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Camera Focal Length and the Perception of Pictures


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Photographers, cinematographers, and computer-graphics engineers use certain techniques to create striking pictorial effects. By using lenses of different focal lengths, they can make a scene look compressed or expanded in depth, make a familiar object look natural or distorted, or make a person look smarter, more attractive, or more neurotic. Photographers have a rule of thumb that a 50 mm lens produces natural-looking pictures. We asked why pictures taken with a 50 mm lens look natural, while those taken with other focal lengths look distorted. We found that people's preferred viewing distance when looking at pictures leads them to view long-focal-length pictures from too near and short-focal-length pictures from too far. Perceptual distortions occur because people do not take their incorrect viewing distances into account. By following the rule of thumb of using a 50 mm lens, photographers greatly increase the odds of a viewer looking at a photograph from the correct distance, where the percept will be undistorted. Our theory leads to new guidelines for creating pictorial effects that are more effective than conventional guidelines.
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Ecological Psychology
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Camera Focal Length and the
Perception of Pictures
Martin S. Banksa, Emily A. Coopera & Elise A. Piazzaa
a Vision Science Program University of California,
Published online: 02 May 2014.
To cite this article: Martin S. Banks, Emily A. Cooper & Elise A. Piazza (2014) Camera
Focal Length and the Perception of Pictures, Ecological Psychology, 26:1-2, 30-46,
DOI: 10.1080/10407413.2014.877284
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Ecological Psychology, 26:30–46, 2014
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1040-7413 print/1532-6969 online
DOI: 10.1080/10407413.2014.877284
Camera Focal Length and the
Perception of Pictures
Martin S. Banks, Emily A. Cooper, and Elise A. Piazza
Vision Science Program
University of California, Berkeley
Photographers, cinematographers, and computer-graphics engineers use certain
techniques to create striking pictorial effects. By using lenses of different focal
lengths, they can make a scene look compressed or expanded in depth, make
a familiar object look natural or distorted, or make a person look smarter, more
attractive, or more neurotic. Photographers have a rule of thumb that a 50 mm lens
produces natural-looking pictures. We asked why pictures taken with a 50 mm lens
look natural, while those taken with other focal lengths look distorted. We found
that people’s preferred viewing distance when looking at pictures leads them to
view long-focal-length pictures from too near and short-focal-length pictures from
too far. Perceptual distortions occur because people do not take their incorrect
viewing distances into account. By following the rule of thumb of using a 50 mm
lens, photographers greatly increase the odds of a viewer looking at a photograph
from the correct distance, where the percept will be undistorted. Our theory
leads to new guidelines for creating pictorial effects that are more effective than
conventional guidelines.
Photographers, cinematographers, and computer-graphics engineers create pic-
torial effects in various ways. For example, photographs of scenes captured with
short-focal-length lenses appear expanded in depth, whereas those captured with
long lenses appear compressed. These effects can be seen in still photographs
and video. Figure 1A shows two example photographs. On the left, the goat looks
stretched in depth; on the right, the pitcher and batter appear to be much closer
to one another than they actually are. Figure 1B shows how depth compression
Correspondence should be addressed to Martin S. Banks, Vision Science Program, 360 Minor
Hall, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720. E-mail:
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FIGURE 1 Depth compression and expansion with different focal lengths. (A) Left panel:
wide-angle effect (short focal length). This picture was taken with a 16 mm lens (all focal
lengths are reported as 35 mm equivalent). The goat looks stretched in depth. Right panel:
telephoto effect (long focal length). This picture was taken with a 486 mm focal length. The
distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate on an official Major League Baseball
field is 18.4 m. This distance appears compressed. (B) Photographs of the same person were
taken with focal lengths from left to right of 16, 22, 45, and 216 mm. Lens distortion was
removed in Adobe Photoshop, so the pictures are correct perspective projections. Camera
distance was proportional to focal length, so the subject’s interocular distance in the picture
was constant. The subject’s face appears rounder with a short focal length and flatter with a
long focal length (color figure available online).
and expansion can also affect the appearance of a face. Long lenses can make
a person look smarter, more attractive, and less approachable; short lenses have
the opposite effects (Perona, 2007).
The apparent expansions and compressions in depth are often called per-
spective distortion, as if these effects are due to a distortion in the physical
projection from the scene to the film plane. The effects occur, however, when
the projections are geometrically correct. Thus, the perceptual effects are not
caused by physical distortion in the projections. To explain them, one must
consider perceptual mechanisms and people’s viewing habits, and that is the
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purpose of this article. Much of this work appeared in Cooper, Piazza, and
Banks (2012).
