Why this is the perfect PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY angle – Proven by SCIENCE
Whenever I am taking Portraits or Headshots I know that I always have my ‘go too’ sets. A lighting setup, a few poses and definitely my favorite lenses for Portrait photography (either my Nikon 85mm or 105mm), but when it comes to angles this is always trial and error throughout the scott. So I set out to see if I could find the ‘PERFECT’ headshot angle that works every single time. To do this though I know that I needed a controlled environment so i could really use ‘science’ allowing me to correctly analysis the images. i use science very lightly as I am not really trained in in scientific research but this was as close as I could get in my studio without any training.
So here was the setup. i used my Nikon D800 with the 85m f1.8. I shot at f8 with a flash sun speed of 1/250th and ISO100. Pretty simple. I used a very simple clamshell lighting setup using 2 Elinchrom ELC1000 lights to create some nice soft shadows.
Next I had to decide how I was going to actually do the tests. it took a lot of figuring out but in the end I decided on the following. The camera would remain exactly 6 feet from the model at all times and would move left to right in 2 foot increments. I worked this on the floor in a curve shape so that the distance was always the same. Next was the camera heights. To start off I though we should start at eye level and move ice 8inch increments above and below. As I knew the lower angles were not going to give that ‘perfect portrait’ angle i went only 8 inches below then 8 inches above and 16 inches above eye height. You can see this demonstrated in the video and in the image below.
These setting could have been anything
The actual setup for this was very precise but the reality is that if I change anything then everything changes, I know a lot of people like to shoot a lot further away at 12-15 feet but for this project this was impractical. Imagine if i had wanted to change the vertical angle as mush as I did from 15 feet away i would then have to change the camera height by multiple feet each time to get the same results. My setup was in the name of ‘science’ (hahahaha) and practicality.
By using the setup above I had created a kind of grid which allowed me to clearly represent the images. basically i was taking 5 photos at each height and a total of 4 heights. I then numbered the grid so i could keep track of the images. Now everything was setup all I had to do was take the photos.
I asked the model, Rosie White (check here out @dancelovely on youtube and Instagram) to stay pretty neutral throughout but to give i give open smile. she always kept her shoulders facing forwards and just turned her head towards the camera. The shots only took around 15 minutes to complete.
I did a very simple edit on one of the photographers (white balance and basic tone) then synched the settings across all images so that the settings were consistent. When placed in the grid I think the images give a nice and clear look into how the angle of a shot really changes how it feels.
Conclusion – ‘SMILE’
You will see my full conclusion in the video however I found that the 8inches above the model (at 6 feet with an 85mm lens) is the most pleasing to my eye. it adds an element of lightness to an image. Also the wider we get the more dynamic the shot. You will see that I talk about the idea of the SMILE. the wider you go the higher you can go.
I have tried to explain my findings in the image below.
All in all I really enjoyed doing this project and whilst it may not be perfect science i think I have now got closer to being able to take the Perfect Portrait on each of my shoots. Sometimes the more knowledge we have gives us more confidence in our choices.
Thanks so much for taking a look at this and I hope you found the findings as interesting as I did.
Take a look at all the the images below and tell me what you think. I have the reference numbers on each of them.
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