Why do their heads look too big for their body?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by fuccisphotos, Nov 21, 2011.

  1. Hi All, I remember a few months back thinking one of the formal shots someone took and submitted for photo of the week that the heads looked too big for the body, kinda like bobble heads. Then I'm reviewing some shots from my most recent wedding and BAM there it is in my own shots (not quite as obvious, but still). Same type of strange effect. Keep in mind I'm TOTALLY aware the lighting here is NOT ideal. We had about 30 seconds to get a shot of just the two of them before about 350 family members descended upon them and it was as the sun was going down, so I didn't get time to get the flash perfectly balanced. But maybe it was the flash that created the effect? I don't know. So here are the stats on the shot: 5dmkII, taken on my 24-70 2.8 L, ISO 400, 2.8, 1/200, shot at 34mm, 580 EXII flash on a demb bracket and a demb PJ flip it modifier, and flash in ETTL. I don't remember if at this point if it was SO dark that I had to point the flash head forward. I don't think so. I think I just tilted the modifier at about 15 degrees, so just a little below vertical. They were standing at slightly higher up than me. So any thoughts on what gave this effect? In other shots of them this didn't happen. Maybe how close I am to them shooting that wide? Can you think of anything? This is something I definitely want to avoid in the future.
  2. Shoot a tiny bit lower. Your body - lower it slightly. Also there is a lot of lost room at the top of the picture and the gown was cut off at the knees of the guy. Try to avoid cutting off someone at the joints, elbows, feet, and in this case the knees.

    This photo can be saved simply by cropping . I know you didn't ask about the hand positions or perhaps tilting their heads closer together.

    The big issue here is the space above the head, that would make the couples heads look a bit bigger.

    It's actually a decent shot, just a minor problem with where you cut off the couple and the wasted height. I wouldn't worry at all showing the photo to the couple.
  3. Perspective distortion does it. Stand further away, your 34mm focal length is too short for a full length photo.
  4. What Bob said. Both of them.
  5. The heads don't seem too overly big for their bodies to me--maybe you're just a bit oversensitized to the issue?
    Other than that, the only thing I can think of is the perspective distortion Bob suggested. 34mm for a full length (actually 3/4 length) is a bit wide, and since your angle of view was higher than their mid points, the body and legs will 'fall away'.
    The typical suggestions for focal length to body length are as follows.
    Full length--50mm with view point closer to mid point (waists).
    Half length--about 70mm, with view point closer to chests.
    Head and shoulders--about 80-100mm and narrower with viewpoint at face level.
    35mm is suggested for groups from about 10 feet wide.
  6. They look like a couple that I would like to have dinner with. It would be nice to know if they had feet.
  7. thanks bob. I really hate the composition, but it is what it is. The bride was very keen on getting fall foliage, so that's why that's in there. For this shot, if I had more than 30 seconds to fire off the shot I would have had her fix her hand first and foremost, I would have had my 2nd shooter fix her veil and hair. And I would have tried to get more ambient. I did take one shot zoomed out so that you could see her full dress. Then I quickly zoomed in for 3 more shots, each closer than the next. So that I'd have a range to pick from. Here's the edit of the shot that they'll actually get. I didn't crop it closer because the sari needed to be in the shot.
  8. Full length--50mm with view point closer to mid point (waists)​
    I often shoot full length with 35mm. I'll frame it a bit loose and then crop it tighter. Not sure if this is the right way to alleviate the distortion problem.
  9. Green--the guidelines are guidelines. You can shoot with whatever you want to shoot with. Just know there are reasons for guidelines.
    My question would be--why do you shoot loose and crop tighter? I can think of a couple of 'couldn't do anything else' or 'very short on time' reasons, but otherwise, why waste the frame space, particularly on a posed shot?
  10. Nadine, when you mean view point, do you mean where my eyes would line up along their bodies?
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Hi Vail,
    Their heads look fine in the original shot.
    You are correct to be sensitive as I believe your gut is telling you something is not perfect.
    5dmkII, taken on my 24-70 2.8 L, . . . I did take one shot zoomed out so that you could see her full dress. Then I quickly zoomed in for 3 more shots, each closer than the next.”​
    Re read the Typical Recommendations Nadine set out for: Portraiture / FL Lenses to Use / Camera Elevations / the Framed Shot.
    Implicit in those typical recommendations, is that the Shooting Distance also changes.
    For example, I am photographing one person standing - with my 50mm lens, I pull a Full Length Shot (vertical) with a bit of air around the top and bottom of the frame, I am at about 15ft.
    If I want a Tight Half Shot (vertical) and therefore for that shot I might CHOOSE to use an 85 lens - but I will be shooting at about 10ft.
    It occurs to me that your Portraiture Technique is that your feet are planted and you do NOT choose the FL you require, but rather you frame the shot with the convenience of the zoom and the Focal Length choice just falls where it might.
    ? ? ?
    If I may answer - Yes – “viewpoint” is “Camera Elevation” – where your camera is located vertically, Nadine gave a reference of how high off the ground your camera would be, in respect to the Subjects’ bodies.
  12. I think his head looks fine. I do think her head looks a little big for her body, but I think that's due to the veil cutting off her right shoulder and her left shoulder angling backward (and arm being obscured a bit as well). You end up with a "half body" with an apparently large head. If you were to see her right shoulder and arm, the head would look more normally proportioned, imho.
  13. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I often shoot full length with 35mm. I'll frame it a bit loose and then crop it tighter. Not sure if this is the right way to alleviate the distortion problem.