A rule of thumb among professional photographers is to use a focal length
of 50 mm for standard 35 mm film (more generally, a focal length equal to the
diagonal length of the film or sensor) to create natural-looking images (Belt,
2008; Kingslake, 1992; London, Stone, & Upton, 2010; Modrak & Anthes,
2011). Photography texts offer explanations for this rule’s efficacy, but they are
either vague or merely restatements of the phenomenon. For example, Modrak
and Anthes (2011) claim that using 50 mm lenses “approximates the angle of
view and magnification of human vision” (p. 117). Belt (2008) states that “the
normal focal length for a given format most closely approximates human sight,
and projects an image with the least distortion and compression of space from
foreground to background” (p. 66). We sought a more rigorous explanation
of why the 50 mm rule works and why deviations from it yield perceptual
Pictures (i.e., photographs, computer-generated images, and perspective paint-
ings) are created by projecting the light from a 3-D scene through a point—the
center of projection or COP—onto a flat surface (Figure 2A). This is perspective
projection. The field of view of a captured projection is
2f ;(1)
where lsis the diagonal length of the film or sensor, fis focal length, and
is diagonal field of view. If the image on the sensor is magnified by m, the
resulting picture has a diagonal length of mls. If the viewer’s eye is positioned
at the picture’s COP, the image cast by the picture onto the retina matches the
image that would be cast by the original scene. The distance to the COP is
dCOP Dfm:(2)
Of course, one cannot reconstruct the original scene rigorously from a single
retinal image, whether it was generated by a real scene or a picture. But the brain
reconstructs reasonably accurately most of the time by using assumptions about
perspective (e.g., the chess pieces are the same size, the chessboard is composed
of square tiles, the opposite sides of the chessboard are parallel; La Gournerie,
1859; Pirenne, 1970; Sedgwick, 1991; Todorovi´c, 2005). Because viewing a
picture from the COP generates the same retinal image as the original scene, it
is not surprising that a picture viewed in this fashion yields a faithful impression
of the scene layout or the physical characteristics of a person (Koenderink,
van Doorn, & Kappers, 1994; Smith & Gruber, 1958; Vishwanath, Girshick, &
Banks, 2005).
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FIGURE 2 Camera, picture, and viewing parameters. (A) Scene, camera, and picture. A
camera with focal length fcaptures a picture on the sensor. The camera’s diagonal field of
view is . The sensor’s diagonal length is ls, and the print is magnified by mto have a
diagonal length of mls. The center of projection (COP) is located at the optical center of
the camera. The distance to the COP, dCOP, is fm and the diagonal field of view subtended
by the picture when viewed from the COP is . (B, C) Perspective projection. The original
scene—a chessboard—is projected from two different COPs onto a projection plane. (D)
If the picture from B is viewed from dCOP, the specified scene is the same as the original
chessboard. (E) If the same picture is viewed from twice the COP distance .2dCOP /, the
specified scene is stretched in depth relative to the original chessboard.
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However, people do not necessarily position themselves at the COP when
viewing pictures; they may be too far or too near. If viewers failed to compensate
for an incorrect distance, the interpretation of the pictured scene would be
distorted. For example, Figures 2B and 2C show two pictures of the same scene
for two COP distances; the pictures differ. Figures 2D and 2E show how the
apparent 3-D scene may differ when one of the pictures (2B) is viewed from
two different distances. When viewed from twice the COP distance, the layout
specified by linear perspective is stretched in depth: the near chess piece projects
to a larger image than the distant piece and, given the assumption that chess
pieces are the same size, they appear farther from each other than they actually
are. Similarly, for a viewer positioned too close to a picture, the apparent layout
may be compressed in depth.
Previous research found that people do not compensate for incorrect view-
ing distance (Bengston, Stergios, Ward, & Jester, 1980; Kraft & Green, 1989;
Smith & Gruber, 1958; Todorovi´c, 2009). In fact, Leonardo da Vinci described
perceptual distortions when paintings were not viewed from the correct distance
and advised painters of realistic scenes to make sure the viewer could view from
near the COP (da Vinci, 1970). Some research, however, has reported partial
compensation for viewing distance; that is, observers perceived the 3-D scene
geometry reasonably accurately even when the depicted geometry from linear
perspective was distorted due to viewing from distances closer or farther than
the COP (Lumsden, 1983; Yang & Kubovy, 1999).
We propose a new hypothesis for the effectiveness of the 50 mm rule and
for the perceptual distortions from other lenses. The hypothesis incorporates
people’s viewing habits and the perceptual mechanisms involved in estimating
3-D structure from the retinal image. We present two experiments whose results
confirm the main tenets of the hypothesis. The first experiment reexamines
how people interpret the 3-D geometry of a pictured scene in rich, realistic
pictures when viewing from the wrong distance. The second one tests how
people naturally set their viewing distance when looking at pictures. We then
describe appropriate guidelines for constructing pictures when the picture cre-
ator’s intention is to yield accurate percepts of 3-D structure.
Five young adults participated. The stimuli were computer-generated images
of two rectangular planes joined to form a hinge. The planes were textured
with a rectangular grid. The images were rendered using Maya (Autodesk) and
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FIGURE 3 Examples of the hinge stimuli. The environment (background, cubes) and
shape of the hinges were randomized to prevent participants from learning specific pictorial
cues to the hinge angle. There were three backgrounds, each with three unique hinge shapes
resulting in nine scenes altogether. On each trial, the displayed hinge was selected randomly
from these nine scenes (color figure available online).
consisted of photographs of wood that were texture-mapped onto the two sides
of the hinge, wallpaper in the background, a wood-textured floor, and randomly
positioned cubes scattered on the floor (Figure 3). The images were rendered
with five different COP distances and displayed on a computer display.
Participants were positioned 28 cm from the display. They viewed the screen
binocularly with the midpoint of the interocular axis centered in front of the
screen. They were told that the two sides of the hinge were rectangular. After
each 1.5 s stimulus presentation, participants indicated whether the hinge angle
was greater or less than 90ı. A 1-up/1-down staircase varied the hinge angle
symmetrically about the midsagittal axis with 10 reversals and a minimum step
size of 2ı. Data were fit with a cumulative Gaussian (psychometric function)
using a maximum-likelihood criterion (Wichmann & Hill, 2001). The mean of
the best-fitting function was defined as the angle perceived as 90ı.
