Explained: Odd Looking Bidens/Carters Photo - Not Fake, Just Perspective

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
E0gmejTWYAMo406.jpg

This official photo makes the Carters look very small, leading some more imaginative people to suggest it's a fake (without explaining WHY the government would fake such a thing,)

But it's just perspective, I replicated the effect myself.
2021-05-04_11-48-28.jpg

And made a video showing the placement of big me, mini me, and the camera.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
i would point out Carter's big ol feet. even though Jill still looks a bit big as she is next to carter. but shes still smaller than Carter's feet.
 

DavidB66

Active Member
In the video, Mick puts some emphasis on the use of a wide angle lens, and various news reports also stress this. In the above, however, the stress is put on the effect of perspective, and not the lens. I'm not clear whether the type of lens used actually makes any difference, except in so far as a wide angle lens is necessary to get both pairs in the same picture when photographed in a small room. So I wonder if you would get the same 'big - little' effect if just one pair was photographed from the same distance with a standard lens?
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I'm not clear whether the type of lens used actually makes any difference, except in so far as a wide angle lens is necessary to get both pairs in the same picture when photographed in a small room.
That's something of a semantic difference. I would usually emphasis that it's the distance that creates the exaggerated perspective. But here the reason they have got a photo like this is because they use a wide angle lens. The lens allows them to get close to the subjects, which then gives more perspective exaggeration. But what's "causing" it? "Distance" does not in itself create an image. It's created from the specific configuration of the subject size and position, the camera position, the lens, and the sensor.

Perhaps though it would be better to note they are close to the subjects AND using a wide angle lens.
 

Amber Robot

Active Member
As Mick said, a wide angle lens is used to get a large field from up close. A photographer could have stood farther back and zoomed in with a longer lens to get the same field with less distortion.
 

FatPhil

Active Member
The picture frames having ambiguous vanishing points, and the chairs having curved bottoms to their upholstry, made me wonder whether there was some post-processing, or in-lens correction, involved. If it was a wide angle lens without correction, those towards the periphery would be squashed, and it's not uncommon to want to stretch them out such that things the viewer would hope to be straight lines - e.g. wall edges - become straight lines again.

Such correction is a 2-a-penny technique now: https://improvephotography.com/34036/correcting-wide-angle-distortion-photoshop/
 

DavidB66

Active Member
As Mick said, a wide angle lens is used to get a large field from up close. A photographer could have stood farther back and zoomed in with a longer lens to get the same field with less distortion.
I'm sorry to be a nag on this point, but news sources seem to be running away with the idea that the Biden picture oddity is an artifact of the wide angle lens, and I'm not sure that is correct. It isn't necessary to use a wide angle lens to get a foreshortening effect: see for example the upper left photo on this page, which shows an example of strong foreshortening:
https://mrsseckler.weebly.com/foreshortening.html
There is nothing to suggest that this was taken with a wide angle lens.

It might still be said that you are more likely to get foreshortening with a wide angle lens, but in the Biden case the connection seems to be coincidental. The photo was taken in a small room, which constrained the photo to be taken from a short distance, and the photographer wanted to get all four people in the same photo, which dictated the use of a wide angle lens, given that it had to be taken from a short distance. It is the short distance, not the lens, which is responsible for the foreshortening, unless there is some optical effect that I am unaware of. As I've said on other occasions, I know next to nothing about photography. I do know that a zoom lens tends to make objects in the line of sight appear closer together than they really are, because the zoom makes them appear close to the camera, without giving them the foreshortening that a close viewpoint normally produces. The brain of the observer draws the false inference 'objects close to me, but no foreshortening, therefore objects close together'. If a wide angle lens had the opposite effect - making objects appear further away than they really are - this might produce the contrary illusion. But I don't know if this is the case.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
The problem with people's intuition is that we're used to seeing photos taken from a larger distance: in larger halls for public press shootings of politicians, or in a TV studio where walls of the room are missing to allow a larger distance for the camera in a sitcom.
 

Amber Robot

Active Member
I'm sorry to be a nag on this point, but news sources seem to be running away with the idea that the Biden picture oddity is an artifact of the wide angle lens, and I'm not sure that is correct. It isn't necessary to use a wide angle lens to get a foreshortening effect: see for example the upper left photo on this page, which shows an example of strong foreshortening:
https://mrsseckler.weebly.com/foreshortening.html
There is nothing to suggest that this was taken with a wide angle lens.

It might still be said that you are more likely to get foreshortening with a wide angle lens, but in the Biden case the connection seems to be coincidental. The photo was taken in a small room, which constrained the photo to be taken from a short distance, and the photographer wanted to get all four people in the same photo, which dictated the use of a wide angle lens, given that it had to be taken from a short distance. It is the short distance, not the lens, which is responsible for the foreshortening, unless there is some optical effect that I am unaware of. As I've said on other occasions, I know next to nothing about photography. I do know that a zoom lens tends to make objects in the line of sight appear closer together than they really are, because the zoom makes them appear close to the camera, without giving them the foreshortening that a close viewpoint normally produces. The brain of the observer draws the false inference 'objects close to me, but no foreshortening, therefore objects close together'. If a wide angle lens had the opposite effect - making objects appear further away than they really are - this might produce the contrary illusion. But I don't know if this is the case.
Yes. A longer lens would also have foreshortening if it were placed close to its object. But in this case it would have had a small field of view so would have been incapable of capturing all four people in a single photograph.

imagine taking a photo of an object one foot deep. If taken from one foot away, then there’d be a lot of foreshortening because the back of the object is twice as far from the camera as the front. If taken from 100 feet away the foreshortening would be gone since the back is only 1% farther than the front. (Think about how things often look “flat” through binoculars.)

But then you’d need different focal length lenses to capture the same field from those two distances.
 
Last edited:

Ravi

Member
I think it also does not help that clearly the (elderly) lady is not the largest person you will ever meet. And likely also the chairs are not gigantic. This all ads to the effect.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
2021-05-05_11-28-02.jpg

Just a slightly different viewpoint, closer and lower camera. Note my hand is on the chair - I'm essentially in the same position as before.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
How far were you from the camera and what was the focal length of the lens?
In that photo, my head is at about 7 feet (in the chair) and around 3.5 feet (kneeling).

Previous photo/video had the camera about 2 feet further back. Here's the two camera positions
2021-05-05_12-53-06.jpg

The lens is a 10mm Canon EF-S, equivalent to 16mm full frame.
 
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