Guest Bloggers Zach & Jody | Tuesday Tips & Tricks – Long Lens Perspectives

Published June 11, 2012

Today we have guest bloggers Zach and Jody Gray hosting their free, weekly Tuesday Tips & Tricks on our blog here at Lensrentals! Zach & Jody are Nashville-based wedding photographers who have taken the industry by storm since their business began back in 2007. They have a huge heart for teaching and inspiring other photographers, and we are proud to have them as our customers. But enough from us—here are Zach & Jody!

Hey Everyone! We’re so glad to be able to share on the Lensrentals blog! We love this company, and it is by FAR our favorite rental company to use. πŸ™‚ Let’s get started on today’s Tuesday Tips & Tricks!

Lens choice is so much more than just getting a different look on an image. Using the right lens for the job can make—or break—the story that you are trying to tell. It can bring attention to—or completely distract—your viewer from what should and should not be seen in an image. So instead of talking about tons of lens choices and tons of options, we are going to talk about just one of our favorite lenses that we use for photographing weddings and the perspective that this particular lens gives us. Without further ado, let us introduce you to one of the greatest lenses ever produced, the Canon 85mm f/1.2L II.

This lens is considered a “portrait” length lens, and let’s first talk about what that means. Portrait length lenses are usually between 85mm and 105mm (depending on who you ask), and the reason a shorter lens (like say the Canon 50mm f/1.2L) is not considered a portrait lens is due to the perspective that it gives.

A 50mm lens (on a full frame censor camera like the Canon EOS 5D Mark III that we use) gives a “normal” perspective, meaning that things through that lens look similar to what your naked eye sees. Things look average and normal on a 50mm. So if you want an image to look like you were standing right there when it was shot, then a 50mm would be a good choice!

If, however, you want to start altering reality, you can go wider than 50mm, or longer than 50mm. An 85mm lens actually compresses reality in a tight, neat little box. It makes everything look closer together, and it gives the viewer the feeling that someone was peering into a moment rather than standing right there in it.

This is a great lens for shooting many parts of a wedding because as a wedding photographer, when shooting the moments that are happening during the day, we want the feel of the images to seem as though we were not there at all. We want it to feel like someone happened to be looking in on a private moment, and this lens does that for us!

If we had used shorter lenses or wide angle lenses like a 24mm or 16mm, the images would not have the feeling of intimacy like they do in the above shots. We also love using it for portraits for a few reasons.

1. For portraits, this lens gives us that compression that we talked about earlier. It also helps us as the photographers to not seem as though we were there but rather that someone just happened to see a great moment between two people.

2. Longer lenses help throw the background out of focus which helps put the focus on our client and not what’s going on around them.

3.Β It helps eliminate distracting elements by pushing out elements around our client through compression. When you use a longer lens, you can make an area of a few small parts come together as one by compressing reality and getting rid of things you don’t want to see. Take for example, the two images below. The first was shot using our Canon 24mm f/2.8.

And then, look at the difference! How a different look is created by simply shooting with a longer lens (the Canon 85mm f/1.2L II) and framing the distracting background out.

We were recently demonstrating this idea at one of our IN-CAMERA workshops that we host around the country. At the workshop, we were taking a simple portrait of a model we had hired for the day. We had this building about 150 feet away from where we were standing that made for a super cool background. So we shot it with two different lenses to show what the perspective could really do and what impact using the right lens at the right time can have.

Long lenses will make distant objects in the background look larger than they really are and can play to your advantage in the right situation when you need to include some things and get rid of other distracting elements. In the below image (taken at 30mm), you can see how small the building in the background appears to look and how distracting all the elements around our subject are.

Now, in the final images you can see what a huge difference using the 85 to compress the sides and top/bottom of the image did and how big the background now looks in comparison. Also, using the lines of the railing adds further enhancement to the overall composition and style of the shot.

So to give you some perspective on our shooting style, we take most of the portraits and moments that happen throughout the wedding day on the longest lenses we can to give them an intimate feel and look. We make boring and even bad locations look great by including what works and cutting out what doesn’t. We do shoot wide images—and we love the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L to show the story of what is happening—but our go-to lenses for portraits are the longer lenses.

