Can a portrait be full-body?
When you take a photograph of a person, you’re essentially flattening their 3-dimensional body into 2 dimensions.
This phenomenon also had the inadvertent effect of changing that person’s proportions, either for better or worst.
Yet, with the intuition and a healthy understanding of composition, you can shoot a flattering, full-body portrait that’ll impress.
Just make sure you know the fundamentals of portrait photography and have the right lens.
What Lens to Use for Full Body Portraits
Full body portraits with 50mm lenses are great starting points.
Yet you might still be asking, “What lens do I need for portrait photography?”
Not every lens that covers the 50-70mm focal length is worth your time and money.
If you’re ready to upgrade your setup, then it’s important to ensure you buy something with lasting power that will impress your clients with its results for years to come.
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Zoom Lens
If you own a Nikon DSLR camera, then the Nikon AF-S is the lens you should buy as a portrait photographer.
It may cost a pretty penny, but this is truly the type of lens that will last you forever, even coming with you when you inevitably upgrade your Nikon body to the latest and greatest model.
At 24-70mm, it covers a wide enough range to allow you to experiment with your focal point while still covering the “goldilocks” distance that the industry agrees is best for full-body photography.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Standard Zoom Lens
This lens by Canon is, in most ways, the exact equivalent to the aforementioned Nikon lens.
It’s built in the same reliable and durable manner and even covers the same focal distance.
Many consumers who have tried both say that the Canon lens is slightly faster as focusing.
However, at the end of the day, this is another one of those lenses, if you’re the owner of a Canon DSLR, that you save up for, buy, and never allow to collect any dust because of how useful it is.
Sony 24-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar T FE OSS Interchangeable Full Frame Zoom Lens
Sony is very much the underdog in the photography community.
They produce quality equipment often at a fraction of the price of their competition.
While the first thing you think of when you think of Sony is probably not photography, it doesn’t mean they don’t make a great camera.
And if you’re the owner of one of Sony DSLR then this camera is a great accompaniment and almost a third cheaper than its Canon and Nikon cousins.
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens for Canon
For those of you that like to buck trends, then the Sigma 24-70mm “art lens” is a great camera for shooting portraits.
It’s very much a professional camera at a slightly discounted price from the Canon equivalent.
Sigma has proven itself to be comparable to Canon and Nikon even if they don’t have the same level of brand recognition.
How to Shoot a Full Body Portrait?
There are a few photographic tricks to keep on hand when you’re just starting with portrait photography, especially when shooting full-body portraits.
While you’ll soon gain a healthy understanding of your style, it’s best to stick with the fundamentals at first.
When shooting a full-body portrait, your first instinct may be to shoot from eye level as it’s the natural way you see your subject.
However, that instinct is almost always incorrect.
While it’s useful to experiment with your camera angle, you’re almost always going to achieve the best results from your model’s waist or lower.
Shooting from a low angle elongates your model’s legs, which gives them the most proportionate look through the lens.
Distorting the top half of their bodies can change the shape of their heads noticeably.
Furthermore, you’re more than likely going to shoot from a wider angle (not too wide; we’ll get to that), so ensure that you do not get too close to your subject or the wide-angle will distort them even more.
Talk Your Model Through Their Posture
Seasoned models know how to hold themselves in a way that makes them look good.
Beyond that, they also understand directions given by the photographer.
However, if you’re dealing with a first-time model (as many beginner photographers will) it’s best to coach them through proper posture.
Give them something to do with their hands—A model’s hands should have something to do, whether they’re folded in front of them or tucked into their pockets.
Hands flayed open and at the sides of your model will look unnatural.
Remind them to straighten their posture—Many people slouch naturally.
However, unless you’re trying to convey a certain personality or quirky charm, it’s best to casually remind your model to straighten their posture if they begin to slouch.
Help with Their Leg Positioning—When getting your photo taken, it’s natural to stand stiffly with both legs together.
However, that’s not a natural way to stand.
Instead, coach your model to put their weight on their back leg and bend their front leg just slightly—it’s a much more casual look.
Choose the Right Lens
Even with a great model, you’re still wondering what lens to use for full body portrait?
The most important thing you can do when shooting a full-body portrait is to have the correct lens on hand.
Even if your model is doing everything in their power to look good for the camera, the results will be subpar if your lens is not adequately capturing the scene.
You might think that a wide-angle lens is ideal for bull-body photography due to its ability to capture a lot of what is put in front of the camera.
However, wide-angle lenses are prone to unsightly distortion.
On the other hand, the rather distortion-less telephoto lens requires you to stand so far away from your subject that you often can’t communicate your needs or bring out that special bit of something that elevates a good portrait to greatness.
With that said, there is a middle-ground lens on the market that’ll give you a distortion-free view of your subject while also letting you stick close to your subject.
That lens covers the 50-70mm focal point and it’s one of the most popular portrait lenses in the industry.
However, not every lens at that focal point is worth the investment. You must get a clear, reliable lens to bring with you to shoots.
Bring Out the Best in Your Subject
What lens to use for full body portraits is just one piece of the puzzle.
Unless you’re shooting for tabloids or have some ulterior motive (that your model agrees with) then your priority as a portrait photographer is to bring out their best features.
Above all else, you’re an artist—just like a painter, it’s up to you to use your skill and intuition to hone in a person’s personality and even their physical features and exaggerate what flatters them most.
However, if you’re using the wrong lens, or even using the right lens wrong, you run the risk of creating something that doesn’t quite capture the natural beauty of your subjects.
With these tips and gear recommendations, you should be well on your way to capturing great portraits.
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