Originally Posted by CosplayJelly
i find it hard to understand what it looks like from the camera's angle, so i end up either looking too high up, my legs look awkward or my torso looks wider. i know the 3/4 angle thing helps but i cant be doing that all the time can i?
Sorry for the long post, I wanted to address this point.
This effect is called perspective distortion (not to be confused with lens distortion), and is solely an effect of the distance between the camera and the subject. If the camera is close to the subject, perspective distortion will be exaggerated; if the camera is far from the subject, perspective distortion will be minimized.
Perspective distortion is often misunderstood as lens distortion. Bear with me here, and let's use a full-length body shot as an example.
- With an ultra-wide-angle lens, the photographer can stand only a few feet away from the subject and include the full body in the shot.
- With a medium-length lens (let's say 50mm), the photographer can stand a couple yards away and get a full-length shot.
- With a telephoto lens, the photographer must stand several yards away to get a full-body shot.
With the wide-angle lens, perspective distortion will be magnified because the camera is so close to the model - or, more accurately, because the camera is very close to one end of the model and far away from the other end.
- If the photographer is shooting from head height, the model's head will be a foot away from the camera, and the model's feet will be six feet away from the camera. This means you're going to appear in the shot with a big ol' melon up top and little teeny tiny feet at the bottom.
- If the photographer is shooting from down low, your feet and legs will look big and your head will look small - because your feet are so much closer to the camera.
- If the photographer is shooting with a wide-angle from waist height (kneeling), your head and feet will look kinda small but your thighs and hips will look disproportionately large.
In my opinion, this is the worst when it's a moderately wide-angle lens at a few feet of distance - it's just enough distortion to make the model look pudgy around the thighs, but not quite enough distortion for the viewer to recognize that it's just the perspective effect.
If you're careful, and you have room and time to pose, the experienced photographer and model can work together to use perspective distortion to an advantage, for dramatic and fun photos. Unfortunately, most convention environments (crowded con halls, etc) don't give a lot flexibility, and when the photographer doesn't have room to work, it results in undesired and unflattering perspective distortion - fat thighs, big noggin, misshapen limbs.
If you have room and time to work, and you want to minimize unwanted perspective distortion, the photographer should stand back several yards and zoom in to achieve the desired framing.
When I get home and have access to some of my other shots, I'll post a couple of examples of using perspective distortion to one's advantage. A good example is when you have a prop weapon or gun, you can point it at the side of the camera or the photographer's shoulder or chest - not right at the lens - and the tip of the sword or gun will look large and imposing, which is a fun effect. Or, if you're a "cute" character, lean in just a bit, give an exaggerated wink and the two-fingers "V," with your hand close to the camera - again, with hand slightly to the side so you don't obstruct the whole shot with your hand. Your V-hand will look cartoony and huge which can be a fun effect if done right.
Hope this helps someone get some better portraits.
Update: Here are a few where I intentionally used perspective distortion to try for an interesting portrait.
This one is the 24-70mm lens at 34mm, shot from only a few feet away from the subject:
, on Flickr
This one is my fully-manual 14mm lens, just a few inches away form the tip of the sword. It's a little out of focus, I had to manually focus and I bungled it - and at this distance to the subject, there's very little room for focus error. (note, the EXIF says 50mm because that was the lens I had on before, and this 14mm lens has no electronics to tell the camera anything different.) Still, it shows off the interesting effect of the perspective distortion.
, on Flickr
This one is also with the 14mm, carefully trying for a dramatic portrait. This shot makes her nose look much bigger than it really is, because her nose is so much closer to the camera than the rest of her face.
, on Flickr
aaaand for good measure, here's one where perspective distortion worked against me. There wasn't much I could do about it, this was in the super-crowded Marriott at Dragon*Con and I had zero room to step back, so I shot from about five feet away at 24mm. Stretched heads, misshapen limbs, pudgy midsections - yikes! It's a keeper only for the purposes of remembering the costumes and the moment; as a photograph it's.. well, it's not what I would call "good."
, on Flickr