# Focal Length, Diagonals, and Depth in Photos

I’ve long strived for depth in certain photos. I like a line that begins in the lower corner and heads for the diagonally opposite upper corner.

Here are some examples that I shot in the 1970s with a 4×5 camera and a 135mm lens, which approximates the field of view of 35mm on full frame.

Here, lines converge from both corners. Dual convergence can be effective. The photo below is my all-time best-selling print.

Today, I ventured out with my Sony a7R V and a 24mm to 70mm zoom. I shot converging sidewalks with 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 70mm. In each shot, I tried to keep the width of the nearest part of the scene about the same. Here are examples:

My take is that all of these focal lengths are capable of shooting a photo that conveys depth. I was surprised by this. I thought only wide-angle lenses could do that.

However, I did learn that without the “crib” of a diagonal line, it’s easier to convey depth with a wider lens.

I even tried an 18mm lens with approximately similar results.

## Avoid Shooting From Too Close

With the rise of cellphone photography, 24mm has become a common field of view. But some pretty awful portraits are shot with phones when the camera is too close to the subject. That makes fat noses, chins, and cheeks.

24mm is okay if you back away from the subject and crop later. It’s being too close which causes distortion, not the focal length. Try the same subject with a range of focal lengths, but always from the same (adequate) distance and you’ll demonstrate that for yourself.

Wide-angle lenses and shooting from close can even distort a car.

The 24mm shot would not have been distorted if I had shot from farther away and cropped.

So, in summary, depth seems achievable with a wide range of focal lengths when diagonal lines are in the scene. And keep in mind that shooting from close to a subject will cause distortion.

About the author: Alan Adler lives in Los Altos, California. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. He has been an avid photographer for 60 years. He is also a well-known inventor with about 40 patents. His best-known inventions are the Aerobie flying ring and the AeroPress coffee maker.

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