Camera Selection and Film Formats.
You must consider the camera which you have selected to use, its accompanying film format, and the
type of portrait assignment when determining the proper focal length lens.
We will consider three primary camera formats: (1) small format (35 millimeter (mm)), (2) medium
format, including 645, 2 1/4 x 2 1/4, and 2 1/4 x 2 3/4, and (3) large format 4 x 5. Although much of the
portrait work that you will be required to undertake will involve the 35mm format, you should be
knowledgeable about the others because they may be required in certain instances. For example, if
retouching is anticipated, such as for covering blemishes, you should select a large format film, e.g., 4 x
a. First, we will consider the 35mm camera. The normal focal length lens is considered to be
For any format, measure the diagonal of the negative to determine the normal lens. Anything
smaller than 50mm, i.e., 35mm, 28mm, 24mm, or 21mm, are short focal lengths. Lenses
larger than 50mm, i.e., 85mm, 105mm, or 135mm are long focal lengths.
b. Second, medium format cameras are generally broken down into 645, 2 1/4 square, and 2 1/4
x 2 3/4.
(1) 645 and 2 1/4 square film formats may be considered together since the effective working
area of the 2 1/4 is the same as 645 when making standard size prints. The normal focal length is 80mm.
Smaller sizes are considered short focal lengths, and larger sizes are considered long focal lengths.
(2) 2 1/4 x 2 3/4 medium format has 90mm as normal. Again, smaller sizes are considered
short, while larger are long.
c. Last, a 6-inch lens is normal for the 4 x 5 large format cameras. Smaller lengths are short,
large lengths are long.
Proper Selection of Lens Focal Length for a Given Film Format and Portrait Type.
Use figure 1-2 to determine the necessary focal length lens for a pleasing perspective for head and
shoulders, three-quarter view, and full-length poses for various film formats. A suggested minimum
working space has also been included.