The results of Experiment 1 are shown in Figure 4. If participants were able to
compensate for their viewing distance relative to the COP distance, they would
perceive the depicted hinge angle correctly and would set the hinge to 90ıin
scene coordinates (horizontal dashed line). If participants failed to compensate
for the difference between their viewing distance and the COP distance and
instead interpreted the scene directly from the geometry of the retinal image,
they would set the depicted hinge angle to different values in scene coordinates
for each COP distance. The predicted settings for this second hypothesis can
be calculated from geometric analyses of perspective projection such as those
presented by Sedgwick (1991) and Rosinski, Mulholland, Degelman, and Farber
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FIGURE 4 Effect of distance to center of projection (COP) on the angle perceived as
90ı. Gray circles represent the mean angle perceived as 90ıacross participants; error bars
are standard errors. The dotted vertical line indicates the viewing distance. Plan views of
the depicted angles that appeared to be 90ıare shown in black on the right. The light gray
hinges indicate 90ıfor comparison.
(1980). With no compensation, the predicted hinge angle perceived to be 90ıis
dCOP ;(3)
where dCOP is the COP distance of the picture and dvis viewing distance (solid
The data are very consistent with the no-compensation prediction. Some
participants had a bias in the angle perceived as 90ıwhen viewing from the
COP, but despite this bias, changing the COP distance always had the effect
on perceived hinge angle that was predicted by the geometry of the retinal
image. When the COP distance was less than the viewing distance, participants
perceived a larger angle as 90ı, which means that they experienced depth
expansion. When the COP distance was greater than the viewing distance, they
perceived a smaller angle as 90ı, meaning they experienced depth compression.
When the COP distance and viewing distance were the same, a 90ıhinge was
perceived as close to 90ı.
There were slight but systematic differences between our data and the no-
compensation predictions. Generally, participants set the hinge angle to slightly
less than the predicted value, which means that they perceived the angles as
somewhat flatter than dictated by the geometry of the retinal image. (The one
exception to this is at the greatest COP distance, where they set the angle
slightly larger than predicted.) We believe that the cause of this bias is the
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flatness specified by a number of cues including binocular disparity and fo-
cus cues (Watt, Akeley, Ernst, & Banks, 2005). We conclude that viewers do
not compensate for incorrect viewing distance when shown pictures with rich
perspective information.
In this experiment, we measured people’s preferred viewing distance for pictures
of different focal lengths, magnifications, and print sizes. The results enabled
us to determine whether people use consistent strategies for setting viewing
distance and, if so, what those strategies are.
Eight young adults participated in the main experiment, and 11 additional young
adults participated in a follow-up experiment. Scenes for the pictures were
selected from five categories: indoor, street, outdoor open, outdoor closed, and
portrait (Torralba, 2009; Torralba & Oliva, 2003). For each of the first four
categories, we used three unique scenes: one photographed scene and two
computer-generated scenes. For the fifth category, we used two photographed
The photographs were taken with a high-quality camera and printed with a
resolution of 300 dpi and an aspect ratio of 3:2. All computer-generated images
were rendered with infinite depth of field (i.e., no blur) and were illuminated with
a combination of a directional and ambient light source. For the photographs,
we used the smallest aperture allowed by the lighting environment to minimize
differences in depth of field and exposure between photographs taken with
different focal lengths. There were two primary stimulus manipulations: focal
length and magnification. To manipulate focal length, we selected a focal object
in each scene and created a series of five images taken with five different focal
lengths—22 to 160 mm (35 mm equivalent)—while keeping the camera at one
location. All of those pictures were magnified eightfold and printed at 18 12
cm. To manipulate magnification, we took photographs with a 56 mm lens and
printed them at 18 12 cm (same as aforementioned) and four additional sizes
(64,96,29 19, and 39 26 cm).
By changing focal length, the focal object became different sizes in the
prints (Figure 5A). To determine whether the varying size of that object affected
preferred viewing distance, we also created five images in which the focal length
was fixed at 56 mm, but the camera was dollied in and out so that the size of the
focal object would match those from the five focal lengths (Figure 5B). These
were all printed at 18 12 cm.
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FIGURE 5 Changing focal length and camera distance to maintain constant size of the
focal object (in this case, a pillow). (A) The effect of changing focal length while keeping
camera position constant. The focal lengths from left to right are 160, 56, 32, and 22 mm.
(B) The effect of changing camera distance while holding focal length constant. From left to
right, the camera is moved farther and farther from the focal object. Focal length was always
56 mm. By moving the camera farther from the focal object, the sizes of the focal object
are matched to those in the upper row without changing center of projection (COP) distance.
Differences between the images in A and B are particularly noticeable in the apparent shape
of the bed and slant of the wall (color figure available online).
We were curious to see whether these results would generalize to larger
picture sizes, so we conducted a follow-up experiment with larger pictures and
11 new participants. The stimuli were the same with a few exceptions. Only four
scenes were used: one indoor, one street, one outdoor open, and one outdoor
closed. All pictures were computer-generated. We created pictures with three
focal lengths (22, 56, and 160 mm) and printed each at four sizes (18 12,
53 35,73 49, and 100 67 cm). We dollied the camera away from the focal
object as we increased the focal length in order to match the size of the object
across focal lengths. Participants were shown each focal length twice and each
print size twice with a random selection of two of the four scenes.
At the start of each trial, a picture was mounted on a wall at the participant’s
eye level. Participants initially stood 5 m from the picture. They were instructed
to walk back and forth along a line that was perpendicular to the picture until
they were at “the best distance to view the picture from.” Once they indicated that
they were at the preferred distance for that picture, the experimenter recorded
the distance with a photograph. The trials were recorded so preferred distances
could be measured off-line using the ruler tool in Adobe Photoshop.
Participants were presented with a picture from each level of each manip-
ulation eight times, with a random selection of 8 of the 14 scenes. Therefore,
participants did not see the same scene/manipulation combination twice. We
measured test-retest reliability by presenting 8 pictures four times each. Each
participant thus completed a total of 136 trials.