    No, it is not.
    Perspective Distortion (also Parallel Distortion; Keystone Distortion and Foreshortening) is a factor of the Focal Length of the Lens and the Camera's Viewpoint.
    For example with a 35mm lens and if you are close enough and shoot too high, (or too low) you will still have Foreshortening – certainly if you have shot loose enough, the effect of the Foreshortening will be decreased when you crop, but simply choosing a 35mm lens and shooting loose, is not a good technique for posed or managed Portraiture, which is what we are discussing here.
    On the other hand, for candid work or work on the hop and under the pressure of time at an event, I will often shoot loose - but only whilst still being aware of the camera's viewpoint.
    Sometimes, dabbling in “street” photography even using a 24mm lens and shooting from the hip - but in these cases the foreshortening / perspective distortion can also be purposeful and a part of the concept.
  14. Vail--William W. has it right. I probably should have not used viewpoint. Anyway, I agree with what he said concerning making a conscious choice about focal length in relation to body length framed. The guidelines posted are for the least distortion in each body length.
    This is one of the first things I taught people just starting out in photography. Don't just shoot from wherever you end up in front of your subjects--make a conscious decision and move yourself, if you can. Now, I understand you were in a hurry to get the shot since the light was going. However, unless you needed to be close to your subjects (having enough flash power in bright sun, for instance), you could quickly step back (if you had the room), setting your lens to 50mm.
  15. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Now, I understand you were in a hurry to get the shot since the light was going . . ."
    so did I . . . "once upon a time" . . . we did all that and also changed between three prime lenses.
    WW :)
  16. Normally I would have used VERY different focal lengths for the shot than what I did. One of the first things i teach my
    beginner photography students is to use the appropriate focal length, suggesting avoiding smaller than 50mm unless
    shooting larger group photos. Great example I set, right? But here's a bit more background. We had originally planned
    that we were going to get a shot of the bride's side first, no joke 270 people, and then the groom's side, 80 people since
    because of Daylight savings time we had almost no light left, and we still had to get shots of the 44 person bridal party
    and the couple. So I had my 24-70 on. But then the bride informed me that wasn't going to be sufficient for her family,
    and that we needed to do individual family shots instead. So my 2 large group shots turned into about 50 different formal
    family shots, which is not unusual for a large Indian wedding. I told them that would eat away at all their time for shots of
    the two of them, and they said, that's ok, the family shots are more important, and to them and their family, they really
    were. But I knew they already pre-purchased an album and couldn't see having it not have a single shot of the two of
    them alone after they liked their engagement shots so much, which we took during a three hour shoot, resulting in
    beautiful well composed shots of the two of them. So while the families were lining up in order to get their individual
    family formal, I said, oh, lemme just grab a quick one of the two of you alone. I couldn't back up any more because I had
    a wall of 350 people behind me. Having them move back meant having them go up higher on the berm, and her risking
    sinking high hells into mud. Normally I am not a foot plant photographer. I should have zoomed in more on the lens for a
    longer focal length and gone with a head shot, but I was just focused on how the bride said she wanted the sari in every
    shot, so I just went with what I had. I wanted to be culturally savvy and show that I understood and respected the
    importance of that to her.

