Choosing The Best 20D Lenses for Actor's Head/Body Shots

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by earth_monkey, Dec 19, 2004.

  1. I'm choosing the best lens combinations for my 20D for the purpose of taking actor's head
    and body shots (outdoors and indoors with available and/or hot lights).

    I'm definitely sold on these 2, so I won't be discussing them:

    1) 50mm f/1.4 USM ($310) - for head and shoulder shots (80mm film equivalent) - 4.4
    out of 5 Photodo rating

    2) 85mm f/1.8 USM ($326) - for tight head shots (136mm film equivalent) - 4.1 out of 5
    Photodo rating

    However, these are the additional 3 I'm giving heavy consideration to:

    3) 35mm f/1.4 L USM ($1025) - for full body, group, and casual shots (56mm film
    equivalent) - 4 out of 5 Photodo rating

    4) 85mm f/1.2 L USM ($1290) - for ... you know what for (136mm film equivalent) - 4.6
    out of 5 Photodo rating

    5) 135mm f/2.0 L USM ($819) - for bokeh, long noses, and pride of ownership (216mm
    film equivalent) - 4.5 out of 5 Photodo rating

    --- CONSIDERATIONS regarding #3, #4, and #5:

    I want to keep this under $2G, so I'd like to get the one out of these 3 that I'll use the most
    initially (then add to the collection later).

    I'd like your thoughts on which of these 3 would be better suited to the applications at

    The advantages of the 35mm f/1.4 L would be getting closer to the subject, bokeh, and
    superior image quality. I imagine this would get a lot of usage for 3/4s or full-lengths.

    The advantages of the 85mm f/1.2 L USM would, naturally, be creamy bokeh and superior
    image quality. I also don't see occasional woman minding the 'softness' quality of the wide
    open settings much. But I am concerned with paper-thin depth of field because (although I
    love it) agents sometimes consider too many out of focus areas (on the actor's face,
    particularly) as being "too artsy". Considering the sensitive, commercial application (which
    is like the selling of a 'product'), most of the subject's face needs to be in focus. Don't you

    Also, if BACKGROUND bokeh is all I'm concerned with, won't the 85mm f/1.8 USM suit this
    purpose just as well?

    The advantages of 135mm f/2.0 L USM would be superior image quality, more flattering to
    unflattering facial features, and almost approaching the bokeh of #5 (albeit at a greater
    distance from the subject). But, if I'm shooting indoors in average sized rooms, would it
    really see much use?

    This forum is excellent. And I appreciate your help ...
  2. Hmm... I would say buy both your first two choices simultaneously. (50/1.4 and 85/1.8) , especially if you have enough cheese for L-glass. Its an economical combo (well under 2G), comparitively. And for portraiture, your lenses don't have to be L-sharp. For giggles, you could even throw in the 135/2.8 and you'd only be at about 1G. This would be a "practical" direction.

    My "hedonistic" advice would be to go for the 85L or 135L -both of which have legendary reputations.

    I personally don't really like the 35mm focal length as the pictures aren't that unique per se (even with the DSLR crop factor etc). My mom's camera can turn out 35mm. Everybody has seen 35mm shots. It can be a bit ho-hum. But 135mm.... That's kicking it up a notch...
  3. For actors headshots you want 100mm, and since the crop factor wont give you that, get a zoom. never mind the long noses, if the nose appear long at 100mm, then it is long and actors headshots need to be accurate. not falsely flattering.
  4. I was thinking the same thing regarding the 100mm f/2. It is very reasonably priced and does excellent portraits. The f/2 should be enough to keep the face in focus.
    Although I have not had much time to play with it, let alone master it, I have heard many people say very good things about the portrait abilities of the 70-200mm f/4 L lens. You might check it out at your local store and see what you think. It is also a very economical lens as far as the L series goes.
  5. How will the 85mm f/1.2 L USM or 135mm f/2.0 L USM, within the specific application
    mentioned, differ from what I will get with the 50mm f/1.4 USM and 85mm f/1.8 USM (or
    even the 100mm f/2.0 USM, as mentioned)?

    And will the results differ dramatically enough to include either one of them in my initial
  6. Here's the specs on the 2 additional lenses suggested, so far:

    100mm f/2 USM ($305) - (160mm film equivalent) - 4.2 out of 5 Photodo rating

    70-200mm f/4 L ($640) - (112-320mm film equivalent) - 4.1 out of 5 Photodo rating

    And here's 2 more Canon zooms to throw into the mix of possibilities that also have very
    respectable ratings (just to confuse the issue even further):

    70-200mm/2.8 L USM ($1171) - (112mm-320mm) - 4.1 out of 5 Photodo rating
    --also comes in $1562 IS model

    28-70mm f/2.8 L USM ($1037) - (45mm-112mm) - 3.9 out of 5 Photodo rating

    Okay, this should complete the list of possibilities now to choose from for my specific

    Nine lenses in the mix ... and $2G burning a hole in my pocket ... Any more suggestions?
  7. Also, am I correct in assuming that the super-shallow depth of field possible with the
    85mm f/1.2 L USM would be a little too much (as stated) for my application (total head in
  8. Sure, I'll try and spend your $2K. My suggestions: 50/1.4, 85/1.8 as you state, plus 135/2 and throw in a 35/2. And, you should have some money left over for an extra memory card, and pizza, or two, plus drinks.

