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What is a Focal Length

In photography and optics, the focal length is a fundamental optical characteristic representing distance when the lens is focused to infinity, between the optical center of the lens and the image sensor or film plane.

The millimeter measurement of a lens determines its field of view and magnification, impacting the viewpoint and composition of the photos taken because a broader range of view and shorter focal length increases the depth of field and give objects a smaller appearance.

In contrast, a shallower depth of field results from longer focal lengths since they reduce the field of view and emphasize far-off subjects. Photographers and filmmakers need to understand focus length because it affects how images seem, influencing their creative decisions and the narrative potential of visual media.

How to use focal lengths 

How should you use focal length in photography now that you understand what it is and how it affects images?

1 Short Focal Length

UsageExcellent for capturing extensive scenes or fitting a large gathering of people into the frame.
RecommendationUse in landscapes, group photos, and other scenarios when greater perspective is required.

2- Standard Focal Distance

UsageProvides a realistic viewpoint similar to that of the human eye, making it adaptable to a range of circumstances.
RecommendationIdeal for regular photography, close-ups, and situations where a balanced perspective is required.

3- Longer Focal Lengths

UsageTo get close-up photographs of faraway subjects, use a lens that magnifies them.
RecommendationIdeal for small depth-of field detail capture, wildlife photography, and sporting events.

4- Sensor size

UsageAffects the magnification and effective field of view.
RecommendationIt is advised to take the sensor size into account while switching lenses because it has an impact on the perceived field of view.
Shallower depth of field and improved low-light performance are typically associated with larger sensors.

Photographers may choose the best for their images by knowing how to use them to achieve the required composition, subject distance, and artistic goal.

Focal Length Comparison in Camera Lenses

1. Wide-Angle Lens

  • captures wide-range scenes with a broad field of view.
  • Brief focal length, usually less than 35 mm.
  • It emphasizes depth and perspective, which makes it perfect for architecture and landscape photography.

2. Short Focal Length

  • Specifies lenses when the distance between the image sensor and lens is small.
  • Provides a broad field of view to fit more content into the frame.
  • Wide-angle lenses are often used, making them ideal for group photos and broad scenes.

3. Standard Lens

  • provide a natural perspective that is comparable to what the eye sees.
  • Usually, with a focal length of about 50mm.
  • Adaptable to various photographic genres, such as street, portrait, and daily life.

4. Telephoto and Super Telephoto lenses

  • Bring faraway subjects closer by magnifying them.
  • Lengths of focus, frequently greater than 85 mm.
  • Perfect for instances where there is restricted distance to the subject, wildlife, and sports.

5. Macro Lens

  • Designed to take extremely close-up pictures and record minute information.
  • Short focal lengths and strong magnification powers.
  • Ideal for capturing little subjects such as flowers, insects, or complex textures on camera.

Why is focal length important?

Why is focal length important?

1- View Angle


It affects its angle of view and the amount of scene it can catch.


For landscapes, short focal lengths offer a wider angle of view, while longer ones are better for focusing on individual things.

2- Subject Size


Focusing length impacts the appearance of subjects in the frame.


Short focal lengths and wide-angle lenses can reduce subject size and highlight surroundings. Telephoto lenses enlarge and highlight distant subjects.

3- Compression


Focus length affects the impression of depth and spatial relationships in images.


Compression from longer focal lengths brings objects closer together and flattens the scene. This technique helps isolate subjects from backgrounds and enhance compositions.

In conclusion, photographers must grasp focus length to influence composition, perspective, and emphasis. It affects a photograph’s angle of view, subject size, and compression.

Lens vs Camera Focal Length

Although they are interchangeable, “lens ” and “camera” relate to separate camera system components.

This depends on the lens and sensor size. It sets the camera’s magnification and field of vision.
This is the effective focal length calculated from the lens and sensor size.
Short focal lengths have a large field of view, whereas longer ones restrict it and boost magnification.
This depends on the lens and sensor size. It sets the camera’s magnification and field of vision.
It affects photo composition, perspective, and appearance. Different focus lengths suit different photography techniques and subjects.
Camera focal length depends on the lens and sensor size. It sets the camera’s magnification and field of vision.
In conclusion, lens focal length is a lens attribute, while camera focal length considers the lens and sensor size. Both are crucial for photographers to understand and control when taking photos.

Suggested focal length based on type of photography

Here are  Suggested focal lengths based on the type of photography.

1- portrait

Recommended Focal Length85mm-135mm (or similar for other sensor sizes)
ReasoningMedium to telephoto focal lengths create a favorable portrait viewpoint, compressing features and creating a nice blurred background.

2 Street Photography

Recommended Focal LengthTry 35mm to 50mm (or comparable) for focal length.
ReasoningWide angle to standard focal lengths capture the image without distortion and provide a more natural perspective.

3. Architecture

Recommended Focal Length16mm-35mm (or similar).
ReasoningWide-angle lenses enable photographers to capture large architectural details and include complete structures or interiors in their images.

4. Landscape

Recommended Focal Length 16mm-35mm (or similar).
ReasoningI recommend wide-angle lenses for landscapes to capture expansive panoramas and highlight foreground components.

5- Wildlife, Sports

Recommended Focal Length200-600mm (or similar).
ReasoningTelephoto and super-telephoto lenses are crucial for wildlife and sports photography, allowing for close-ups and detailed action recording.

According to personal preference, equipment, and shooting conditions, photographers may choose different focal lengths from these broad parameters.

What is a Focal length FAQ?

1- What is f in photography?

The lens is represented by the letter “f” in f-stop. While the term “focal length” describes a lens’s field of view, “f-stop” describes the amount of light that is allowed to enter the sensor through the aperture opening.

2- What is the focal length in mm?

The focal length is the distance from the lens center to the image focus point (sensor surface). In millimeters (mm). Wide-angle lenses have short focal lengths, and telephoto lenses have long ones.

3- What does focal length indicate?

When focused at infinity, a lens’ focal length is calculated. Lens focal length determines the angle of vision and magnification. Longer focal lengths restrict the view and increase magnification.


In conclusion, it is important for photographers to understand what focus length is. It establishes the capabilities of the lens, affecting composition and style.

Understanding focus length gives photographers the ability to tell fascinating stories, adjust viewpoints, and precisely record scenes, all of which elevate the artistic quality of their work.

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