If you don’t have any (and before you spend a bundle of money) rent the lenses you’re interested in. See how you like them and get a feel for them before you invest your hard-earned money! And what a coincidence, Lensrentals just happens to rent whatever gear you need. πŸ˜‰

Thanks so much for checking out this blog post, and let us know in the comments what YOUR favorite lens is and why you love it!! Feel free to join us every Tuesday on our own blog for more free photography tips & tricks!

Thanks Zach & Jody!

In case this is your first time exposed to Zach and Jody Gray, they have been aiding photographers for the last 4 years with free tips and tricks on their blog and newsletter. Zach & Jody go beyond just teaching you the photography, but teach you how to nurture, develop and grow your business. They have just launched their brand new business DVD “Harvest”. This DVD is NOT about photography—it’s about your business. It teaches you the tools to make serious money in your business and how to attract, court and keep your clients re-selling your services through word-of-mouth and word-of-mouse marketing. To check out more info and to purchase the DVD, go to

Author: Caroline

Posted in Equipment
  • One of the best group pictures that Amber has taken was with the 100mm macro. She obviously had to stand very far back, but the bokeh, the compression, the perspective, everything; it was incredible! Definitely something I’m going work more on! I usually shoot with the 50 or 24-70 for group shots, now I’m going to have to try the 85 instead.

    Love the writeup, and love the examples!

  • Jim Rice

    With some sitters, a VERY good thing.

  • Jim Rice

    One point that I feel was missing from the article (I have not read them all)is that a slightly long (~2x normal) focal length is thought of as a “portrait” lens because it reduces the apparent size of a sitter’s nose in a “head and shoulders” scenario. This is a good thing.

  • I have the Nikon 85mm 1.4G and am absolutely blown away by this lens each and every time I shoot with it. In comparison to my 70-200 VRII and 24-70, it puts them to shame in portrait settings.

    Great article!

  • I am a wedding & lifestyle photographer near Burlington, Vermont. I have been following Z&J Gray for almost a year now. Huge fan of their “rockstar” style, and because of their recommendation have been renting lenses to see which prime I want to purchase next. When comparing the 50mm 1.2 to this 85mm 1.2, I prefer the 50mm. Why? Because I tend to not place my subjects directly in the middle of a portrait, and if my bride is along either edge of the frame, the 85mm tends to make her look larger (arms especially.) Wish Z&J had touched on that a bit… Anyone else find this or have a way around it? Happy shooting! J

  • Caroline

    Hey Danny!,

    We are actually trying to mix things up a bit and bring something new to the Lensrentals blog! Not everybody is into the techy-talk, and we really want to be able to give people some sound advice from the pros themselves.


    Intern Extraordinaire

  • Fun article, but it just feels awkward and out of place against the backdrop of Lens Rentals’s normal blog posts. Usually blog posts are techy, funny, and highly informative. This just feels like a commercial for LR’s 85mm+ lenses by a couple whose ethos does not really match Roger’s.

  • Siegfried. Here you go:

    “2. Longer lenses help throw the background out of focus…”

    No, they don’t.

  • The nikon 200 mm f2 has quickly become my favorite and most used lens. Incredible! Many of the shots posted recently on our blog were with taken with this gem.

  • There is a common misconception that long lenses compress the perspective. This is not correct. The camera to subject distance determines the perspective. The longer lens just gives you a narrower field of view so that the subject is larger. But if you shot from the same position with a 20mm and a 200mm the portion of the scene that is common to both photographs will have the same perspective. Enlarge/crop in on the 20mm image to match the 200mm image and the compression will be the same. Of course you wouldn’t use the short lens far away because of the loss of quality when you enlarge it. In practical use you do see the compression more with long lenses, but it is not caused by the lens. Similarly, if you move in close with a short lens you see extended perspective. But again, it is not because of the lens. The short lens just allows you to get in closer.