    I own a 85/1.8 and 35/2 and use the lenses on a 10D. While this much lower priced pair might not be *exactly* equivalent to their L cousins (85/1.2 & 35/1.4), they are both much smaller and lighter, and they are both capable of producing stunning images. If you need to really "wow" someone, you always have the 135/2 (I don't have this lens...yet).

  9. 85/1.2: Due to it's weight, price, slow AF and "super-shallow depth of field" I'd - personally - rule our the 85/1.2. I have the 85/1.8 and sometimes stop it down to 2.8 or 4 just to get more DoF. I have no wish to upgrade it to the 85/1.2 even if price would cease to be an issue. The 85/1.8 is small, light, cheap, with excellent optical quality and still have shallow enough DoF for me.
    35/1.4: This is one of my dream lenses and if money would not be an issue, I'd gladly upgrade my 35/2 to it. It's not that I find the 35/2 lacking in any optical department, on the contrary. However, USM, IF (the 35/2 has lousy AF in low light) and the additional stop (I often shoot wide open) are very appealing to me.
    135/2: Another one of my dream lenses. About a year ago I considered it and the 200/2.8 and finally went for the latter. Reasons: 1) Longer 2) Cheaper. I eventually grow to like the 200/2.8 very much and today I don't miss the 135 FoV a lot.
    Here are reviews and comparisons on many lenses you consider.
    Happy shooting,
  10. I use a 24-70L and a 70-200L. Occasionally, a 50 f/1.4 or f/1.8 and an 85 f/1.8. The most important thing is not the lens but, the pose.

    Casting agents are very picky about that and each year there's a certain look in vogue. For PROMO shots *only* (for magazines, newspaper, interviews, performances, etc...NOT casting agents) you can get more creative and even retouch *some* skin blemishes otherwise it's a definite and big NO-NO.
  11. Casting agents are very picky about that and each year there's a certain look in vogue.. It is Casting DIRECTORS.
  12. Okay ... I'm leaning toward:

    A: $1760

    50mm f/1.4 USM ($310)

    85mm f/1.8 USM ($326)

    100mm f/2 USM ($305)

    135mm f/2.0 L USM ($819)

    or ...

    B: $1673

    50mm f/1.4 USM ($310)

    85mm f/1.8 USM ($326)

    28-70mm/2.8 L USM ($1037)

    Hmmmmm. A or B?

    (The 135 is Canon's 3rd highest rated lens at Photodo at 4.5 out of 5.)
  13. I'm not sure that the 35 f1.4 is actually better at f2.8 or higher than the 35mm f2. It's just
    faster. If you need f1.4 then it's your lens, but if you don't then look hard at the f2. Don't
    be misled by Photodo ratings - they're very uneven.

    At moderate apertures, on a tripod, there's very very little difference between any of the EF
    prime pairs - 28mm f1.8/f2.8; 35mm f1.4 L/f2; 50mm f1.4/f1.8; 85mm f1.2/f1.8.
  14. Incidentally, here's the way the photos "work": The casting director usually receives an
    actor's photo from their agent or manager (either submitted online or by messenger) in
    response to film, television, or stage roles the c.d. is currently casting. (The casting
    director can also view the actor's photo in the Academy Players Directory casting reference

    As the actor's representatives, it's the agents and/or managers, who often will "help" the
    actor pick out the shots they end up using. The bottom line is 'will the headshot help the
    actor book work'? A good one will.

    Capturing both some depth of realness (rather than a facade) and the suggestion of an
    inner life (rather than bravado) in the subject are two important considerations that a good
    rapport will do wonders for. Of course, being able to recognize these subtle qualities is an
    art form in itself.
  15. For those who are confused, GOOGLE is your friend: "casting agent".
  16. Just to clearify some fo the confusion here. Even though it's not related to Canon EOS is very important that a photographer know the difference between a casting agent and a casting director (event though those two terms are some times used interchangeably, they are in fact very different).

    As an actor/model you cannot get your pix to a casting *director* unless:

    1) you are a already famous actor/model.

    2) you have a well known/respected agent/manager.

    3) your picture is submitted by a well known/respected casting agent/agency.

    The difference, in a nutshell is this:

    The casting *director* is hired directly by the production company/studio and is person ultimately responsible for a successful (or not) casting.

    As such he/she is given the script, brief, director's treatment of the story board etc... and all the details regarding the parts/jobs. Based on his/hers interpretation of that brief/info the casting director will then produce another brief which will be given to CASTING AGENTS.

