Choosing Your Focal Length Should Be About More Than Just Your Distance From The Subject

by Bret Hoy1 Comment

Almost every single influential director since the advent of the medium have used specific focal lengths to tell their stories.

Since they literally control the audience’s perspective on the scene, they’re one of the first things that any director should consider when blocking out a scene. When you start looking at some of your favorite films, you’ll see that the lenses used aren’t random– they’re the basis of all of the decisions made on set.

Wolfcrow, one of the best film analysts on Youtube, released a video that describes the techniques and focal lengths used by some of the most famous filmmakers in history.

If you talk to filmmakers, you’ll often find two different schools of thought on cinematography. While plenty think that the image is the first place to start when you get on set, and there’s an equal amount that say you start with blocking actors. I’m not one to say which way is correct, but I will say that your decisions about focal length are directly tied to whatever decisions you make with either technique.

We can all practice these techniques on any shoot we take on. Often, setting rules on focal length forces us to make creative decisions we’d otherwise not consider.

If you find yourself grabbing lenses just based on your distance from the subject, this could be a very important practice for you.

Focal Lengths and Lenses used by Great Directors

The Focal Lengths and Lenses used by Great Directors

Via wolfcrow:

Directors mentioned in the video:

  • Orson Welles
  • Jean-Pierre Jeunet
  • Roman Polanski
  • Wes Anderson
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Tim Burton
  • Martin Scorcese
  • Joel and Ethan Coen
  • David Cronenberg
  • David Fincher
  • Francis Ford Coppola
  • Yasujiro Ozu
  • Robert Bresson
  • Alfred Hitchcock
  • Ridley Scott
  • Akira Kurosawa
  • Sidney Lumet
  • Stanley Kubrick

Specific lenses mentioned in the video:

  • Zeiss 50mm f/0.7 adapted for Barry Lyndon (37.5mm with wide-angle adapter)
  • Kinoptik 9.8mm
  • Cine-Pro 24-480mm T9 zoom lens

Read full article at wolfcrow “The Focal Lengths and Lenses used by Great Directors”

Note: it is our policy to give credit as well as deserved traffic to our news sources – so we don't repost the entire article – sorry, I know you want the juicy bits, but I feel it is only fair that their site get the traffic and besides, you just might make a new friend and find an advertiser that has something you've never seen before

(cover photo credit: snap from video)


  1. Total rubbish. Who are these ‘experts’ who’ve, obviously, never actually done what they’re talking about? Perspective is everything. It’s where the camera is, in relation to what’s being shot. The focal length is about the frame that is then chosen. If you are working with primes you may have to adjust that position slightly but the focal length is not defining the shot. The exception is when you have only one lens that has a special quality, and you are forced to use that focal length. BTW It’s astounding that there’s all these fools without a clue writing this crap lately.

Leave a Comment