ESR Portraits : Analog Photography

Taking Headshots with 53" Paper

A simple role of paper may be the only prop needed to create a compelling head-shot. You might as well use a tripod as well, since the subject isn't moving anywhere and you also probably know in advance how you are going to frame the shot.

Some interesting things happened when I tried to visualize how three different lenses would change the composition, assuming I wanted to cover nearly all of the 53" backdrop.

Horizontal Field of View

In the following diagram I calculated how far the subject need to be for me to obgain a depth of field of 6"

Three Focal Lengths used with 53in paper

From this we can see how depth of field can be preserved between each focal length. Placing a horizontal rule of the same width reveals the location where each lens only changes perspective.

What if I want to move closer to the subject to get a tighter shot? Not so easy! For a 80mm lens on my Mamiya 645 this table aproximates the aperature required to mainain the same depth of field as you step closer

Aperature for a DOF of 6" Distance to Subject Horizontal Field of View
f5.6 4'8" 36"
f8 4'1" 30"
f11 3'4" 25"
f16 2'10" 21"
f22 2'5" 18"

This shows how steeply the demand for light increases as you move in closer. Run the calculations for your format, and you will understand the physical limitations for the conditions before you begin to shoot.

Vertical Angle

In most conditions I have found a fluid video head provides much better control than a ball head. One of the benefits of a video head is level panning (if the floor is level). But how high should we position the camera?

In the common case headshots are taken at eye-level, which means the camera is tilted slighting downward. Perhaps eye-level is always where you should start, but some people will be represented in a more compelling way by leveling the camera for a lower point of view.

Last updated on July 06, 2019