Mobile phone cameras have limitations. The one that I struggle with the most is the wide angle lens and how limiting it can be.
Wide angle lenses are known to stretch, distort and create exaggerated angles that are not true to life.
This is especially challenging when taking portraits – photos of people.
So let’s talk about angles!
Since we are stuck with a wide angle lens when taking photos of people with our phone camera, we have to find creative ways to work around this limitation. The first thing I think about with my iPhone is the position of angle. Controlling how you angle the phone camera will minimize any unwanted stretch and distortion, especially in photos of people.
The best way to take a photo of a person is to hold the phone camera straight-on, at an eye-level angle. This will ensure the face is well proportioned:
As soon as you start changing the angle, proportions will start changing too. In this next photo, I held the phone higher up and pointed down at my subject’s face. What do you notice?:
For one, the face is stretched a bit. Especially in the forehead (which is the closest element to my camera), it is elongated due to the change of angle. Her body is also looking smaller compared to her head. Shooting from above can generally give a portrait a more appealing look, but with a wide angle lens on a mobile phone camera, this can quickly start distorting a person’s proportions.
If it’s subtle enough, you can get away with it. In the photo above, it’s fairly subtle enough and I feel like I can get away with that added stretch in her forehead.
But too much of an angle can give a much more exaggerated look, like in this next photo:
A super stretch angle can be fun to work with and can give an edgy look to your portrait (like in the photo above). If that’s the look you’re going for, then that wide angle lens is serving you well!
However, if you’re looking for a classic portrait without too much distortion in the proportions of the face and body, then shooting straight-on with minimal angling is your best bet.
So the next time you are taking a photo of a person with your phone, be mindful of the angle you are holding your phone at. These slight changes can have very different effects on your portraits. Remember that YOU are in control of the final look of your photo, and choosing how you angle your phone is 100% up to you!