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The procedure of the follow-up experiment was essentially identical to the
main experiment. To assess test-retest reliability, we randomly presented three
pictures four times. Each participant therefore completed a total of 36 trials in
this phase of the experiment.
We also investigated whether the manner of picture viewing—standing in
front of a wall-mounted picture as opposed to holding a picture while seated—
affects preferred viewing distances. Three participants from the main experiment
participated in these measurements. They sat in a chair and held each picture
in their hands. They varied distance by adjusting their arms until they achieved
the preferred value. We measured that distance using a laser range finder. A
subset of the stimuli from the main experiment was used with one focal length
(56 mm) and two print sizes (96and 18 12 cm). For each print size, 10 of
the 14 scenes were randomly selected. Each participant completed a total of 20
We first asked whether the data from the follow-up experiment differed from the
main experiment. A one-way ANOVA performed on the data from overlapping
conditions revealed no significant effect .pD:53/, so from here on we combine
the data from these two experiments.
The results for the main stimulus manipulations—focal length and magnifica-
tion—are illustrated in Figure 6. Panel A shows mean preferred viewing dis-
tance as a function of focal length. The results are plotted separately for each
magnification. Some magnifications only have one focal length because the two
variables were not completely crossed in the main experiment. There was clearly
no effect of focal length on preferred viewing distance for a given magnification.
Panel B shows the same data but with mean preferred viewing distance plotted as
a function of magnification. There was a strong effect of magnification/picture-
size on preferred viewing distance, independent of focal length. The dashed line
shows a linear regression of these data .p< :0001/. Equations for the line
as a function of picture diagonal .lp/and magnification (m) are shown next to
the line. Notably, the y-intercept of the line (25 cm) is the same as the nearest
comfortable viewing distance for young adults (Ray, 2000).
Figure 7A shows two subsets of stimuli for one example scene: five focal
lengths for one magnification and eight magnifications for one focal length.
Figure 7B shows the average preferred viewing distance for these subsets of all
stimuli. If participants preferred that pictures subtend a particular visual angle, or
field of view, preferred distance would be proportional to print size, and the data
would fall along one of the blue lines in Figure 7B, depending on the desired
angle. Alternatively, if participants always moved to the distance of the picture’s
COP .dCOP/, the preferred viewing distance would be proportional to focal length
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FIGURE 6 Effects of focal length and magnification on preferred viewing distance. (A)
Preferred viewing distance is plotted as a function of focal length for each magnification.
Circles represent the data: the mean preferred viewing distance across participants. Error bars
represent standard errors of the mean. Each color represents a different picture magnification
(and therefore a different picture size), as indicated by the legend. (B) Data from Panel
A replotted as a function of magnification for each focal length. The diagonal length of
the picture for different magnifications is indicated at the top. A linear regression of the
data is represented by the dashed black line and the equation. All five focal length levels
are plotted for magnification D4.9, but the circles are largely overlapping because there
was so little effect of focal length. The red dashed line represents predicted distances
if viewers set themselves at the center of projection (COP) distance. Blue dashed lines
represent predicted distances if viewers set themselves so as to establish a constant field
of view.
and magnification (Equation 2), and the data would lie on the red lines in Figure
7B. The left panel shows that preferred viewing distance was barely affected by
COP distance. From the nearest to farthest COP, preferred distance increased by
only 20%, significantly less than the 614% change that would have occurred if
participants matched viewing distance to COP distance. The right panel shows
that preferred viewing distance was strongly dependent on magnification (or
equivalently, picture size). But participants were not establishing a constant
field of view; rather, they preferred a small field (22ı) with small prints and
a larger field (36ı) with large prints. This smaller preferred field of view
for small prints likely reflects a trade-off between viewing comfort and angle
subtended by the print. We conclude that picture viewers do not naturally set
their viewing distance to a picture’s COP distance. Instead they adjust distance
according to the field of view (albeit smaller fields for small prints and larger
fields for large prints). These data are consistent with television-viewing studies,
which show that preferred viewing distance is determined by the size of the
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FIGURE 7 (A) Example stimuli for two subsets of conditions. One subset contains five
focal lengths with a magnification of 4.9 (diagonal length of the printed picture was 21.4 cm).
The other subset contains eight magnifications with a focal length of 56 mm. The relative
sizes of the stimuli actually changed by a factor of 15.4, but we cannot show such a large
change in the figure. Therefore, the change in relative size shown here is qualitative. The
purple boxes around two of the pictures indicate the one that was in both subsets. (B) Two
plots of average preferred viewing distance across participants for each manipulation. Black
and green circles represent the focal length and magnification manipulations, respectively,
and correspond to the boxes around the pictures in Panel A. The purple circles in both plots
represent data from one magnification and focal length (4.9 and 56 mm, respectively). Error
bars represent standard errors of the mean.
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screen rather than image content or television resolution (Ardito, 1994; Lund,
To assess test-retest reliability, we also calculated the standard deviation of
preferred viewing distance for each participant for each of the repeated pictures.
The mean standard deviations across all images and participants were 14 cm for
the main experiment and 22 cm for the follow-up experiment. These values are
small relative to the means, so the preferred distances were reasonably repeatable.
Finally, we examined the effect of standing (where participants adjusted their
viewing distance by walking to and fro) and sitting (where participants held
the pictures in their hands) on preferred viewing distance. A two-way ANOVA
performed on overlapping conditions from the two sets of data revealed no
effect .pD:59/, so we conclude that people behave similarly when viewing
wall-mounted pictures while standing and when viewing handheld pictures while
sitting (provided that picture size is not so large for arm length to limit the ability
to set distance to the desired value).
