An online book of Common Sense Photography, by Rhett Stuart

What is Camera Perspective?


Perspective is better explained with examples. Below are examples of a 24mm lens and a 200mm lens taken from the same position.

Below are examples using photographs of the Robert E Lee monument, but closer. These photographs are not cropped.

Below is the 24mm wide angle lens photograph enlarged and cropped so it shows the statue the same size as the 200mm lens. It shows the same perspective, but the 24mm photograph is blurred since it has been enlarged so much.

Compare all these photographs. Can you see the changes in perspective, what they show, and the angles they show? Depending on what focal length lens is used, the perspective can dramatically change.

Perspective also is very important with portraits of people. Wide angle lenses from 14mm to 50mm can distort people’s faces so the center bulges out. 50mm lenses can be used for full length or even waist up portraits. 85mm is good for head and shoulders portraits. 135mm is considered the ideal length for portraits from a 10 foot distance with tight shots showing just the face. The best perspective is how our eye normally observes people. 200mm and longer lens can create “barrel” effects. The face looks flat or looks like it goes in a little.

Our brain changes the distortion for us and we don’t notice it much in real life. The camera just takes the picture and we see the perspective as it really is.

Perspective can also refer to photograph framing. What should I include in the photograph? Should I have the focal point of the picture at the bottom or the top? Should I include the horizon? A photograph can be dramatically different by changing the perspective and framing.