    Luckily after we got all the family shots done, there was a hint of sunset left and we got a shot just as it slipped behind the
    earth. Later in the evening we grabbed them for about 2 minutes for some shots of them alone. But I still wanted to
    make this shot work that I posted here because they were a very sweet couple and I knew how much the bride wanted a
    fall wedding to have the foliage as a backdrop.

    We did the bridal party shots in the beautiful, and well lit, lobby of the reception hall with proper focal lengths and
    distances. Those shots came out great :)

    The lesson from this is that you truly never know what will be thrown your way at a wedding, and it is good to know how to
    roll with the unexpected punches. In the end the couple was very happy with how I handled the situation that day and
    hopefully they will like the fixed up shot. In the mean time, your excellent advice will undoubtedly help me think on my
    feet better in the future, so thank you!
  17. Well that explains it. Have you tried perspective control in Photoshop? I've used it even on people a couple of times.
  18. I have a couple of thoughts. I like using short lenses for stuff like this, even though I mostly use long lenses, even very long. Imagine that there is a giant perfect graph paper behind the couple. If you shoot from high or low tilted up or down, or angled left or right some parts of those lines are going to converge. Keep this in mind because you don't want them to converge, and it doesn't matter how short or long the lens is, either the field is flat or it's not. If you shoot from the front and say about chest high depending on how tall you are, you can't see in the camera without some contorting, or using a tripod is best, but you can position the camera with the convergence in mind and just raise or lower the height. That in itself will prevent this type problem pretty much. For example if I was shooting this on a Hasselblad I could just hold it lower and look through the top, but with rear eyepiece digitals it's a pain in the butt. Also, I would lessen the fill on them and throw a second flash at the leaves in the background, you'll hardly notice but it will give them a kick.
  19. OK, I just read your post you wrote same time as mind, I completely understand, been there. So keep camera flat to plane and adjust fill on couple and background and that will help. Just think of your body as a flag pole and the camera going up and down on it but staying straight. That's why I almost shoot anything like this I can on a tripod
  20. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Normally I am not a foot plant photographer."​
    If you were shooting inside, with a wall behind you, there would be the same problem.
    I most willing retract, how it occurred to me.
    It occurs to me entirely differently now I read the fuller account and I am happier for that.
    Going back to the original issue and how you made the shot. If you are forced to shoot at a FL wider than you would normally choose and the Subjects are standing above you (you mentioned a slight incline and you were below them) – it is better to get the camera higher – at about their face height or even a tad high than that and shoot directly with the Film Plane parallel to them.
    The reason is twofold:
    With a wide lens, if there is any barrel distortion it will be at the edges more pronounced, and the dress or the feet or the sky can be more easily manipulated than the facial features – so getting the face more towards the centre is good.
    The second reason is all about the parallel or keystone type of Perspective Distortion being exacerbated when the camera’s Film Plane is skew to the plane of the Subjects.
    If you shoot like that then the Perspective Control / Lens Distortion Correction in Photoshop (or similar) is easier used (or abused) if it is treating the Dress, or the feet or the tree behind them, rather than their faces.
    This type of shooting scenario is sometimes challenging for those of us who are not very tall and a lot easier for those 6ft something people, alas I fall, in to the former category.
  21. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Imagine that there is a giant perfect graph paper behind the couple . . .So keep camera flat to plane"​

    HAHA! Gee you have to be quick!
    I was writing the same thing at the same time - and I got up to get a coffee.
    I like the graph paper analogy I shall use that, please.