    This brief will reflect the type of talent required to realize the story board (age, ethnicity, skills, rate, date of casting, etc...).

    Once they receive this brief the casting agents/agencies will draw upon their pool of talent accordingly.

    Casting agencies can also handle invoicing and contract signing. They are the 'first filters', if you will, in the selection process.

    Casting agents/agencies often develop working relationships *with* casting directors as well as studios/producers.

    I hope this can help in determining who the first (and most important) filter is. This is the person that will see the pciture you took of the actor/model first and therefore, the person that can make or break the upcoming actor/model.
  17. The only Canon lens I'm familiar with that is long enough to fit the frame of a head+body shot is the 1200mm f/5.6.

    Sorry, need's minus a billion out in Toronto.

  18. >>it's minus a billion out in Torontoi>
    Ah! Winter's here...or...actually, there :)
  19. I use my 28-70/2.8L all of the time for portraits and product shots with people so I would go with option B above.
  20. FYI: CASTING DIRECTOR is the professional term used in the industry.

    For further reference, the Casting Society of America (CSA) is the largest organization in
    the world representing (as they term them) CASTING DIRECTORS.


    With all due respect, I've been a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) for over a
    decade, and know of which I speak regarding the proper terminology used in the
    entertainment industry -- and I assure you that CASTING AGENT is NOT the term used
    (not in the past 15 years at least). The correct term used in the industry (Los Angeles) here
    is AGENT (rarely will you even hear TALENT AGENT).

    Most AGENCIES are franchised by SAG. Go to the SAG website and the CSA website and you
    WILL see the term AGENT mentioned, but not CASTING AGENT.

    "As an actor/model you cannot get your pix to a casting *director* unless: 1) you are a
    already famous actor/model. 2) you have a well known/respected agent/manager. 3) your
    picture is submitted by a well known/respected casting agent/agency."

    Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

    Unknowns are submitted by agents to casting directors daily by the THOUSANDS.
    Fledgling agencies and managers (as well as unknown actors themselves) submit DAILY to
    casting directors (some submissions are even solicited by c.d.s through Backstage,
    workshops, or online).

    Of course, the more well known have the most clout, but the industry is not entirely closed
    to accepting submissions from unknown actors. The agent is, however, USUALLY the
    middleman between the actor and the casting director.

    "This brief will reflect the type of talent required to realize the story board (age, ethnicity,
    skills, rate, date of casting, etc...)."

    FYI: The correct term for the 'brief' is THE BREAKDOWNS.
  22. Academy Players Directory:
  23. Here's a vital question: are you in New York or LA? In LA, there's a lot more freedom for creative headshots than in NY.

    Here's another: how big is your studio? At about 15 feet away a 50mm lens (cropped to act like a 80mm) will just fit a full body shot.

    And finally, do you expect mostly stage, film/TV, or commercial actors? Any models? All of these have different looks, and using the right lens will affect that.

    Now here's my advice. I'd pick up the 50mm and the 100mm and then put the grand you saved into strobe lighting. Those lenses will give you a pretty good amount of coverage and flexibility without too much redunancy, and you won't have to fool around with too much gear. And outdoors, you don't want to have to carry a lot of stuff. Remember, main job is to make your actor feel comfortable, not to keep changing lenses.
  24. I have to agree with Brian 100%! Lighting is everything. The two prime lenses are wonderful and should give you everything you are looking for without side effects that you are NOT looking for. Lighting is everything - being able to reproduce actual skin tone is paramount and that is where the money in lighting pays off.
    just my redundant thoughts...
  25. "Are you in New York or LA?"


    "How big is your studio?"

    Using 19 X 22 room, at present.

    "Do you expect mostly stage, film/TV, or commercial actors? Any models?"

    Film, TV, and commercial actors only. No models.
  26. My vote would be for these 3 lenses:

    Canon 50/1.8 instead of 1.4. There are lots of people on this list with the 1.8 that will support it's great performance. $80...instead of $310...especially if you are using it strictly for portrait work. I personally couldn't justify the price increase. The 1.4 is indeed a sharper lens (marginally), but I really don't think you need or would even really see a big difference.

    Canon 135 L. For sure! You cannot go wrong with this lens!

    and for something in the middle...I'd recommend the Tamron 90 SP 2.8. It has the same rating for optical quality as the Canon 135 L! So you know it's sharp...and the price is definitely right! ($469)

    So you'd be at roughly $1300 total. I think that would be an awesome studio portrait setup!

  27. For the grade of work we are talking here. . .I would opt for the 50/1.4 over the 50/1.8

    regarding the other prime "L"s, one thing to keep in mind that with a wide angle lens big aperture is more important than with a telephoto. With a telephoto, a F1.2 can be too shallow, whereas with a wide angle it may be just what you need.

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