My Favorite Focal Length for Studio Fashion

Studio Fashion

Everyone I know in the business have their preferences regarding focal lengths for different applications. I tend to work quite a bit shorter than most when it comes to working in closed quarters in a studio environment. I specify this for a reason. Studio work is a fixed space that you set up lights in and know what those dimensions are for the whole day of the shoot. Unlike interior location shoots where you often have to change settings and adapt your focal lengths to the circumstances.

Above Illustration by: Donna Karan

It is for this reason, that I often find myself using a wide angle zoom in non studio environments.  My focal length of choice in 75% of my studio shoots is around 60-75mm i.e. 40-50mm in the 1.5 ratio APS-C sensor cameras. But I tend to shoot closer to the former. I have read on several forums that the majority of shooters tend to shoot quite a bit longer i.e. 90-120mm i.e. 60-80mm 1.5 ration APS-C sensor cameras. I find that getting in closer to the model, allows you to communicate on a different level which in my opinion is more immediate. I am also not that fond of (at least at this juncture in time) of that compressed  long focal length look. All of the major brands have focal lengths that fill this criteria.

“Because the image sensors on digital cameras are usually smaller than a frame of traditional 35-mm film, when a lens is used with a DSRL, you need to account for that difference by figuring its effective focal length. For example, a 50-mm lens on a Canon Digital Rebel would have an effective (or “equivalent”) focal length of 80-mm lens when taking into account the camera’s 1.6x magnification. Such magnification factors vary from one brand of camera to another, and sometimes even among models within the same brand.” from Consumer Reports.

I find that getting in closer to the model, allows you to communicate on a different level which in my opinion is more immediate. I am also not that fond (at least at this juncture in time) with that compressed  long focal length look.  However, I may just decide to change my mind tomorrow and start shooting 135mm f2.8 stuff and longer because it looks great for a certain application, with that blown out “Bokeh” look.

I have on occasion shot shorter than the above at around 30mm (45mm) APS-C, with very pleasing results, but for this focal length I need to work in studio’s with very high ceilings, as I more often than not am sitting or lying on the floor when shooting. I also need the much larger seamless when using this wider focal length or just work off of a bare studio cyclo wall.

Shooting at these shorter focal lengths most certainly have a distinctively modern edgy look about them (at least for now)… So don’t be afraid to experiment with shorter than the recommended norm for fashion work. It may give you a bit of the edge to stand out from the rest of the very highly populated crowd.

Would love to get your feedback…PS: My choice for Studio Beauty Lenses

About Benjamin Kanarek
Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…