  22. No lie William, I just finished my third cup, before bed no less, here in the states of course *-)) And, if there's any of my ramblings you ever find useful, go for it, I sometimes make sense.
  23. My question would be--why do you shoot loose and crop tighter? I can think of a couple of 'couldn't do anything else' or 'very short on time' reasons, but otherwise, why waste the frame space, particularly on a posed shot?​
    Expeidency is the main reason for me to shoot loose and crop tight, especially for those journalistic shots with which you don't always have time to frame precisely.
    Sometime with posed shots, I shoot loose to avoid putting people on the edges. The trade off, of course, is that you lose pixels cropping down. A photog taught me this when I first started out and I have been doing this since. Is this not right?
  24. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Sometime with posed shots, I shoot loose to avoid putting people on the edges. The trade off, of course, is that you lose pixels cropping down. A photog taught me this when I first started out and I have been doing this since. Is this not right?
    What is “right” and what is “wrong” is open to debate and opinion.
    But for certain: I would argue strongly that if “Posed” in any manner whatsoever, then some Control is to be apparent.
    And that control would extend to managing the Technical Elements of the Craft.
  25. To shoot wide and then crop is the same as picking a longer focal length - except that image resolution will drop.
    I would say that 35mm for a full length shot is fine especially if you want to show the environment. But you can't angle the camera down if you are close to the subjects. You need to drop down and shoot them. That's classic portraiture photography. "Craft" as WW called it :)
  26. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "To shoot wide and then crop . . . is the same as picking a longer focal length"
    Except also (in addition to resolution dropping) . . . the Perspective is different.
  27. Nope, can't agree on that William.
    Perspective comes from distance relationships alone and has nothing to do with focal length.
    The focal length is just magnification. Cropping is the also magnification since we cut some parts away but still have the same size screen/print. So if you shoot wide (less magnification) and then crop (more magnification) it's exactly the same thing as shooting with a different focal length. Perspective is identical because we didn't change the camera to subject distance.
    Since I know you know this I assume we are not talking about the same thing?
  28. Pete, focal length affects more than magnification. The optics of the lenses create specific effects. I just did this series in my apartment to show the differences. The first is a 16mm, the next is 16mm from the same distance the 135mm shot was taken at, and then cropped in LR (you can even see in this tiny shot the decreased clarity and increased noise with doing this). This was all hand held, not with my tripod. With longer focal lengths, you get more compression of the perceived depth of field. So if you take a crowd shot in NYC, and you want it to appear more packed in, you'd want to use a longer focal length, if you don't want to make it seem like people are packed in like sardines, use a shorter focal length. These shots are all SOOC, shot at 2500ISO, 2.8, 1/160th on my 5DmkII. The bokeh and DOF you get at 2.8 even when cropped in is very different with a shorter focal length lens (see the blur on the back of the red bag and the blurred container in the 135mm shot vs the clarity of them in the cropped shot) than you do on a longer focal length lens. This is because that F stop we are using has to do with a ratio: Focal Length/Size of aperture so to get the same F stop on a longer focal length lens, you need a much larger aperture opening, which affects the depth of field.
  29. No Vail, the "compression" of perspective doesn't come from the focal length of the lens, it comes from the fact that you have increased the distance to the subject.
    You even show it to us in your example shot. The cropped 16mm and the 135mm shot have exactly the same perspective. As they should because they are shot from the same distance.
    And the uncropped 16mm shot have a very different perspective because the camera was very close to the subject.
    The only lens specific effects are aberrations like a little barrel distortion visible in your uncropped 16mm shot. The increased noise and lower resolution is because you cropped the image (a lot).
  30. Pete, you are right about the compression of perspective coming from increased distance to the subject, not the actual lens. Sorry, I misspoke, and meant that if you were filling the frame with the same subject matter the compression effect comes into play. It comes from the relative differences in distances. The actual distance from the nuts to the advent calendar is about 6 inches. So when I took the 16mm shot about 2 feet from the subject, the relative distance from the nuts to the calendar is 1.25x, vs when I was standing about 12 feet away for the 135mm shot and the cropped 16mm the advent calendar's relative distance away from the nuts is now only 1.04x, which results in the compression effect. If I was standing 100 feet away, that would drop to 1.005x
  31. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Nope, can't agree on that William.​
    Yes. you are correct.
    I haven't read any furher and will read in a moment.
    I woke up this morning and my first thought was that I realized that I had misunderstood the meaning of what you wrote.
    You were meaning:
    "To shoot wide and then crop is the same as picking a longer focal length (and be standing in the same spot) - except that image resolution will drop."
    And that was the purpose for you posting it.
    I totally missed the point you were making and I have numerous times made the same point that Perspective is dependent only upon camera distance (and elevation).