We can now explain why focal length affects apparent depth in pictured scenes
and facial appearance in portraits. Recall that long- and short-focal-length pic-
tures look, respectively, compressed and expanded in depth. We propose that
people’s preferred field of view when looking at most pictures leads them to
view long-focal-length pictures from too near and short-focal-length pictures
from too far. Perceptual compression and expansion occur because people do
not take their incorrect viewing distances into account. Thus, scenes captured
with long lenses look compressed in depth, which makes faces apparently flatter.
Likewise, scenes captured with short lenses appear expanded in depth, which
makes faces look rounder.
However, this does not tell us why pictures created with a 50 mm lens look
most natural, that is, neither expanded nor compressed. To investigate this, we
calculated for each picture size the focal length for which the participants’
average preferred viewing distance would be equal to the COP distance. We call
this the recommended focal length:
frec D43:3 dpref
where dpref is the average preferred viewing distance, lpis the diagonal length of
the picture, and 43.3 is the diagonal length of standard 35 mm film in millimeters.
The recommended values from our data, calculated by averaging the preferred
viewing distance across all focal lengths for each picture size from Experiment
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FIGURE 8 Recommended focal length as a function of picture size. We calculated
recommended focal length for each picture size by determining the average preferred viewing
distance across all focal lengths from Experiment 2 (Figure 6B) and then calculating the focal
length that would produce a center of projection (COP) distance equal to the preferred
distance (Equation 4). Circles represent those values and error bars represent standard
errors. The black curve shows the linear regression from Figure 6B replotted in terms of
recommended focal length. Vertical bands indicate some typical image sizes for various
formats. Horizontal bands indicate quantiles from several cumulative probability values for
3,930 Flickr photographs taken with single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras (color figure available
2, are plotted in Figure 8. The regression line from Figure 6B is also replotted
in terms of recommended focal length. The equation for the line is
frec D55 C1096
Thus, for prints 35 cm or larger, the recommended focal length is 50 mm.
Most prints, particularly professional ones, are at least that size. We claim
therefore that following the 50 mm rule of thumb maximizes the odds of a
viewer looking at the photo from the COP distance and thereby makes it most
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likely that the percept will be undistorted. This rule has presumably evolved
over time based on collective experience. Similar recommendations apply for
cinematographers, computer-graphics engineers, and painters of realistic images.
Some typical image sizes for various formats (Take, 2003) are superimposed as
vertical bands in the figure. For most venues, the recommended focal length is
50 mm (35 mm equivalent). With the small screens of mobile devices, longer
focal lengths should be used. If image creators know the size of a typical print
or projection of their work, they can use Equation 5 to make a better choice of
focal length or to change the distance of the COP in postprocessing (Carroll,
Agarwala, & Agrawala, 2010).
Most photography texts advocate the 50 mm rule (Belt, 2008; Kingslake,
1992; London et al., 2010; Modrak & Anthes, 2011), but we wondered whether
the rule is actually used in practice. To find out, we collected 3,930 photographs
from the website Flickr that were taken with single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras
(these cameras tend to be used by professionals and serious hobbyists). We ob-
tained the 35 mm-equivalent focal length for those photos from their EXIF data.
The median is 68 mm (50% quantile horizontal line in Figure 8). Interestingly,
68 mm is closer than the advocated 50 mm to our recommended focal length
for a wide range of sizes. Thus, current practice deviates slightly from the 50
mm rule but is more consistent with our experimental data.
Our recommended focal length is much longer for small picture sizes, such as
those on mobile devices. The viewing of images on mobile devices is becoming
much more common (Carlsson & Walden, 2007; Choney, 2009). People tend to
view smartphones from 30 cm (Knoche & Sasse, 2008). When standard content
is viewed at that distance, the smartphone user is generally much farther from
the display than the COP distance, making the images of objects subtend small
angles and producing expansion in apparent depth. Interestingly, smartphone
viewers prefer standard content to be magnified and cropped (Knoche, Papa-
leo, Sasse, & Vanelli-Coralli, 2007; Song, Tjondronegoro, Wang, & Docherty,
2010), which increases the COP distance, much like increasing focal length; this
practice should make the viewed content appear less stretched in depth than it
otherwise would.
Focal length has a strong effect on the perceived personality of subjects in
portraits (Perona, 2007). We speculate that such effects derive from correlations
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of male faces is positively correlated with aggressive behavior (Carre & Mc-
Cormick, 2008), so attributions made from apparent ratio changes probably
derive from correlations with real ratios. It would be interesting to examine the
relationship between other facial dimensions affected by focal length (e.g., nose
length, face roundness) and personality traits.
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We claim that the 50 mm rule emerged because of people’s tendency to view
pictures from a distance that establishes a desirable field of view and their
inability to compensate when that tendency yields an incorrect viewing distance.
Our data can be used to create better guidelines, based on empirical results, for
creating effective pictures for all viewing situations.
We thank Darius Lerup for help in conducting the experiments and Lawrence
Arend, James O’Shea, Maneesh Agrawala, David Whitney, and Stephen Palmer
for helpful comments.
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant EY012851 and
National Science Foundation Grant BCS-0617701 as well as National Defense
Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship to Emily A. Cooper.
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... When examining the PSI for plyometric exercises, videos are required to be taken from a smartphone or tablet at the position between the maximum JH and DH to minimize the potential error induced by perspective distortion and geometric issues [15]. Also, setting the device slightly far away from the athlete is recommended (Fig. 1) to allow zoom-in and keep focal length close to approximately 50 mm during video capture to avoid excessive perspective distortion and error induced by the wide-angle lens [15]. ...