    As for the blur issue, that may be more subjective (the above is just the physics of optics). With the same framing of a subject (subject is the same size in the frame) with the two lenses (long and short) at the same aperture will have the same depth of field. But the background elements with the shorter lens will be smaller and more identifiable. With the longer lens there will a narrower field of view which makes the background elements larger in the photo. The degree of “out of focusness” will be the same, but larger elements look more out of focus. Smaller things look more in focus.

    As an example, think of taking a photo of a flower on your backyard table. Take two photos. One with a 20mm and another with a 100mm. Fill the frame the same way with the flower in both photos. In the photo taken with the 20mm lens you will see the flower. You will also see the rest of the back yard, the house next door, some trees, maybe some of the sky. They are all there and pretty recognizable, even if way out of focus. In the photo taken with the 100mm lens you will only see a narrow big of the background behind the flower. Maybe a splotch of paint from the house, or a bit of a shrub. Not enough of the background item to tell what it is compared to the shot with the shorter lens.

    Quality of out of focus depends on lens design, including the number of aperture blades and the shape of the aperture. You can probably find 4 or 5 different design 85mm lenses (from the same or different manufacturers)that will show a different quality of background blur at the same aperture.


  • Siegfried

    can somebody pls add the missing ‘it’ pronoun and a couple of missing commas into my previous post? Blind typing, you know.

    Die Ordnung muss sein,

  • Siegfried

    Dear Nik and Rob,
    I believe there’s some misunderstanding. Simplifying things a bit, there’s a quantity of blur and quality of blur. Yes, longer lenses compress DOF and make shallow and thus give you more blur in fore- and background (quantity of blur). But focal length has nothing to do about the rendering of that blur (quality of blur).

    I just doublechecked the whole post of Zach and Jody, but I wasn’t able to catch them saying that longer lenses give better bokeh. Can you please help me with a quote on that?


  • My 35 is my go to lens but the 85 is very very tempting…

  • Nice subject. Initially, as I read, I was thinking along the lines of what Bob said, but seeing the example of the “closer” looking building in the background of the sample image, I was reminded of the FULL ramifications of the perspective limitations in short/wide lenses. The impact of the addition of the railing as an element of composition is fairly undeniable. I has so much learnings to do..

    I have employed my Sigma APO DG 70-300 macro for these sorts of things, but I’m still feeling out just what things I’m doing.

  • Jeff

    I just rented this bokehlicious chunk of glass for a maternity shoot of my wife and newborn shoot of our new son. Ironically, I would have to sell our son to own a copy of this lens. Good thing we have LensRentals! Great post!

  • Nik

    Mark, as an example: a 600mm f4 will produce more/”nicer” blur than a shorter lens at f4. In fact (and this is just an educated guess), a 50mm 1.2f would have to be near its widest aperture of 1.2f to produce a similar blur to the 600 at f4.

    *oops, I see Rob also commented on that, but perhaps my example will also help.

  • Alex E


    Nice blog post.

    Do you have any arguments for a 85mm fixed lens vs a e.g 70-200? I interpret this as an argument for long focal lenght, not for a 85. Do i understand you right?

    / Alex

  • Great article to read! I just bought the Rokinon 85mm 1.4 a couple days ago, and I can’t wait for it to arrive! It’s great to see what the pros are doing with these type of lenses, great encouragement!

  • Rob

    Mark, it’s also a function of focus distance. For equivalent framing, a longer lens will generally provide a more desirable background blur.

  • I am a food photography first. But, I find myself drawn to travel photography especially where portraits at markets/festivals make me want to capture the soulfulness of the people there. I have been wondering what lens to go to next as I take more steps in this direction. This was a perfect article for me! Thank you.

  • Bob

    Nice pictures and good advice for selecting lenses. The 85mm f/1.2 is a great optic.

    It’s important to note, however, that changing the lens focal length only impacts the angle of view. Perspective is determined by the distance between you and your subject.

  • Umm, regarding #2: Longer lenses cause good bokeh? Not so much. That’s a function of the aperture used.

  • LJC

    Is there any eta on fixing the formatting issues on this blog? It’s a lot harder to read than it used to be.

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