    Sorry for the misinterpretation but it seems it allowed you to explain further . . . Now I will read all your responses and see if we agree!

  32. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Since I know you know this I assume we are not talking about the same thing?" . . . thank you for that comment.
  33. three comments:
    1. I make a habit of dropping down on one knee when I take a full-length group shot. It's good discipline to get the perspective right. Of course, I adjust this based on the background, but it's a good start.
    2. Overshooting it (leaving extra to crop from) can be handy when you get to album production. The image may naturally be a 4x6 or 4x5 aspect ratio, but the album might be 12x12 and you might want a square photo. Also, you might want extra background you can float a supporting image on.
    3. I try to shoot every group in 2-3 ways: full length, 3/4, and head shots. Doing so gives you a couple options on expressions and backgrounds plus choices when it comes to album production. It's pretty quick to get all three
  34. If you have the room, which looks like you do in this picture, I'd back way up and pick up the foreground as well as the background. It's too uneven This surely should be full length based on what you said about picking up the colors. At full length you can do all sorts of magical images with the couple. I hardly ever use my 70-200LIS canon lens, but in this case, since there seems to be a lot of room I'd stand back and let the settings take place naturally. I don't think I'd go to the 200mm mark, but surely 150 to 180mm's. Although this pic is inside at Disneyland I wanted to get the feel of the surroundings. I think you could have done something like this. I did go lower in height to sort of balance the scene. I busted my elbow so if there are typo's thats due to typing with 1 hand.
  35. Notice how the hieght on the top is about the same, to a point, as the bottom. Anyway this is how you can make the surroundings work to your advantage and you don't have to cut off bodies. At the same time, if you wish you can make several different images from just this one. A closeup. B&W, closeup in B&W, full length by cutting out part of the floor, a closeup of the guy kissing her hand. So in one shot you can make about 3 or 4 shots without the B&G knowing that all of these shots were taken by 1 image.

    Bottom line here is simply give yourself extra room to play.

    This is also why I hardly ever go over 400 ASA/ISO because with closeups you will see a lot of pixelation. In RAW at 100 to 400 you can have fun doing creative things to just one pic.
  36. On your pic you could have also backlit the trees so the colors would really pop out.
  37. anothr example - outside
  38. last time (I hope, this is a computer issue I have sometimes
  39. Bob, nice work and hope your elbow feels better soon. As I wroe in the second response, I had about 350 people
    crammed in right behind me, so I could not back up any more than I did.
  40. Well Vail with 350 people pretty much banging into you, my photo wouldn't be much better! Thats a lot of people.