... When examining the PSI for plyometric exercises, videos are required to be taken from a smartphone or tablet at the position between the maximum JH and DH to minimize the potential error induced by perspective distortion and geometric issues [15]. Also, setting the device slightly far away from the athlete is recommended (Fig. 1) to allow zoom-in and keep focal length close to approximately 50 mm during video capture to avoid excessive perspective distortion and error induced by the wide-angle lens [15]. As the center of gravity for most human beings is at around the navel level [16] and therefore, the belly button can be used as a reference point for measuring both DH and JH. ...
Aim The level of difficulty of plyometric exercises is currently classified based on a simple system using “low”, “moderate” and “high” intensity to describe. However, unclear stress quantification of plyometric drills may lead to a higher injury risk and inappropriate load. Therefore, the current paper presents a novel field base method for strength and conditioning professionals using the Plyometric Stress Index to quantify and estimate the perceived stress for athletes performing various plyometric exercises. Methods A single demonstrator was recruited to illustrate the practical calculation of the Plyometric Stress Index for several common drills including double- and single-leg hurdle jump, countermovement jump, broad jump, 30-cm drop jump, 50-cm depth jump, and box jump. Videos were taken from either front or side view and analyzed with the aid of calibration poles and mobile apps. The stress index for each leg was calculated with the body mass multiplied by the dropping height for the eccentric phase, and also the dropping height for the landing task. The 50-cm depth jump yielded 68.71 units of plyometric stress index and was the most stressful exercise while the second highest was single-leg low hurdle hop yielding 50.68 units. The least stressful drill was a 76-cm box jump with 19.15 units only. Conclusion Although the ranking of the plyometric stress index for selected drills is somewhat different from the traditional intensity described by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, this novel index may allow practitioners to estimate and monitor the stress or training load for producing periodized plyometric training program.
... The question of how to represent visual space naturalistically in images has been a matter of controversy for several centuries [1,2]. What was originally a problem for artists and architects in the early Renaissance period has since become an issue for photographers, cinematographers, computer games designers and 3D graphics artists [3,4,5,6]. In this paper we provide a broad overview of the problem in the context of visual perception science, art history, and computer graphics. ...
... In the meantime, we remain highly dependent on conventional display formats such as computer screens, televisions, projections and print media. These typically occupy a relatively small portion of the visual field when viewed and the images they contain, which are predominantly linear perspectival, are rarely viewed from the centre of projection [5]. Therefore, the problem persists of how to naturalistically represent visual space-as it appears in the internal display-on standard external displays given the constraints that apply. ...
... Although relatively few studies have asked observers to judge the distance from themselves to objects in the depicted scenes, this literature has focused on issues such as the effect of camera focal length [11,12], the effect of moving the observer closer or farther from the picture [13,14], and the relative angular sizes of objects in the depicted scene [11,15]. Increasing focal length is associated with not only decreased visible context but also perceptual flattening in the depth dimension [12,16]. To some extent, changes in the size and shape of the pictured setting can mimic changes in camera focal length (e.g., smaller environments and long focal length pictures might both restrict the amount of visible context). ...
... We used crowdsourced data collection (Amazon's Mechanical Turk, or MTurk) to collect distance judgments to traffic cone targets depicted in the scenes. Given that absolute accuracy in egocentric distance judgments within pictured scenes can vary dramatically with camera focal length [16,24], in the experiments described below, we held focal length constant so as to focus on the role of environment size and shape. Although we will make note of the overall response accuracy when describing our results, our primary attention here is on how responses under one environmental setting compare to those in other settings, rather than how accurate they are compared to the depicted target distances. ...
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Past work has suggested that perception of object distances in natural scenes depends on the environmental surroundings, even when the physical object distance remains constant. The cue bases for such effects remain unclear and are difficult to study systematically in real-world settings, given the challenges in manipulating large environmental features reliably and efficiently. Here, we used rendered scenes and crowdsourced data collection to address these challenges. In 4 experiments involving 452 participants, we investigated the effect of room width and depth on egocentric distance judgments. Targets were placed at distances of 2–37 meters in rendered rooms that varied in width (1.5–40 meters) and depth (6–40 meters). We found large and reliable effects of room width: Average judgments for the farthest targets in a 40-meter-wide room were between 16–33% larger than for the same target distances seen in a 1.5-meter-wide hallway. Egocentric distance cues and focal length were constant across room widths, highlighting the role of environmental context in judging distances in natural scenes. Obscuring the fine-grained ground texture, per se, is not primarily responsible for the width effect, nor does linear perspective play a strong role. However, distance judgments tended to decrease when doors and/or walls obscured more distant regions of the scene. We discuss how environmental features may be used to calibrate relative distance cues for egocentric distance judgments.
... In the United States of America, the entire face must be in focus, with an approximate focal length of 105 mm (U. S. Department of State 2021). Banks et al. (2014) noted that photographers have a rule of thumb that a 50mm focal length produces naturallooking photos as the angle of view is similar to that of the human eye. Also, faces appear narrower when photographed with a shorter focal length and wider when photographed with a longer focal length. ...
... In this exploratory study, we examined the effect of different focal length photographs (24mm, 50mm, and 100mm) on eyewitness identification accuracy in simultaneous target-present lineups (i.e., photos of the suspect and persons similar to the suspect presented together). It is known that a 50mm focal length is often used to take photographs of faces because this focal length is believed to be most similar to the focal length of the human eye (Jenkins and White 2001; see also Banks et al. 2014); however, in practice (Police of Finland 2019; Germany Visa 2021; Australian Government 2018; U. S. Department of State 2021) a focal length of 90-130 mm is used. Therefore, we hypothesize that suspect iden tifications will be more accurate with photographs taken with a 50mm or 100mm focal length compared to 24mm focal length photographs. ...
