between the photographer and subject.

Another lens covered in this lesson is one that is often thought to be very unflattering for portraits—wide angle. Wide-angle lenses cause distortion (such as elongated facial features or disproportional bodies). Perello pointed out however that these lenses can produce interesting environmental portraits.

Our assignment was to create portraits of the same subject using a wide-angle and a telephoto lens.

I used my Nikon D40 with an AF-S Nikkor 14–24mm f/2.86 ED wide-angle lens and an AF Zoom Nikkor 70–300mm f/4-5.6G telephoto lens.

Telephoto Shot Tech info: focal length: 300mm, Exposure: 1/40sec at f/5.6, ISO 200.

Wide-Angle Shot Tech info: focal length: 24mm, Exposure 1/60 at f/4, ISO 400

My critiques, and more photos, after the jump.

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