    The elbow is in bad shape at the moment. It effects my right hand, but it's only been a few weeks. I should be feeling great in a month. Thanks for your thoughts.
  41. I honestly don't see the relationship in these shots. Vail is shooting 3/4 setups including environment and Bob is shooting full lengths. I've read all the text and get the points of view, but they're not the same thing, nor approached the same either. Also Bob, and I recognize you shoot a lot, consider in your second shot the groom needs to have his left foot pulled behind the dress more and to turn his right foot out more so that his hips are set up more comfortably. He has that classic lean right now where his foundation is not set up the best it can, therefore kind of awkward. In Vail's original set up the foundations are better set, and they look more natural, although she chose to go with the bride flatter to the camera, which is perfectly fine. I'm not trying to make a big thing here, I'm just stating my observations as such.
  42. Another point to consider overall when doing any of these environmental type portraits is using a tripod and setting up the scene first and then bringing the B&G in with relationship to the setting. This point has been discussed before by several people on here. That means that first you picked a place, carefully considered a view point and selected an appropriate lens angle. Next you can flatten out the graph so that lines aren't leaning etc., unless of course that's what you want for "artistic expression" then you position the couple with the distance you see appropriate between the background you already set and the camera and shoot. If you adjust, at least the tripod keeps your adjustments closer farther or up and down, while you are not tempted to angle the plane of the film to the scene, again unless you artistically take that route. Kepp in mind also that, especially with a wide lens at closer distance, if the camera is even slightly angled up, and with a fairly traditional pose, then you have that funnel effect where the heads will be not only bigger but distorted. The opposite will occur if even slightly angled down the hips and legs will be bigger, often it is a big oversize arm or knee or something.
  43. Dave, I think what you just described in that last post is EXACTLY the answer I was looking for to explain what happened in my original post. THANK YOU!!!! Had this not been a impromptu formal session in this location rather than the next one that I had scouted out previously, the tripod would have been out and on the camera. But it's a good reminder to take those few seconds and put it on anyways, even when you are in a hurry.
  44. Vail, I'm glad that helped. Now, let me share a thought about the hands, and you can take it for what it's worth. First of all, you chose to use the bridal cloth which is great, but then you end up with three hands to deal with. Her left you hid under the cloth, OK fine, works. Her right however is a lost opportunity, I would have pulled that back a bit so that her wrist breaks back just off the back of her left arm with all her fingers out. I would also have her raise her index finger very slightly. His left hand I would pull back and have him lightly hold her arm just above the elbow, this will give him more room to get a little flatter to the camera and will show his fingers including his ring. IMO, it's a little too complicated to have the cloth, her hand on top of his and all that business, plus the fingers have no real definition or job in polishing off the shot.
    You can try it at home, just put your right fingers lightly about mid knuckle on top of your left arm with your pinky about at the wrist bone, push in the thumb a little under the index finger, it will push it up slightly and that's it. Pretty much you want to keep the fingers together, not spread apart, but not squashed looking either.
    Now, if you didn't have the cloth and wanted them to join hands, that works good, but right now his hand is stubbed off at the knuckle, let him open it to the next knuckle as if he's cupping a drink of water and have her put her fingers and hand the same way I just told you.
  45. I like how you lit it up and cropped it. Looks really good. I made a 30 second, 1 hand attempt at lighting up the background. Since my elbow is wrecked I'm confident that someone can do a much better job, in fact a perfect job with the background. Lot's of talented photoshop masters out there. Simply consider lighting up the background. Sorry my arm is so messed up. This will look like a 6 yr old did this! Although it is still cropped the couple wanted to enjoy the fall color. I think it can be done with cropping the first pic and adding light.
  46. Since Bob only has one hand I though I'd give it a go with two hands.
    I emphasizes the fall colors more but I would have liked to incorporate more of the surroundings at the time of shooting.
    A longer shutter speed and a gelled flash that fitted with ambient better would have been my choice when shooting this. But there is not always time get it perfect :)
  47. Pete, Thats really excellent! Nice photoshop work.
  48. Thanks Bob!
  49. Pete, what color gell flash would you use? A clouded one with color?

    You really made that photo pop! If I have any questions about photoshop you will be hearing from me!!! I'm really impressed.
  50. Pete, I too am impressed. Would you give us an idea what you did to get that look? Thans much! Just a few shots after I slowed the shutter speed to get more ambient.

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