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A key factor that has rarely been investigated regarding the technical details of photographs in eyewitness identification research is focal length. Focal length can be defined as the distance between the camera lens and the camera sensor, providing variance in the viewing angle and magnification of objects in the frame. In this paper, the effect of various focal length photographs on eyewitness identification accuracy is examined. Ninety adult participants watched a video of a mock theft, after which they were randomly shown a simultaneous six-person target-present lineup of photographs using a 24mm, 50mm or 100mm focal length. The participants who viewed photographs taken with either a 100mm or 50mm focal length identified the suspect more often than those who viewed photographs taken with a 24mm focal length. Based on these findings, we suggest that the standard focal length of photographs used for the purpose of eyewitness identification should always be between 50 mm and 100 mm.
... However, there is some research to suggest that a 75mm lens with a narrower HAoV (27°) printed on tabloid of A3 paper is considered a better representation my most people (Hunter & Livingstone 2012); Takacs and Goulden (2019) obtained similar findings. However, other researchers have not been able to replicate their findings and recommend the 50mm lens (Banks, Cooper & Piazza 2014;Palmer, Vanderheyden, Alves, & Sismani 2017). In contrast, Yuhan et al. (2015) found that a 180° panoramic photograph of an urban site provided respondents the most useful information to understand and respond to the landscape during an interview. ...
... However, when people viewed panoramic images (124° HAoV) they stood much too close to large 3' x 5' poster-sized prints and much to far away when printed on tabloid paper. Banks et al. (2014) also found that people naturally viewed 35cm or larger photographic prints taken with a 50mm lens at the right distance, but that images viewed on a smaller screen, such as a cell phone, needed to be taken with a longer lens. ...
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The Chesapeake Bay Trust sought to develop to a standard methodology for assessing and quantifying visual impacts to scenic landscapes. This report reviews methodologies relevant to scenic landscape impact assessment, provides a summary of selected relevant models, describes conceptual options/approaches for a standard methodology for quantifying scenic landscape impacts.
... In addition, camera focal length varied across participants, thereby potentially leading to distortions that would have affected the length of the digits in the image. For example, images with short focal lengths become compressed thus potentially affecting the length of the digits, particularly if the digits are not evenly pressed on a hard surface (e.g., Banks et al. 2014). Indeed, this lack of control over focal length may have, in part, contributed to the wide range of 2D:4D values that were obtained in this study, and the null relationship between sex and digit ratio. ...
The primary purpose of this study was to examine whether 2D:4D ratios (a putative measure of prenatal androgen exposure) could be determined using participant-submitted hand images. The secondary purpose was to examine whether 2D:4D ratio was associated with pro-environmental behaviors, attitudes, and empathy, given the recent literature linking sex to environmental attitudes and actions. Participants (N = 1065) were asked via an online survey to submit a clear photograph of their right hand, palm side up. Participants also completed a questionnaire to assess (a) demographics, (b) dispositional empathy, and (c) environmental attitudes and behavior. A 2D:4D ratio was calculated for each participant, and the quality of each image was classified as poor, moderate, or good. We then examined the reliability of the 2D:4D image measurements, and the relationship between 2D:4D and our environmental measures. 2D:4D ratios fell somewhat outside of previously reported ranges, but the measurements did show acceptable intra-rater consistency. Although we did not find a sex difference in 2D:4D, we did find a sex by ratio interaction for both empathy and the number of pro-environmental behaviors in which individuals had engaged. Specifically, as 2D:4D ratio increased, males reported lower empathy and less engagement in pro-environmental behaviors, whereas females reported more engagement in pro-environmental behaviors (but no differences in empathy). These findings were contrary to expectations, as we anticipated that greater digit ratios (i.e., feminized) would be associated with greater empathy and pro-environmental behaviors. Overall, the findings of this study present a preliminary examination of the utility of measuring digit ratio with online samples. Furthermore, our results provide information regarding the complex relationship between sex and pro-environmental behaviors.
... In a study comparing post-construction panoramic and single-frame photographs of an onshore and offshore windfarm taken at 50 mm, 75 mm and 90mm EFLs, TAKACS & GOULDEN (2019) obtained results similar to HUNTER & LIVINGSTONE (2012), i. e., 75 mm EFL photos were judged to best portray the wind farms. However, other studies have found the geometries of visual and pictorial space to be similar (ERKELENS 2018), and that a view is best represented by a photo taken with a 50 mm EFL lens printed to fill an A3 sheet of paper held at the appropriate viewing distance (BANKS et al. 2014). ...
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Current visual simulation guidelines for major developments in the UK recommend using base photographs taken with a 75 mm effective focal length (EFL). This recommendation is made in spite of the geometric laws of perspective. Nonetheless, there is some research comparing photographs to in-situ views supporting this guideline, though these studies do not attempt to explain why this enlargement is necessary. This paper compares the visual prominence of in-situ observations to judgement made viewing photosimulations and as-built photographs with 50 mm and 75 mm EFLs. Keywords: Simulation, visual impact assessment, landscape perception
The purpose of this study was to compare the accuracy and precision between the Reverse Projection and PhotoModeler methods for suspect height analysis. Thirty analysts were assigned to measure the heights of three different suspects, one for each method, with the suspects having been recorded standing at three different distances in a scene. For Reverse Projection, the analysts were provided with height scales to place and video-record at the same positions their suspects stood in at the test scene, so that frames could be extracted from the video and overlaid onto frames of the suspects to measure height. For PhotoModeler, analysts calibrated frames of the suspects using 3D point cloud data obtained from a laser scan of the scene, so that measurements could be made in PhotoModeler software. Errors were calculated for the measurements and compared using the Mann-Whitney U-test and Kruskal-Wallis H-test, which indicated significant differences for errors between the two methods (p = 0.0025 and p = 0.008). Reverse Projection yielded a greater range of error and tended to have higher standard deviations than PhotoModeler, but the overall accuracy between the two methods was found to be comparable. The majority of absolute measurement errors for both methods were less than 2 cm.
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The psychometric function relates an observer’s performance to an independent variable, usually some physical quantity of a stimulus in a psychophysical task. This paper, together with its companion paper (Wichmann & Hill, 2001), describes an integrated approach to (1) fitting psychometric functions, (2) assessing the goodness of fit, and (3) providing confidence intervals for the function’s parameters and other estimates derived from them, for the purposes of hypothesis testing. The present paper deals with the first two topics, describing a constrained maximum-likelihood method of parameter estimation and developing several goodness-of-fit tests. Using Monte Carlo simulations, we deal with two specific difficulties that arise when fitting functions to psychophysical data. First, we note that human observers are prone to stimulus-independent errors (orlapses). We show that failure to account for this can lead to serious biases in estimates of the psychometric function’s parameters and illustrate how the problem may be overcome. Second, we note that psychophysical data sets are usually rather small by the standards required by most of the commonly applied statistical tests. We demonstrate the potential errors of applying traditionalX 2 methods to psychophysical data and advocate use of Monte Carlo resampling techniques that do not rely on asymptotic theory. We have made available the software to implement our methods.
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This article describes five experiments that were conducted to evaluate viewing-distance preferences as a function of video image size and resolution. Viewing-distance preferences are a key design parameter for work involving human factors in video teleconferencing, distance learning, and other multimedia applications. In addition, viewing-distance preferences have been treated as a subjective measure of image quality and used in ongoing discussions of proposed standards for high-definition television (HDTV). Based on previous literature, it was hypothesized that the ratio of viewing-distance preferences to image height would be a constant, would vary based on image resolution, and would average around 7 for standard NTSC video (with 525 scan lines of resolution). Contrary to the predictions, the data showed that the ratio decreases as image size increases, and that the ratios are relatively uninfluenced by image resolution. The data for the five experiments were combined to generate a guideline for estimating viewing-distance preferences across a wide range of video image sizes.
The market of flat panel displays is experiencing rapid growth with the advancement of digital technologies in media, broadcast and communication.Especially, LCD panels have created a new lifestyle as consumers are becoming more aware of the benefits they deliver, viz. low power consumption, thin profile and light weight, as well as improvements in image quality, size and resolution. More attractive pricing and increasing supply have also boosted their popularity.This paper describes market and technological trends in LCD TVs.
Some features of linear perspective images may look distorted. Such distortions appear in two drawings by Jan Vredeman de Vries involving perceived elliptical, instead of circular, pillars and tilted, instead of upright, columns. Distortions may be due to factors intrinsic to the images, such as violations of the so-called Perkins's laws, or factors extrinsic to them, such as observing the images from positions different from their center of projection. When the correct projection centers for the two drawings were reconstructed, it was found that they were very close to the images and, therefore, practically unattainable in normal observation. In two experiments, enlarged versions of images were used as stimuli, making the positions of the projection centers attainable for observers. When observed from the correct positions, the perceived distortions disappeared or were greatly diminished. Distortions perceived from other positions were smaller than would be predicted by geometrical analyses, possibly due to flatness cues in the images. The results are relevant for the practical purposes of creating faithful impressions of 3-D spaces using 2-D images.
Realistic portraits, whether paintings or photographs, are traditionally obtained using perspective projection. Pictures of the face taken from different distances along the same viewing direction (e.g. frontal) may be scaled to occupy the same size on the image plane. However, such portraits differ systematically: e.g. when the center of projection (the camera) is closer to the face the nose is proportionally larger in the picture. These differences are small (for typical camera distances of 50–500cm): do they have an effect on how the face is perceived? Ten naive subjects of both sexes, viewed equally scaled frontal pictures of 15 neutral-expression adult male faces, each photographed from distances of 56, 124 and 400cm. The photographs were corrected for lens distortion to obtain ideal perspective projections. The subjects were asked to rate each portrait according to 13 attributes (evil-good, repulsive-attractive, hostile-friendly, pushy-respectful, sad-happy, dishonest-honest, introvert-extrovert, violent-peaceful, dumb-smart, distant-approachable, evasive-candid, week-strong, unpleasant-pleasant). While the subjects were unaware of the manipulation, their ratings are systematically correlated with the distance: faces imaged from the closer distance appear significantly more benevolent (good, peaceful, pleasant, approachable), those taken from a larger distance appear more impressive (smarter, stronger). Intermediate-distance portraits appeared more attractive. The remaining attributes are not significantly different across distance. Our findings suggest that painters and photographers may manipulate the emotional content of a portrait by choosing an appropriate viewing distance: e.g. a formal and official portrait may benefit from a distant viewpoint, while an effect of intimacy and opennes may be obtained with a close viewpoint. Multiple inconsistent viewpoints found in classical full-length portraits may be explained by the need to combine close-up views of some body parts, within an overall undistorted figure.
The results of two experiments carried out to evaluate the preferred viewing distance for HDTV programs are reported. Although screen brightness and the degree of movement in the scene can influence the choice, screen size was found to be the dominant parameter. The ratio of the viewing distance preferences to the picture height (H) tends to decrease with the size of the display and follows a hyperbolic law. For displays up to 32 in. the preferred viewing distance is greater than 5 H; to obtain preferences smaller than 4 H, displays greater than 70 in. are required.